Introduction to Judaism

Introduction to Judaism

Introduction to Judaism is an engaging multi-session course for anyone interested in exploring Jewish life through a Reform lens.

Open to all, this course is perfect for interfaith couples, those raising Jewish children, spiritual seekers, individuals considering conversion, and Jews who want a meaningful adult Jewish learning experience.

Topics include holidays, life cycle celebrations, theology and core beliefs, Hebrew, prayer, the Bible and other sacred texts, history, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, Zionism and Israel, the American Jewish experience, and the tapestry of the Jewish people today.

Instructors: Rabbi Devorah Marcus, Rabbi Benj Fried, Rabbi Yael Ridberg and Rabbi Cookie Lee Olshein.

Why take the course?

For some things in life, it is never too late. Somehow, when you were younger, maybe you didn’t learn what you’d like to know about the culture and religion of the Jewish people. Perhaps, you grew up in a place where there was no synagogue. Perhaps, you weren’t quite ready to appreciate the Jewish education you were offered. Perhaps your parents didn’t think you needed a Jewish education. Perhaps you now seek a way to live a fuller and richer Jewish family life. Perhaps you now want to narrow the cultural gaps between you and your children. Perhaps you are seeking conversion to Judaism. Whatever the reason, URJ Introduction to Judaism offers you a time and place to broaden your Jewish awareness. URJ Introduction to Judaism can launch you on a path to authentic personal Jewish identity. This course can help you acquire a basic Jewish vocabulary. You can gain intellectual and experiential knowledge of Judaism as well as the skills necessary to “do Jewish.” Intro is designed to be a meaningful, educational experience for any person interested in knowing and understanding Judaism and Jewish life. The course is organized around the major themes of Judaism, and around the holidays and events in the Jewish life cycle. Included in the URJ Introduction to Judaism course are the following concepts:

  • Birth
  • Concepts of God
  • Conversion to Judaism
  • Death and Mourning
  • Israel and Zionism
  • Jewish Culture
  • Jewish History
  • Jewish Holidays
  • Marriage and Family
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Repentance and the Path of Righteousness
  • Worship and Spirituality

Course Requirements

To earn a Certificate of Completion for the course, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Attend all class sessions. To make up an absence, you may attend a class on the same topic at any URJ Introduction to Judaism course location.
  • Attend at least one Shabbaton.
  • Attend at least three Shabbat services and submit a report to your instructor about your experiences, reactions and impressions about each of these.
  • Complete all homework assignments and journal entries the instructor assigns.
  • Complete the take-home Summary Review. This is an open-book Final Exam and you are encouraged to use all the materials you receive in class to write this paper. You will obtain the Summary Review Questions from your instructor at the 14th class session. When you complete the Summary Review, you should submit it directly to your instructor who will review it and may ask you to revise some sections.


The word Shabbaton is related to the word Shabbat.  Shabbatonim (plural) take place on Saturdays after the morning service.  It usually runs from 10 am until 3 pm. Time, location and other specifics will be announced and e-mail notifications sent to students.  Although the specific programs of each Shabbaton will vary somewhat, you can expect to enjoy yourself experiencing prayer, study, singing, and discussion about Judaism with a group of rabbis and your peers.

Book List for the 2022-2023 Session

Diamant, Anita. “Living a Jewish Life,” HarperCollins, (rev. ed.) 2007
Green, Arthur. “Judaism’s 10 Best Ideas,” Jewish Lights, 2014
Silberman, Shoshana. “A Family Haggdah II,” Kar-Ben, 2010
Sonsino, Rifat and Syme, Daniel. “Finding God: Selected Responses,” Behrman/URJ Press, 2002.
Wylen, Stephen. “Settings of Silver,” Paulist Press, 2000

Also recommended for further reading:

A Jewish Bible (Tanakh) (JPS English translation) will be used in the class.
The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2014.
Zion/Fields-Meyer. “A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home,” Shalom Hartman Institute, 2004. $24.95
Mark Shapiro. “Gates of Shabbat’” CCAR Press, (rev. ed.) 2016. $18.95
Books are available (new, used or e-books) online at Amazon.
Please make sure you buy the most recent edition of the books


Click here to download a sample course syllabus with dates and reading assignments.


If you have any questions about the course, please feel free to contact Rabbi Benj at or Rabbi Devorah at

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