AM 002″ src=”http://thejewishbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/jeremiah-lunch-and-learn-and-MAM-002-282×300.jpg” alt=”" width=”282″ height=”300″ /> A lunch and learn takes place, organized by Temple Jeremiah
You would expect to hear Rabbi Ken Spiro, senior lecturer at Jerusalem’s Aish HaTorah (an Orthodox organization and yeshiva), discuss the impact of Judaism on democracy and Jewish U.S. voting trends, in a lecture hall. Instead, you are lunching with attorneys, corporate realtors and a sprinkling of college students in a business conference room on LaSalle Street.
Before and after the discussion, participants network and have questions for Rabbi Spiro and Rabbi Zev Kahn, founder of Jewish Education Team (JET), the event’s sponsor. Some participants are parents who heard about the event from their students at the University of Illinois who also participate in JET programming. Others heard about it from previous participants in JetNet, the organization’s young adult branch that combines networking with Jewish education.
Or maybe, you’re listening to Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, talk about a discourse on ethics. At a previous session, he focused on the ethics of speech and the impact of words. This time, he expands to include thoughts such as the 10th Commandment’s direction to not covet. You might expect the topic to be a sermon. However, similar to JetNet, participants are lunching in a downtown business conference room, this time on West Monroe Street.
Both events are among the many Jewish Lunch and Learn programs that literally turn a law firm or an accountant’s office into a Beit Midrash (house of study) at lunch. They feature a Rabbi-led, mini-class at a business office convenient to downtown professionals. But, classes also attract retirees interested in intelligent, educational discussions.
Out in the suburbs, if you attended a recent Torah Learning Center of Northbrook session the Monday before Shavuot, you would have gotten a fuller meaning of the “Gift-of-the-Torah” holiday from Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh. The noon session was held at a Buffalo Grove bank.
If you went to Chicago Torah Network’s lunch session at the Northbrook Jewish Community Center (JCC), you would have picked up tips from Rabbi Moshe Katz on “Living Life to Its Fullest.” You’d have also done another mitzvah as lunch is provided by Keshet’s KJ Café.
Similar to the downtown programs, suburban Lunch and Learn sessions are convenient to business people, retirees and non-working parents interested in scholarly Jewish thought and their applications.
“I love going to the class. It’s a chance to continue my Jewish education as an adult,” said Sam Cole, an attorney who works downtown, but lives in a Northern suburb. He attends a Lunch and Learn session led by B’nai Joshua Beth Elohim (BJBE) Assistant Rabbi Brian Stoller at a congregant’s Loop office. “It’s something I look forward to every month,” Sam said.
The rabbis choose their topics and often distribute handouts with pertinent quotes or passages. Topics are often listed ahead of time based on a theme, holiday or current events that impact the Jewish world. Some lunches are provided by the host and at others, participants bring their own.
“The Lunch and Learn is a vehicle for engaging people. It offers a connection to Judaism,” said Rabbi Stoller. “It works because it’s offered at a time and place convenient for them. It’s a way people can take a break during week. I want anybody who has an interest in Jewish learning to be able to learn,” he said. “It’s a part of our (BJBE) approach, “Where you want it, when you want it” program.
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park has been teaching a monthly “Study in the Loop” for congregants for more than 32 years for. His class has also been expanded to Northbrook, held in conjunction with the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago. “Classes focus on everything from ethical
issues to pre-holiday to current events using rabbinic and contemporary sources,” said Rabbi Kurtz. “Being in the city allows me to see congregants and study with them in their own setting,” he added. “It helps me build a more personal relationship with them and creates a Jewish experience during the business day.”
At a recent JetNet Lunch and Learn, two political authorities addressed issues of Jewish concern connected to the upcoming presidential election. “It’s an interesting subject. And this is good for networking,” attorney Sally Pissetzky said, explaining why she came.
The opportunity to hear interesting, Jewish-related subjects, learn more about JET and meet other business people are high on Pamela Rose’s list, a well-known corporate realtor who started the JetNet branch. “I wanted to add balance to people’s business life. My reason was twofold: Jewish learning downtown and to support JET’s efforts,” said Rose who co-hosted the event.
The common denominator among rabbis teaching the sessions and participants is an eagerness to discuss all things Jewish. Rabbi Ezra Belsky of the Komimiyus-North Shore Torah Center conducts a Lunch and Learn every other week at the Much Shelist law firm on North Wacker Drive. He also holds day and evening classes in the suburbs. His topics range from Jewish philosophy and the Bible to history and ethics – the full gamut. Characterizing his work as “outreach,” Rabbi Belsky said, “I do it for Jews who admit they didn’t learn everything in Sunday School. Wherever there are Jews interested in studying, I’ll show up.”