Torah Study at CBI is a weekly source of connection, joy, solace, and growth. No previous in-depth Torah study or familiarity with Hebrew is needed be a part of this Jewish journey. CBI’s Torah scholars meet Saturdays at 9:00 via Zoom for conversation and inquiry led in alternate weeks by Rabbi Shelton Donnell, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Sholom in Santa, Ana, California, and Sivan Rotholz, a rising 4th-year rabbinical student at HUC.
Rabbi Shelton Donnell is Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, CA. After almost thirty years as a congregational rabbi he made aliyah to Israel in 2005, where he was on the staff of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion serving as the rabbi of the Year-in-Israel program and instructor in liturgy.
His “goal for the CBI Torah Study group is to find contemporary insights speaking through ancient texts. Drawing upon traditional and modern sources and commentaries, we explore the weekly portion and encourage the participants to engage the Torah on a personal level to find lessons and guidance relevant to their lives and to the modern world.”
When asked what upcoming Parasha he is particularly excited to explore, Rabbi Donnell says, “As I thoroughly enjoy Torah study, the Torah portion that I look forward to the most, quite frankly, is the portion that I am preparing for the next Torah Study session. That is the beauty of the Torah wherein even well-trodden paths can lead us to new revelations.”
Sivan Rotholz, a rising 4th-year rabbinical student at HUC, comes to the rabbinate as a professor of gynocentric Torah (Torah centered on the experiences of women) and creative writing. She has taught at Brooklyn College, Tel Aviv University, Columbia/Barnard Hillel, Moishe House, Ritualwell, and elsewhere, and has shared her Torah in synagogues and living rooms across the globe. There is nothing Sivan loves more than teaching, and she is thrilled to bring her passion, knowledge, and experience to Torah Study at Congregation Beth Israel. Sivan currently lives in Jerusalem with her husband Matt, a Master’s in Jewish Education student, their six-year-old son Aidan, and their one-year-old daughter Elsie. If you would like to learn more about Sivan, you can do so here, you can also reach her via email.
Her Torah Study classes at CBI are student-centered, evolving between sessions to meet the unique needs and interests of CBI Torah Study participants. Sivan brings inspiring texts to each session, from parsha selections to Rabbinic commentary to modern midrash, and always aims to pass The Kranjec Test by including women’s voices and commentary in her source sheets. Whenever the parsha allows, Sivan shares modern creative midrash such as poetry and visual art to make Zoom sessions more multi-dimensional. As an educator, Sivan is not a lecturer but a discussion facilitator, and so her Torah Study sessions at CBI are always interactive, inviting those who join to lift up their voices in the age-old tradition of wrestling with Jewish text. Sivan aims to create an inclusive, accessible space, and students at all levels of knowledge, experience, and ability are welcome.
She is particularly looking forward to “our Pesach Torah study sessions, where we will encounter the women of Exodus as a model of civil disobedience.”
CBI congregants on the the many ways they find Torah Study meaningful.
Torah study is a great way to start your Shabbat morning.
We are fortunate to have wonderful teachers to lead the sessions whose Jewish knowledge is both broad and deep. In addition to the text of the weekly Torah portion, they share other sources from Mishnah, Talmud, later and contemporary writings to expand our understanding.
I’ve made new friends and look forward to seeing them in person. We’re a friendly, welcoming group. We often share books we are reading, blogs we discovered, and information about Jewish websites.
Torah study is a great way to reconnect to your Judaism. It’s perfect someone on the path to conversion.
You can sip your coffee and just listen or jump right in as an active participant
Torah Study on Saturday mornings is a highlight of my week.
For regulars, occasional attendees and those who are new, it is a place of community and an opportunity to engage in learning that is both exceptional and accessible.
Torah Study sparks our imaginations and souls.
Our Rabbis lead us to ever deepening meanings.
Our Study group, ever questioning and supporting souls, comes from all walks of life.
We seek understanding. We find connections, love for each other, and love of Judaism.
The great thing about reform Judaism is that everyone has the opportunity to find their own best expression of their faith. For me, Torah Study is the ultimate expression of Judaism because it combines community, learning, and engaging with the mythology of our people in a very visceral way.
My way of being an active part of the congregational community is to participate in Torah Study, to lead Torah Study, to help the clergy, and to hope that my presence adds a little something to the experience that everyone has. Because what Torah Study is really about is helping each other to engage with our beautiful history, past, and future through the most important texts we have. Our clergy can’t be available to do everything, all the time. But, with our rabbinic students and other outside resources, we have an extraordinary group of leaders and I wouldn’t miss a week of it.