Gesher Educational Initiative Returns with Creative Education For All

by Rabbi Ilyse S. Kramer, Gesher Director of Lifelong Learning

The Gesher Educational Initiative between Beth El Temple and Chisuk Emuna Congregation continues in its fifth year (began in 2015-16), as a means to offer a wide variety of creative educational opportunities for students, parents and families, and adult learners. In addition to weekly sessions at the Gesher School, the program gathers people monthly for junior congregation and combined Holiday celebrations; an annual Shabbat Biyahad Weekend (Shabbat  Together) with special guests; and, offers a variety of timely and meaningful topics as part of a year-long adult education program open to members and the Harrisburg community at large.

  • Gesher Adult Education opportunities in 2019-20 include: “Preparing for the High Holy Days: A New Perspective (focusing on Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Isaac, and Ishmael and their inter-connected relationships in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions): Sundays, September 16 and 22, 10-11:30am (Beth El Temple); “Tales of the Talmud: Wisdom for Our Time” (a year-long weekly course exploring a variety of meaningful and relevant issues through the lens of Talmudic and other Jewish sacred texts) on Wednesdays, 11am-12:15pm, series begins September 11 at Chisuk Emuna Congregation; and, on November 17 (10 sessions throughout November, December, and January), “Beyond Debates,” a turnkey-curriculum developed by the Jewish Theological Seminary, offering round-table text-study, conversation, and video teaching by JTS Faculty on selected topics. *Please note: All Adult Education programs are open to the Greater Harrisburg community to attend.                                                                       


The Gesher supplementary, religious school is home to about 36-40 students and their families (Beth El Temple, Chisuk Emuna Congregation, and Temple Beth Shalom)—looking to experience a living and vibrant Judaism. Our 2019-20 Gesher School Jewish and Hebrew Studies program offers a Sunday-only option for students in Grades K-1, and, a Sunday and Wednesday program for students in Grades 2-7. Sunday sessions are held at Beth El Temple (9am-12pm) and Wednesday sessions are held at Chisuk Emuna Congregation (4:30-6:15pm).

Gesher Faculty, 2019-20

  • Please warmly welcome our Gesher faculty members: (Sundays) Alex Loux (Grades K-1) and Ellie Lemberg (Grades 2-3); Sivan Komatsu, Mark Sussman, and Shahar Broitman (Grades 4-5); and Sivan Komatsu and Solomon Zisser (Grades 6-7). (Wednesdays) Jodie Raffensperger (Grades 2-3), Joshua Lesser, Jewish Studies (Grades 4-5 and 6-7) and Mandy Cheskis, Hebrew Studies (Grades 4-5 and 6-7); and our High School aides in the classrooms: Alex Loux and Lili Benson. Rabbi Eric Cytryn, Rabbi Ilyse Kramer, and Rabbi Ron Muroff will continue to be involved in the teaching of our students throughout the year.
  • Opening Day will take place on Sunday, September 8th from 10am-12pm, Beth El Temple, Social Hall (please note the later start time). Parents and Students are asked to attend this session—students, please bring along your Gesher Bags, as you will meet your teachers and begin classes together in your new classrooms… Parents, we will distribute the Gesher School Handbook and go over a few special programs and any questions with Rabbi Ilyse; and, continue with our annual parent conversation session with Rabbi Cytryn and Rabbi Muroff. Join us for some social time and re-connections, refreshments, overview of the year, and a Fall Calendar will be distributed at this time. See you soon!  *Note: First Wednesday session will take place on Wednesday, September 11th from 4:30-6:15p.m. at Chisuk Emuna Congregation.


  • Special Programs at the Gesher School include: New Jewish Studies topics for each grade (i.e., Mussar/Jewish Ethics, Lifecycle, Contemporary Debates and Issues: Teen Jewish Identity, Introduction to World Religions); Haftarah Trope and Shabbat Morning Prayers in upper level Hebrew classes; Experiential Field Trips and volunteer opportunities out of the classroom; Downtown Daily Bread; Special Guests; Interfaith connections with the Muslim Steelton Community; and Much, much more…   

Rabbi Ilyse Kramer, Gesher Director of Lifelong Learning, is glad to answer any questions you may have about the Gesher Educational Initiatives, or, to meet and talk about your own personal journey in developing your individual path to Jewish learning and living.                      Feel free to contact me at: or my cell, 410-660-9910.

Wishing each of you and your families L’Shanah Tovah, a happy and healthy New Year 5780, filled with reflection and renewal, Rabbi Ilyse