“Intro to Judaism”: A Foundation of Our Jewish Practice

By Rabbi Ariana Capptauber, Beth El Temple Harrisburg

I remember the first time I watched a house being built.

I was about 6 years old and my aunt and uncle were building a house in Long Island. My family went to visit the construction site and I was taken aback to see, instead of a building as I was used to seeing them, rising up from the ground, an enormous, house-shaped hole in the earth.

The construction workers stood in the hole, laying wood beams and pouring concrete into what would be the basement of their house.

This would be the foundation of the home that I would come to know as my cousins’ house, a place I still visit today. Even now, when I visit their home decades later, I can still remember seeing the hole in the ground as they lay the foundations.

Any good building needs a strong foundation, but sometimes we forget that it is there, or we take it for granted, focusing instead on the parts of the building that we can see rising up from the ground.

Judaism, too, requires us to have a good strong foundation. Judaism is a very complex religion, our practice having built up over thousands of years of history and hundreds of generations of Jews. In order to truly understand and appreciate the beauty of the edifice that has been built up over all this time, we must learn to appreciate its foundations.

To that end, Beth El is offering an Introduction to Judaism course using the materials from the Miller Intro to Judaism program through American Jewish University. The course is free of charge and will begin May 11th and run every Tuesday at 7:30pm on Zoom. We will continue through the summer, except for a few weeks off, though people are still welcome to join after we start.

The course will give a good overview of major themes of Jewish life and also cover the nuts and bolts of Jewish practice. We will study the basic structure of the Torah and the Tanakh, the Hebrew bible, as well as an overview of Jewish history, peoplehood, and movements. We will review the essential practices of Judaism on Shabbat and the holidays and also talk about Jewish practices for daily life such as keeping a kosher home.

We will talk about how Judaism is integrated into every part of our life cycles, from rituals around birth and death and many life phases in between such as b’nei mitzvah and marriage. We will begin to get a taste of the wisdom Judaism has around parenting, caring for those who are dying, building a balanced life, and more.

Some of us in the Harrisburg Jewish community may be entirely unfamiliar with Judaism and may need this course to truly introduce us to elements of Jewish practice. Others might be longtime Jews who are out of touch with Jewish practice or who want to refresh their memories about aspects of Jewish history. This course is for all of us.

If interested, please contact Patty Brown at patty@bethelhbg.org to register. We hope to see you there to build a strong Jewish foundation, and create a beautiful edifice of Jewish life together.