Learning Opportunities in the Chapel

RH1 during Torah Service (9:30-10:15am) – Dr. Wendy Love Anderson

Rosh Hashanah and the Problem of Isaac

The Torah readings for the two days of Rosh Hashanah feature the birth and the Akedah or Binding of Isaac — but why? What motivated the rabbis to select readings with so little obvious relationship to the holiday? And how did Jews in subsequent generations understand why they read about Isaac on Rosh Hashanah? In this session, we will explore connections between Jewish understandings of the birth and near-sacrifice of Isaac, competing Christian interpretations of the same passages, and the celebration of Rosh Hashanah.

Wendy Love Anderson is Academic Coordinator in the Center for the Humanities and affiliate faculty in Religious Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her M.A. in Religious Studies and her Ph.D in History of Christianity from the University of Chicago. She has never been directed by God to sacrifice either of her children.


RH 1 during Musaf (11:45am-12:30pm) – Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael

Builders Beit Midrash: (Re)Creating the World

The Days of Awe prompt us to think about who we are meant to be, what out place is in Creation, and how we have or have not lived up to our best selves. Come wrestle with one creative ancient Rabbinic take on how we are meant to live, confront conflict, and create holiness.

Originally from Washington DC, Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael studied Islamic and Near Eastern Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, fell in love with the Midwest, and made St. Louis his home. He holds an MA in Talmud and Rabbinic Literature as well as Rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.  Rabbi Buck-Yael serves as the coordinator of community chaplaincy with the Jewish Family & Children’s Service, where he works to provide personalized support and meaningful connection for individuals throughout the St. Louis Jewish community. His work takes him to hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, private residences, and many other unexpected places! He educates and advocates throughout the community on issues of justice, access, and welcome for the full spectrum of human diversity. He is particularly passionate about work for racial justice, disability justice, and LGBTQ justice. He lives in University City with his wife Aviva and their children Naftali, Yeshara, Leora and Elior. In his free time he enjoys camping, trying to make things out of clay, and cooking.

RH 2 during Torah Service (9:30-10:15am) – Rabbi Brad Horwitz

Pirkei Avot: An Ancient Moral Twitter Feed

Join us for a crash course on Pirkei Avot: Ethics of our Ancestors.  This will be a guided study session highlighting famous teachings that instruct us how to lead an ethical and moral life. Explore how these ancient teachings are just as relevant in today’s world as ever.

Rabbi Brad Horwitz began his current position at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center in 2005 where he directs the JCC Helene Mirowitz Center of Jewish Community Life and supervises all JCC Jewish adult, cultural, senior services, community and family education programming.  He graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary (New York) in 2000 but is originally from Los Angeles, CA. In addition to his rabbinic ordination, he earned a Master’s in Jewish Education (MJE) and has leadership experience at many Jewish camps and day schools.   As a graduate of the Day School Leadership Training Institute, Rabbi Brad is well versed in Jewish educational leadership both in formal and informal settings.  He has particular expertise in prayer education and is the author of With All Your Heart: A Weekday Siddur that is currently in use at over fifty Jewish schools and religious institutions worldwide.  Brad is a loving husband and proud father of three boys who has a penchant for cycling.


RH 2 during Musaf (11:45am-12:30pm) – Dr. Rebecca Epstein-Levi

What Is (Jewish) Family? Classic Narratives and Alternative Models

That Judaism is a family-centered tradition is, by now, a truism. But what do we mean by family? Is the nuclear family the best model? Must “family-centered” mean “pro-natalist?” And is there room within Jewish texts, rituals, and communities for alternative or queered models like chosen family, alloparenting, or being childfree by choice?


In this session we’ll discuss what family means and what it has looked like and could look like, and we’ll explore some texts—including the story of the strange and screwed-up family of Avraham Avinu—that help us think about the concept of family and its discontents, and may begin to offer a wider range of models for just what Jewish family can be.

Dr. Rebecca J. Epstein-Levi is the Friedman Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she teaches courses on Jewish ethics and embodiment and where she is working on a manuscript, tentatively entitled When We Collide: Sex, Sociality, and Jewish Ethics. In her copious free time she enjoys horseback riding, cooking unnecessarily elaborate meals, and sharpening her overly large collection of kitchen knives. She lives in University City with her wife, Sarah, and her cat, Faintly Macabre.


Yom Kippur during Torah Service (10:30-11:15am) – Rabbi Jessica Shafrin

Prayers from our depths

During this season of repentance, we look to the words of traditional prayer to guide us but at times the words…are just not enough.  Using Jonah and his prayer from the depths of a fish belly we will delve into the meaning, emotions, and intentions of our prayer as guide for spiritual practice.

Jessica Shafrin fell in love with helping others at a young age. She grew passionate about providing support for people in her community and abroad.  Her commitment to care for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others led her to pursue rabbinic ordination from The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University as well as becoming a board certified chaplain by Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains.  She currently works as a community chaplain at Jewish Family and Children’s Service.


Yom Kippur during Musaf (12:30-1:15pm)