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Introduction to Judaism: Washington, DC Area

Introduction to Judaism: Washington, DC Area

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During this 16-week course we will explore beliefs and customs basic to Judaism. Through assigned readings, group study, lectures, and class discussion we hope to answer many of the questions you have about Judaism and to raise new questions as well! We begin each class by studying the weekly Torah portion together, in a discussion led by students in the class. Students write a weekly reflection submitted to the course instructor on a question related to that week’s class topic. We welcome Shabbat together on one Friday evening during the course by having Shabbat dinner and attending services at the synagogue that is hosting our class.

The 16-week course is offered four times per year. Register for the appropriate class below.

Note: Registration is now open for our Fall-Winter 2017-2018 classes! Classes will be held at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, VA and at the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC. 


The Introduction to Judaism Course provides an opportunity to learn about Jewish history, traditions, holidays and life cycle ceremonies. Participants will gain comfort and familiarity with the symbols, liturgy, music, traditions and Hebrew blessings that accompany Jewish celebrations in the home and synagogue. Introduction to Judaism is designed for individuals and couples wishing to explore Judaism, whether they are Jewish or not, as well as for those individuals considering becoming Jewish. We welcome you to come learn about Judaism with us!

Course Requirements: 

To supplement the class experience, each student is asked to work with a sponsoring rabbi or cantor from a local Reform synagogue. If you need help finding a sponsoring rabbi, please email Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein or call 301-229-6008, and she will be happy to recommend someone near where you live or work. Please complete the sponsoring rabbi form below, and have it signed by your sponsoring rabbi or cantor. Your registration for this class will be complete once you have met with your sponsoring rabbi or cantor, returned the clergy sponsor form below, and registered on-line.

To Earn a Certificate of Completion

  • Complete all homework assignments and journal entries assigned.
  • Make up the work for missed clases: For the first three missed classes work can be made up with the teacher. If you miss more than three classes, you must make up the work with your sponsoring rabbi or cantor. If you miss more than six classes, you will not be able to receive a certificate of completion for the course.

Course Requirements as Related to Conversion

Introduction to Judaism is not a conversion course, but many Reform rabbis in the DC area strongly encourage those considering conversion to take the course. The course provides a basis from which those pursuing conversion can continue their individual studies with a rabbi.

We give a certificate of completion to those who successfully complete the course. Those students who want a certificate of completion can miss a limited number of classes as long as they make up the work for the missed classes with either the class instructor or their sponsoring rabbi or cantor.

Course Materials

Here is a list of books for this class:

  • Living a Jewish Life (Anita Diamant/Harper Collins, 2007)

  • Settings of Silver (Stephen M. Wylen /Paulist Press, 2007)

  • Liberal Judaism (Eugene B. Borowitz / URJ Press, 1984)

  • What Do Jews Believe? (David S. Ariel / Schocken Books, 1995)

  • The Sabbath (Abraham Joshua Heschel/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1975)

  • Living Judaism (Rabbi Wayne Dosick/Harper San Francisco, 1998)

  • The Book of Jewish Values (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin / Bell Tower, 2000)

  • Mishkan T’filah for Travelers (CCAR Press)

*JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (Bible)  (Jewish Publication Society, 1999)

*You may wish to purchase The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004) instead of the Bible listed above.  The Jewish Study Bible contains the JPS translation along with commentary on the biblical text, as well as essays and maps; it does not contain the Hebrew text. 

Books are available (new and used) on line at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Some  are available in Kindle versions. Mishkan T’filah can be purchased directly from the CCAR Press.  

Suggestions: What You Can Do Until Your Introduction to Judaism Course Begins

  1. Attend Shabbat Services
    You can begin to attend Shabbat services at any time. You do not need to belong to a congregation or even to be registered in an Introduction to Judaism course. The best "starter" service is probably on Friday evening. Many congregations have members of the Outreach Committee or ushers who serve as "Shabbat Hosts." If you would like to sit with someone at Shabbat services and meet with the rabbi and congregants after services, a Shabbat Host may be helpful. When you make contact with a rabbi or a congregation, ask your contact if they have "Shabbat Hosts." Search for a synagogue in your area.

  2. Begin Reading Books and Newspapers/Periodicals with Jewish Content
    As A Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg
    Exodus by Leon Uris
    For the Relief of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander
    Miriam's Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich
    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
    Turbulent Souls by Stephen J. Dubner
    The Jewish Daily Forward
    Jerusalem Post
    Moment Magazine

  3. Begin to unscramble the Hebrew Alphabet
    Aleph Isn't Tough is a book written for adult learners. The Hebrew letters are introduced two or three at a time. This volume teaches how to decode words; introduces the beginning of an understanding of Hebrew for Jewish ritual study and participation in Jewish life.

About the Coordinator

Coordinator and teacher Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein has been teaching Introduction to Judaism for more than ten years, and it is her privilege to be part of the Jewish journeys of her students.  Rabbi Bernstein received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in May, 2009. Prior to becoming a rabbi she was a psychotherapist for over twenty years. Rabbi Bernstein is a rabbi at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia.

General Information

$310 couple

$285 single

URJ Congregation Member Discount: $25

16 weeks
Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein



"Thanks to one Introduction to Judaism course, I overcame hesitation and self-consciousness to confirm wholeheartedly that conversion is the right choice for me. Soon, I will enter the mikveh (ritual bath) and join the Jewish people, and I know that the transition from using “they,” “them,” and “you” to using “we,” “us,” and “I” in my conversations about Judaism will feel completely natural."

Dan Albano, Why I Chose to Embrace Judaism