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Introduction to Judaism: Southern California

Introduction to Judaism: Southern California

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Introduction to Judaism is an engaging 18-session course created in partnership between the Union for Reform Judaism and local Reform congregations. It is for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of Jewish life through a Reform lens. Open to all, this course is meant for individuals and couples from Jewish and various faith traditions and cultural backgrounds and those who have had no religious upbringing. The course is perfect for interfaith couples, those raising Jewish children, spiritual seekers, individuals considering conversion, and Jews who want a meaningful adult Jewish learning experience.

Join our class where everyone and their questions are welcomed. Register now for our fall class in Santa Monica and spring classes in Long Beach and San Diego. More spring classes will open for registration soon. 

Fall 2018 Classes

In Session
Temple Beth Sholom of Orange County
2625 N Tustin Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92705
Download syllabus
Session 1: August 20, 2018 - January 14, 2019
Session 2: October 8, 2018 - March 11, 2019
Mondays, 7:30 – 9:30 PM
Instructor: Rabbi Peter Levi

In Session
Temple Akiba
5249 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230
Download syllabus
October 7, 2018 - March 16, 2019
Sundays, 9:45 - 11:45 AM
Instructor: Rabbi Zachary Shapiro

In Session
Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Download syllabus
October 24, 2018 - March 6, 2019
Wednesdays, 7 – 9 PM
Instructor: Rabbi Sarah Bassin

Spring 2019 Classes

Temple Israel
269 Loma Ave, Long Beach, CA 90803
Download syllabus
January 9 - May 8, 2019
Wednesdays, 7 - 9 PM
Instructor: Rabbi Steven Moskowitz - To register email

Register Now
Temple Emanu-El
6299 Capri Drive, San Diego, CA 92120
Download syllabus
January 16 - May 15, 2019
Wednesdays, 7-9 PM
Instructors: Temple Emanu-El Clergy

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University Synagogue
11960 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Download syllabus
January 22 - May 21, 2019
Tuesdays, 7-9 PM
Instructor: Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro

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Stephen Wise Temple
15500 Stephen S Wise Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90077
Download syllabus
January 27 - June 2, 2019
Sundays, 10 AM – 12 PM
​Instructor: Rabbi Sabine Meyer

Register Now
Temple Beth Sholom of Orange County
2625 N Tustin Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92705
Download syllabus
January 28 - June 17, 2019
Mondays, 7:30 – 9:30 PM
Instructor: Rabbi Karen Sherman




Tuition for the 18-week course is $280. A non-refundable $50 registration fee is included. The tuition fee allows for either one or two people to attend, and we encourage couples to attend together. If you are yourself a member of a URJ-affiliated Reform congregation, the tuition is $200. Refund policy: No refunds after the first session. 

Required textbooks

Please purchase the required text books (appr. $110) before the class starts. Make sure you buy the most recent edition as indicated on the book list. You can order the books online; all are available as e-books; some may be available at your local bookstore.  View the textbook list.

What You Can Do Until Your Course Begins - Read these useful tips on how to prepare.

Study Opportunities at your local synagogue

Do you live in the San Francisco Bay area or Northern California? Do you live in Southern California and cannot get to any of our course locations? If the URJ Introduction to Judaism locations are inaccessible to you, please check with your local synagogue which might offer its own Introduction course. Visit the listing of Reform synagogues to find one near you.

Why take the course?

For some things in life, it is never too late. Somehow, when you were younger, maybe you didn't learn what you'd like to know about the culture and religion of the Jewish people. Perhaps, you grew up in a place where there was no synagogue. Perhaps, you weren't quite ready to appreciate the Jewish education you were offered. Perhaps your parents didn't think you needed a Jewish education. Perhaps you now seek a way to live a fuller and richer Jewish family life. Perhaps you now want to narrow the cultural gaps between you and your children. Perhaps you are seeking conversion to Judaism. Whatever the reason, URJ Introduction to Judaism offers you a time and place to broaden your Jewish awareness. URJ Introduction to Judaism can launch you on a path to authentic personal Jewish identity. This course can help you acquire a basic Jewish vocabulary. You can gain intellectual and experiential knowledge of Judaism as well as the skills necessary to "do Jewish." Intro is designed to be a meaningful, educational experience for any person interested in knowing and understanding Judaism and Jewish life. The course is organized around the major themes of Judaism, and around the holidays and events in the Jewish life cycle. Included in the URJ Introduction to Judaism course are the following concepts:

  • Birth
  • Concepts of God
  • Conversion to Judaism
  • Death and Mourning
  • Israel and Zionism
  • Jewish Culture
  • Jewish History
  • Jewish Holidays
  • Marriage and Family
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Worship and Spirituality


Instructors are usually rabbis ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the seminary for Reform Judaism. Our outstanding and experienced faculty encourage students to raise questions and engage deeply and personally with all topics. 

URJ Introduction to Judaism reflects the approach of Reform Judaism. This two-hundred-year-old Jewish movement includes the largest number of religious Jews in America. It has forged a dynamic synthesis of tradition and modernity that allows for an encompassing yet flexible Jewish consciousness.

Course Requirements: 

To earn a Certificate of Completion for the course, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Attend all eighteen class sessions. To make up an absence, you may attend a class on the same topic at any URJ Introduction to Judaism course location. Sometimes your instructor will offer an alternative make-up assignment.
  • Attend at least one Shabbaton.
  • Attend at least three Shabbat services and submit a report to your instructor about your experiences, reactions and impressions about each of these.
  • Complete all homework assignments and journal entries the instructor assigns.
  • Complete the take-home summary review. This is an open-book final exam and you are encouraged to use all the materials you receive in class. 


One requirement of the URJ Introduction to Judaism program in the West District is your attendance at a Shabbaton. The word Shabbaton is related to the word Shabbat. Our annual, city-wide Shabbaton takes place in late February/early March from 9:30 am - 3 pm. You can expect to enjoy yourself experiencing prayer, study, singing, Israeli dancing, and discussion about Judaism with a group of rabbis and your peers.

Interested in conversion to Judaism? Looking for a sponsoring clergy person?

Every student in URJ Introduction to Judaism interested in conversion is encouraged to select a sponsoring rabbi or cantor to be their mentor guide. Some students already have a sponsoring clergy person when starting the class, others will find someone while attending. All Reform rabbis and cantors in Southern California have indicated their readiness to sponsor candidates when asked. If you are in the early stages of exploring Judaism and haven't found a community or a clergy person yet, please contact our office. We can explain the role of URJ Introduction to Judaism as an integral step towards conversion and help you select a sponsoring rabbi or cantor. If you know a rabbi or a cantor, make an appointment with him or her to discuss why URJ Introduction to Judaism is right for you.

Students who complete all the requirements of the URJ Introduction to Judaism course will receive a Certificate of Completion upon request. A bet din (a panel of 3 rabbis) for conversion to Judaism will require that the candidate present a Certificate as part of the conversion process. 

General Information

$280 including a $50 non-refundable registration fee
$200 for URJ Congregation Member

The tuition fee allows for either one or two people to attend, and we encourage couples to attend together.

18 weeks