Emanu-El Scholar Courses

Madeleine Haas Russell Institute of Jewish Learning
All of Rabbi Kushner’s courses are drop-in.
(We’re always grateful if you register but it’s not a deal-breaker)


Holy Letters, Holy Language

With Emanu-El Scholar Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
Tuesday evenings, 7:00 - 8:30 pm, July 1, 15, 29, August 12


Holy Letters, Holy Language is an introduction to the Hebrew alphabet for people who literally don’t know the difference between an aleph and a bet. No prior knowledge of anything whatsoever will be assumed!

The goal of this informal summer seminar will be for students to learn all twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet in order (there’s actually a song for it!) and the sounds for all those little lines and dots that are the vowels.

The class will also discuss some of the legends behind the letters, why they are more than merely signs for sounds, their mystical creative power, their religious significance, gematria (letters as numbers), how to write them cursively (and as calligraphy), and, of course, how to put them together into syllables to (slowly) make words and begin building a very basic Hebrew vocabulary.

Text: The class will use Teach Yourself to Read Hebrew (revised ed.) ($12) and Sounds of Hebrew: Flashcards ($11). Both will be available for purchase at the first class with a check or credit card. No cash will be accepted.

Recommended Background Reading: The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alpef-Bait: Sefer Otiyot, Lawrence Kushner, Jewish Lights, 1975. In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Joel M. Hoffman, New York University Press, 2004. How the Hebrew Language Grew, Edward Horowitz, Ktav, 1960.

Free to members; $20 non-members

While the class welcomes “drop ins” we appreciate it if you would register

Cover of Kabbalah: A Love StoryKabbalah: A Love Story

Rabbi Kushner's first novel

Four years in the making! Soon to be a major motion picture! (Hey, it could happen.) After sixteen books of non-fiction, Rabbi Kushner's first novel, KABBALAH: A LOVE STORY is the fable of a rabbi who accidentally discovers a hidden, lost page to the Zohar (the master text of Kabbalah) and what that discovery does to his life and the life of a woman he doesn't (yet) know he loves who teaches astronomy at Columbia University. A short selection from the first chapter and endorsements are available here.


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