About the Tauber Jewish Studies Program

Welcome to Tauber! There is a conversation going on, and you can be part of it. It was begun by Abraham, continued by Moses, and then by the compilers of the Torah; the writers of the biblical histories, the megillot, and wisdom literature; and the psalmists and prophets:

Then there were new voices: the first rabbis—people like Hillel and Akiva, the sages of Pirke Avot, the arguers of the Talmud. And then on to those who interpreted and argued with these earlier rabbis, who themselves became voices in the Talmud. Soon came the commentators, like Rashi and Nachmanides, who re-imagined the conversation for their own generations; and also the philosophers, like Maimonides, and Joseph Caro, who wrote the Shulkhan Arukh; and, much later, Mendelssohn and Rosenzweig and Buber. And, in between: the Baal Shem Tov; and Moses de Leon, who (perhaps) wrote the Zohar, and Nachman of Bratslav, and Baruch Spinoz; and the poet, Judah HaLevi; and—in our own day—Yehudah Amichai and Eli Wiesel and Anne Frank, and so many, many others. Each added a voice—and this voice is yours. You own it. You have merely to claim it, engage it, answer it.

 - This is the mission of the Tauber Jewish Studies Program. We invite you to join the conversation.

Tauber Faculty

The key to the Tauber Program is our faculty, composed of our distinguished clergy and talented educators from around the Bay Area. Each is a scholar or exemplar in his or her field, a teacher and, just as important, a learner. Our goal is a faculty that works collaboratively to create exciting and truly meaningful courses. That also means collaborating with you, the student, to develop a program that, over the years, will work better and better to meet your needs.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is the Emanu-El Scholar. Prior to his move out to San Francisco, he was the Rabbi-in-Residence at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. Before that, he served for twenty-eight years as the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts. He is the author of seventeen books including Honey from the Rock, God Was in This Place and I, i Did Not Know, Invisible Lines of Connection, and Five Cities of Refuge, and has recently completed his first novel, Kabbalah: A Love Story. He enjoys biking and is trying to learn how to play the clarinet. 

Rabbi Jane Litman has served Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Gay Outreach congregations. She was a professor of religion and women’s studies at California State University at Northridge and taught at the University of Judaism and Loyola Marymount College. Her book, Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Scriptural Themes in Contemporary Life, co-edited with Rabbi Debra Orenstein, won a number of awards. She obtained her rabbinical degree in 1988 from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

Yiskah Rosenfeld
has taught classes combining text study and creativity in the Jewish community for 18 years. An award-winning poet and scholar, her poems and essays appear in many publications including Lilith Magazine, Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism, Bridges, and Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. She holds an M.A. degree in jurisprudence and social policy from UC Berkeley and an M.F.A. in poetry from Mills College. Yiskah returns to the Bay Area from Philadelphia, where she studied at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and taught in the Jewish Studies department at Temple University. 

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Who is the Tauber Program for? All adults interested in learning more about Jewish ideas, texts, history, and practice are welcome at Tauber courses.
  2. What is the difference between the Ikarim courses and the Yesod courses? Ikarim are individual eight-week courses on a variety of subjects. They may be taken in any order, and there are generally no prerequisites. Yesod is a two-year curriculum. It consists of six courses based on essential Jewish texts beginning with the Bible and continuing through Modern Time. Courses that are part of Yesod must be taken in sequence. However, Yesod courses will be repeated every other year, so if a student misses a trimester, he or she may continue with that course in the following year. 
  3. When and where do courses meet? All classes meet once a week for eight weeks, from 7:00–8:30/9:00 pm on Tuesdays or Thursdays at Temple Emanu-El. 
  4. What happens if I miss a class? While steady attendance is desirable, we recognize that this is a program for adults who may have many competing demands on their time. Students enrolled in classes should speak to their individual instructors regarding needed absence. 
  5. Who will be teaching the Tauber courses? The instructors include the Emanu-El rabbis, cantors, and other talented educators in the Bay Area. For a list of this year's faculty, see Tauber Faculty.
  6. Is there homework? The faculty may assign homework, generally reading. Completing the assignments makes the courses richer for all participants. The core curriculum, Yesod, will have more outside preparation than the individual Conversations.
  7. Do I need to be able to read Hebrew? Knowledge of Hebrew is not required for courses in the Tauber Program.
  8. Will there be examinations or other forms of grading? The Tauber classes will not have exams or grades. The program is built on the premise that adults are motivated by in-depth study in a joyful, collaborative environment.
  9. Do I have to buy books? Some courses will require book purchases. Students will be notified of these requirements when they receive confirmation of their registration.
  10. What is the policy on refunds? A refund will be issued if it is requested within a week after the first class meeting.
  11. Will there be a graduation or other type of recognition? Students who complete the two-year Yesod program will receive a certificate and be honored at a special ceremony.
  12. What is meant by course completion?  For Yesod, completion is achieved by attending six out of eight classes, or in the case of lower attendance, upon recommendation of the instructor.
  13.  Can I get credit or Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for Tauber courses? Tauber is not associated with a university or other credit-granting institutions. However all instructors will provide course outlines which, in some cases, may be accepted for "independent study" or other purposes in some situations.
  14. Whom should I talk to if I want to recommend a course for the future or make other suggestions? Send your suggestions to mjeisenberg@emanuelsf.org or call (415) 751-2541 x 162.
  15. Whom should I talk to if I am having a problem with a course or with other aspects of the Tauber Program? Contact Mary Jane Eisenberg at mjeisenberg@emanuelsf.org or call us at (415) 751-2535.
  16. Will courses be repeated? Yesod courses will be repeated each year or every other year. Ikarim courses may occasionally be repeated based on factors such as curriculum priorities, teacher availability, and popular demand.
  17. How do I register for courses? Register online here.

You may also register by calling (415) 751-2541 x 162.

The Tauber Jewish Studies Program is made possible by The Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation, reflecting the dynamic, generous, and enduring spirit of Dr. Laszlo N. Tauber.
A program of the Madeleine Haas Russell Institute of Jewish Learning.


© 2015 Congregation Emanu-El 2 Lake Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 751-2535
Fax: (415) 751-2511