Chabad of Bakersfield_27

A large crowd enjoys the Chabad Jewish Community Center following the ribbon cutting in August. The center will host a six-week course on "Great Debates in Jewish History" starting Wednesday.

Nick Ellis / The Californian

Over the course of 2,000 years, Jewish history has been shaped by six epic debates that still resound powerfully today. Starting Wednesday, The Chabad Jewish Community Center will offering a new six-session course from the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), titled "Great Debates in Jewish History."

JLI courses are presented in Bakersfield in conjunction with The Chabad Jewish Community Center. Esther Schlanger, wife of Rabbi Shmuli Schlanger, serves the local instructor for JLI. 

“Judaism welcomes debate and discourse,” Schlanger said. “This JLI course invites participants to gain fascinating insight into six mega-debates that have split the Jewish community throughout our history — and some of these matters continue to be debated today!”

In the first session, the community is invited to examine and unlock the stories of the Dead Sea Scrolls and what the ancient manuscripts' texts reveal about the heated dispute between the Dead Sea Sect and the Jewish establishment. It has been 70 years since archeologist Eleazar Sukenik purchased the first Dead Sea Scroll in November 1957.

"Great Debates in Jewish History" raises such questions as: Why were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls opposed to rabbinic interpretation? What motivated the rebels at Masada? And what is the Jewish perspective on taking up arms in situations where defeat is inevitable? What role does nationalism play in Judaism? Are faith and reason are mutually exclusive? What motivated those opposed to philosopher Maimonides in banning — and even burning — some of his works? And is religion designed to be a private and personal experience, or one to be proudly paraded in the public domain?

“Our goal is to invite participants to seek out the rationale behind both sides of each debate — even sides they may disagree with,” explained Rabbi Zalman Abraham, of JLI’s Brooklyn headquarters. “In doing so, we hope to unite the community around the very issues that have divided us for so long,”

Like all JLI programs, this course is designed to appeal to people at all levels of knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple or other house of worship.

The six-session course starts Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the center, 6901 Ming Ave., and continues Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $85, including a textbook. Call 835-8381 or visit myJLI.com to register or for more information.

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