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The URJ sponsors this Introduction to Judaism course in California. The Intro course offers a basic foundation in Judaism in 18 sessions. The course is required for persons considering conversion to Judaism. It is also an excellent refresher course in the principles and practices of Judaism for people who are born Jewish, as well as interfaith couples.
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. Classes meet once a week for two hours, either on weekday evenings or Sunday mornings.
We recommend that you purchase the required text books (appr. $110) before the class starts. You can order them online; some may be available at your local bookstore or order online. 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:
- Concepts of God
- Conversion to Judaism
- Death and Mourning
- Israel and Zionism
- Jewish Culture
- Jewish History
- Jewish Holidays
- Marriage and Family
- Personal Responsibility
- Repentance and the Path of Righteousness
- Worship and Spirituality
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 to write this paper. You will obtain the Summary Review Questions from your instructor at the 14th class session. When you complete the Summary Review, you should submit it directly to your instructor who will review it and may ask you to revise some sections.
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. Shabbatonim(plural) take place on Saturdays on various dates and at various locations. The Shabbaton usually runs from 10 am until 3 pm. Time, location and other specifics will be publicized on the registration site and e-mail notifications to students enrolled in Intro. Although the specific programs of each Shabbaton will vary somewhat, you can expect to enjoy yourself experiencing prayer, study, singing, 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 his or her 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. 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.
Instructors are usually rabbis ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the seminary for Reform Judaism. These liberal rabbis encourage students to raise questions and enter into spirited discussions on 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.
About the Coordinator
Rabbi Sabine Meyer is the director of the URJ West District Introduction to Judaism program. Ordained by the Hebrew Union College - Institute of Jewish Religion in Los Angeles, Rabbi Meyer has served congregations in the greater Los Angeles area, Palm Springs, and the Imperial Valley and was the first rabbi/educator at the International Peace School in Cologne, Germany. She has lectured widely in congregational and academic settings on topics including Jewish texts, history, and denominations.