A course for anyone interested in exploring Judaism. The Intro course offers a basic foundation in Judaism in 16 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. Topics include Jewish holidays and life cycle events, theology and prayer, Israel, history and Hebrew.
Please check back later in the summer for updates on fall class dates and locations.
If you have any questions, email Debbie Gettes Neibauer.
Classes meet once a week for two hours on weekday evenings, or Sunday mornings.
Tuition for the 16-week course is $275. A non-refundable $50 registration fee is included. We strongly encourage couples to attend together, and the tuition covers both partners. If you are yourself a member of a URJ-affiliated Reform congregation, the tuition is $180.
If you are taking the class with a significant other, after you have completed the information for the primary student when registering online, please make sure you click "Add Guest" on the third page and then enter your partner's information, as well.
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 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.
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
Debbie Gettes Neibauer is the coordinator of the Philadelphia five county area as well as South New Jersey. Debbie has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Elementary and Special Education. She also has a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education and Administration. She was the Regional Educator for the Pennsylvania Council of URJ and was also the Special Needs Consultant for the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education/Jewish Learning Venture.
She is quite passionate about Jewish education and is always interested in meeting the learners where their needs are. In her newly “retired” state, she is eager and happy to be working for the URJ once again and in helping people become educated about Judaism.
After the passing of their first spouses, Debbie and Fred, her new husband of one year, are happily married. Between them they have four children and six grandchildren. They work at celebrating the good in life on a daily basis.