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Bet Torah is fortunate to be able to welcome a scholar for a weekend each year to speak to our community about themes relating to Judaism. Over the years we have a had scholars with a variety of specialties including music, Jewish life on college campuses, antisemitism and prayer.

2024 | 2023 | 2022

2024 Scholar: Amy Kalmanofsky

On January 26-27, Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky will join us to talk about the theme of hope. 

Hope's Doorway

The capacity to hope is integral to religious life, yet contemporary life makes it hard to feel and express hope.  We will explore what hope means in the context of the Bible and consider whether the Bible is a valuable resource for cultivating a language of hope among Jews today. 

Friday Night: Promises, Promises

This session will explore God’s promises to the Patriarchs as expressions of hope, focusing particularly on the intimate moment of encounter between God and Abraham in Genesis 15. Register here.

Saturday Afternoon: Awaiting the Good Hour

This session explores how the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah express hope through their remarkable use of maternal imagery. Register here.

About Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky

Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky, Blanche and Romie Shapiro Professor of Bible, is dean of Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies, JTS’s undergraduate school, and dean of the Gershon Kekst Graduate School. As professor of Bible, she teaches courses on biblical literature, religion, and feminist interpretation of the Bible. In her writing and teaching, Dr. Kalmanofsky combines contemporary ideas and critical methods with traditional text study, teaching students to be careful, creative interpreters of Torah.

Dr. Kalmanofsky’s first book, Terror All Around: The Rhetoric of Horror in the Book of Jeremiah (T&T Clark, 2008) uses horror theory to argue that the biblical prophets constructed monsters and crafted language that worked to terrify their audience. Her book The Dangerous Sisters of the Hebrew Bible (Fortress Press, 2014) explores the biblical portrayal of sisters and sisterhoods and argues that both play a vital role in the Bible’s narrative. Her book Gender-Play in the Hebrew Bible (Routledge, 2017) examines the ways in which the Bible defies and challenges its gender norms. Her book The Power of Equivocation: Complex Readers and Readings of the Hebrew Bible (Fortress, 2022) addresses the Bible’s inherent complexity, as well as the complexity of those who seek to read the Bible critically, generously, and honestly.

Dr. Kalmanofsky also has written numerous articles examining the biblical representation of women and the roles women play in the Bible, as well as articles that consider the biblical rhetoric of violence. She serves on two editorial boards: The Journal of the Feminist Studies in Religion and the Biblical Interpretation Series. You can find a list of Dr. Kalmanofsky's publications and lectures here.

2023 Scholar: Hartley Lachter

On February 10-12, 2023 Dr. Hartley Lachter joined us for a weekend on spirituality in Judaism and a report on Jewish Life on college campuses.


Friday Night: Antisemitism Past and Present

Saturday Morning: What is Kabbalah?

Saturday Evening: Reincarnation and Judaism

Sunday Morning: Reports from Jewish Campus Life


About Dr. Hartley Lachter

Hartley Lachter, Associate Professor of Religion Studies, holds the Philip and Muriel Berman Chair in Jewish Studies, and serves as the director of the Berman Center for Jewish Studies. His scholarship focuses on medieval Kabbalah, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between Jewish historical experiences and the development of kabbalistic discourses. His work explores how medieval Jewish-Christian debates, as well as disruptive moments of violence and forced conversion, shape Jewish mystical literature and serve as a form of cultural resistance for some pre-modern Jews. His recent book, Kabbalistic Revolution: Reimagining Judaism in Medieval Spain, was published by Rutgers University Press.Hartley Lachter’s teaching interests include course on Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, survey courses on Judaism and Jewish thought, theory and method in the study of religion, and explorations of contemporary religious extremism and violence. In both his work and his teaching, Dr. Lachter invites his readers and students to consider how religious identities are negotiated through the production of public discourses that shape,and are shaped by, the interactions across identity boundaries. Hartley Lachter lives in Allentown, PA, with his wife, Dr. Jessica Cooperman, who is a Religion Studies professor at Muhlenberg College, where she directs the program in Jewish Studies. Hartley and Jessica have two daughters, Zoe and Mollie.

2022 Scholars: Rabbi Mark Novak and Renee Brachfeld

On January 28-30, 2022 master storytellers Rabbi Mark Novak and Renee Brachfeld joined us for the weekend for performances, workshops, and story-inspired prayer.

About Rabbi Mark Novak

Mark is a free-range rabbi, musician, composer, storyteller, and spiritual director. A master at creating sacred space, he brings with him over 40 years of professional theater experience. He is founder of and spiritual guide of Minyan Oneg Shabbat, Washington DC's Jewish Renewal happening, which offers a monthly session of ​Mindfulness Practice Thru a Jewish Lens.

His project - A Year of Stories - dedicated to the memory of his teacher, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi of blessed memory, is Mark's retelling of stories gathered from a vast variety of sources.

From 1977-1986 Mark was a member of the renowned Living Stage Theater Company at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. His original theater pieces have been performed at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts and The Smithsonian. Visit Mark online at

About Renée Brachfeld, MSW

Renée has been a professional storyteller and teacher since 1987. She has performed and taught at synagogues, churches and retreats throughout the US and Canada, as well as international storytelling festivals. ​Her workshops are fun and dynamic, bringing out the storyteller in each individual. She is a co-host of The Grapevine, a monthly storytelling series for adults.

At the outset of the pandemic, Renée quickly helped move all MFSI and Grapevine events online. Over the course of this difficult time, she has become a well-known Zoom master. She now assists other groups and organizations with creating and running online events that maintain the warmth and interaction previously expected only from in-person gatherings.

She has been heard on NPR, and her written stories have been published in ​Penina Schram’s Chosen Tales, and Goldie Milgram’s Mitzvah Stories.

Renée is also a pretty darn good juggler. Visit Renée online at

Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784