Exploring Judaism

The Open Door: Stepping into Jewish Life

The Open Door at Temple Israel of Boston is an entry point for all who are looking to explore, rediscover, or connect with Judaism and synagogue life, whether for the first time or in a new way. 

We offer an ongoing slate of introductory-level classes, special events, and discussion groups that dig into Jewish spirituality, ethics, practice, and community through a Reform Jewish lens. Each opportunity is designed as a great starting point for interfaith couples, spiritual seekers, individuals entering a new stage of their Jewish life, and those who are simply curious.

Core Classes, offered in partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism

A Taste Of Judaism: Are You Curious?

Offered regularly throughout the year, this 3-session class explores traditional and modern Jewish sources on spirituality, ethics, and community in an accessible setting. Designed for beginners, Jewish or not. 

Introduction To Judaism

Offered twice a year, this 16-week course explores the foundations of Judaism and Jewish living, including Torah and other sacred texts, prayer, holidays, Jewish ethics, and lifecycle moments, as well as history, Israel, and the American Jewish experience. Open to all, this course is perfect for interfaith couples, those raising Jewish children, spiritual seekers, individuals considering conversion, and Jews who want a meaningful adult Jewish learning experience.

Learn To Read Hebrew

Learn to recognize the shapes and sounds of the Jewish alphabet, and begin to understand recurring words and phrases of Shabbat and holiday services. Offered regularly throughout the year.

Upcoming Programs


Bursting with Joy! Online Birthing Class

Date

November 07, 2021

Time

6:00pm - 9:00pm

In this birthing class, Certified Nurse-Midwife Sarah Kleinman will cover the birthing process and guide you through birthing…

Learn to Read Hebrew: Level 1

Date

December 01, 2021

Time

7:00pm - 9:00pm

This online, beginner-level class is designed for anyone wanting to learn or review the Hebrew alphabet and become…

Journeys To Judaism

Journeys to Judaism are vast and varied. Who you are and how you locate yourself in the Jewish story is a journey that all who are drawn to Judaism take, including those born into its heritage, those who choose it as their inheritance, and those whose legacy is love and who cherish the people in their lives who are Jewish. The Open Door at Temple Israel of Boston is a space for individuals, partners, and families in their exploration of Judaism, Hebrew, ritual, relationships, parenting, and beyond.

Stories from our community

My Jewish Journey: Jeanne Rintell

It was 1994, a few months before our wedding, on a 3 hour drive… David (then my fiancée) shared that he would do whatever it took to raise our kids Jewish. I was surprised and wondered: “you’re not even sure that you believe in God, so how can you say that?”

There were so many things I didn’t know about Judaism. What I did know is that David and I would be together, and had confidence we would figure it out. It was 13 months from meeting to marriage, and as required by our wedding officiant, I committed to raise our children Jewish. We did soon have children! We didn’t really have a plan.

For several years we attended Easter services with my sister’s family. When Adam (my son) was three, he saw his older cousin at the communion rail and asked why he couldn’t go up there. I couldn’t do it and realized that I never wanted to be in that situation with my children again. We couldn’t put this off any longer.

We participated in a program in Cambridge called Raising Your Children in an Interfaith Marriage. By the program’s end we all wanted to continue, so we met weekly for the next two years, exploring subjects such as identity, personal experience with religion, and parenting. The exploration and learning was finally under way!

By now I understood the benefits for our kids to have a foundation in one religion and in a congregational setting. We searched for a place for our family and we found Temple Israel. My biggest concern was that I didn’t want my kids in a program where they might be taunted by other kids about how they weren’t “real” Jews because their mother wasn’t Jewish. I was reassured to find that there were many interfaith families here at TI. I had “faith,” we joined and enrolled our kids.

As a family we fully participated: in services, Youth choir, adult music opportunities, social justice projects, Sunday school and family learning, High Holy Days, and we made so many friends along the way. By the time our kids completed their Bar and Bat Mitzvah, we bonded with a group of six families that became a chavurah, a close-knit group, connecting and supporting each other in times of celebration, but also through the deaths of parents, and into this new stage of being empty nesters! Along the way, a friend asked me to help with the music at Second Day Lay-led Rosh Hashanah service; while musically trained, it was a lot of work to close the gap in my Jewish prayer and learning experiences; but I have so loved being fully able to connect spiritually through my first and always best connection – music.

Have you noticed that I’ve made no mention of conversion in the telling of my journey? I was not compelled to convert, nor was I against it, but I wasn’t sure it made sense for me, and meanwhile I was fully participating in life at TI.

Eventually though, there came a moment that pushed me to consider the next steps in my own journey: each of my kids had been a singer/actor in the Rosh Hashanah skit that Cantor Einhorn organized at the family service. One particular time, as I listened to my child’s voice, putting themselves out there to bravely sing, I realized that I was no longer okay with being neither here, nor there. I wasn’t interfaith: I was not practicing any other faith and had been practicing Judaism for many years. Yet I couldn’t call myself Jewish. I needed to figure this out, to delve into whatever it was that kept me from landing firmly somewhere. The only thing stopping me was ME.

But I still needed time. I spent a year in a group called Women Considering Judaism, a wonderful chance to consider and articulate my feelings. Rabbi Zecher wisely knew I needed space. She did periodically invite me to “take a walk” to talk about it, but she never pushed. As both kids were in college, I had time to focus on myself, and over time with the gift of all of these explorations, I knew I was ready to convert.

Some people asked, “Why now? What changed?” There’s no single answer to that, but what I can share with you are the blessings I’ve experienced in this journey: I had the gift of deep love and acceptance from David, Adam, and Sophia, my in-laws, whose memories are always a blessing to me, my parents and siblings, and dear friends we’ve made here. I also had the gifts of time, space, and acceptance from the clergy, whose progressive attitude toward interfaith families is I believe a true way to allow for growth of the Jewish People. That I was happy and engaged here meant that my kids were as well. I’m so proud to share that both of our kids grew to be leaders in their time here, being fully involved at each stage as children and teens, and each serving as president of the RYFTI youth group. Their growth and involvement might not have been possible if I as their mother and we as a family had not found open and genuine ways to engage and belong here. My journey has unfolded naturally and authentically, and it continues. I’m deeply grateful for all of it.

Finding this congregation which allowed for interfaith space and space for all to grow is what we needed to find our way as a family and as individuals, and for me, as a Jew.

My Jewish Journey: Matt Thoman

The story I’m about to tell you is one that is deeply personal to me and one that is still unfinished. Those of us who come home to Judaism later in life are from a smorgasbord of backgrounds and come with many different experiences. Although there may be similarities between your story and mine, I also realize that each person is on his or her own unique path and on their own time.

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and religion didn’t play much of a role in my life. My family and I never attended any churches or prescribed to any organized religion. My entire childhood and into high school I never considered myself a spiritual person and couldn’t foresee that changing in the future.

That all began to change a few years later. In college it came time for the dreaded language course requirement. By chance I had heard someone speaking Hebrew and decided I liked the way it sounded. Hebrew was going to be the language for me. I learned quickly that studying a language like Hebrew was not done in isolation. The language was tied to a country and by default a religion, rich with customs and traditions. I made friends in my Hebrew class and they became like an adopted family. All this time spent with my new friends. I began to learn a little more about Judaism. They introduced me to many new concepts. I was invited to Shabbat dinners, I made shofars for Rosh Hashanah, I attended seders for Pesach. I loved every minute of it. It was one of the first times in my life that I felt myself instinctively drawn to something bigger than myself. Although it is hard to put into words, I loved being part of something that had so many customs and rituals. I began to feel a connection to the people, the practices, and the beliefs. I would continue to pursue these long after college had ended.

My Jewish education continued after moving to Boston in 2010. After finishing graduate school my first job was at the JCC in Brookline/Brighton. During my year of working at the JCC, in addition to a regular preschool hands on curriculum, there was also a strong Jewish curriculum. Every Friday we would celebrate Shabbat together as a class. We would light the candles, bless the challah, and grape juice. And again I just felt a connection to it. I wanted to be part of it.

It was around this time that I signed up for the Introduction to Judaism course offered at a synagogue here in Boston. I was excited to learn more about Jewish practice and in particular life in a synagogue. However, as I sat for my first class an old unwelcome feeling crept up again. This feeling that I was an odd man out. Although the class was full, I was one of only two people who were not taking it because of a Jewish partner or spouse. It made me wonder

what type of role I could possibly play in Judaism without all these family and community connections that other people had. As the months progressed I enjoyed learning more about the religion. Topics such as the difference between Torah and the Talmud, how to go through a siddur, and of course celebrating Jewish life cycle events were some of my favorite topics. I also discovered a great affinity for Jewish liturgical music. I found that there is a real power in music. It has been my experience that during a variety of services, it is the music portion that draws me in the most. It is the music that helps me feel connected to others.

After completing the class I started to attend services throughout the Boston area. In large settings and small. As the High Holy Days approached in 2016 I came across the Riverway Project. I booked tickets and attended the services. Although I had been to many services by this time, I felt something very different that night. I found myself looking around and I realized that after all these years, I could imagine myself feeling comfortable somewhere. I did find a community that I would like to be part of and grow in. A few days after the High Holy Days ended, I contacted Rabbi Gubitz and told her of my desire to convert. It finally felt like it was the

right time.

My year of study with Rabbi Gubitz was extremely rewarding and challenging. There are so many things that I love about Judaism. I love lighting Shabbat candles at home. I love singing songs, I love in the middle of service looking over and seeing a look of happiness and contentment on the faces of my fellow congregants. Above all, I love the challenges it provides to me. Judaism has helped me live a more mindful life. In particular, the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur this past year really challenged me in terms of thinking of how I was

living my life. I love that Judaism isn’t just something to slog through; it is really something that requires engagement and reflection.

The day of my conversion was probably the most nervous I had ever been in my life. I remember feeling incredibly excited, scared, and pensive. I’m happy to say the whole process went very smoothly. It didn’t feel like a “test” it felt like a conversation and an opportunity to tell my story. Although I’m very happy with the path I have taken I of course still have some fears. Without a Jewish upbringing or partner, I do still feel alone sometimes. Community is so important and I have to be proactive about building mine. However, I feel very grateful to be part of a community such as Temple Israel with lots of opportunities to get involved, classes to attend, and events to be part of. A few weeks ago I got to spend my first Shabbat in Jerusalem with a friend from TI. It was a wonderful experience and one that I won’t forget. Thank you so much for taking time to read my story today. If you ever have any questions or just want to say hello, please feel free.

Have questions? We want to hear from you.

Rabbi Andrew Oberstein
617-566-3960 aoberstein@tisrael.org