Four local synagogues have banded together to create the first West Valley Winter Kallah, an adult education lecture series taught by Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis, which is expected to become an annual event. Leaders of Congregation Or Ami, Shomrei Torah, Temple Aliyah and Temple Judea, plus three independent rabbis, each will provide an intensive workshop on a particular subject for four Monday nights beginning Jan. 15, with the final evening in the series devoted to a lecture by John Loftus, author of "The Secret War Against the Jews."
The five-week series, titled "2001: A Spiritual Odyssey" will be held at Shomrei Torah in West Hills. The program was made possible by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, according to Shomrei Torah's rabbi, Richard Camras.
"The goal is to build bridges amongst the denominations, to learn from rabbis whom one ordinarily would not learn from and to be able to hear a renowned lecturer and writer speaking on a subject near and dear to Jewish hearts," Camras said.
Adult education is of growing interest in the Los Angeles Jewish community, as is cross-denominational programming, and event planners hope the Kallah will become an annual event.
"The word kallah means bride, but in ancient times the same word was used to represent a period of time when rabbis from various regions came together to study," explained event coordinator Joshua Hoffman, a rabbinical student at the University of Judaism. "The function of the kallah is for rabbis to choose whatever they want to teach, not only what their respective communities are interested in but also [of interest to] the large number of unaffiliated Jews in the Valley that we are trying to get involved in the Jewish community."
Classes range from Jewish spirituality to the evolution of Jewish law and women in biblical times. Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami will address "Life's Most Difficult Questions," while Rabbi Wendy Spears examines the relationship between Jews and other religions in her class "Pagans, Christians, Buddhists and You."
Hoffman said the Loftus lecture should also prove a major draw.
"A lot of Loftus' work was on [former President] George Bush, so it should be very interesting to hear what he has to say about his son," Hoffman said.
Classes will run 8-10 p.m. and are preceded by an optional Maariv service at 7:30 p.m. $36 (pre-registered), $45 (at the door), $18 (college and high school students). Those interested in attending the John Loftus lecture only can buy tickets for $10 each. To register, call (818) 346-0811.