Adult Education at WES

West End Synagogue is committed to universal adult study of Jewish sources, history and cultural expression in its many forms. Through our Adult Education Project, we pursue our vision of a congregation as literate and well-educated in Jewish terms as it is in secular terms.

Plan to join us for stimulating and thought provoking events!

Download our 2021-2022 WES Adult Education Brochure
For the WES Racial Justice Salon list of readings and media, please click here.


Please Note: If the below events are in person at our synagogue, they will start at 7:00 pm. If they are on Zoom, they will begin at 7:30 pm.

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 7:30 pm.
Rukhl Shaechter, Editor of the Yiddish Forward, “The Future of Yiddish.”

Monday, October 25, 2021, 7:30 pm.
Lisa Bordetsky-Williams, Author, “Forget Russia.”
Discussion to be moderated by Jerry Saltzman whose family was one of the Russian-born, American families who returned to Communist Russia only to become disillusioned.

3 Mondays, November 8, 22 & December 13, 2021, 7:30 pm.
Carole Kessner, “The Changing Myth of the Jew in British and American Literature.”
The aim of the study is to understand the ways that non-Jewish writers have depicted Jews in order to serve a specific psychological and sociopolitical purpose. We will track the persistence of a single mythic image/stereotype: the Jew as a projection of the communities needs, fears emotions, politics, and social structures. In other words, the Jew as archetype.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 7:30 pm.
Carole Kessner, presented jointly with the WES book club. “The Netanyahus” by Joshua Cohen.

Complexity rules the Jewish world of Joshua Cohen’s new comic novel “The Netanyahus”. No, this is not a book about Bibi, though it is very much about his father Benzion. It is also about the Diaspora, assimilation, anti-Semitism, Zionism, the Bronx, Israel, academia, non-Jews in upstate New York, the Spanish Inquisition, German-American Jews, Eastern European American Jews, the Holocaust, history and historians, Harold Bloom. All this, and more in a work of fiction that defies most of the known rules of the genre. It is at once provocative, confrontational, supportive, and educational. Yes, a serious study of the extremes of American Jewish identity, all the while providing hilarious comic relief for the exhausted reader.

Monday, December 6, 2021 7:30 pm.
Sanford Lacks presents: “Mordecai Kaplan in His Own Words,”
A taped interview (1965) in which Rabbi Dr. Mordecai Kaplan discusses Reconstructionism, the Idea of God and Mysticism, the state of Israel, the Diaspora and the preservation of the Jewish people. Group discussion at intervals.

Thursday, December 9, 2021 7:30 pm.
Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development.
Join Tovah Klein as she discusses the concerns and silver linings of the pandemic and the development of toddlers and young children.

Wednesday, December 15. 2021, 7:30 pm.
Natan Meir, Professor of Judaic Studies at Portland State University.
Author of
Stepchildren of the Shtetl.  Dr. Meir will discuss his book on the Eastern European shtetl focusing on the lives of its marginalized people.
Memoirs of Jewish life in the east European shtetl often recall the hekdesh (town poorhouse) and its residents: beggars, madmen and madwomen, disabled people, and poor orphans. Stepchildren of the Shtetl tells the story of these marginalized figures from the dawn of modernity to the eve of the Holocaust."

3 dates: Wednesdays, December 22, 29, 2021 and Monday, January 10, 2022, 7:30 pm.
Professor Emeritus Irwin Wall will explore “The Jewish Community in England, France and Germany.”
The Jews of France, England and Germany together constitute one million of the roughly 15 million Jews in the world: 500,000 in France – 300,000 in England, and 200,000 in Germany. Each, powerful and influential in their own lands, plays increasingly important roles in the affairs of world Jewry, both Israel and the Diaspora, to the welfare of which they are all three committed.

The minicourse will examine these communities in three aspects: first, how they have internally, all three, been transformed since the Second World War. French Jewry has doubled in size and is today largely Sephardic; British Jewry was plunged from its almost charmed and idyllic past into the vortex of Zionism and the Center of the politics of Israel’s creation, and the German community, once the most prestigious community of the Diaspora, having been dispersed and virtually destroyed, has been reconstituted from a tiny postwar almost invisible remnant into an entirely different version of its former self. Second, what is the quality of Jewish life in all three? How has their traditional Orthodoxy been challenged by the growing appeal of Liberal or Reform Judaism on the one hand and the rise of Hassidim and Haredim on the other. And how are they buffeted by the powerful winds of secularization and assimilationism which seem to threaten the prospects of their long-term viability? Finally, all three, which have integrated the new reality of Israel into their own existence and identity, find themselves in the throes of an existential struggle against the new anti-Semitism.

For Spring 2022 dates, please download our brochure at above link. (Prints on 8.5x14 paper).



“Spiritual Autobiography,” Judith Friedman, Mondays, 4 – 5:30 pm.
Participants will write and share short pieces on childhood memories, spiritual awakenings, personal understandings of the Torah stories and more. WES members only. New members welcome. Contact Judith Friedman.

“Chug Ivri,” 2:00 – 3:00 PM, Led by David Goldfarb.
Meetings are held in members’ homes. Last Shabbat of each month. (Starting in October). A chance to obtain fluency in Hebrew by reading and discussing stories, poetry and articles on current affairs.

“Shabbat Study Minyan,” 12:00 –1:30 PM, led by Michael Graff.
Close study of Jewish literature. Reading in advance of each session required.

“Middah on Mondays Study Group,” Monthly, third Monday of each month 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Led by Susan Schorr.
All WES members are invited to join our study of West End’s Middah (ethical value/character trait) of the month. Discussions are shaped using texts from both our tradition and from modern authors, pop culture and more.

“Torah on Tuesdays” 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month, led by Susan Schorr.
Commemorating thirty years of study together! Watch for special announcements. All are welcome to join our ongoing study of the Torah. We read the text (in English) and consider it from the perspectives of literature, sacred text, religious mythology, family lore, psychology, drama, history, pop culture and more. Drop in and join the conversation, or just listen and enjoy. No prior background or knowledge is required.



9:00 am to 10:00 am
Shabbat mornings
Led by Rabbi Emily Cohen or various lay leaders.

Text study of the weekly Torah portion. As a learning community, we seek to draw on our texts, honor them for what they represented in their time of creation and explore how they can be applied in our time.

12:00 - 1:30 pm
Led by Michael Graff

Close study of Jewish Literature. Reading in advance of each session required.

2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Last Shabbat of each month
Led by David Goldfarb

A chance to gain fluency in Hebrew by reading and discussing stories, poetry and articles on current affairs.


West End Synagogue is committed to universal adult study of Jewish sources, history and cultural expression in its many forms. Through our Yad Mordecai Adult Education Project, we pursue our vision of a congregation as literate and well-educated in Jewish terms as it is in secular terms.  

Adult Education programs and activities focus on the vital areas of education, community, and outreach:

  • Education - Working to deepen the congregation's Jewish knowledge at all levels through educational and cultural programs and events.
  • Community - Involving members, enhancing interaction among the various WES populations, enriching the communal life of the congregation, and complementing school programs for parents.
  • Outreach - Providing educational opportunities for the community at large that enhance Jewish living and promote Reconstructionism.

Activities sponsored by Adult Education include:

  • Single-session lectures and courses, as well as longer series on selected topics by our Rabbi, Cantor, and invited speakers.
  • A variety of musical, theatrical, and literary programs.
  • Scholar in Residence and Artist in Residence programs that bring prominent figures in Jewish thought and culture to West End Synagogue.

For more information contact the wesoffice [at] (WES Office).


190 Amsterdam Avenue (at 69th Street)
New York, NY 10023
Phone: (212) 579-0777
Fax: (212) 579-2669
Email: office [at]
Affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist movement, Reconstructing Judaism

Find us on Facebook

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter