Adult Learning


Learning at Shirat HaNefesh takes a variety of forms:  seminar-type study sessions, lectures, speakers, concerts, texts, book discussions, new music and liturgy.  Join us for:

— Rabbi’s Tables on Shabbat mornings led by Rabbi Gilah,

— Book Discussions on Sunday mornings organized by Heidi Coleman,

— An Adult Bnai Mitzvah class in formation for 2019-20, and our

— Year-long Musical Spotlight Series led by Hazzan Ramón with the Kolot HaLev Choir.  

Rabbi’s Table and After Kiddush Discussions


Twice a month, Rabbi Langner leads a “Rabbi’s Table” — seminar-style around the table, where everyone is encouraged to participate in the discussion.  Topics range from midrash on the Torah portion to Leonard Cohen’s final song, from recent books on racial inequality (The Color of Law, The New Jim Crow) to Having the Conversation about end-of-life issues.  Rabbi’s Tables run from 10:45 to 11:45 on Shabbat. 

We also offer occasional “After Kiddush” sessions, led by rabbis and educators in the congregation, on topics of their own choosing.   Topics have included Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, led by Gideon Amir; What is God’s Kavod, led by Rabbi Bob Saks; and Fiddler Factions:  What Path Would You Take?  also led by Rabbi Saks.

Spotlight Series



Some years, Shirat HaNefesh undertakes a year-long exploration of a particular issues.  For 2017-18, the topic was Dealing with Death.  Our exploration has included sermon topics, several Rabbi’s Table discussions, a Friday Nights Live program, development of a guidebook for members on When Someone Dies, creation of a bereavement support group, and purchasing plots for a dedicated Shirat HaNefesh section at the Garden of Remembrance.  

In 2018-19, our topic was the music, history, and culture of French Jewry. Hazzan Ramón Tasat presented a series of lectures and concerts focusing on the music, culture, and situation of French Jewry, culminating in the annual concert of Kolot HaLev:  Les Chansons Juifs – Portraits of Jewish Music in France.  


Book Discussions


If you love to read and talk about books, you’re in good company. Our Book Discussions take place about every two months on a Sunday morning at a member’s home, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. Coffee, bagels, and dessert are served, so it’s like a brunch with great conversation! Let us know if you’re interested (rsvp@shirathanefesh) and we’ll send you the location information.  Thank you to our hosts, and special thanks to member Heidi Coleman for organizing our Book Discussion Group.

Here’s the reading list for 2019-20:

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Snow in August: A Novel, by Pete Hamill 

Brooklyn, 1947. The war veterans have come home. Jackie Robinson is about to become a Dodger. And in one close-knit working-class neighborhood, an eleven-year-old Irish Catholic boy named Michael Devlin has just made friends with a lonely rabbi from Prague. Snow in August is the story of that unlikely friendship — and of how the neighborhood reacts to it. For Michael, the rabbi opens a window to ancient learning and lore that rival anything in Captain Marvel. For the rabbi, Michael illuminates the everyday mysteries of America, including the strange language of baseball. But like their hero Jackie Robinson, neither can entirely escape from the swirling prejudices of the time. (Host – Helene Ross, Silver Spring)


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love, by Dani Shapiro

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history–the life she had lived–crumbled beneath her. A gripping genetic detective story, and a meditation on the meaning of parenthood and family. (Host – Barbara Brickman, Potomac)


Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, by Richard Zimler 

Just a few years earlier, Jews living in Portugal were forced to convert to Christianity. Many of these New Christians persevered in their Jewish prayers and rituals in secret and at great risk. The kabbalists, a mystical sect of Jews, continued as well. Berekiah Zarco searches for the killer of his beloved uncle Abraham, a renowned kabbalist and manuscript illuminator, discovered murdered in a hidden synagogue. A marvelous story, a challenging mystery, and a telling tale of the evils of intolerance, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon both compels and entertains. (Host – Carol Simon, Potomac)


Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father, by David Maraniss

In a riveting book with powerful resonance today, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the pervasive fear and paranoia that gripped America during the Red Scare of the 1950s through the chilling yet affirming story of his family’s ordeal, from blacklisting to vindication. (Host – Amy and Fred Plotnick, Silver Spring)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Maus, by Art Spiegelman 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust.”