Learning Together

Temple Micah’s deep-rooted focus on learning isn’t just for kids. Adult education has always been taken very seriously. The temple sponsors an annual scholar-in-residence, Sunday speakers, adult ed series led by professional staff, adult Hebrew classes, discussion groups and other learning opportunities. Members themselves have organized lay-led study sessions. The longest-running is Torah Study Group, which has met Saturday mornings before Shabbat morning services since 1995 when the congregation moved to its permanent home on Wisconsin Avenue. Members of the group take turns leading a session and bringing refreshments. Another group meets twice a month after Saturday services to study Hebrew poetry. The members read and translate a poem and then discuss it in English. On the other two Saturdays, a group reads Hebrew short stories. Study groups come and go. In the last year (?), a Jewish Thinkers group met for [get timing] on Saturday afternoons. Several years ago, a few months before Passover a group got together to study the history and evolution of the Hagadah. Anyone can start a group. Gather some study partners and ask the office to fit the group into the temple schedule.


If doing things together at the temple is fun and fulfilling, getting together in a beautiful setting out in the country should be even more gratifying and rewarding. So, from 1972 to 2001 members of Temple Micah—families, couples, singles of all ages—spent a weekend each year in rural Virginia or Pennsylvania. We ate, studied, talked and sang, laughed and played sports together. Some years, the Mighty Micah Players, a group under the direction of Jerry Liebenau, presented plays and skits. We also screened movies. And we had time to take walks, read or meditate by ourselves. Most of all, we got the chance to know each other a lot better.

The 1972 weekend away set the pattern for the next three decades. Organized by Dick and Margie Siegel, about 40 members spent June 9-11 in Orkney Springs, VA, at the Shrine Mont retreat center. It was so much fun, we kept going back to Orkney Springs for 15 years. The 1974 retreat assumed the name Kallah (literally “bride” in Hebrew but a reference to seminars held in ancient Babylon). Being Micah, much of the draw was the learning component, with such wide-ranging topics as the Golden Age of Jews in Spain, intermarriage, the future of Temple Micah, Shabbat, Israel, and the Role of Jews in Social Change.

In 1978, tragedy struck. On the way to Shrine Mont, a car carrying Harry Fox (a much admired and respected wise and scholarly elder), Jack Kramer (the rabbinic intern), Ruth Futrovsky (a recent bat mitzvah), Andy Elisburg (studying for his bar mitzvah) and adult member Leslie Gerwin was involved in a terrible auto accident. Everyone was hurt; Harry Fox died of his injuries several hours later. Shocked and saddened, the group, led by the temple’s brand new Rabbi Bob Baruch, decided to continue with the Kallah.

The popularity of the Kallah soared in the 1980s with well over 100 participants some years. In 1980, the temple added a winter Kallah—generally at the synagogue—enabling those who couldn’t get away from town for an extended period to participate closer to town. The spring Kallah moved to Luray Inn Conference Center near the famous Virginia caverns in 1989, then to a UJA facility in Pennsylvania called Capital Camps, and in 1993, to Allenberry Resort Inn in Boiling Springs, PA, near Louise Zemel’s hometown of Harrisburg, that was familiar to her family. It continued for eight more years, but participation began to wane. The last Kallah took place in 2001.

Public Issues Forum

Louise Wides Tells How it Got Started In 2003

When arranging for subsequent speakers, it helped to be able to say, “Our first speaker was Sy Hirsch.”

Seymour Hersh, the very first speaker

Lunch & Learn

That food and learning are a winning combination is dramatically illustrated by Lunch and Learn. The second Wednesday of every month, people gather at the temple at noon for a healthy home-made lunch of hearty soup, interesting salad and yummy desserts. They sit at tables for 8—big enough to meet new people but small enough to be congenial. After lunch, a speaker—usually a Micah member with a particular expertise; sometimes an outside expert—presents the topic which is generally illustrated by slides. And then come questions from the audience.

Lunch and Learn is the product of the Aging Together Team, itself the result of a listening campaign that surfaced concern among members that the temple needed to engage its senior members more. The first Lunch and Learn session was held in June 2013. Aging Together chair Barbara Diskin recalled, “We hoped for 25 people and 50 showed up!” And it really took off. Because of the timing, the majority of attendees are retired, but younger folks who can take off from work or who work at home are also well represented. It’s adult education while just having fun together.

Barbara Diskin on Lunch & Learn

They (seniors) wanted something aimed at them.  They wanted some good food and someone to talk to them but not about growing older but rather about things that would make them think and laugh – so Lunch & Learn was born.  Most of our speakers come from within our congregation and we even have a cookbook of all the vegan soups and desserts we’ve served.  Many of the non member attendees have now joined Micah.  

Lunch & Learn Slide Show

Wise Aging

Barbara Diskin Explains the Program

Wise Aging Retreat – 2019

Herman Schwartz Reprises His Session on Yiddish Poetry in America

Herman Schwartz shares his deep knowledge of the lives and work of three Yiddish poets, Jacob Glatstein, Kadya Molodovsky, and Abraham Sutzkever. Listen as he tells us their background and reads two poems by each poet in both English and Yiddish.