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Introduction to Judaism with Rabbi Ahuva

Or Ami’s Introduction to Judaism with Rabbi Ahuva offers you an incredible opportunity to explore aspects of Jewish life in an intellectually challenging and emotionally supportive environment.

Over sixteen weeks, you will learn interesting and valuable information about the many voices of Torah, Jewish holidays, prayers, life cycle events, Jewish history, cultural diversity, and major Jewish values.

This class is open to everyone. You don’t have to be Jewish or a member of Or Ami to register. Whether you were raised as a Jew or not, you will come away from this class knowing more about Jewish tradition and feeling more connected to the community of lifelong learners at Or Ami.

Date / Time      January – April, every other Tuesday from 7 pm until 9 pm
Instructor Rabbi Ahuva Zaches
Location   Offered over Zoom rather than in person
Cost   Tuition for the 8 session course is $50 ($36 for Or Ami members). The tuition fee allows for either one or two people to attend; we encourage couples to attend together and singles to invite an interested friend or family member.


To learn more about the class, read the syllabus below or contact Rabbi Ahuva.







Course Outline for 2024

January 9 – Session 1. Torah: The Many Voices and Conversations of Jewish Tradition

  • Foundational Jewish Texts: Torah vs. Tanakh, Midrash, Mishnah, and Talmud
  • Themes: The Importance of Asking Questions and the Multivocality of our Sacred Texts

January 23 – Session 2. Jewish Holidays: Biblical, Rabbinic, and Modern

  • Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Tu Bishvat, Purim, Pesach, Yom HaShoah, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Lag B’Omer, Shavuot, Tisha B’Av
  • Themes: Marking Sacred Time, Celebrating Communal Values and Commemorating Communal Experiences

February 6 – Session 3. Jewish Life Cycle Events Part I

  • Baby Naming/Bris, Consecration, B’nei Mitzvah, Confirmation, Conversion
  • Theme: The Beginnings of Jewish Life

February 20 – Session 4. Jewish Life Cycle Events Part II

  • Wedding, Marriage, Divorce, and Parenting
  • Themes: Marriage and the Creation of Jewish Families

March 5 – Session 5. Jewish Life Cycle Events Part III

  • Funeral, Mourning Customs, and Beliefs on the Afterlife
  • Theme: A Sacred End to Life

March 19 – Session 6. Jewish Views of God, Prayer, and Spirituality

  • Traditional and Modern Jewish Ways of Understanding God, The Development and Meaning of Jewish Prayers, and Other Jewish Approaches to Spirituality
  • Theme: Connecting Spiritually to Judaism

April 16 – Session 7. Jewish History

  • Biblical, Talmudic, Geonic, Medieval, Enlightenment/Emancipation, Modern/Zionist, Holocaust, Post-Holocaust
  • Theme: The Evolution of Jewish Life, Thought, and Culture

April 30 – Session 8. Jewish Values & Diversity

  • Comparative Judaism (The Development of Jewish Movements like Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox—Hassidic and Mitnagdic) and Which Values Each Jewish Movement Emphasizes, Ethnic Diversity among Jews (Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrachi, African, Asian), The Laws of Kashrut, Jewish Ritual Objects, and Wrap Up
  • Themes: The Beauty of Diversity and Beginning a Lifetime of Jewish Learning

Flex Session. Possible Make Up Date – May 7, 2024

  • In case of any weather related cancellations earlier in the semester, this will be our make up date.


What To Do When You Just Can’t Wait

If you are interested in Judaism and are eager to start learning, you don’t have to wait until January. There are many things you can do before then!

Start attending

Set up a meeting with Rabbi Ahuva to discuss your Jewish journey

Begin reading Jewish books and websites, watching Jewish movies, and listening to Jewish music:





Self – Learning

*Note that any music you find which talks about “Yeshua” is Christian music even if it uses Hebrew words.


Converting to Judaism

If you are interested in converting to Judaism, here are the steps that you can anticipate:

Step 1: Set up an appointment to meet with Rabbi Ahuva to begin the process.

At the first meeting, you can expect to discuss your personal spiritual journey (including past religious affiliation, if any) and what has led you to consider converting to Judaism at this point in your life.

Step 2: Begin your personalized Jewish learning process

Sign up for the Introduction to Judaism course. If you want to begin your studies before the course starts in January, Rabbi Ahuva recommends coming to Friday night services, Saturday morning Torah study, and other Jewish educational events at Or Ami and in the wider Jewish community. Rabbi Ahuva will help you to come up with a personalized learning program as well, based on the interests that you share with her. For example, if you’re a history buff, she will help you learn more about Jewish history. Or if you’re really into cooking or social justice, she will help you to learn about Jewish cooking and Jewish social justice opportunities.

Step 3: Begin living as a Jew

The process of becoming a Jew takes at least one year, so that you can experience a full year of living as a Jew, which means celebrating all of the holidays (including Shabbat on a regular basis), reading through the whole Torah, and becoming more comfortable with Jewish culture and the Jewish community to make sure that it is the right fit for you.

You will find that Or Ami is a welcoming place to begin your journey, as we have many Jews by choice in our community and we appreciate the diversity of interests, perspectives, and backgrounds in our community.

Step 4: Meet periodically with Rabbi Ahuva

In your meetings with Rabbi Ahuva, you will have the chance to ask questions and discuss whatever is on your mind pertaining to Judaism, your spiritual journey, and life in general. These meetings are also a good time to discuss your spiritual coursework (yes, there are a few “homework assignments”) with the rabbi. One of the later assignments is to pick out your Hebrew name, which is used for Jewish ritual purposes. If you are trying to find a Hebrew name that starts with a particular letter, this website is a great resource. Any name with a picture of a book representing the Jewish Bible or a picture of the Israeli flag next to it is a commonly recognized Hebrew name.

Step 5: Set up a time for the Beit Din and Mikveh

When you and the rabbi feel that you are ready to make it official, you will schedule a time to go before a Beit Din (rabbinical court). It is normal to feel both excited and a little nervous to go before the Beit Din, but there is nothing to worry about. The local rabbis comprising the Beit Din will ask you some questions about your connections to and understanding of Judaism. Rabbi Ahuva will make sure that you are well-prepared and know what to expect before you get there.

After meeting with the Beit Din, you will go to the Mikveh (Jewish ritual bath; we use the one at Temple Beth-El here in Richmond). In the Mikveh, you will immerse three times and say two blessings as well as the Shema. At the end of this ritual, you will emerge from the Mikveh with a new, permanent spiritual status as a Jew. You will recieve a conversion certificate to mark this special moment in your life. You can frame the conversion certificate if you like. A copy of your conversion certificate will also be sent to the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio for safe keeping.