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Come Learn with Us!

Do you want to question and explore Jewish texts to gain deeper insights? Do you wonder at the richness and depth of Jewish end-of-life rituals and practices? Join us for online learning to enter into the history and power of ancient and modern texts and liturgy, to better understand Jewish death practices, rites, rituals, and customs in today’s world.

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Learning Together

Explore and Discuss Jewish Texts

We are an experienced group of diverse colleagues who love to learn together through online study sessions. Our focus is the field of Jewish death practices, history, rituals, and customs, with the goal of exploring and understanding the richness and depth of our heritage. We start with the insightful texts and liturgy associated with the end-of-life and extend our study to historical events, contemporary issues, and important teachers.

We invite you to join in our joy of learning, exploration, and discovery, as we invite noted scholars to share their insights and wisdom. Add your name to our mailing list to keep up to date on our upcoming programs.

We embrace all walks of Judaism and welcome all to join in our explorations to learn and grow. No previous experience or background required! Everyone is welcome and invited. You do not have to know Hebrew to participate, although familiarity with common terms may be helpful.

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About the Institute

The Ben Zakkai Institute offers opportunities for discussion and exploration to gain deeper understandings of Jewish sources, wisdom, and traditions in the field of end-of-life. Please join us as we learn together through our “Learning Series” composed of online sessions with outstanding scholars.

What We Do
The Ben Zakkai Institute offers unique opportunities to understand Jewish wisdom, rituals, and traditions around death and dying by exploring ancient and modern texts through new perspectives and insights. The Institute invites outstanding scholars and teachers to lead this discovery in which everyone gets to participate. No previous experience or level of learning is necessary to join these joyful and intriguing gatherings. Everyone is welcome.
Dedicated Educators

We know that learning is easier when you have an excellent instructor. Our faculty are passionate about the subjects they teach and bring this enthusiasm into their lessons.

Our sessions are designed around sharing, studying, and discussing, as we inquire into each topic as a group. Instructors include scholars and rabbis invited to facilitate the discussion and share their wisdom. Together with those in attendance, all of whom have much to share, we explore the ideas as a community. The topics we study change throughout the year but are generally explored through a series of sessions over two, three or four consecutive weeks.

Text-Based Curriculum

Are you a beginner, expert, or somewhere in between? Everyone is included as we explore Jewish texts and their relationships with our death practices and with how we incorporate their teachings in our lives.

Respect-Based Learning

We are all students and teachers for each other. Everyone has wisdom to share. As we explore Jewish texts, we include experts to guide us while welcoming all students to contribute and participate in the sharing that is our group learning experience.

We expect all students and teachers to treat each other with respect, dignity, and courtesy.

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Modern and Historic Sources Inform Today’s Challenges

There are many challenges facing the Jewish community today, including many that are directly related to Jewish end-of-life practices, rituals, and customs. What did our sages have to say about these things? What do modern scholars say? What are the practical implications of these decisions?

Topics and teachers are chosen specifically to rethink how we live and die Jewishly in our changing and evolving society today.

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Our Path is Inspired by Rabban Yohanan

Once when Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem, Rabbi Joshua was walking behind him and saw the Temple in ruins. Rabbi Joshua said, “Woe to us that this has been destroyed, the place where atonement was made for the sins of Israel.” Rabbi Yohanan responded, “No, my son, do you not know that we have a means of making atonement that is just like it? And what is it? It is deeds of love and mercy, as it is written: ‘For I desire kindness, and not sacrifice.’”

Hosea 6:6

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai taught, “if you have a sapling in your hand, and someone says to you that the Messiah has come, stay and complete the planting, and then go to greet the Messiah.” 

 – Avot d’Rabi Natan 31b

For more about the life of Rabban ben Zakkai, click here.