Snow fell heavily on a recent Friday afternoon, but that didn't prevent nearly 20 Atlantic County residents from attending Chabad at the Shore's adult Jewish education class, "A Weekly Journey into the Soul of the Torah."
The 12-week series, held at the Linwood Library, touches on texts from the five books of the Torah, but relates them to relevant, modern messages, said the group's facilitator, Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport, of Ventnor.
Rapoport explained that the classes, which meet continually throughout the year, are open to all, from conservative Jews to the unaffiliated.
"We have people that aren't Jewish come and come back again," he said, moments before he began the March 8 lesson.
The idea is to create a welcoming environment at a public location. Their small synagogue and offices at 6412 Ventnor Ave. in Ventnor would be too restrictive, he said.
"It's a welcoming kind of group," Linwood resident, Evelyn Heward said.
Heward recalled joining the class four years ago, once meeting at the offices of local lawyer, Douglas Stanger, on Ocean Heights Avenue.
Heward, who considers herself an observant conservative Jew, has seen the small group grow from about eight members to almost 50.
She initially attended the lessons because they were held around the corner from her home.
"I stuck around ever since," she said. "The classes are very interesting, very stimulating.
On March 8, Rapoport diverged from the class text to explore the topic, "The Life You Dreamed Of."
"Did your life, marriage, career or family work out the way you hoped?" he asked the crowd, receiving acknowledging laughs in response.
Rapoport touched on the idea of the existence of two separate worlds: one envisioned and one real. And in the same vein, God created a heavenly world and a physical one.
While many would envision themselves in a perfect world, Rapoport said, it is the imperfections of a realistic world that are attractive to God.
He compared the concept to a photograph and a painting. While a photograph has the potential to produce a perfect replication of a scene, a painting will include soulful imperfections.
In the past, topics have ranged from lessons on relationships, becoming a better person and finding one's hidden potential, Rapoport said.
And with the potential of seeming dry, Rapoport keeps his lessons relevant and open for discussion, adding a bit of humor when called for.
His ultimate goal: to give the opportunity for visitors to reflect on themselves, while relying on the teachings of the Torah.
"I think that everyone wants to work on themselves to become the best that they can be," he said. "When we learn from the Torah and we see the ancient wisdom and how it's relevant today, it gives us the tools to work on ourselves and bring out our full potential."
Rapoport encourages the public to attend the final two classes of the semester, which will explore topics relating to Passover. The class meets at 12:15 p.m. at the Linwood Library at 301 Davis Ave. The talks are free.
The spring semester will begin April 12.
Chabad at the Shore will host a Passover Seder on the first night of Passover at 8 p.m. March 25. The four-course dinner will take place at Rodef Shalom Synagogue at 4609 Atlantic Ave. in Atlantic City. The dinner is open to all. To RSVP, visit chabadac.com or call 609-822-8500. A donation is required to attend.
Contact Caitlin Honan: