Look Who’s Talking

Spiritualists, Dead Sea scholars and psychoanalysts are but a sampling of the varied menu of Jewish speakers that are to make scheduled appearances in Orange County over the next few months.

One of the better known but controversial figures is Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, speaking Oct. 3 and 4 at Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel. Reb Zalman, as he’s known, is a Chabad renegade who founded the Jewish Renewal movement in the 1960s. Its tenets are a contemporary take on the central teachings from Hasidism and Jewish mysticism.

The area is awash in opportunities for intellectual enrichment, such as:

  • One-time events like "Dinner with a Scholar," a fundraiser Nov. 9 for the Bureau of Jewish Education where the nine-scholar menu ranges from psychoanalysis to Uganda. Or Larry Schiffman, a Dead Sea Scrolls expert, in residence Nov. 7-8 at Yorba Linda’s North County Chabad Center.
  • Academia-length commitments, such as the Bureau of Jewish Education’s new offering, an October-May exploration of Talmud and Midrash in "Scholars and Sages," or Chabad’s Jewish Learning Institute, which offers three eight-week classes over nine months. Its first is Talmudic ethics.
  • The ever expanding portfolio of the O.C. Community Scholar Program, which continues to lure high-profile authorities on Jewish topics.

"It’s gone from a one-month program to a gap-filler," said the program’s chairman, Arie Katz, a Newport Beach attorney. "I’m not trying to supplant anyone by bringing programs that are controversial or otherwise not offered. It’s meant to challenge people, to take people out of their comfort zone."