Take a Deep Look at Jews in History

By Heisler, Steve | Sarasota Herald Tribune, November 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

Take a Deep Look at Jews in History


Heisler, Steve, Sarasota Herald Tribune


Parish retiree Mark Henry has been a history buff his whole life, fascinated with archaeology and exploring the origins of Judaism.

So when the Congregation Ner Tamid member found out about an upcoming program at the temple through the National Jewish Outreach Program, he leapt at the opportunity to learn more.

"I've been waiting for a course like this for five years," he said. "I jumped at it, the reason being I want to know more about genuine Jewish history."

His opportunity comes in the form of five sessions, each 90 minutes long over five weeks, taught by lay leader Rena Morano. The aptly nicknamed "Crash Course in Jewish History" will cover Biblical times through the diaspora and into the Holocaust and renewal.

An in-depth examination of the events during those 5,000 years is what excites Henry the most. He is seeking a fact-based history that extends to resources beyond the Torah and the Bible.

"I want the factual details of what really happened, not what happened in the Bible or Torah, which is a lot of stories," he said. "It will kind of back up my religious beliefs with some history."

Morano stressed that the course is open to all and said those in interfaith marriages, several of whom attend Ner Tamid, would benefit. She said it offers a broad perspective of Jewish contributions in the world.

"What we're trying to tell people is you cannot think of world history without thinking of Jewish history," she said. "It is thousands of years old and of the historical events and people that have impacted the world, many of them have their foundations in Jewish thought and people and culture."

Her presentation will touch upon Jews, including poet Yehuda Halevi and Uriah Levy, the first Jewish commodore in the U.S. Navy who later in life bought and restored the Jefferson landmark Monticello.

From the invention of monotheism through Jewish life under Muslim rule in the 700s and the observations of medieval traveler Benjamin of Tudela, Morano's narrative will feature the struggles and triumphs of a growing culture and religion.

"We won't be able to go into great detail, so we will have some supplemental materials," she said. "We're just going to be saturated in all these names and events."

That is good news to Henry, who said he hopes to later expand upon what he learns. …

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