You will find a transformative and personal connection to Torah study as a window into meaningful and intentional living.
A safe, non-judgmental learning community for Jewish teens of all stripes to deeply encounter Jewish text through a variety of traditional and innovative learning modalities.
Contemporary and timeless practice of Jewish mindfulness meditation.
Unique and immersive opportunities to explore Jewish teachings through a variety of lenses.
Through our direct experience of Jewish wisdom, we strengthen our capacity to live with awareness, generosity and compassion.
Is a communal Jewish educator in the Chicago area. She has taught in a variety of Jewish educational settings, including the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School for seven years, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Chicagoland Jewish High School, Chicago Jewish Day School and a variety of freelance workshops. Rebecca received a B.A. in Jewish Studies from Princeton University, a M.Ed. from DePaul University, and a M.A. from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago with a focus on Modern Jewish Thought and the philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig. Upon graduation from college, Rebecca spent a year doing community organizing on the west side of Chicago while also leading Jewish environmental backpacking trips, which combined her passion for social action and her love of Jewish teaching. She lives in Skokie with her husband and her three children.
Is the founder of Jane Shapiro Associates, a consulting practice working with Jewish organizations around vision, adult learning, curriculum and professional development. Formerly she was the Associate Director of the Florence Melton School,working with teachers across North America and Israel and assisting new communities in the development of Melton school sites. She has taught or consulted with organizations ranging from the American Jewish Committee, United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Her classes on Jewish Thought and Torah have been ongoing for about ten years. She received her doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2016. She is a graduate of Princeton University and also studied Jewish History at Columbia University. She is a graduate of the Mandel Teachers Institute and Vision Projects. She is passionate about all aspects of Jewish teaching and learning. In 2004 she founded Kol Sasson, a partnership minyan in Skokie, Illinois and continues to serve as Gabbai.
Sam Feinsmith has been immersed in the world of Jewish contemplative living, learning, and teaching for over a decade. He seeks to transform the landscape of Jewish life in Chicago and beyond by teaching mindfulness in a Jewish framework to promote self-care and a deepening of wisdom and compassion. He has served as a consultant on a number of cutting-edge projects related to prayer, spirituality, and education and has conducted Jewish meditation workshops and retreats for young children, teens, and Jewish educators and community leaders. Sam currently directs the Center for Jewish Mindfulness at Orot, and the Educating for a Jewish Spiritual Life pilot at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. He lives in Skokie with his wife Sarah-Bess and his daughter Elanit Shefa.
Is Director of Regional Programing for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (New York) and is a co-founder and director of the Center for Jewish Mindfulness in Chicago. Jordan was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2008, after which he served as rabbi at Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in Glencoe, IL. Prior to pursuing his rabbinical studies, Jordan studied Conservation Biology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, spent several months at Zen centers in California and France, and studied Jewish text at the Conservative Yeshiva and Machon Pardes in Jerusalem. He lives in Deerfield, IL with his wife Yael and their three children.
Through a wide range of backgrounds and experiences our educators bring the very best in intentional Jewish learning to our students.
Margot is a social worker, grief counselor, and teacher of mindfulness and resilience skills. She was trained through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality's JMMTT program and participated in several other IJS retreats. She has served as an educational advocate for families with children with special needs 18 years, is a certified yoga instructor, bereavement counselor, and a meditation group leader at BJBE.
Born, raised and educated in Chicago, Laurie attended Northwestern University as a Communication Studies major and the University of Chicago, earning a Master's degree in Social Service Administration. Laurie lived, worked and studied in Israel for three years. Currently, she is a psychotherapist in private practice. Over the past twelve years, she has practiced and taught yoga and meditation as well as completed the Institute for Jewish Spirituality's Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Instructor training program in 2015.
Ellen Rosen Kaplan is a licensed clinical social worker in practice for 35 years. She received her masters degree from Yeshiva University and has a well established psychotherapy practice. Ellen has decades of experience practicing meditation and studying spirituality. In 2015, Ellen became a certified Mindfulness Meditation teacher through The Institute of Jewish Spirituality. Ellen's passion is integrating the applications and wisdom in Jewish sources into her meditation and psychotherapy practices.
Rabbi Lauren Henderson is the Jewish Emergent Network Rabbinic Fellow at Mishkan Chicago. She finished rabbinical school a year ago at the Jewish Theological Seminary, with a Masters in Midrash and a Certificate in Pastoral Care. She's taught Torah and led prayer in a wide variety of settings such as IKAR in Los Angeles, the Pelham Jewish Center in New York, and Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Cleveland, and also served as a chaplain with DOROT and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.
Jacob is a proud parent, lawyer, real estate developer, artist and all around adventurer. He was also a co-founder of the Center for Jewish Mindfulness with Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell in 2011.
David Gottlieb first studied meditation in the Zen tradition, and has more recently studied with Rabbi Sam Feinsmith and Rabbi Jordan Bendat Appel in Jewish contemplative practice. David is a PhD candidate in the History of Judaism at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Roberta is a neurosurgeon, teacher, mother, wife, rabbinic student, and pursuer of peace.
Amy is a wife, mother, grandmother, business owner and consultant to family businesses. In addition, she is a committed member of the Lomdim Jewish Community and a serious student and practitioner in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh for over 5 years. She serves as adjunct faculty at the Center for Family Enterprise at Kellogg School of Management, and she is a lover of yoga, qigong, open sky, playtime.
Aviva Katzman earned a Bachelors and Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. After ordination and completing a Master of Sacred Music from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in 1987, Aviva became the Cantor of Temple Sholom of Chicago where she served for 28 years. Cantor Katzman completed Jewish Mindfulness Teachers Training with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and Bekhol Levavkha, a two-year training offered by Hebrew Union College to become a Jewish Spiritual Director.
Deb Wineman is an experienced and celebrated yoga instructor who has earned certifications in movement and meditation from a variety of traditions since 2008. Her own spiritual practice of yoga and study of yogic philosophy inspired her study of Torah and integration of Jewish prayer in her daily practice. Deb leads engaging classes and workshops that provide embodied explorations of Jewish themes and teachings in a spiritual language that resonates with our Jewish souls. Through balanced, breath-focused yoga practices infused with philosophy, ancient wisdom and beautiful music, Deb helps students of all levels feel awake and whole.
Artist Judith Joseph's paintings, woodblock prints and calligraphy (ketubot) are in numerous public and private collections. She exhibits widely across the U.S. and Canada, and she is a two-time recipient of the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award. She is on the art faculty at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Art Center, Highland Park and she co-teaches the Artists' Beit Midrash at NSS-Beth El with Jane Shapiro. She is passionate about helping people explore and express their Jewish heritage through art.
We need your support! We are so grateful for your help in sharing the light of Jewish wisdom with others and in building a bold new paradigm for meaninful Jewish learning and living.
Hear what the Orot community is saying.
I have been studying at Orot weekly since classes started this Fall, learning the wisdom of the Kedushat Levi with Rabbi Sam Feinsmith. I find the teaching intellectually stimulating, spiritually uplifting, and Jewishly enriching. Orot brings a much-needed opportunity to the Chicago area to study Jewish texts in depth, along with an opportunity to practice mindfulness in a Jewish context, and to reflect on our own spiritual development as we learn from wonderful teachers. I have been a student all my life, and my studies at Orot are among the best I have experienced. Orot is a gem in our community.
Orot has been truly inspiring. As someone who grew up unaffiliated, I traditionally haven't had much of a connection to or understanding of what it means to be Jewish. I wasn't someone who grew up going to a day school. I didn't go to Jewish summer camp. I didn't go to synagogue. I was Jewish by birth and that was about it. In retrospect, I think the two main reasons for my lack of "affiliation" were (1) a general lack of exposure and (2) an absolute lack of knowledge or understanding of the Jewish texts.
As I've grown up, i've gotten a lot more exposure, but still lacked the knowledge of the texts. Orot has been a God-send to me. It's really filled a void that I believe exists in the community: text-based study outside of the traditional confines of an affiliation (synagogue) or movement. The teachers are some of the brightest Jewish minds in the area and it's a privilege to have the opportunity to study with them.
My Orot experience has been such a positive one that we're trying to organize a program for our teenagers within the community to continue their Jewish education as they matriculate into public high school.
Orot offers something unique and valuable to our community, adult Jewish learning in an egalitarian setting taught by top scholars who are star teachers, at convenient times and locations. I have loved attending classes on Jewish Meditation, holidays, Jewish texts, and art. It is like being part of a salon, without having to wait for an invitation.
Orot has opened doors for me and for my husband. In just a few short months we've participated in two y'mei iyun, days of learning prior to Rosh HaShanah and Hanukkah, that gave us new insight into the holidays. Whereas I was looking for some spiritual nourishment, my husband was more interested in historical perspectives - and we both found what we were looking for. We've each taken an Orot evening class and have been inspired by the gifted teachers. Orot is a wonderful community resource and we feel lucky to be a part of the community.
Coincidentally as I was beginning to look for a mindfulness and meditation class I was introduced to Orot. What an "aha moment” it was when I realized I could study and practice mindfulness meditation through a Jewish lens. Before Orot I had never considered melding my Judaism with meditation. They were separate aspects of my life. I really like the ability to take something I am passionate about and use it to explore my Judaism and vice versa rather than keeping them separate.
As a mother of 3 young kids, it has been years since I committed to weekly Jewish learning. My parsha class with Rebecca at Orot has been instrumental in guiding me back to parsha of the week. It has not only given me new insights into Torah learning, but has connected the weekly parsha in the most personal way...to my life and challenged me to think and grow in new ways. I look forward to this class each week!
As a member of the Jewish community and a Jewish educator by profession, I came to Orot looking for a way to add text study to my personal and professional practice. What I found was more than I could have expected. Each session I attend becomes a sacred space of learning. Rebecca and Jane bring texts that are both intellectually stimulating for a group discussion as well as thought-provoking on a personal, more intimate level. Their genuine, knowledgeable, inclusive facilitation style brings words and people and ideas together in a remarkable way. They create unique opportunities to experience a thoughtful community of learners, personal and spiritual connections to Judaism, and an openness to new learning while remaining grounded in our rich textual tradition. I leave every session feeling that I have grown as a person and learned more about Judaism and my place within it.
Rebecca has created a safe, accepting space for group learning. We do challenging, rigorous text study together combined with opportunities for pair study and individual personal reflection through writing prompts. I particularly enjoy the breadth of Jewish and non-Jewish sources used to illuminate our classes. Poetry by Derek Walcott and Mary Oliver? Why not, when we're talking about things of the spirit!