Lifelong Learning


We are a community of lifelong learners, who believe that learning is not just a kids’ endeavor. At Beth El, we offer a variety of learning opportunities that span an array of interests, formats and locations.  Learning opportunities for adults have included everything from ongoing Hebrew classes to single-topic discussions on American Foreign Policy. Beth El also holds outreach events a few times each year in Williamstown, MA, Wilmington, VT, or Cambridge, NY where learning topics have included Women of the Wall, Judaism and Human Rights and the Religious/Secular Divide in Israel.  


Below are some of the adult learning opportunities of recent times.  This list is merely a sampling; topics, locations, formats vary from year to year.  The best way to stay informed about upcoming learning opportunities at Beth El is to sign up to receive our weekly e-newsletter Community Connection.


Some of our past programs:

Please let us know if you would like more adult programs like this. Suggestions welcomed!


Jewish Cultural Imagery:
An  Archaeological Adventure


In this workshop led by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, participants become archaeologists in ancient Israel and the Diaspora in search of historic artifacts belonging to Jewish history. Looking at examples from archaeology, they learn about a variety of Jewish cultural images and symbols as well as their historical contexts and meanings, including the Seven Species, Menorah, Lion of Judah, Star of David, Hamsa, and others. Inspired by archaeology, each participant creates a Byzantine-style mosaic depicting a Jewish symbol. 

The Gift of a Name - Family Education Program

What's inside your child's name? How did you choose it? What does it mean? In this family workshop, we'll discover the stories behind the children's names (in English and Hebrew, as applicable*) and explore the importance of being a "mensch" -- a good person. Parents and children will work together to create a beautiful, original piece of name-inspired jewelry, made out of precious metal clay.

In preparation for this program, have a conversation with your child about his/her name. What do you want your child to know about the name you gave her/him? 

*Curious about the custom of giving children Hebrew names? We'll learn all about it, but having a Hebrew name is not required to participate.

RSVP is strongly recommended for this program, as supplies are limited. Email rabbijgreenfield@gmail.com to confirm your spot. This event is free. Donations to Congregation Beth El are most welcome and gratefully accepted.



Judaism and Social Justice


Awakening the Jewish Environmental Conscience 

As witnesses to an international environmental awakening, people around the world are beginning to understand more profoundly that we cannot exempt ourselves from the responsibility to care for our natural resources.  How does our Jewish moral tradition help us respond to the startling realization we now face concerning the health and sustainability of the Earth?


“Gather, Nourish, Grow” - Jewish Responses to Hunger

How do texts from our Jewish tradition speak to contemporary concerns about hunger in our midst?  We will study Jewish ethics on the issue of hunger, hear from native experts working on food insecurity, nutrition, and then choose a volunteer experience at on of our project sites where you'll take action to support solutions to local hunger in our area.  Organized in partnership with Coalition for the Homeless, Clear Brook Farm, True Love Farm and the Bennington Interfaith Council.


Jewish Literacy


Biblical Hebrew

Can you at least read Hebrew phonetically? Do you want to develop a better understanding of Torah text? If so, join us for weekly reading and study of Biblical Hebrew. Please RSVP to the CBE office - cbevtoffice@gmail.com, and we will include you on the mailing list for this ongoing group.  The Biblical Hebrew study group meets in the Social Hall at 6:00 PM most Tuesdays. Check with the office before you come – 442-9645.


​The Biblical Hebrew class, which has met for many years, is an intermediate-level class for those with previous experience in the study of Hebrew.  Once a week, we gather to study the weekly Torah portion, doing close readings in Hebrew and focusing on translation and grammatical nuance.


Introduction to Judaism

This multi-week class exposes participants to the breadth and depth of Judaism, engaging core ideas, debates and concerns of the Jewish people.  Participants will gain knowledge and skills that will help them participate in Jewish life and build a personal Jewish practice if they choose.  The class is geared toward those without prior Jewish learning, whether Jewish, non-Jewish, or considering conversion to Judaism.  


Jewish Views on Death and Afterlife

As part of an Interfaith Speakers Series at Bennington College on "The Death Question: An Exploration Of The End," learn about Jewish perspectives on the meaning of death, the nature of the afterlife and what significance they have during the span of a person’s lifetime.


The Jewish Lifecycle

Each session of this multi-session class explores Jewish lifecycle milestones and the rituals, customs and meanings ascribed to them by Jewish tradition, including birth, bar/bat mitzvah, conversion, marriage, aging and death. 


Jewish Genealogy


Jewish Genealogy Workshop

Over the course of two sessions, learn with one of our Board Members about beginning the process of researching family history and hear some of the exciting discoveries of her 12 years of genealogical research.  In the first session, participants will receive information, tools and tips for doing their own research online.  The second gathering will be a working session, offering participants guidance and troubleshooting as they begin their own family research.  Additional sessions may be scheduled depending on participants’ needs.



For more information about Jewish history, culture, and traditions, click here:




                                                                            Beth El Community Profile

                                                                             Alice and Alan Greenspan

                                                                      (aka Al and Al by family members)

                                                                                                                                               As told to Susan Armstrong


Alice and Alan both grew up in Perth Amboy, NJ, around the corner from one another. Al is four years her senior. When they were young, the Depression was in full force, but both considered themselves privileged because they had comfortable lifestyles, despite all the want and need throughout the country. Their families belonged to the same Conservative temple – Beth Mordechai. Alice’s father was Treasurer of the board, “forever.” Al was bar mitzvahed and tutored in Hebrew by Cantor Efron, a well known composer of liturgical music. Because bat mitzvahs were rare at that time, Alice was confirmed.

Alice had a beautiful sister, seven years her senior, named Jacquie. Alan was quick to comment that she looked like Ava Gardner. On Friday nights she would sit on the front porch and the boys would line up to talk to her. Mischievous Alice sat up in a second floor window throwing notes out to the boys. Alice said, “I grew up in the shadow of my beautiful sister.” 

When asked if anything had ever happened in their lives that changed everything, Alice immediately described a giant explosion that occurred on two barges in the Raritan River, just two blocks from her family’s home. She was talking on the phone on the second floor, wearing only a slip, when suddenly the force of the explosion blew out all the windows in the entire house, including the room where she was standing. She was covered in blood from the shattered glass and ran downstairs to see if everyone was okay. Her mother and father had both escaped injury. She threw on her new spring coat and they all ran outside. Being without shoes, she ended up with bleeding feet as well. The city was put under martial law when it was discovered that the barges that had collided were smuggling arms to Pakistan. First aid stations were set up and Alice was able to receive the necessary care. Her brand new spring coat was ruined by the blood, but her mother dyed it blue and solved the problem.

Congregation Beth El  107 Adams Street  Bennington  VT  05201


Tel: 802-442-9645     Email: cbevtoffice@gmail.com

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Both Alan and Alice attended Jewish summer camps, Alice in Monterey, MA and Al at Camp Kiowa in Honesdale, PA. They each had dogs in their families and remain dog lovers to this day. They attended local Perth Amboy schools until Al was sent away to a private school, as his mother wanted to shield him from his father’s illness. He attended the George School in Newtown, PA, founded by Quakers. Two of his classmates were Stephen Sondheim and Blythe Danner. Al tells the story that Oscar Hammerstein’s son, Jimmy, was also a student there. Stephen had written some music for a class play, and Oscar Hammerstein himself just happened to be in the audience. And so began Sondheim’s brilliant musical career. The Greenspans attended Sondheim’s play, "Applause," on Broadway years later, and Stephen was in the audience. Al went over to say hello and was greeted by name immediately. It was impressive to be remembered after all those years.


In his teen years, Alan sported a pompadour hair style a la Elvis. Walking by Alice’s house one day, he saw her outside. Al flipped her a nickel and said, “Call me when you’re 16.” What a move! He went off to Washington University, then on to graduate school at Northwestern, where he earned a degree in Macroeconomics. Next Al served in the 101st Airborne Division and fought in North Korea. After putting up with freezing conditions in that country, he was sent to Oklahoma City, where he roasted. There Al taught combat intelligence – how to interrogate prisoners. By this time, both he and Alice had married other people and each had three girls of their own.


Al had a sterling career on Wall Street with Rothchild & Co., Oppenheimer & Co. and was a Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley. For years he oversaw the NYC Pension Fund, where he was tasked with foreseeing the economic future. Alice owned a successful interior design company, all the while raising her girls. In fact, she has an assignment right now to design the interior of a home in Burlington. Her creativity never stops.


They had not seen each other for twenty one years, but their parents had their fingers crossed that the two would re-connect, because each was getting a divorce. As soon as they saw each another, Al said, “We know each other well. Let’s get married.” But Alice gave him a hard time. She resisted until they finally wed eleven months later. Together they raised their daughters and shared their common interest in mountain climbing. They even traveled to New Zealand, where they scaled some of mountains in the Southern Alps and hiked the Greenstone Track out of Queensland.


It has now been forty seven years that Alice and Alan have been married. Their families have melded together – all six girls. They have thirteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren. They have remained happily together for over half of their lives.


They moved permanently to Wilmington, VT in 2003, after having spent years coming up to to Mt. Snow from New Jersey with their family to ski. In 1999 they began their association with Congregation Beth El. Al volunteered to manage the CBE investment funds over ten years ago and has done a stellar job. Alice is a trustee on the Board of Directors. We are indeed fortunate that the Greenspans continue to enrich our congregation.