About Yesod

Though its literal meaning is “foundation,” think of Yesod as a deep dive into Jewish history, tenets, traditions, life cycles and prayer. Designed for believers, nonbelievers and everyone in between, the program gives you the chance to deepen what you know or learn what you missed.

Yesod is at once an introduction, refresher course and master class taught in 42 sessions over the span of two years by many of today’s most celebrated Jewish minds: rabbis, professors, authors, cantors, artists and cultural commentators known for breaking barriers, provoking thought, inspiring dialogue —even emceeing the occasional White House seder.

The first year will lay a historical, textual and cultural foundation, while the second will explore holiday celebrations in communities around town; from the West Side’s car-free Simchat Torah street party to a euphoric Purim parade.

For participants interested in conversion or an adult B’nei Mitzvah, Yesod will offer both supplemental tracks in the second year, including basic Hebrew and Torah tropes.

Intended to foster healthy debate, growth and connection, the curriculum was developed by three esteemed educators: David Wolpe, once named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek and described as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post; Abigail Pogrebin, a bestselling author, Emmy-nominated producer and beloved moderator; and Temple Emanu-El’s Senior Rabbi, Joshua M. Davidson.

Yesod will tackle questions both fun and fundamental, including:

  • Are Jews a people or followers of a religion?
  • Is there a Jewish tradition of arguing with God?
  • What happens after I die?
    How can I best weave Judaism into my daily life?
  • How do Jews explain suffering?
  • What can observing Shabbat look like in 2023 and beyond?
  • What does it mean to “welcome the stranger”?
  • How can anyone possibly remember 613 commandments?
  • What’s with the gefilte fish?
  • How has Judaism evolved over the past 5,784 years … and where is it going?


Yes, if you are: eager to renew what you learned (and forgot) as a child or what you ignored in Hebrew school; curious about what you missed because you never went; frustrated that you don’t understand the specifics and subtleties; hungry to explore — or establish — your Jewish identity; craving a spiritual connection or community; hoping to find new ways to weave Judaism into your life; interested in an understanding of what Judaism is all about; considering conversion or B’nei Mitzvah.


The generous support of donors has allowed us to keep the program’s cost to $360 per year.  Scholarships are available to those in need.  

No refunds after October 12, 2023.

Live Access for Virtual Students: Virtual Yesod students have the option to access class sessions in real-time.

Online Access for All Yesod Students: Whether a Yesod student attends the class in person or virtually, they will have access to the recorded class sessions online.


Yesod is made possible with the generous support of:


Edward and Joan Cohen

Charles and Carol Grossman Family Fund, in memory of Charles Grossman

Carol and Frances Klapper Fund for Religious Studies

Donna and Marvin Schwartz