Neshama Center

The Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning, a collaborative project of B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom and the Mandell Jewish Community Center, offers multi-week courses as well as single session programs and workshops. The Hebrew word “neshama” means “soul” and is related to the word “neshima,” meaning “breath.”  At Neshama, we invite people of all backgrounds to take a breather from the fast-paced world in which we live, and join us for inspiring, creative, joyful Jewish learning.

Register now for courses by emailing: or by calling: 860-243-3576. Classes meet at BTS (180 Still Road on the West Hfd/Blmfld line) or at The Mandell JCC (335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hfd).

For updates, please visit the Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning Facebook page!

Please take the opportunity to… 

Challenge your mind ~ Feed your soul ~ Express yourself ~ Connect with others


Zot Hashira: Israel @70 Through the Lens of Poetry
A Shabbat Lunch & Learn

Saturday, April 21st at 11:30 am (preceded by services at 9:30 am) at BTS
Free, but please reserve with the BTS office at 860-243-3576 or

Poetry does not talk about Israel; it listens. It listens to the authentic voices of Israeli writers who give poetic expressions to the stories of revival, the struggles for security and peace, the shortcomings of discrimination and the effort to find balance between contradictory aspirations. It is not the only way to tell Israel’s story, but it is a compelling one. Using materials developed by her teacher, Rachel Korazim, Rabbi Cantor will share poetry from Israel’s seven decades.

The Jewish Art of Paper-cutting
A Hands on Workshop

Sunday, April 29 10:30 am at BTS
With Rabbi Debra Cantor & Melinda Wright
Materials Fee: $7;  $5 for JCC/BTS members

Paper-cutting is a folk art found in many cultures around the world. Jews in Eastern Europe used to make cut-paper roses and Torah designs to decorate their homes and synagogues for the harvest holiday of Shavuot. The weather was not yet mild enough for them to gather wildflowers, but everyone had access to a bit of paper and scissors. Come learn more about this tradition and make some paper-cuts of your own. No experience necessary!

Intro to Personal Storytelling

Thursday, May 3rd @ 7:30 pm at the JCC
Instructor: Terry Wolfisch Cole
Fee: $40; $35 for BTS or JCC members    (Minimum to run class: 5 students)

Ira Glass of This American Life says, “Great stories happen to people who know how to tell them.” Do you want to get better at captivating listeners? Whether you want to tell your story on stage, in a business meeting, or with your grandchildren on your lap, storyteller Terry Wolfisch Cole will teach you skills to engage any audience. Terry is a Moth StorySLAM and GrandSLAM champion. Her story of running away from home was recently featured on the Moth Radio Hour on NPR. She is the founder of Tell Me Another, a storytelling show in the Hartford area.

The God Who Is Revealed in Fire: Revisiting the Burning Bush

Sunday, May 6th at 11:00 am at BTS
Fee: $12; $10 for BTS or JCC members
Instructor: Prof. Deena Grant (Co-sponsored with Hartford Seminary)

Delve into Torah with a dynamic teacher! Deena Grant is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary.  She received her Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies from New York University, specializing in Hebrew Bible. Her book Divine Anger in the Hebrew Bible explores varying expressions of God’s anger across major biblical collections.  An observant Jew, Dr. Grant values studying and teaching the Hebrew Bible from a historical-critical perspective and also as it is lived out by faith communities.

Israeli-style Improv

Two Thursday evenings:  May 10th and 17th at 7:00 pm at the JCC
Fee: $8; $6 for JCC/BTS members
Instructor: Tali Bass, JCC Israeli Emmisary

In these sessions, we’ll have fun warming up our bodies and getting out of our comfort zones! Along the way, we’ll do some improv games, explore the Israeli theatre world, and even learn a few words of Hebrew. Tali has a BA in Theatre and Literature and is an alumna of the Goodman Theatre and Acting School of the Negev. She has worked with all ages and was a medic in the IDF.

Photography as a Contemplative Practice

Four Wednesdays at 7:30 pm:  May 23rd and 30th; June 6th and 13th @BTS
Fee: $60/$50 for JCC or BTS members
Instructor: Lisa Pleskow Kassow

Photography can be a spiritual and contemplative practice; the camera can be a means of deep and personal self-expression.  Lisa will lead a small group on a photographic journey that will include taking photographs in response to quotes, readings and personal journaling as inspiration. You will share your photos in a supportive atmosphere, learning how to use your camera (or your camera phone) to create a personal collection of imagery that can be transformed into a keepsake book or shared on an online platform. Lisa was a photojournalist in Israel for a decade before moving to West Hartford. She was Director of Arts, Culture & Education at the JCC and has been Hillel Director at Trinity College since 2001.

“They said WHAT?” Creating Poetic Midrash

Thursday, May 24th at 7:00 pm at the Mandell JCC
Fee: $15/$12 for JCC or BTS members
Instructor: Sara DeBeer

Participants will work in a group as well as individually to create poetic monologues which imagine what different characters in the Bible might have been thinking at key moments. No prior writing (or Torah!) experience necessary! Sara is a professional storyteller who presents programs of multi-cultural folktales to audiences of all ages. A published poet, Sara is an experienced classroom teacher who uses the arts to help students gain insight.

Mussar Yoga

Tuesday evenings @ 7:30 pm at BTS April 24th, May 22nd
Fee: $15/session; $12 for JCC/BTS members
Instructor: Terry Wolfisch Cole

Mussar Yoga links the Jewish spiritual practice of self-study, and the cultivation and discipline of ethical behavior known as Mussar with Yoga, the ancient Indian path for creating union between mind, body and spirit. In this class, you will explore soul traits such as humility, generosity, enthusiasm and gratitude through yoga poses and the yogic practice of breath work. Classes will be Gentle Yoga, accessible to anyone who can get down to the floor and back up again.

Tangling with Talmud

Wednesdays @ 10:30 am at the Mandell JCC     Free
Instructor: Rabbi Cantor

The Talmud is a rich and lively conversation among many generations. Passionate arguments about law and justice are intertwined with wild stories and musings about the meaning of life. Come participate and add your own voice. No experience necessary!

Friends of Yiddish

2nd Sunday of each month @ 10:30 am at the Mandell JCC
(No May meeting) June 10th, July 8th
Coordinator: Barbara Katzman

An informal, mostly English bi-lingual drop-in social group which meets to hear a guest speaker, have a discussion and maybe absorb a Yiddish word or two. Plus, a nosh.



Neshama is growing – we invite you to grow with us!


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