JLC Campus

When entering our new Jewish Learning Center building, you will walk down a vibrant, pictorial "Hall of History," 200 feet of wall murals displaying hundreds of archival, museum quality photos, maps, and documents - teachable moments that spark curiosity and interest. The school features five distinct learning Centers that each embody one of BJBE's five core values; each is unique in design, decor and theme. In addition, a state-of-the-art Creative Studio provides a home for art, crafts, and technology, and a second studio supports performance, dance, and movement activities. The 20,000 square foot JLC is connected to the main building by an enclosed link, the Rabbi Mark S. Shapiro Gateway, creating a campus environment.

Click below to see a video of our new building! (Link opens in a new window.)

jlc campus video still

Holocaust Torah Scrolls

Congregation BJBE is the proud caretaker of two Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust. To our community, these scrolls are much more than words on a page. These aged parchments, which carry the ancient stories of our tradition and heritage, are tender reminders of a painful past. These scrolls were lovingly read from by communities that no longer exist. These scrolls were studied by rabbis, students and seekers who perished in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. These scrolls are the only reminders we have of once vibrant, robust Jewish communities.

On permanent loan from the London Memorial Scrolls Trust, the BJBE Holocaust Torahs are regularly used to teach our students, to inspire participants in our youth groups, and to connect our B’nai Mitzvot families to their living tradition.

Scroll #1484 is from the town Kolin, about 45 minutes outside of Prague in the Czech Republic on the Vltava river. Though a synagogue building still proudly stands in the city of Kolin, the Jewish community never returned after the horrors of World War II. The synagogue was lovingly restored in the early 2000’s, and is used today as a community center and museum.

Since 1998, the BJBE Senior Youth Group has made regular journeys to the Czech Republic, not only to visit the synagogue that was once home to our Kolin Torah Scroll, but to also help clean the Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of town. Though basic cemetery maintenance is provided by Kolin, there is no Jewish population to bring K’vod (honor) to those buried there, and no one to provide a meaningful remembrance.

Scroll #564 is an orphan scroll. Some of the 1,564 Torah scrolls that were transported from Prague to London after the war had lost their identifying information. For BJBE, our orphan Torah scroll represents people around the world who have been left parentless through war, poverty or circumstance.

On the day Scroll #564 came to BJBE, it was brought to the chapel ark for temporary storage on a Friday morning. At the moment the Torah arrived, the BJBE Early Childhood program was using the room for services to welcome Shabbat. The children, parents and teachers were delighted to be in the chapel as the Torah arrived, and welcomed the Torah to its new home with joyous song and dance.

Though we don’t know where scroll #564 came from or who it was used by, this orphan has now found a home.

Chava Center Registration

2017–2018 Registration Is Open

Chava Center Brochure

Dear Friends,

Registration for the 2017-18 School Year and 2017 Summer Camp at  the Chava Center is now open!

It's easy to register on-line!  Paper registrations are available from Susie Wexler.

Families have the option to register their 2 year old child to attend either 2 days/week or 3 days/week.  Families of 3 year old children can enroll for 3, 4 or 5 days/week of attendance.

Summer Camp families have the option to register their 2 year old child to attend either 2 days/week or 3 days/week.  Families of 3-5 year old children can enroll for 3,4 or 5 days/week of attendance.

All registrations must be accompanied by a $250 non-refundable deposit.

Classes fill quickly, register now:

  • Click here to register for School! 
  • Click here to register for Summer Camp!

For more information, contact Susie Wexler, Early Childhood Director.


Susie Wexler

Congregation BJBE Chava Center

Early Childhood Program

BJBE's Early Childhood Program at the Chava Center fosters a vibrant and innovative Jewish learning community where child-focused exploration, creativity, and collaboration inspire our activities and curriculum. Our professional staff creates a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment designed to facilitate social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and Judaic growth and development. The Chava Center offers programs year-round, including: preschool, summer camp, on-site enrichment programming, and tot-adult classes.

For registration information, please contact Susie Wexler or 847-940-7575.


UF Right Start Program

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Learning Together... Wherever

Spiritual Seekers Discussion Groups
This welcoming and open self-led group invites you to join as they select books and topics to discuss with themes related to the Jewish calendar, life cycle, and spiritual contemporary living.
Contact: Margot Andersen

Omer Study Group
Spiritual seekers will meet weekly during the period known as the Omer to count the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. We will explore the Jewish principles involved in preparing to receive Torah. Omer, A Counting by Rabbi Karyn Kedar will be used as one of the texts for discussion, as well as other sources. Join us as we make these 49 days count!
Contact: Margot Andersen

Searchers Groups
Searchers is the ultimate in Jewish learning as spiritual practice. In a Searchers group, sacred text becomes the vehicle for exploring your own spirituality, for making new friends, and for sharing new ideas and contemplating life's experiences in the safety of a caring community. Groups are lay led and meet on a monthly basis. All of us are searching.
Contact: Beth Kon

Learners' Circles
Learners' Circles are the hottest new thing in 21st century adult study. Gather your own group of 7-10 friends, pick a Jewish topic you're interested in studying, and one of our clergy will teach 3-4 sessions at a time and place that is convenient for you.
Contact: Andrew Abrams

Hebrew Classes

Hebrew classes for adults are taught by Ezra Kedar at BJBE. For a list of schedules and fees, please contact the BJBE office: 847-940-7575.

Beginning Conversational Hebrew - NEW CLASS!
This class is for adults who want to learn the basics of conversational Hebrew.
Sundays, September 10-December 3, 2017, 9:45-10:45 a.m.

Advanced Beginning Conversational Hebrew
This class is for adults who have mastered Hebrew reading and are ready to learn how to comfortably carry on a simple Hebrew conversation.                       

Intermediate Conversational Hebrew
Amaze yourself with how much fun you’ll have speaking Hebrew! Prerequisites: Prior knowledge of basic conversational Hebrew and ability to write Hebrew script.

Advanced Conversational Hebrew
This class is for people who can begin to hold a full conversation in Hebrew and who write Hebrew script competently. Prerequisite: Intermediate Conversational Hebrew.

The Symposium

The Symposium: History of the Jewish People

The story of the Jewish people, our story, tells the story of the world. By studying the major memories, moments, and movements of the Jewish people we can come to know ourselves and envision our future. We will experience the incredible Hall of History in our Jewish Learning Center—200 feet of murals displaying hundreds of archival, museum quality photos, maps, and documents. We will trace the story of the Jewish people from the creation of the world to creation of the modern State of Israel, and everything in between. As always, our Symposium will be taught by some of Chicagoland’s leading rabbis and teachers, along with our own BJBE clergy.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Cantor Rayna Green

Chassidic Judaism
Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Cantor Rayna Green

Anti-Semitism and the Church Fathers
Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, Judaic Scholar, Jewish United Fund of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

Enlightenment, Napoleon, & Bill of Rights
Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Rabbi Jason Fenster

Religious Movements: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox
Tuesday, February 13, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Rabbi Jason Fenster

Tuesdays, February 20 & 27, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, Judaic Scholar, Jewish United Fund of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

Tuesdays, March 6 & 13, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Alexandra Dunietz, Author of
The Cosmic Perils of Qadi Usayn Maybud in Fifteenth-Century Iran

Three Ideas that Formed the Jewish Experience: Enlightenment, Zionism and Feminism
Tuesdays, March 20 & April 10, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, Am Yisrael Congregation

Israel: The Early State
Tuesdays, April 17 & 24, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Rabbi Michael Weinberg, Temple Beth Israel


Sunday Morning Adult Learning

Lessons from the Hall of History
Sundays, October 29, November 5, 12, & 19, 2017 9:45-10:45 a.m.
As our young students make their way to their classes each week, they walk past an incredible mural depicting thousands of years of Jewish history. Over these four weeks, we will learn about some of the major memories, moments, and movements that mark the story of the Jewish people from creation to the present day.

October 29 – Creation to the Second Temple, Rabbi Karyn Kedar
November 5 – Second Temple, Rabbi Jason Fenster
November 12 – Enlightenment, Rabbi Karyn Kedar
November 19 – The State of Israel, Rabbi Karyn Kedar

A Taste of Judaism
Sundays, December 3 & 10, 2017, January 14, 2018, 9:45-10:45 a.m.
Instructors: BJBE Clergy

This engaging class on Jewish spirituality, ethics, and community is designed for the curious beginner. Taste of Judaism is designed for people who have limited or no Jewish background but are interested in learning about Judaism. Everyone is welcome: unaffiliated Jews, adult children of interfaith couples, individuals or couples from different faith backgrounds who are interested in learning more about Judaism, partners in Interfaith relationships, or synagogue-goers looking to reinvigorate their relationship to Judaism. Come dive into Jewish text, values, and thought to see how they relate to our contemporary lives.

Family & Parenting at Every Stage
Sundays, January 21 & 28, February 4 & 11, 2018, 9:45-10:45 a.m.
Each stage of children’s lives brings new challenges and opportunities requiring us to adapt to changing circumstances and recalibrate our role as parents. We will explore some of the Jewish principles and practical strategies that can guide us as we strive to make values-based choices that support and nurture the young people we love.

January 21 - Nurturing the Wow: Parenting as Spiritual Practice, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg - The work of parenting, and living in connection with others in general, can be glorious and amazing. And it can be, at least as often, frustrating, crazy-making, and mind-numbingly boring. How can the riches of the Jewish tradition help us to transform the most difficult moments with our children and the people in our lives? How can it illuminate the beautiful moments in powerful, new ways? But not only that, what do parents who are deep in the trenches of this labor of love have to teach Judaism about what spirituality is and can be? And, most critically, what might happen if we regard the work of raising children, and being in loving connection with other people as a whole, as a legitimate spiritual practice in its own right?

January 28 - Making Green Choices with Our Kids, Eli Green - Environmental justice is a Jewish value, and yet, it can be hard to fully understand environmental issues and the impact of our choices, both big and small. With sustainability expert, Eli Green, we will explore the underlying principles of the environmental issues facing us today. We will enable you to make knowledgeable choices, become role models for your children, and learn some tips and tricks for living an environmentally responsible life at home and in the world.

February 4 - Navigating the Halls of Middle School, Kelly Goldberg - The years of middle school are challenging as young people try to find their place in an ever-changing social world. Drawing on her 30 years of teaching and guiding teens through these years using Jewish wisdom, Chai School Principal Kelly Goldberg will lead us in discussion about the social challenges our children face today and the spiritual principles that guide us. We will explore practical strategies to help our middle schoolers survive and thrive on their path to high school. 

February 11 - Your Child, The Internet, and You, Sarah Casper, Outreach Coordinator, Response Center - Bullying is no longer as easy to see as it once was, and parenting adolescents is hard enough without having to keep up on the latest and greatest social media and technological advancements. This session will inform parents about the key role that technology and social media websites play in students’ feelings of connection and disconnection with their friends, family, community, and themselves. We also provide parents with important information about the latest apps and helpful conversation starters to engage their teens around this pressing issue. Parents will leave the program with the tools to support their teen in navigating the digital world.

Be Still and Get Going
Sunday, February 18, 2018, 9:45-10:45 a.m.
Instructor: Margot Andersen, MSW, Mindfulness Meditation Teacher, Institute of Jewish Spirituality

In this session, we will explore how to find our courage and faith during life’s most difficult challenges to move forward. Often, we become stuck and frozen with anxiety, uncertainty and fear. We will look back at the wisdom of ancient texts to help us find our faith and equanimity during times of adversity and change.

Understanding Our World: What’s Happening in…
Sundays, March 4, 11, & 18, 2018, 9:45-10:45 a.m.
We live in a complex world. There are shifting economic and political power structures world over, communities are struggling with new understandings of identity, and each week seems to bring new surprises, crises, and opportunities. Over the course of three sessions, we will try to sort out what is happening, what is going to happen, and what we can do about it.

March 4 – America – Cheryl Gutmann, past Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

March 11 – Europe – Amy Miller, Assistant Director, International Affairs & Communications, AJC Chicago

March 18 – Middle East – Lital Rosenberg, Midwest Synagogue Initiative Director, AIPAC

Maintaining Memory: Stories of the Holocaust
Sundays, April 15, 22, & 29, 2018 , 9:45-10:45 a.m.
As the world commemorates Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), BJBE is honored to welcome survivors of the Holocaust to share their stories of heroism, survival, and renewal. It is a privilege and a sacred duty to bear witness to their stories.

April 15 – George Brent – When a non-Jew was brought into town to take over his father’s pharmacy in Téscö (now Hungary), his family was forced into the Jewish ghetto. Three days later, they were put on a train to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He and his father were selected to work, while his mother and brother were sent to the gas chambers. As the Russian army advanced in January 1945, George was sent on a death march and then taken by coal train to Mauthausen. From there, he was sent to a smaller camp in Austria that was later liberated by American soldiers on May 5, 1945. After the war, he learned his father was still alive; they reunited and both made their way to the United States in 1949.

April 22 – Screening of “A Holocaust Trilogy” – Artist DeDe Harris discusses the depth of evil and the height of courage evidenced during the Holocaust. As she describes her sculptures, she also reveals little known stories of three concentration camps: Ebensee, Auschwitz, and Theresienstadt. In this remarkable video, she informs us about the meaning she incorporated into the sculptures. This is a spiritual and compelling presentation, combining knowledge of the Holocaust, skills developed from a lifetime of work as an artist, and the use of materials collected from a variety of unusual locations. DeDe will take questions after the screening.

April 29 – Ernst “Ernie” Heimann – During Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, Ernie’s school and synagogue were destroyed. In the aftermath of these events, his parents knew they had to get Ernie out of Germany. On February 1, 1939, Ernie was placed on a Kindertransport to England. His maternal aunt, who lived in England and sponsored him, arranged for Ernie to live with an English family just outside of London. In September 1939, Ernie and others from his village were evacuated to the countryside because of the bombing in London. Ernie would remain in England for four years, until he came to the United States in 1943.

Special Programs

Wise AgingLiving with Joy, Resilience & Spirit
Groups will begin this Fall
Developed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Wise Aging is geared to those in their 50s through active aging. The series will focus on topics including becoming your authentic self, cultivating spiritual qualities for well-being, changing bodies and body images, revitalizing relationships, leaving a legacy and living with loss, change and death. Join us for these rich 7 week sessions to reflect on where you are on your journey in life and how to make the most out of life’s precious moments.
Contact: Margot Andersen

Tikun Leil Shavuot Adult Evening of Learning
Saturday, May 19, 2018, Time & Location TBD
Participate in the tradition of studying Torah on Erev Shavuot, in celebration of receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
Contact: Leslie Block