Education has always been a central focus at Congregation BJBE. Our reputation for lifelong learning reinforces the core Jewish value of education through participation in experiences that challenge the mind and uplift the spirit. Our congregation provides a high quality Jewish education for members of all ages.
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.)
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.
2017–2018 Registration Is Open
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:
For more information, contact Susie Wexler, Early Childhood Director.
Congregation BJBE Chava Center
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.
Learn more about our programs for families with young children >>
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 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 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 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: 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.
Israel: The Early State
Tuesdays, April 17 & 24, 2018, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Rabbi Michael Weinberg, Temple Beth Israel
News, Nosh, & (k)Nowledge
Sundays, March 4, 11, & 18, 2018, 9:45-10:45 a.m.
Our world is constantly changing. But the values in our tradition are eternal. Join for a conversation of the week's news, informed by the immortal values of Jewish tradition. Grab some nosh from the Beit Cafe and meet us around the television in the Village Center to watch, learn, and talk about what is happening and what we can do about it.
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.
Wise Aging – Living with Joy, Resilience & Spirit
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