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Rabbi Porter’s weekly Talmud class for seniors: David Saunders, Stuart Berman, Larry Scheinin, and Ray Wacks

Recently, we caught up with the dedicated members of Rabbi Porter’s weekly Talmud class for seniors: David Saunders, Stuart Berman, Larry Scheinin, and Ray Wacks.

David and Ray recount how the class got started. In 2019, the pair of longtime friends went out kayaking, as they often did, and had a question: what is it about the Talmud that fascinated their grandfathers, and their grandfathers before them? 

Ray and David decided they wanted to study Talmud and find out, but they needed a teacher. They contacted Rabbi Porter, who enthusiastically agreed and invited Larry and Stuart to join them. They started meeting weekly in Rabbi Porter’s office, switching to Zoom when the pandemic hit. The meetings are still going strong, and are still held on Zoom to accommodate busy schedules.

You may remember Larry, whom we interviewed in 2021. Throughout his life, Larry had always been hungry for more knowledge about Judaism. Although he enjoyed attending High Holiday services, he never felt truly welcomed until he found Etz Chaim. “This is exactly what I was looking for: a real Jewish education,” Larry says of his Etz Chaim experience.

Ray remarks that people are often intimidated by Talmud, but he enjoys discovering the thoughts of rabbis who lived two millennia ago. “They were dealing with some of the same things we’re still dealing with on a daily basis,” he observes. He’s glad the group has stuck together. “It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for four years! We’ve really become a community, and Rabbi Porter is a part of that community.”

The group appreciates the personal anecdotes that Rabbi Porter shares, as well as the fact that he shares their cultural references. Stuart says: “Rabbi Porter encourages us and challenges us.” David, who now recites the shema every night as a result of his learning, is grateful that Rabbi Porter “really accepted us where we are. Because of that, we’re all more connected to Judaism.”

As we prepare to thank Rabbi and Mrs. Porter for 50 years of service to Etz Chaim, all four students expressed their gratitude and encourage others to get involved so they, too, can benefit from the unique learning and community that Etz Chaim offers.


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