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CSP 2019 November Event Rabbi Dr. David Moster

November 21, 2019
$18 per person general admission, $36 at the door
(Free to CSP 5780 Members with reservations by November 18, 2019)


Etrog: How A Chinese Fruit Became a Jewish Symbol
Thursday November 21, 2019 Brown Bag Lunch, 12:00-1:30 PM
(Las Lomas Community Center, 10 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92603)

The Etrog is one of Judaism’s oldest and most important ritual objects and symbols. In this presentation with dozens of images, we will explore how the fruit made its way from China to Israel, how it changed the holiday of Sukkot, and how it became the only distinctively Jewish symbol during the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Rabbi Dr. David Moster is the Director of the Institute of Biblical Culture (, a live and online community with classes taught by professors from both Jewish and Christian backgrounds. David received his PhD in Hebrew Bible from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Before attending Bar-Ilan, David spent two years in Israel and a decade in New York City, where he received a B.A., M.A., M.S. and Rabbinical Degree from Yeshiva University, as well as an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from New York University. In addition to his publications in the Journal of Biblical Literature and the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, David recently authored Etrog: How a Chinese Fruit Became a Jewish Symbol (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). David is also a Fellow in the Department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College. David grew up in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania and now lives in Yonkers, New York with his wife, a psychiatrist, and their two children.

Celebrating our 19th year, the Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program shares the joy of Judaism, builds community, and celebrates our Jewish heritage with a rich adult education program and unique family experiences. Whether we are picking apples for Rosh Hashanah, celebrating Shabbat while camping, clapping along with Jewish Blues or Rock musicians, hosting a community-wide Shabbat Alive outdoors, engaging with internationally-known scholars or making life-long Jewish friends at family and adult retreats, CSP has programs to offer for all ages. We ignite passion for Judaism!

Escape from the Holocaust: Geoscience and Archaeology

Dr. Richard A. Freund
December 12, 2019, 12:15-1:15 PM
Las Lomas Community Center
(10 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92603)

At the height of WWII, the Nazis murdered the Jews of Vilna, Lithuania – nearly 70,000 of them – as well as 30,000 non-Jews. Each day for two years, the Jews were transported just outside the city to a forest camp known as Ponar. There they were murdered, one bullet at a time, until almost no trace of the centuries’ old civilization of Vilna – or its people – was left. The city once known as the “Jerusalem of the North” was gone, seemingly destined to be forgotten. Until now. In this talk, Dr. Freund will discuss his recent archeological work in Vilna, Lithuania, where he and an excavation team used state- of-the-art technologies to uncover the hidden escape tunnel of Ponar Forest, dug by heroic prisoners over 76 nights, along with a missing mass grave at the site that had been lost for decades. Join us as Professor Freund recounts the dramatic escape attempt that occurred on the last night of Passover 1944, when only 11 lived to tell the story.. Space limited.

Dr. Richard A. Freund. who holds an MA, PhD, and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, was recently appointed the inaugural holder of the Bertram and Gladys Aaron Endowed Professorship in Jewish Studies at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. For 20 years prior to this appointment, Dr. Freund was the Maurice Greenberg Professor of Jewish History and Director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford. Dr. Freund has directed six archaeological projects in Israel and three projects in Europe on behalf of the University of Hartford including Bethsaida, Qumran, the Cave of Letters, Nazareth, Yavne, Har Karkom (Mount Sinai) as well as archaeological projects in Burgos and Cadiz, Spain and a research project at the extermination camp at Sobibor, Poland. In his 20 years at University of Hartford, he led a total of 30 different expeditions to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UK, Argentina, Greece, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Israel, Poland, and Lithuania. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Time magazine, Reader’s Digest, Newsweek, Archaeology, seen on the BBC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and Fox News and in hundreds of media outlets worldwide. His work has been chronicled in more than a dozen television documentaries from National Geographic, CNN, Discovery, the History Channel and PBS. Dr. Freund is perhaps best known for leading an international group of archaeologists, scientists, and historians as they searched for the lost city of Atlantis, an expedition captured by the National Geographic Channel’s documentary “Atlantis Rising.” Freund’s team discovered six stone anchors in southern Spain that could date back to the Bronze Age. His most recent work in Lithuania was chronicled in a recent NOVA science series episode: “Holocaust Escape Tunnel” on the new discoveries made in the Ponar Burial Pits and the Great Synagogue of Vilna, Lithuania. Most recently, Dr. Freund and a group of researchers and students located the exact burial site of Matilda Olkin, who, along with her family and several neighbors, was executed by Nazi collaborators. A poet, Olkin is often referred to as the “Anne Frank of Lithuania.” Dr. Freund is the author of six books on archaeology, two books on Jewish ethics, over 100 scholarly articles and has appeared in 15 TV documentaries. Dr. Freund’s most recent book Digging through History was published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.

More Information: [Click Here]

Venice/Florence/Padua and Rome

December 12-22, 2021
with Marc Michael Epstein
Watch here for details!
More Information: [Click Here]

Prof. Paul Liptz 19th Annual CSP One Month Scholar

January 5, 2020 – January 30, 2020
Fulfilling the Dream:
The Fascinating Story of Modern Israel

Israel is both an old and new land. For centuries, Jews have dreamed of building a safe homeland for themselves. After the Holocaust, a desperate people appreciated, once again, that only a State could ensure their survival but were aware that the challenges would be overwhelming. By 2020, successes are evident, but there is still a long road ahead of us.

Paul Liptz, a social historian, was on the Tel Aviv University faculty for 40 years, teaching graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Middle East and African History and the International School, where he dealt with a wide range of topics. His main interests are History of the Yishuv [Pre-State], the Modern State of Israel and Arab Women and Nationalism in the Middle East. He taught graduate students at the Hebrew Union College for 25 years as well as at the Conservative movement seminary in Jerusalem, dealing with modern Jewish history, Israeli society and the contemporary Middle East. In the Israeli army reserves, he lectured officers and non-commissioned officers on non-military realms. He is still active in Israel and is involved in various academic and educational fields. In the last few decades, he has travelled the world extensively, lecturing and conducting workshops in some twenty countries. He has also been a visiting scholar with many American groups in Central and Eastern Europe. Paul was born in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and came as a volunteer to Israel one day before the Six Day War on June 4, 1967. He decided to stay in Israel, married Brenda and they have 4 children and 11 grandchildren.

Opening Lecture: Sunday Night January 5, 2020
Co-sponsored by the Merage JCC
Location: Merage JCC, 1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92612
Time: 7:00 PM reception, presentation starts at 7:30 PM
Topic: Fulfilling the Dream: Living in a Fascinating World
Registration Link
The Jewish people have a history of great moments in addition to traumatic periods over thousands of years of recorded history. The coming together of an ancient dream and modern nationalism resulted in the establishment of the Jewish State immediately after the tragic Shoah. Joins us as we deal with Israel within the Middle East and the complexity of the relationship between Israel and the Jewish communities of the world.

Closing Lecture: Thursday Night January 30, 2020
Location: Las Lomas Community Center Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92612
Time: 7:00 PM reception, presentation starts at 7:30 PM
Topic: Looking Back to the Future: What Must We Do Now?
Registration Link
At present, the people of Israel are defined as the 11th happiest in the world. The challenge, however, is how to improve the day-to-day realities of the marginal groups and work towards a safer environment, realizing that a unified and committed society will be able to cope better with inevitable crises in the future.

Private Patron/Legacy Event: Saturday Night January 18, 2020, 7:30 PM
53 Years in Israel: A Personal Story. My involvement in several academic and educational institutions, active army reserve duty and the perspectives of Israel from June 4, 1967 to the present, demand a sober analysis. It’s a story of joy and fear and an amazing adventure, deserving critical insights. To RSVP, please e-mail

3 Class Series – Registration Link

Tuesday Brown Bag Lunch Series: Creating A Nation
Dates: January 7, 14, 21 & 28
Time: 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Merage JCC (1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92612)

Holocaust Survivors Come Home 1945-1962. Survivors of the Holocaust who moved to Israel faced three essential challenges: their immediate health and psychological aspects, finding a place to live and then settling down. After the Second World War it became clear to many that they could not return to their homes and therefore Eretz Israel, not yet a state, became an alternative despite British obstacles. Even after Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Israeli population was reluctant to discuss the Shoah and this only changed with the 1961 Eichmann Trial, when open discussion of their trauma became more acceptable.

The Yemenite Jews: Returning Home. The Yemenite Jews dreamed of returning to Israel through the centuries and, beginning in the 1880s, small groups arrived. However, in the 1949 “Operation magic Carpet”, the community almost disappeared with 49,000 being flown to Israel in El Al planes. They are sometimes seen as exotic with ancient customs and a different Hebrew pronunciation.

The “Beta Israel”: Jews from Ethiopia. The dream of the Beta Israel for thousands of years was to return to their ancient homeland, but it was only in the 1980s and ’90s that this became possible for part of the group. They have not found integration into Israeli Society easy, although there is significant evidence of upward mobility. The Falas Mura (Jews who were forced to become Christians) have not been allowed to immigrate to Israel, and this remains a painful episode.

Russian Speaking Immigrants: 1990-2020. Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a small number of “Refusniks” had managed to reach Israel or western countries. With the breakup of the FSU, almost a million Russian speakers who had lived under a totalitarian regime arrived in Israel and had to adjust to an open democratic capitalist society. While the elderly often found it difficult in Israel, the younger generation adapted quickly, retaining many of their cultural traits, and simultaneously contributing in significant ways to the development of their new home.

Wednesday Evening Series: Politics and Politicians
Dates: January 8, 15, 22 & 29
Time: 7:15 PM – 8:30 PM
Location: Merage JCC (1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92612)

David Ben-Gurion: Founder and Builder. His dominating character from 1935 to 1963 resulted in the building of a socialist Israel which had to absorb large numbers of immigrants, develop an economy and confront a life-threatening enemy. Several biographies enable us to analyze both significant contributions and problematic traits.

Golda Meir: A Determined and Committed Zionist. Golda Meir was a major figure in developing the early Israel as a committed member of Zionist left, Minister of Housing and Labor, minister of Foreign affairs and then Prime minister in the crucial period of 1969 to 1974. She was, without doubt, a highly unique leader.

Menachem Begin, The Peace Treaty and a New Israel. An astute politician and outstanding orator who had lived through traumatic experiences in Europe, Begin was the first Israeli leader to sign an agreement with an Arab country, Egypt, in 1979. His political success in the 1977 elections changed Israel which then became a capitalist, laissez faire country and led to the right-wing Likud Party dominating politics for much of the time since then.

Yitzhak Rabin: The Price of Peace. A military man for many years decided to become Israel’s ambassador in the United States and then to enter the murky waters of Israeli politics. He is remembered for many achievements, most significantly the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Thursday Brown Bag Lunch Series:
Israel’s Neighbors: Nationalism and Religion in a Complex Region
Dates: January 9, 16 & 23
Time: 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Merage JCC (1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92612)

Fundamentalism of the Shia: Iran and its Regional Allies. Islam is divided between the majority Sunnis and minority Shias. Iran is the dominating Shia country which moved from the western oriented Shah-controlled society in the 1979 Revolution to become a country independent of international intervention. A question frequently asked is “Will the ‘Shia Crescent’ ever become a dominant force in the region?”

Syria’s Civil War and its Implications. Syria, a radical and ruthless country dominated by military and dictatorial leaders, is identified with Iran and Hezbollah. The Baath Party and particularly President Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad have shaped modern Syria under the domination of the minority Alawis. Internal unrest led to a brutal civil war with long term implications.

The Politics of Survival: Jordan. Transjordan was created by Britain as a show of gratitude to the Hashemites who were then in Saudi Arabia. Since the 1920s this small kingdom, placed between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, has played a delicate game to ensure its survival. The Hashemite minority control the country where the largest group are Palestinians who have not always accepted the status quo. As part of its regional struggle, this poor country signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994.

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