Learning Informally in Tzfat
Classes Outside the Classroom
Tzfat, the City of Kabbalah, draws many people who come to "experience spirituality" and "feel Judaism". People rent a room, or a corner of a room, for a few days or more, and wander the streets of the Old City, amazed and intrigued, as they soak up the mystical atmosphere of Tzfat.
Even mystical atmospheres, however, can get boring after awhile, and at some point, people either leave or start thinking about their next step.
If they want to stay and study, either part time or full time, Tzfat has an endless array of opportunities for them, whatever their level of Jewish background, whatever their interests, and even, whatever the status of their pocketbooks.
One of the first stops for many visitors who are looking for classes is the ASCENT Institute. Located on the edge of the Old City, the ASCENT Institute offers daily classes on a wide range of Judaic subjects, introductory Kabbalah, and practical how-to classes for observance of Jewish rituals and traditions. The classes are free and open to Jewish individuals who are interested in exploring Judaism.
The International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah has a variety of opportunities for people to explore various aspects of Kabbalah through touring, storytelling, music, lectures, one-on-one learning, or workshops. People can reserve a session ahead of time, or coordinate a session upon arrival in Tzfat.
Learning for English-Speakers
There are a number of English-speaking seminaries and yeshivas in Tzfat, and they are open, with coordination, to accommodating people who want to sit in on a class. Some of them are the Shalom Rav yeshiva, a men's yeshiva located in the Old City of Tzfat, the Sha'are Bina Seminary, a girls' school located on the outskirts of the Artists Quarter, and the Machon Alter Seminary, affiliated with the Chabad organization, located on the main street (Jerusalem Street) of Tzfat. They are all affiliated with various Ultra-Orthodox streams of Judaism, so anyone wishing to attend should be comfortable with that outlook.
Two Hassidic communities in Tzfat which each have a distinct outlook on Hassidic philosophy and on Judaism in general are the Breslev and the Chabad communities. Both are part of the Haredi, or Ultra-Orthodox world, but each follows their own leadership. Men throughout the Ultra-Orthodox community, no matter which Hassidic or non-Hassidic branch they belong to, generally study in a Study Hall or synagogue. But women frequently gather for classes in local homes or community centers, and an extensive schedule is available for women who wish to attend classes on Jewish Law, Tanya (Chabad Hassidic Thought), Lekutai Halachos (Breslev Hassidic Thought), the Laws of Gossip, Dietary Laws, and Laws of the Holidays. All women are invited to join.
The Center for Healthy Living, HaLevav, has on-going courses and sessions on environmental issues, conservation, healthy eating and exercising habits, Tai Chi, Yoga and Hebrew Letter Movements.
Finally, thanks to Tzfat's Poet-in-Residence, Reuven Goldfarb, a weekly gathering of poetry-lovers and poets is open to all. Participants get together to read and analyze classic poetry, as well as to share their own writings.
Tzfat, located at the far corner of Israel, doesn't have many cultural events or activities to offer residents or visitors. But opportunities to learn are never lacking, and all are welcome to find their niche among the offerings.