A Circuitous Relationship
By Jessica Hanewinckel
La Jolla’s chic and scenic Prospect Street is already known for its upscale boutiques, charming cafés and ocean views, but now, at least in Jewish circles, it will be known as the home of Chabad of La Jolla and the Sinai Circle — an innovative and one-of-a-kind adult education institution open to the entire community. Open unofficially since late September and celebrating its official grand opening Nov. 9, the Sinai Circle is an educational outgrowth of Chabad of La Jolla, though attending courses and lectures does not require membership, any prior knowledge of Judaism or identification with any denomination or synagogue, Rabbi Baruch Ezagui says.
“The idea behind the Sinai Circle is … that the relationship between God and humanity wasn’t made for a specific character or person,” says the rabbi, adding that it was created to address the issue that everyone is hungry for spirituality and meaning. “There is a very famous Chabad line that says ‘Labels are for T-shirts.’ The objective of the Sinai Circle is to create a meaningful, spiritual environment that is literally accessible to every single person of every level.”
The name, in fact, comes from the Kabbalistic concept, and the Torah concept, that there are three knots, which can never be untied, that form the circle of the universe: God (the creator of the world), the Torah (the meaning of the world) and the Jews (the people of the world who implement that meaning).
“The Sinai Circle is an event in history [when God gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai] that is replaying every day,” the rabbi says. The objective is based on that philosophy, and uniting those three parts in a meaningful, wholesome, organic way. Says the rabbi, he wants to change the view of Torah that many people have, which is that it is holy, aloof and inaccessible on a regular basis.
“It’s your inheritance!” he says. “It’s yours, you embrace it, you love it, you take it, you own it. It’s our objective to have people feel and understand literally that this belongs to them, not only to kiss it or to put it on the shelf, or to admire it in the ark, or to respect it from a distance, but to make it yours … We don’t want to have an institution with a preaching environment or a classroom environment, or a synagogue environment or restricted club-like environment. We want this institution to belong to the people.”
And what they’re doing, he says, is something the San Diego region has never before seen.
“It’s a whole new approach, a whole new institution, a whole new look at the Jewish community in San Diego,” he says. “[Sinai Circle is synonymous] with quality education, inspiration, camaraderie, a warm, magnificent gathering of minds, of hearts, of individuals who come to be inspired and to inspire as well. The name should be synonymous with comfort, with meaning, with joy, with Torah study at its highest level, at its best level, at its most practical level. It’s an institution like no other in San Diego.”
Starting Nov. 6, Sinai Circle will offer three annual six-week mini courses, the first being “Fascinating Facts: Exploring the Myths and Mysteries of Judaism.” In January comes “Money Matters: Jewish Business Ethics” and in May, “The Art of Marriage.” These three courses will be taught by Rabbi Ezagui but developed by the world-renowned New York-based Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, of which Sinai Circle is now one of approximately 300 affiliate centers worldwide. Additionally, Sinai Circle will offer other courses and lectures developed and delivered by a variety of voices and educators, and special guest speakers. In the first year, it will also offer two weekly courses, “From Sinai to Cyberspace” every Tuesday at noon, and “A Tale of Two Souls” every Thursday evening. Those interested in participating in Sinai Circle simply pay per course or lecture; it does not require membership, nor does it prescribe to any one vision or denomination, politically or religiously.
“There’s no too right, too left,” the rabbi says. “There’s truth, and truth belongs to everyone.
“We’re not looking at people in terms of their knowledge or their affiliation or lack thereof. We’re looking at human beings on an equal basis. Every one of us walks the face of the earth with equal potential and equal meaning and equal purpose. We all fight the same battle from a different foxhole, but we’re all fighting the same battle. Everybody wants life, everybody wants love, everybody wants meaning, everybody wants a better tomorrow.”
The Nov. 9 grand opening, which is open to the community, will feature Abraham Cohen, the only surviving brother of Eli Cohen, Israel’s most famous spy who entered the upper echelons of the Syrian government as an undercover Mossad agent in the late ‘60s. The film “Undercover in Damascus,” which chronicle’s Eli Cohen’s mission, will also be screened. Buy tickets and R.S.V.P. online or over the phone.
Chabad Jewish Center of La Jolla
909 Prospect St., Suite 210
La Jolla, CA 92037
Chabad of La Jolla: (858) 455-5433
Sinai Circle: (858) 456-7828