Starting in November, students affiliated with Arizona State University will have the opportunity to try something new: visit Jewish communities around the world without leaving the Valley.
ASU professor Dan Fellner is offering a new course through the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The course is called “Curry and Kreplach: A Look at 12 Unique Jewish Communities Around the World.”
“I’ve visited all the places about which I’ll be lecturing,” Fellner said. “In teaching the class, I’ll use hundreds of photos I’ve taken over the years exploring Jewish communities around the world. It’s a highly visual class. I’ll also make use of all the research — including interviews with Jewish leaders — that I’ve gathered on travel-writing assignments.”
Fellner, aside from being an ASU faculty member, is also a distinguished travel writer who has published more than 85 articles in various outlets. On his travels, Fellner looks for different Jewish communities as a way to feel less like a fish out of water.
“I always make a point of trying to connect with the local Jewish community when I travel,” Fellner said. “It makes me feel less homesick when I’m in far-flung places and helps ease the culture shock.”
Fellner finds synagogues and communities thanks, in part, to Google. He then sets up appointments with various community leaders who can give him tours of the area. This has led him to finding synagogues in the most surprising locales.
“I did not expect to find a synagogue in Yangon, Myanmar,” Fellner said. “It’s a beautiful building in the heart of the city and has been maintained by the same family for generations.”
Fellner pitched the concept of the new course to OLLI Coordinator Sally Underwood. OLLI designs a variety of courses for adult students who are yearning for educational experiences beyond the traditional school years.
“Adult learners ages 50 and up may enroll in intellectually stimulating classes designed specifically for them,” Underwood said. “There are no grades, no tests or educational requirements.”
Underwood, a Phoenix native, has worked in education most of her life, including two local colleges and the preschool at Beth El Synagogue. She said Fellner has had many successes as a professor at OLLI, and they are always interested to hear what he will offer the students next.
“We are excited to hear about these lesser-known Jewish communities from someone who has visited them first-hand,” Underwood said.
Fellner will discuss many topics in exploring each of the communities.
“We’ll talk about the history and what makes each particular Jewish community unique,” Fellner said. “We’ll discuss the challenges they face, whether it be anti-Semitism, dwindling numbers or a lack of resources. It’s amazing to me how resilient some of these communities have been to have endured for so long.”
OLLI students came out in full force to register for the class. Underwood said it has been overwhelming to see such great support for the concept. In fact, the Institute already has plans for tbe course to return next semester.
“What is truly amazing is that the class practically sold out within a few days of registering,” Underwood said. “So if you can’t make it to this session in November, be on the lookout for our spring 2019 class schedule for another opportunity to enroll.” JN
For more information email lifelonglearning.asu.edu or call 602-543-6440.