Education has always been an important tenet of Judaism, whether that means attending Religious School, studying for your B’nai Mitzvah or simply paying attention to world events. And Temple Israel’s Wednesday night Adult Education programming is designed as a reminder that learning should never stop.

“The Adult Education committee worked with [Program Director] Wendy [Goldberg] and the clergy to come up with a program that covered topics from different viewpoints–religious, historical or cultural,” said Jeremy Wright, Chair of the Adult Education Committee. “We chose speakers who could take a complicated subject and relate it to a general audience.”

Wednesday Nights at Temple Israel, sponsored by the Hermene Zweiback Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning, are a series of lecture and discussion classes about all manner of Jewish life, from the history of the Middle East through the present day to popular Israeli music to films with religious themes. Classes are taught by guest lecturers or by Temple Israel clergy and are free and open for anyone to attend. Each session goes from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

One class, titled “The Modern Middle East,” taught by Dr. Moshe Gershovich, a professor of Israel and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, attempts to put into context the rampant volatility throughout the region by examining its past and connecting that to its present.

“I want to enhance our awareness beyond the headlines from the Middle East, give some background,” Dr. Gershovich said.

He points to the recent anti-American violent outbursts that occurred because of the anti-Islamic film “Innocence of Muslims,” as well as the Arab Spring as examples of the frustrations felt throughout the Middle East.

“There is a lack of hope,” Dr. Gershovich said, “particularly economic hope, and it becomes channeled into violent responses.”

Learning about the causes of violent unrest throughout the Middle East is one way to combat it, Dr. Gershovich urges. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are forces, both internal and external, that give rise to such extremism, and it’s important, as Jewish Americans, to understand those forces.

“It’s a part of the world that Americans have been very much interested in, and American Jews particularly, given their interest in Israel. there’s no indication that it’s going away anytime soon, this interest in Israel.”

Another Wednesday night class, “Religion & Film,” taught by UNO professor Dr. William Blizek, will look at the historical relationship between religion and film by examining various movies that are related to particular religious traditions and themes.

“I want to talk about two different kinds of movies in which we find religion–secular and religious,” Dr. Blizek said.

Examples of secular movies Dr. Blizek will be discussing include “Slumdog Millionaire,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Matrix,” while some of the films he considers religious include “Priest,” “Water,” “Kadosh” and “The Art of Farewell.”

“My colleague, Ron Burke, and I went to hear the priest/sociologist/novelist, Father Andrew Greeley, talk about the face of God in the movies,” Dr. Blizek said. “We went right out and rented the movies he discussed to see if we could find those faces of God. We did, and then taught a course on the wider topic of religion, rather than just God, in the movies.”

Dr. Blizek, who in 1997 founded the “Journal of Religion & Film” with Burke, believes there are many reasons to discuss the intersection of religion and film.

“One, it’s just fun finding things in movies that others don’t yet see,” he said. “We want to be sure that our own religion is portrayed correctly. And we can learn about other religions through film. We also can learn about our own religion through film.”

“Religion & Film” will be taught on November 7.

Future Wednesday night classes include “Prayer, Justice, Outreach as a Reform Jew,” a discussion of Reform Judaism and what it tells us about Social Justice, led by Rabbi Josh Brown, a three-week class beginning November 28, and “Transforming Moments In the Reform Movement,” on December 19, in which Rabbi Aryeh Azriel will examine the history of the Reform Movement and how it has changed over the years in response to the changing needs of modern-day Jewish people.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve really seen the Adult Education program grow,” Wright said. “We love to see people from the community join us–even if they’ve never come to a speaker before.”

For more information and a complete list of Wednesday night classes, click here.