Beyond the Bible

by | Nov 9, 2022 | What’s Happening

Course begins: Thursday, December 1, 12–1 pm

Simon Family JCC

Four weekly sessions: $60

Rabbi Michael Panitz and Sierra Lautman

Last month, in a course offered by United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Konikoff Center for Learning, Origins: Ancient Jewish History in International Context, students began to consider the answer to the question, “Where did the Jewish People come from?”

Next month, a new course, Beyond the Bible—The People of Israel, In the World of Ancient Empires, will continue to investigate the Jewish origin story through the world of the Greeks and the Romans. Scholars have more access to the general history of that time and place than previous centuries, and the task is to build up a picture of actual Jewish history, based on both personal sources and on what can be gleaned from the knowledge of the entire Mediterranean and Persian Gulf region.

This four-week course is considered a “second season” to the first, featuring some of the same characters, continuing down the same storyline, but can be equally enjoyed by those who joined the October Jewish history series and those who are just jumping in now. The course’s four sessions will cover nearly a millennium and the impact that other nations had on the development of the people of Israel.

The Persian period of Jewish history, which will be covered in the first class, was an important incubator in which post-biblical Judaism first developed. The Persian emperors, more tolerant than their predecessors, gave both geographical and cultural space for Jews to develop their distinctive history.

Persian overlordship gave way to Greek after the conquest of Alexander the Great. The principal challenge to the small Jewish nation in Hellenistic times was how to respond to the attractiveness of Hellenistic culture. Ultimately, the Jewish response, which students can discover in the second session, was neither assimilation nor rejection, but the fashioning of a creative synthesis.

Greek rule gave way to Roman with the expansion of Roman rule across the Mediterranean in the 1st century BCE. Roman rule over the Jews of the land of Israel was harsh and oppressive, driving the Jews to a doomed rebellion in the year 66 CE. In suppressing that rebellion, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem’s Temple. The response to that unparalleled crisis launched Judaism on a new path, elements of which still exist today.

In the final session, students will examine how the Jewish people learn to cope with a new challenge: the overlordship of a rival monotheistic state—either Christian or Muslim.

To learn more or to register, visit or contact Sierra Lautman, director of Jewish Innovation, at or 757-965-6107.