A Whole New Way of Learning

Published: February 28th 2010

Vali Nasr who participated in the Satellite at Sinai series in the fall
Lana Rottenberg
Pic: Lana Rottenberg


If you’d like to be educated on a wide variety of Jewish topics, hear amazing speakers and do it all right here in Toronto and for an affordable price, Temple Sinai’s Satellite at Sinai series is for you.


Satellite at Sinai is a series of talks given by some of the world’s most prominent names. The interesting thing about it is that they are speaking from New York.


“The interviews are set up by and take place in the 92nd Street Y in New York,” explained Lana Rottenberg, chair of the Adult Education committee at Temple Sinai. “We connect via satellite and the internet and we are able to feed questions by email to the speaker. Of course they can only answer a certain number of questions but it’s always exciting to see Temple Sinai on the screen, and they always credit the fact that we’re participating.”


The idea was brought to Ms. Rottenberg by Dr. Ira Schweitzer, Temple Sinai’s Director of Education, who had heard about it from a colleague in Pittsburgh whose congregation is holding similar programs at a great success. “We asked ourselves ‘how do we bring high end cultural events to us and broadcast them as widely as possible, for the least amount of cost and get the most amount benefit out of it?’ It was the perfect idea at the perfect time, and I believe the perfect venue to run it, and I think we have the perfect audience in Toronto,” she said.


So far, Temple Sinai has hosted several such programs and the next one, featuring Michelle Obama’s first cousin, Rabbi Capers Funnye, is schedule for Tuesday, March 2. Ms. Rottenberg explained that congregations across the United States, as well as a few outlets in Canada all participate in the program, and therefore at Temple Sinai an additional discussion is always held after the program, in order to give a local spin to the topic. “We always have a senior staff member or clergy person at the end of the evening available to lead a discussion,” she said. “For example, with the Gail Collins and Nora Ephron program on Women Coming of Age (which was held on January 12), Temple Sinai’s Rabbi Erin Polonsky led a discussion about what has been happening with women in Canada over the last 50, years and what we’ve seen from a Jewish perspective in terms of progress or change. It was a very engaging conversation after the presentation.”


So far, according to Ms. Rottenberg, the response received from participants has been very positive. She stressed that the programs are open to both members of Temple Sinai as well as non-members. “We have Temple members, non-members, and people all ages. Older people come as well as well as university kids. We’re bringing people together with a common interest not based on age or which synagogue they belong to.” She added that the program really can become a whole evening: “Our doors open at 7:30, and people can come in, have a coffee and a cookie, and we have special seating where people can relax and make an evening out of it even before the program begins.”


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