Coming soon to Harford Chabad: ‘Torah on Tap’


How do you engage people and make Judaism relevant? One of the ways Rabbi Kushi Schusterman of Harford Chabad addresses that question is by identifying what people feel are deterrents or barriers to attaining meaningful relationship with Judaism.

(Photo by Bohdan Stocek on Unsplash)

It can be difficult for more secular Jews to become a part of their religious community, for instance. Interacting with the Torah and its teachings might seem intimidating given the holy book’s importance. With their upcoming Torah on Tap events, Harford Chabad hopes to provide a more relaxed and social environment where people can socialize, drink and most importantly learn about the Torah.

The Chabad Lubavitch-affiliated congregation welcomes Jews of all backgrounds and denominations, but as of late its faculty has been trying to figure out how to get people more involved.

“I’m always thinking, ‘How do you get people through the door? How do you get them to engage?’” said Schusterman, the Chabad’s rabbi. “Our mission is to engage people where they’re at. So perhaps someone wouldn’t want to have a conversation with a rabbi at a synagogue. They’re not willing to walk through that door. What door can I get them to walk through to connect and have meaningful conversations?”

One answer, they decided, was to partner with local breweries to hold events at their locations. Harford Chabad has partnered with AleCraft Brewery and the Independent Brewing Co. Both are located in Bel Air and have partnered with the Chabad in the past for high holidays and other events.

Harford Chabad plans for Torah on Tap events to be informal discussions about recent Torah portions and how they relate to current events and the world at large. Schusterman says he’s had these kinds of conversations at the odd coffee house or cigar shop, but having a regular locale for them would be helpful for people wanting to meet up.

“It’s about reducing the barriers to entry,” said Schusterman. “Whether they’re casual or not, there’s a barrier to entry for a lot of people.”

Another important component to these programs is ensuring access to kosher beer and alcohol. Schusterman and the Harford Chabad Staff made sure the breweries they partner with offer kosher options, so those who keep kosher can still participate. Breweries can be rather experimental with their products, he said, so it is important that religious considerations do not prevent anyone who is interested in Torah on Tap from attending.

In addition to Torah on Tap, the Chabad newcomer-friendly offerings include weekly adult Torah study classes, in-person and on Zoom. People unable to make it to the synagogue can still participate from the comfort of their own homes, and feel that they are part of a group learning experience even if they cannot make it to the synagogue itself.

Though other synagogues may have taken similar measures to make services and programs more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic and the time afterward, and more casual Torah discussions are nothing new, Schusterman says Harford Chabad is “figuring out how we could expand the experience,” he said.

Currently, the Torah on Tap events are in the planning phase, with a starting date to be announced. But Harford Chabad offers a variety of accessible learning opportunities for
those inclined to check out while they wait.


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