Local seniors, weary of bingo, can learn new things at school

The course is one of the offerings in a new Benicia-based Elderhostel program sponsored by the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center.

It will take place April 8, 9 and 11 along with "Klezmer 101" taught by Mark Levy, an educator and singer, and "The Parting of the Ways: How Judaism and Christianity Separated" taught by Ken Cohen, president of Lehrhaus Judaica. Registration is due March 18.

The second Elderhostel program will take place May 6 through 9. Courses will include "Jerusalem: City of Peace, City of War," taught by Cohen; "American Musical Theatre 1904-2001" taught by Edwin Cohen, a teacher and writer of books on speech and literature; and "Seeing Ourselves in the American Cinema," taught by Riva Gambert, director of community programming for the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay and the Contra Costa International Jewish Film Festival. Register by April 15.

Cost is $100 for each program and includes lectures, lunches and field trips. They will take place at the Best Western Heritage Inn in Benicia. Classes will start at 9 a.m. and end at 4:45 p.m. For information, call (925) 938-7800 ext. 239.

Bay Area Classic Learning, another sponsor of Elderhostel programs, offers a broad-based selection of classes, some of which have a Jewish theme.

Among the offerings of a program running Sunday through Friday, March 8 in Tiburon, for instance, is a course on "Exotic Jewish Communities Around the World." In Burlingame, an April 10 to 15 program includes a course titled "5,000 years in a Blink: An Overview of Biblical Music."

BACL's programs are residential and based at local hotels. Each session includes three, 7-1/2 hour classes along with food, lodging and a bus tour. While the programming is secular, BACL frequently offers "crossover courses" that will appeal to Jewish and non-Jewish seniors, said co-director David Kleinberg.

Information is available at www.bacl.com or by calling (415) 586-7226.

Lehrhaus Judaica, a Jewish studies adult school based in Berkeley, has offered Learning for Life classes since 1993 that are scheduled at central locations and during daytime hours convenient to seniors. Tuition often is reduced for older people taking these classes.

Examples of upcoming programs include "New York, New York: A Lecture Series" continuing through March 17 at the Berkeley Richmond JCC. "Myth and Reality in the Israel-Arab Conflict" starts April 11 at the JCC of San Francisco.

Last year, Lehrhaus began offering classes directly in local nursing homes and assisted living facilities under a new program called Learning for Life at Home. For more information, call (510) 845-6420 or see www.lehrhaus.org

— Abby Cohn