Borscht Belt, bubbameisers, Broadway

Are you ready for a journey into Judaism? Elderhostel, the Boston-based educational and travel organization for older adults, offers programs on topics from Bible to Mideast history to the Jews of Broadway.

Some are based close to home, including at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center or at sites in Burlingame, Tiburon and Napa. Others venture abroad, exploring the history and culture of Eastern Europe, Germany, Spain and Morocco.

Here are some of the current offerings:

In the Bay Area, the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael is offering “Magical Marin” programs, in conjunction with Elderhostel. The five-day programs, which take place seven times during 2005, include a historical overview of Marin County at Falkirk Cultural Center, a picnic at China Camp Village, a tour of a wildlife rehabilitation center, nature walks, and visits to Angel Island, Tiburon, Sausalito, Muir Woods, Point Reyes, Miwok Village, the Earthquake Trail and Limantour Beach, and various nature walks around the area.

The tours also include gourmet meals at Marin restaurants, plus unlimited free use of the Osher Marin JCC facilities. The programs run March 13-18, April 10-15, May 1-5, May 15-20, June 5-10, Sept.11-16 and Sept. 25-30. Hotel accommodations are available for out-of-towners.

In the coming months, a number of Jewish-oriented Elderhostel programs will take place in Tiburon, and Burlingame, in conjunction with Bay Area Classic Learning. Instructors include John Rothmann, a political consultant and talk-show host who teaches courses on political science and the Mideast; Mary Arnold, whose area of expertise is Russia; Joe Marchi, who specializes in the American musical; and Jewish music performers and historians Judy Frankel and Mark Levy.

Both three- and five-day sessions are offered on an ongoing basis in Tiburon and Burlingame. Classes there include “The Middle East: Culture, History, and the Present Day Search for Peace,” “Jerusalem: Controversial Religious Center,” “The Great Jewish Comedians” from the Borscht Belt to Hollywood, “San Francisco’s Wild Early Days,” “San Francisco in Song” and “Music of Aaron Copland.” Bay Area Classic Learning Elderhostel also offers programs in Napa with a wine and food orientation, as well as courses on Jewish comedians. While programs include accommodations, there are day rates for local residents.

In Southern California, at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, Elderhostel classes include “The Life of the Jewish People: From Helplessness to Victory,” “Jewish Arts: Hands-on Experiences in Music, Dance, Drama and Fine Arts” and “Searching the Bible for Answers to Life’s Questions.” This six-night package takes place Dec. 27 to Jan. 2.

In Ojai, the University of Judaism is offering Elderhostel programs on Jewish philosophy, history, morals and ethics. Participants will study Yiddish literature and culture, famous religious trials and stories from the Bible. They will also have an opportunity to learn about the various flora and fauna of the Los Padres National Forest from an experienced naturalist. Upcoming classes run Dec. 27-Jan.2, Jan. 23-28 and Feb. 7-13. The University of Judaism will also hold Elderhostel sessions at its Bel Air campus Jan. 10-16 and Feb. 13-18.

Does Malibu appeal to you? A five-night session begins Dec. 28 titled “Joys of an Enduring Culture: Philosophers, Fools, Fishmongers and Bubbameisers.” Classes will examine Yiddish literature, theater, songs and legends. Other Malibu sessions on Jewish culture run Feb. 20-25 and March 20-25.

Elsewhere, Elderhostel classes explore the history and culture of Jews in such areas as Savannah, Ga., and New Mexico, visit the Phoenix Jewish Film Festival or probe Kabbalah in Boca Raton, Fla. There are also courses in Central and Eastern Europe, Spain and Morocco, including a 16-day package titled “In the Footsteps of European Jews,” with visits to the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. An 18-day package explores Jewish heritage in Russia and Ukraine.

Beyond Judaism, Elderhostel classes run the gamut from academics to adventure to entertainment. Complete classes, prices and registration are listed at For a catalog, call (877) 426-8056. Bay Area Classic Learning Elderhostel information:, [email protected] or (415) 566-3444. Osher Marin JCC information: (415) 444-8000.

In addition to Elderhostel, Lehrhaus Judaica holds classes throughout the Bay Area. Information: (510) 845-6420 or