Rabbi Steven Bayar, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn, blended pop culture with Torah learning in a series of thought-provoking classes on  Dec. 1 and 8, and Monday, Dec. 14 at the Morris County Library, 30 E. Hanover Ave., in Whippany. The gatherings were coordinated by the Our Jewish World program, under the direction of Melanie Levitan and Ellen Nesson.

The first session, on Dec. 1, was called “Bubbe Meises: The Difference Between Superstition and Law.” Topics for the next two classes were determined by the group at the first session and included:

  • Classical Biblical Stories You Thought You Knew and the Actual Original Story
  • The God You Thought You Knew / Introduction to Theology
  • Ethics of Wizardry, with the Harry Potter series as a touchstone
  • Ethics of Modern Media, using the TV shows “South Park” and “The Simpsons” as a springboard for discussion
  • Ethics of Disney characters

Rabbi Bayar, who was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, served in congregations in Maryland and New York state before coming to Congregation B’nai Israel in 1989. He is the author of Teens & Trust: Building Bridges in Jewish Education, with Francine Hirschman (Torah Aura), and And You Shall Teach Them Diligently to Your Children: Transmitting Jewish Values from Generation to Generation, with Naomi Eisenberger (Town House Press). He currently serves as chair of the Rabbinic Advisory Committee of Golda Och Academy and as president of the Millburn Clergy Association, and he is a chaplain for the Millburn Police Department.

Our Jewish World presents the Rabbi Lecture Series throughout the year, with wonderfully insightful rabbis from throughout the area.