Judaism is more than a religion. It's a way of life, filled with opportunities for learning.
"It's a rich, multifaceted culture with its own art, music, drama, humor, languages, philosophers, history, dances and -- through Israel -- current events," said Paul Friedman, longtime member of the Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive.
That's the idea behind the Jewish Center's fourth annual "Shabbaton," scheduled to take place from Friday night to sundown Feb. 14.
The Shabbaton, billed as a "joyous, 24-hour festival of Jewish prayer, celebration and learning events," is designed to offer Lawrence-area residents -- Jew and non-Jew alike -- the chance to examine the primarily cultural aspects of Judaism from several angles.
"This year, since it coincides with Valentine's Day, the theme is 'Renewing Our Love for Jewish Traditions,'" said Friedman, who is organizing the event for the second year in a row.
The Shabbaton will start at 7:30 p.m. Friday with a combined musical service conducted by Shiray Shabbat (the Lawrence Jewish Center's ensemble and choir) and the choir from Temple Beth Sholom in Topeka.
Rabbi Scott White of the Lawrence center and Rabbi Lawrence Karol of Temple Beth Sholom will collaborate in the musical portion of the service.
At 9 p.m. Friday, Jay Lewis, director of the KU Hillel Foundation, 940 Miss., will lead a Jewish improvisational comedy program. Lewis has led similar programs at Jewish-educator and community-leader conferences around the country.
At 12:45 p.m. Feb. 14, Dan Breslauer, professor of religious studies at Kansas University, will give a general program called "Love of God, Love of Torah and Love of the Other: Martin Buber's Insight into Jewish Religion."
After Breslauer's presentation, there will be a series of three, one-hour sessions -- with Shabbaton participants having a choice among four different group topics per hour -- that include programs dealing with Jewish art, music, drama, dance, language, prayer, meditation, history and current events.
Friedman, for instance, a professor of communication studies at KU, will lead a group that will focus on sharing and eventually dramatizing stories from the popular book "Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul."
John Hoopes, professor of anthropology at KU, will give an afternoon session called, "What's New in Ancient Israel? What Archeology is Telling Us about Jewish History (and Prehistory)."
There will also be programs led by the Jewish center's membership on topics such as: "Doing Easy Jewish Crafts Projects with Kids"; "The Yiddish Language and Spirit"; "Jewish Life in Russia"; and Israeli folk dancing.
At the 2003 Shabbaton, more than 100 people from the community attended, according to Friedman.
"Anybody interested in the Jewish culture and traditions would enjoy these programs. Anybody who likes the flavor of Jewish life would enjoy this," Friedman said.
"It's very informal, pleasant, joyous and warm. You don't need to know anything (about Judaism) or bring anything. You just need to come, relax, participate and enjoy."