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New B’nai Sholom Course Aims to Unlock Mysteries of “Noah”

When director Darren Aronofsky’s film, “Noah,” was released in March 2014, it provoked a wide range of reactions from praise to outrage. Moviegoers were puzzled, and many were offended, by what seemed to be bizarre additions to the story, particularly the digitally created monsters. For Delmar resident and armchair archaeologist Steven Stark-Riemer, however, “Noah” made perfect sense.

Now, Stark-Riemer will teach a new course at B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany that will unlock the mysteries of the movie.

“Unlocking ‘Noah’: Bible, Midrash and Moviemaking” will be taught over six Thursday evenings beginning May 7 at B’nai Sholom, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, New York.

The first class will feature a screening of “Noah” at 7 p.m. The next four classes will meet from 7:15 p.m. to 9 p.m., examining the ancient Jewish apocryphal and midrashic literature that was used by the film’s creators to flesh out the rather spare biblical story. The final session will screen “Noah” once again at 7 p.m.

“As I watched ‘Noah,'” Stark-Riemer said, “I knew most people would not understand that much of it was inspired by ancient interpretations of the biblical flood. Only a nut like me knows all this stuff!”

Contrary to many reviewers, who accused the moviemakers of making up much of the material in their film, Stark-Riemer explained that the movie actually is carefully researched and well-grounded in Jewish literature written roughly between 200 B.C.E. and 100 C.E. that did not make it into the Hebrew Bible.

According to Stark-Riemer, “Part of why these books were never canonized is because they were so bizarre. They reflect what was, at the time, a rising apocalyptic world view that was trying to explain why there is evil in the world.”

Stark-Riemer has taught about the scientific study of the biblical world since 2007. He studied anthropology at City College of New York, where he specialized in archaeology, and received his degree in 1972. He conducted field work at the Tel Gezer excavations in Israel under the direction of William G. Dever, director of the Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School at the time. Stark-Riemer continues to pursue his interest in the archaeology, history and religion of the ancient Near East.

“Unlocking ‘Noah’: Bible, Midrash and Moviemaking” is open to the public. Fee for the six-session course is $60 ($40 for B’nai Sholom members), and registration is required.

For more information, visit or contact the B’nai Sholom office at 518-482-5283 or

Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region. Nearly 130 diverse households from six counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom.

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