AM-1: Amusing the Muse – From Radical Creativity to Sacred Theater
Timbrel Artist-in-Residence – Sara Felder
In this course we will explore different ways to approach performance – through the body, text, objects, characters and images. In the safe space of our hands-on laboratory, we will search our memories, lies and truths in the joyful and rigorous work of creating fun and meaningful solo theater. We will write, try on different performance styles, create images, play with objects, investigate characters, consider different narrative voices, find the humor in the pain (and vice versa,) experiment, fail, laugh, support each other and surprise ourselves. From this creative exploration, we will generate material and create short performance pieces. This course happily greets all explorers — from first-timers to seasoned professionals – as we amuse (or shmooze, or cruise) the Muse.
Sara Felder is a solo theater artist and juggler who has created a body of work that juggles personal narrative, circus shtik and social justice. She has run away with San Francisco’s Pickle Family Circus, toured with Joel Grey’s Borscht Capades, performed with Jugglers for Peace in Cuba and Nicaragua, taught juggling in California prisons and toured her own solo theater shows. These shows have tackled issues of significance: a Jewish lesbian wedding (June Bride) ,the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Out of Sight), depression (Melancholy, A Comedy), grief (A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction) and the dying/rebirth of Yiddish culture (Shtik!).
AM-2: Soul Talk with Martin Buber
In 1947, Martin Buber traveled throughout Europe on a lecture tour on behalf of the Hebrew University. On April 20th of that year, he gave a one-time only lecture in Holland to a group of Dutch socialist Quakers, entitled “The Way of Man According to Hasidic Teaching” (but let’s re-imagine that title as “The Way of People”). The six sections of this lecture-turned-monograph interweave the Hasidic stories of Buber’s youth with insightful, soul-stirring commentary on the process of growth and self-actualization. The work provides a Jewish guide for relationships, with oneself and with the world. This course will immerse you in learning this forgotten masterpiece while discussing how it relates to the lifelong work of what it means to be a person. Part text study, part spiritual reflection, I invite you to join me in bringing your full self to share.
Brandon Bernstein is the campus rabbi at Northwestern Hillel, where he helps college students discover the intersection between what was and what is, between Jewish wisdom and contemporary knowledge. He was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, though he prefers to identify as Havuranik over Reform and let “rabbi” act as more of a verb than a noun. This is his fourth summer attending Institute and his second time teaching there.
AM-3: Joys and Oys: Exploring Judaism and Our Emotional Experiences
Come explore how our experiences of Judaism strengthen, challenge, and shape our emotional lives! Participants in this warm, welcoming, wide-ranging workshop will uncover surprising ways in which Judaism bolsters our emotional well-being, name mental health challenges unique to Judaism and members of Jewish communities, and brainstorm creative ways to address those challenges. We will discuss, make art, and listen to poetry and music as we revel in Judaism’s gifts and acknowledge the challenges it poses to maintaining emotional equilibrium. Get ready to combat isolation and join in creative, compassionate community as we share laughter, learn from one another, and heal by listening and feeling heard.
Steven Cohen holds a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW). He is a passionate advocate in support of disenfranchised people, especially those living at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression. He values extending a warm, empathetic curiosity towards oneself, others, and the world.
AM-4: Not Your Great-Grandparents’ Judaism: Four Ways We Don’t Believe What Our Ancestors Believed
If Judaism is an ongoing conversation, how have the terms of that conversation changed over time? Traditional Jews believed (and some still do) that the Torah was given at Sinai, with Moses carefully taking down dictation. The modern “historical-critical” approach, accepted by most non-Orthodox Jews, uncovers multiple sources of the Torah. If it is not the “word of God,” what is the Torah’s authority for us? Modern Bible readers like to say, “Look how human the biblical characters are! This makes it much easier for us to identify with them.” But Rashi and Maimonides never said such things. Modern Jews also tend to depart from traditional views when it comes to Jewish suffering: is it God’s Punishment or anti-Semitism? We’ll look at various texts related to this shift in perspective and ask, broadly, ”If we are so different from our ancestors, in what way(s) are we still Jewish?”
Laurence Edwards (Larry) served from 2003-2013 as Rabbi of Congregation Or Chadash in Chicago, a congregation founded in the 1970s by members of the Jewish LGBTQ community. Past positions include Hillel Director at Dartmouth College (1975-1981) and at Cornell University (1981-1997). Larry is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. His Ph.D. is from Chicago Theological Seminary. He is on the rotating faculty of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, and teaches courses at University of Illinois Chicago, DePaul University, and Hebrew Seminary (Skokie).
AM-5: Self-Hating Jews: Internalized Anti-Semitism
With American Nazis chanting in the streets, a white supremacist crony in the White House, and cruel anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and exploitative policy being advanced, Jews urgently need to stand up for ourselves and other vulnerable communities. In order to do that we need to feel in our kishkes (guts) that our concerns are valid and that there are allies to stand with us. But after centuries of our people being isolated, stereotyped, shut out of civil society, and targeted with violence, many of us carry emotional scars – ways of thinking and being that are, like a scar, simultaneously protective, adaptive, harmful, and limiting. Anti-Jewish ideas have set up shop inside us, shaping how we feel about ourselves, and our friends, families, and communities. We’ll trace the history and present reality of anti-Semitism, unpack core anti-Jewish tropes, see how anti-Jewish oppression intersects with and mirrors other oppressive ideologies, and learn to think more flexibly and lovingly about ourselves and other Jews.
Rebecca Ennen is a longtime havurahnik and professional social justice warrior. She has a background in avant-gard theater and Israeli-Palestinian conflict dialogue, and a day job fighting racism and anti-Semitism while raising money for Jewish political organizing.
AM-6: Four Early Turning Points
This class will look at four moments in early Jewish history that have left their mark on our lives: the Babylonian Exile, the installation of the Torah as a law-book in the time of Ezra, the Maccabean rebellion, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. In each case we’ll study the historical circumstances of the event itself and then examine its lasting effects on our Jewish lives today.
Bob Goldenberg is a retired academic. Back in the 80’s, he was up to his neck in NHC affairs (Institute chair 1984, NHC chair 1985-7), but drifted away after 1997. Two years ago, he began a process of teshuva (to the Institute). He is an experienced teacher of community-based adult ed programs.
AM-7: From Trauma to Spiritual Rebuilding to “Resistance” and Advocacy in the Age of Trump
Many people within the Jewish community were traumatized by the election of November 2016. Since then, we have seen a not-so-gradual attack on many of the values that we hold dear as Jews. How do we respond? How is it possible to do both tikkun neshamah, the repair of the soul, and tikkun olam, the repair of the world? We will ask what factors make these efforts difficult. We will also examine some spiritual responses both in Jewish history and in terms of the writings of Martin Luther King and William Barber. The first half of the course will end with a text study in hevruta (with partners) of Jewish sources on “Involvement and Protest.” The third and fourth days will focus on two contemporary issues and how the Jewish community might be able to work with others in responding to these two social justice challenges: immigration and relations with African American communities. We will Skype in experts on both of these topics and conclude with a discussion of what we have learned and where we can go from here.
Fred Guttman has served as the rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, North Carolina from 1995 to the present. In 2012, Fred was one of the lead activists in the effort to defeat the LGBT-discriminatory “Amendment One” in the State of North Carolina. In 2013, Fred was the first rabbi in history to be the keynote speaker at the Religious Emphasis Day Luncheon at the 70th North Carolina NAACP Convention. In 2014, he was a participant on the 14th annual “Faith & Politics Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage” led by Congressman John Lewis. In March 2015, he organized the National Jewish commemoration in Selma of the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March.
AM-8: “The Return”: Longing and Belonging in Iraqi-Jewish Literature
When one thinks of Baghdad, the first adjective that comes to mind is seldom “Jewish.” Yet an Ottoman census report of Baghdad in 1917 revealed that of its 202,000 residents, 80,000 were Jews. That’s more than 35% of the population. New York City’s current Jewish population is only around 20%. In 1951, many sparks converged into a wave of violence that led Iraq’s Jews to flee en masse, largely to Israel. Many years later, in late 2017, Haaretz published an article about Iraqi Jews in England and Israel looking to return to Baghdad. What was it like to live as a Jew in Iraq at the beginning of the twentieth century? Looking at short stories and poems of Iraqi-Jewish writers before and after 1951 paints a picture of a segment of their community and the questions of identity they faced. The course will include several writings of Ya’aqub Balbul, the subject of my current research. Through our readings, reactions, and analyses, we will build familiarity with a great and under-studied literary canon and touch upon our own relationships as Jews to the community around us.
While at Davidson College, Arielle Korman began translating stories and poems by Iraqi-Jewish writer Ya’aqub Balbul/Ya’acov Lev from Arabic to English. The project has grown into her current research at the University of Haifa through Fulbright Israel. Arielle’s interests include Arabic, Hebrew, translation, Jewish history, music (especially with good harmonies), reading, and visiting new cities in order to scavenge the Judaism section of every single used bookstore on the planet.
AM-9: Sacred Envy: The Virgin Mary in Talmud and Midrash
Although scholars and laypeople alike regularly point to the shared origins and ideas of Judaism and Christianity, the Virgin Mary is typically ignored, or treated as an example of a uniquely Christian figure. However, Rabbinic literature reveals–often implicitly, but nonetheless clearly–a particular interest in contemporaneous Christian ideas about the mother of Jesus. In some cases, the Rabbis (perhaps predictably) polemicize against these Christian tropes; in others, however, they seem to appropriate them, applying them instead to unambiguously Jewish figures. In this course, we will study these Rabbinic passages alongside relevant Christian parallels, with an eye toward both the historical relationship(s) between these two religious traditions, as well the implication of Rabbinic interest in Mary for our own religious lives.
Micha’el Rosenberg is assistant professor of rabbinic literature at Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Mass. He is the author of “Signs of Virginity: Testing Virgins and Making Men in Late Antiquity” (Oxford, 2018), and is currently at work on a book about the Virgin Mary in Rabbinic literature. He is the spouse of Miriam-Simma Walfish, and the parent of Adira, Nehemia, and Shia.
AM-10: Challah and the Ten Mitzvot of Merit
In tractate Challah of the Jerusalem Talmud, it is said that Rabbi Yitzchak, when he sat down to eat, would stretch his ten fingers over the loaves and say, “Behold, I have fulfilled ten mitzvot!” In the first three sessions of this hands-on class/workshop, we will look at the Ten Mitzvot through whose fulfillment we merit being able to share our bread together. We will delve into many levels of text – biblical, rabbinic, legal, and mystical – while experiencing the teaching with some music and movement as well. On the fourth day, we will make challah for the Institute’s Shabbat meals.
Jonathan Rubenstein is co-rabbi with his wife, Linda Motzkin, of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs, New York, a mental health chaplain, and the founder of Slice of Heaven breads, a non-profit, charitable community bakery that operates out of the Temple kitchen.
AM-11: The Font of Revelation: Writing Ancient Hebrew Scripts
This course will look at the development of Hebrew scripts from pictograph to alphabet, and will include a hands-on element of writing with feather and ink. When did these scripts come about? How do vowels play in? What script was the Torah first written in? What about the Dead Sea Scrolls? What is the connection between the Roman alphabet and the Hebrew alphabet? Using texts from the Talmud, linguistic theory and research, and alphabet charts, this course will introduce students to script development and the special place of Ashurit, the script that Torahs are written in. Students will learn letters of multiple scripts, and the course will culminate with individual artistic projects related to the letters. (Note: This course will have a small fee for materials.)
Julie Seltzer holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Brown University, and has been working full-time as a scribe since 2009. She was Scribe-in-Residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, CA, and recently completed her third Torah for Tamid NYC, where she is currently Scholar-in-Residence. Before learning scribal arts, Julie worked as a baker at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, a Middle and High school Judaics teacher at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, and for one glorious day, a shepherd on Kibbutz. She is currently writing a memoir that chronicles her spiritual journey, and lectures and runs workshops locally and nationally. Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Julie now resides in the Hudson Valley with her Israeli mutt, Shusha. Her hand is featured on Sefaria’s homepage.
AM-12: Torah, Tevel, & Tikkun: Interweaving Torah Study about Earth with Personal Experience of Nature
Each session of this course will explore a biblical text that addresses the relationship between the human community and our planet (tevel: the world). Participants will enter in their own bodily memories a moment when they faced a personal experience reminiscent of the passage we will read – a direct experience of Nature, or a political action about Earth policy. Absorbing and reflecting on the memory of that occasion, experiencing our breathing words with each other as a way of making our breathing part of the Great Breath of Life, we will intertwine Torah with our own lives, supported by Earth-relevant songs & artwork that may speak to us. The leader will help to weave threads of connection that appear and to connect the whole conversation with Shmei Rabbah, the Great Name, understood as woven of all the names of all the beings in the universe.
Arthur Waskow founded (1983) and directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds for justice, peace, and healing of the Earth. After creating the original Freedom Seder in 1969, he became a leader of the movement for Jewish renewal and a transformative Judaism. From 1982 to 1989, he taught at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In 2014, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award as Human Rights Hero from T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. In 2015, the Forward named him one of the “most inspiring” US Rabbis. In 2017, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College conferred on him its honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He has written 24 books as well as a pioneering essay on Eco-Judaism for Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics (Oxford Univ. Press, 2013). He has been arrested about 24 times in protest actions for peace, racial justice, and healing from the climate crisis.
AM-13: Happy Returns? The Development of Resurrection in Jewish Texts and Folklore
Is resurrection a Jewish concept? How and why do some Jews believe in life after life? What is the function of resurrection in Jewish thought? From the original resurrection at Sinai to the end of days, this series considers the concept of resurrection in Jewish tradition–its origins, influences, and development in the Jewish folkloric imagination. We will explore presumed allusions to resurrection in TaNaKh, midrashic references, examples from classic rabbinic literature, mystical understandings of reincarnation, folkloric imagery, denominational differences, and liturgical responses. We will consider these sources and perspectives on resurrection through archaeological, cultural, historical, philosophical, and political lenses.
Raysh Weiss is a congregational rabbi and serves the Shaar Shalom in Halifax Nova Scotia — proving that there is so much more to Halifax than the unidentified remains of the Titanic victims. This summer will be her fourth institute (or fifth, if you count a Shabbat stay a couple years back), and she couldn’t be more stoked to learn together.
AM-14: Moses — Through the Ages
According to the biblical account, Moses lived to the age of 120 years. In another sense, as various generations and eras read the biblical account of his life, they re-read it in ways that express their own experience, values, and world-view. In that sense, every generation or era re-created the account of Moses as found in the Torah. We will examine the place of Moses and his life-story with its dramatic qualities as found in the Torah, and will continue then to read examples of the rabbinic re-telling of the biblical story of Moses in terms of the particular emphases and values of Rabbinic Judaism. Continuing through time, we will observe how the Hasidic masters and teachers re-read the biblical account in a way to mirror their own mystic values and understanding. Along the way, we will meet with a harsh criticism of Moses along with the assertion that Moses must be understood as an aspect of the experience and consciousness of persons of all generations, even, potentially, of every person in every generation.
Aryeh Wineman, who has taught at several Havurah Institutes in past years, is the author of five books and many articles on Hebrew literature, the story in Jewish Mystic literature, and the nature of Hasidic interpretation and the Hasidic parable.
PM-1: Engaging the White Fire: Sanctified Imagination and Creating Midrash
Midrashist-in-Residence – Sabrina Sojourner
Engaging the White Fire is an invitation to viscerally encounter our relationship to Jewishness. What are the questions you’ve been afraid to ask and would like to ask? What excites you and/or troubles you; feeds you and/or leaves you wanting? All are welcome as we engage in collective, small group, and individual work in a judgment free environment that permits us to dive deep into the text and expand our inner Torah, and create midrashim – stories – that enhance, transform, or challenge how we see ourselves in haderekh – the way – we call Judaism.
Sabrina Sojourner is a spiritual leader, educator, and storyteller. Based in Rockville, MD, she serves the Charles E Smith Life Communities campus and unaffiliated Jewish families in the Greater Washington, DC area. She crafts her homilies and stories to enlarge our vision of who we are as a people and spiritual beings, and to inspire us to take better care of ourselves so that we take better care of each other and the planet. Sabrina is highly respected by her colleagues for her natural leadership, authenticity, compassion, and kindness. Most importantly, she is her grandson Kyle’s favorite person.
Hebrew, our own “l’shon haKodesh,” Holy Tongue, has come back to us in the modern era directly from the Tanach. The two and three letter roots which are the bases for our modern language encompass a range of meaning and significance that we are not always aware of. This course is an opportunity to study the roots of some common Hebrew words that we use during our davenning and religious life. Together and in hevruta we will explore meanings supplied by carefully chosen Biblical verses to see what this adds to the words we are so familiar with. In addition, students will learn the methodology for identifying and analyzing compelling Hebrew words. Both experienced Hebrew speakers and those new to the language will discover unexpected nuances of words that are part of the fabric of our tradition.
Aliza Arzt has been a member of Havurat Shalom in Somerville MA for a really long time and has been teaching Judaica for fun for most of her life. She has taught previously at NHC and was liturgist in residence in 2016. She is particularly interested in Hebrew and what we can learn from Hebrew words in Tanach (bible) and prayer. In her other incarnations, she is a home care speech therapist, potter, parent of young adults, and gecko keeper.
PM-3: God Proclaims Freedom: Singing the Zemirot of Shabbat
Zemer is the Hebrew word that means song, and zemirot are as diverse as such a broad category would suggest. This class will examine the texts, origins, and melodies of a number of the most common Shabbat zemirot. We will read the centuries-old poetry in the original Hebrew and Aramaic and in English translation, and we will spend time getting deeply acquainted with some of the melodies that Jewish communities around the world have used to sing these songs. This is a group singing class, and a goal of this class is to broaden the common repertoire of songs available for group singing in the Havurah community.
Jesse Beller is an avid singer and song leader in a number of contexts, with a penchant for Jewish liturgical music, Anglophone folk songs, and especially for participatory group singing. He is interested in creating communal spaces where all participants are empowered and lifted up, and he thinks group singing can be a powerful way to do that. Jesse manages the bookstore at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. He is a singing fool, a film geek, a computer nerd, a bookworm, a news junkie, and a history buff.
PM-4: Being Zusya: What’s My Calling?
“Why were you not Zusya?” the angels of heaven asked Hasidic Rabbi Zusya in a vision. In other words, “why didn’t you live your most authentic life?” Considering the many pressures, expectations, and insecurities most of us face today, finding your “calling”—and actually living it—is easier said than done. This course will create a safe and vibrant space to explore your personal calling (but not before analyzing whether that concept resonates) and envision how you will pursue it in the coming year. We’ll frame our exploration around two elements: what the world needs and what makes you come alive. Bring an open mind and a sense of adventure; come away with the beginnings of a vision for being even more *you* (not Zusya!) and making your greatest impact yet in 5779. Open to all life stages.
Sarah D. Beller is a community organizer, facilitator, educator, and innovator who loves to inspire and empower people to make the world a more just and connected place. As community engagement director for greater Washington DC at HIAS – the world’s oldest, and only Jewish, refugee organization – Sarah mobilizes the local Jewish community to respond to the global refugee crisis. Previously, Sarah worked at J Street, where she organized the largest gathering of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. Sarah is an experienced dialogue facilitator, an NHC veteran, an amateur bicyclist, a decent dancer, and a mama. She co-founded SongRise, a women’s a cappella group that inspires action for social justice.
PM-5: Up Close and Personal with the Ancient Torah
Come prepared to read Torah (in English or Hebrew) in the tradition of Reb Zalman z”l, who called himself the Zayde of the Jewish Renewal movement and knew how to make Torah come alive with relevance for each of us. He did that in three ways — through egalitarian group aliyot that didn’t “honor” just one person; through intermingling Hebrew leyning with English so that everyone could understand and listen attentively to the Torah service; and by connecting the aliya to specific life issues to which many of us were able to relate and then offering blessings for that particular challenge in our lives. This course will provide space to practice the skills involved in making the reading relevant to people’s lives, by finding the challenges that speak to groups of people who call themselves up for an aliya in felt connection and then offering them group blessings that relate to the challenge named.
Phyllis Berman is a Spiritual Director now that she has “retired” from the Riverside Language Program which she founded, taught at, and directed for more than 36 years. She regularly leads the Shabbat morning Torah service at week-long Jewish meditation retreats at the old and new Elat Chayyim retreat center where, for 12 years, she directed the summer program. She was ordained by ALEPH in the first class of Renewal women rabbis and has been a student of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Shefa Gold, Rabbi David and Shoshana Cooper. She collaborates as teacher, writer, and life-partner with Rabbi Arthur Waskow. Ima and Savta are some of her other names.
PM-6: Is it the thought that counts? Self-Awareness and the Doing of Mitzvot
“Judaism doesn’t care what you believe, but rather what you do.” But is this really true, does Judaism not care what we think about when we engage in Jewish rituals and practices? In this course, we will explore how the rabbis of the Talmud created mental categories which they used to determine the status of actions, persons, and objects, and cared very deeply about a person’s awareness and focus when engaging in Jewish ritual. While all texts will be provided in translation, participants should have some prior experience with texts from the Mishnah and Talmud.
Jon Dine currently works as an IT consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington DC. Outside of work, he is an active participant and former Steering Committee member at DC Minyan in downtown DC. He is a proud alumnus of the University of Chicago, where he took numerous Jewish Studies courses. Jon has also studied at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, was a fellow at Yeshivat Hadar in New York, and was a Zeitler fellow in 2014.
PM-7: Jewish Geometry: Mathematical Questions in Rabbinic Literature
This course will look at a variety of mathematical and geometrical questions that come up in the Bible, the Talmud, and later rabbinic literature. What is the value of pi? Which direction do we face when we pray toward Jerusalem? And how precise do our answers to these questions need to be? We’ll examine a variety of biblical and rabbinic sources on these questions to try to understand how much math the ancient rabbis knew and what impact this might have on Jewish practice today. All sources will be provided in translation, and no advanced mathematics knowledge is required.
When he’s not busy serving as a judge on The Voice, Adam Levine is an assistant professor of mathematics at Duke University. His research deals with geometric topology, the study of the shapes of knots, surfaces, and their higher-dimensional analogues. He is a member of the NHC board and has had active roles in a variety of Jewish communities in several states. He is an avid fan of complicated crossword puzzles, mathematical song parodies, and the Yankees.
PM-8: Visual Representation of Intertextuality in the Chumash
Using a method called Text-to-Symbol to deepen beit midrash style Torah study, we will dive into parallel stories in the chumash by visually representing them through symbols and color. We will create visual maps of each story through paper cutting and collage, while weaving in imagery from midrash and perushim (commentaries) on the text. This creative method opens up the boundaries of a verbal text and inspires challenges and interpretations that cannot be achieved with words alone. By the end of this course, you will literally see the connections between Torah texts and feel physically invested in them through this colorful method of hands-on learning, an example of which can be found at https://www.sarahpalmerart.com/text-to-image.html. (Note: This course will have a small fee for materials.)
Sarah Palmer was born and raised in Chicago. She studied Education and Fine Arts at Brandeis University. After six years of teaching Art and Jewish Studies, Sarah is currently learning at Pardes and working as an experiential educator for Kol HaOt in Jerusalem where she designs and facilitates creative programming, including escape rooms themed around Jewish text. She loves to see how creative modalities help her students access Torah study. Sarah draws inspiration for her own art from working as a doula, burning man installations, and Torah.
PM-9: Joshua Fought What?: Critics & Mystics on the Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua is one of the most problematic books of the Bible and is rarely studied in Jewish circles in the Diaspora. What good is the Book of Joshua to contemporary Jews? In this course, we will read excerpts of the Book of Joshua, seeking to find the sacred within some of its most troubling sections–historically, ethically, theologically, and beyond. We will examine the original cultural contexts of the Book of Joshua as well as core commentaries from different periods and places where Jewish communities continued to sanctify this supposedly holy book that is so often wholly ignored.
Jonah Rank serves as Maskil (“Teacher-of-Tradition”) of Shaar Shalom Synagogue in Halifax, NS. Jonah worked as the secretary of Mahzor Lev Shalem and Siddur Lev Shalem and has published several articles in Jewish studies journals such as Conservative Judaism, Journal of Synagogue Music, and Zeramim (which Jonah serves as the Managing Editor). Jonah is editing an open-source gender-sensitive Hebrew-language Siddur for Ashkenazic liturgy throughout the year, where God is consistently understood as grammatically feminine. Jonah composes and records new music for piyyutim (“prayer-poems”) and was named as part of The Forward’s inaugural Soundtrack of Our Spirit in 2015.
PM-10: Monty Python’s Guide to Ancient Jewish Life
In 1979, the Monty Python comedy troupe released Monty Python’s Life of Brian. This controversial religious satire focused on Brian Cohen, a contemporary of Jesus, and his unsuccessful efforts to convince others that he was NOT the messiah. The film spoofed, among other things, Hallmark Christianity, the British private school system, and human nature. At the same time, it was (and remains) the best-researched film about first-century Jewish society and politics. In this course, we will use Life of Brian as an introduction to Jewish life in the last decades before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE by pairing clips from the film with the literary, archaeological, and inscriptional (epigraphic) evidence. Among the issues to be considered: Jewish life under Roman imperial rule; Jewish nationalism; messianism; and gender roles.
Adele Reinhartz is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, specializing in first-century Judaism and Christianity as well as Religion and Film. She is a long-time Havurah Institute teacher and student.
PM-11: Wrestling with (De)colonization and Homeland
In this course, we will wrestle and reflect together about what it means to be Jews who live in diaspora, here in what is known as the United States of America — on land forcibly occupied and taken from Indigenous people. The water protectors at Standing Rock showed many of us what Indigenous nations on this continent have long known & experienced: that colonization is ongoing, that Indigenous resistance & survival continues, and that solidarity from the rest of us requires changing ingrained world views. What does this mean for us as Jews? What are frameworks that can help us to understand and seek collective liberation and shalom (wholeness)? What is decolonization and what are its possibilities for Judaism? Where are our homelands? How do we root our Judaism in earth and place while acknowledging the violence of colonization? This workshop is part poetic exploration, part text study & discussion, and part brainstorming & action-planning. We will look at and write poetry, read analysis from Indigenous activists, Jews from the Global South, and other thinkers about what decolonization is, and create a solidarity action plan for how we can be moving our communities towards decolonization.
Noah Rubin-Blose is a community organizer, chef, and maker of Jewish ritual in Hillsborough, NC. Born & raised in NC, he loves to create participatory liturgy & ritual, dream about a world free from structures of domination and colonization, and work with others to build the worlds we dream of. He seeks to ground all of his work in collective liberation and the deep sense that we are all made in the image of g-d. He is part of Sacred Monsters, a collectively led shul/community in Durham; and he works with Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI), Jewish Voice for Peace – Triangle NC, and Ready the Ground Training Team. He is also a co-creator of The Book of Lulav.
PM-12: “I Create According to the Word”: Jewish Magic Texts from the Talmud to the Middle Ages
Let’s explore the amazing variety of genres, power relationships, aesthetics and piety present in the spectrum of Jewish magical texts, often neglected materials that have traditionally considered outside the canon or traditional Rabbinic discourse and halakhic permissibility. Why are they important? How were they performed? Is there a magic in the simple fact of their being “written”? The last 30 years have brought new materials to light, including hundreds of amulets, magical bowls and love spells, as well as curse texts that form an important if difficult trajectory outside “orthodoxy” and even the main thrust of healing and “white” magic among the practitioners. We will sing and chant the healing texts, giving them hypothetical musical modes, and create healing or “blessing” amulets of our own, paired with herbal talismans called “Kameot she Asavim.” Claf (parchment), pen, and case provided (for a small materials fee).
Jonathan Seidel is an experienced teacher of classical Jewish texts, ritual, music and history — from Biblical and Talmudic to modern Sephardic and Mizrachi music. He was ordained as a Rabbi from ALEPH, and has worked as a Hazzan. In 1996, he received his doctorate in Jewish Studies focusing on Jewish magic, at UC Berkeley. Jonathan has taught Religion and Judaic Studies for 35 years at a variety of West Coast institutions and all sorts of adult ed classes. Jonathan has been heavily involved in environmental and interfaith communal activities since the 70’s. He is the Spiritual Leader of Or haGan in Eugene Oregon.
PM-13: Investing through a Jewish Lens
The field of impact investing has exploded in the last decade, and now a fifth of all assets under management globally are invested with values. Judaism has thousands of years of wisdom to help us balance making a profit versus making an impact. Investors can have tremendous positive impact and in many cases are leading the way on issues from human trafficking, to pharmaceutical drug pricing, to the opioid crisis, to climate change, and more. This course will explore the modern field of impact investing through the lens of Jewish values. We will engage in text study, case studies, and hands-on activism/advocacy. Note: this course is educational and is not to be construed as investment advice.
Jacob Siegel is Director of Engagement for JLens Investor Network, a network of Jewish individual and institutional investors who seek to apply a Jewish lens to the modern context of values-based impact investing. Jacob has served as educator for Hazon, Eden Village Camp, The 92nd Street Y, Jewish Farm School, and at colleges and synagogues. He received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and his undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis.