Institute 2019 Course Listing

(2018 Courses)

(2017 Courses)

Morning Courses

AM-1: Creativity In Jewish Ritual: The People Of The Visual, Unbound Book
Timbrel Artist-in-Residence: Eli Kaplan-Wildmann

As society becomes more visual, and we are all artists curating our feeds and designing our stories, we need to ask how our Judaism fits into this changing world. In this class, we will become familiar with the Unbound Books that designer Eli Kaplan-Wildmann has developed, both looking at examples and creating our own. These books take the traditional physical forms of Jewish text – leafs of paper sewn together in order – and turn them into colorful and inspiring creations. We will do a series of exercises in using paper and other simple materials to express specific Jewish ideas and ceremonies. There will be general craft elements available that we will work with, and participants are free to bring their own as well. The final project will give each participant the chance to create a new ritual object for a Jewish tradition that doesn’t yet have such an object, that the participants will get to use every year starting soon after Institute finishes.

Eli Kaplan-Wildmann lives in Jerusalem and loves creating and designing in the ancient city. His favorite projects there include designing for the Jerusalem Opera, Psik, and the Jerusalem Light Festival. He directed several musicals including Hairspray, Singin’ In The Rain and an original musical, Solika, based on the Moroccan tale. In New York, where he studied, taught and worked, he designed off-Broadway. He is a gabbi at Jerusalem’s traditional egal community Sod Siach, and is a former chair of “Havruta – Religious Gay Men.” Eli created Unbound – The Recreated Haggadah and Shabbat Unbound, visual books that infuse familiar Jewish moments with excitement and creativity.

AM-2: Four Faces of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs)
Aliza Arzt

Why is Shir haShirim (“Song of Songs” or “Song of Solomon”) part of our Bible? We are taught that this book is meant to be an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel. Is that true or is it simply a book of (wink wink nudge nudge) erotic poetry? Actually, it is both and more. By looking at specific verses of this book as well as some other biblical verses, we will discover four aspects of Shir haShirim: human/divine partnership, Passover companion, behind the scenes at the royal court, and erotic poetry. If there’s time, we’ll also sing some songs from Shir haShirim.

  • Text Study for Everyone
  • Suited for Teens

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.

 

AM-3: Commedia dell’Aggada: Midrash as Structured Improvisation (This class is extended format.)
Yavni Bar-Yam

What can a slapstick, masked improvised comedy form that originated in Renaissance Italy teach us about our own tradition of midrash aggada? Come find out by putting on masks and playing! We will learn and practice Commedia dell’Arte, while also studying midrashic texts to discover patterns they follow. Then we will combine the two by improvising, Commedia-style, on a Biblical narrative, thus creating our own performance-based midrash.

  • Arts, Music, Performance
  • History and Culture
  • Text Study for Everyone

Yavni is a puppeteer, which means he doesn’t have to choose between being a performing, visual, and literary artist. He has performed traditional Italian masked comedy in Bangkok, Czech revolutionary theater in New York, and street clowning in Israel. He has created rod puppetry accompaniments to contemporary classical song cycles, and built a shadow puppet tale using a sukkah as the shadow screen. He was the 2016 Timbrel Artist in Residence at NHC Summer Institute, where he was fortunate to work with the best company of wilderness shadow puppeteers. 

 

AM-4: Everyone Needs Recovery – Only Some Are Brave Enough to Admit It…
Ilan Glazer

In 2016, more than 63,000 Americans died from drug overdose. In 2010, 85% of the US prison population were incarcerated because of substance-related reasons. Addiction now costs the US over $700 Billion annually. Why do people become addicts? How is (and isn’t) the Jewish community responding to the crisis of addiction? Are the 12 Steps of recovery Jewish? Why do so many suffer in silence, and what can we do to get help to those in need? What tools does Judaism offer those who experience the disease and pain of addiction? How can we better serve those crying out for help? Where is hope to be found? Together we’ll learn best practices from the recovery world, and look at surprising Jewish texts that can guide our way forward. No addiction experience or text study skills necessary for this class. All are welcome and strict confidentiality will be maintained.

  • Contemporary Issues
  • Religious Life and Spirituality
  • Text Study for Everyone

Ilan Glazer is on a mission to help as many people as possible live happier, healthier, and holier lives. He believes that life is a beautiful journey of learning and growth, suffering can be transformed into joy, and everyone contains miracles within them waiting to be born. Ilan is a freelance rabbi, speaker, Strategic Intervention coach, musician, Maggid, host of the Torah of Life podcast and author of And God Created Recovery: Jewish Wisdom to Help You Break Free From Your Addiction, Heal Your Wounds, and Unleash Your Inner Freedom. Ilan lives in Silver Spring with his wife Sherri and their cat Taylor. 

 

AM-5: “We need something different”: Empathic listening to the most hated religious groups in America
Hillel Gray

To what extent are you able to deeply understand and emotionally resonate with people that you dislike or even hate? Recently, American discourse has become increasingly partisan and polarized. It’s harder for Democrats to appreciate Republicans, and vice versa. People readily express anger and hatred for political “enemies.” Yet, political opponents unify against a common enemy. This course focuses on two radical groups that are strongly opposed by the vast majority of American Jews: the anti-LGBT, antisemitic Westboro Baptist Church, and the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta (NKUSA). Course participants will learn about WBC and NKUSA through their texts (incl. video). We will then experience and analyze excerpts of in-depth recorded interviews, in which religious radicals show more of their personal and emotional sides. If possible, we will have a video conversation with one or more religious radicals. (Note: Content includes material that is anti-gay, anti-trans, and anti-Judaism. Participants are asked to explore the possibility of gaining empathy for people with beliefs you may find reprehensible.)

  • Contemporary Issues
  • Religious Life and Spirituality
  • Text Study for Everyone

Hillel Gray is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the Department of Comparative Religion, Miami University (Ohio). He has taught Jewish environmental,  biomedical, and gender/sexuality ethics at the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute. He conducts research on Orthodox rabbinic thought, the interplay of Jewish and non-Jewish moral discourse, and, among other things, radical oppositional religious groups.

 

AM-7: Drawing Out the Text: Re-visiting the Creation of the World
Eleni Litt

There are many ways to access and “open up” a text. For the “people of the book” the familiar way is to read and discuss. In this class, we’ll use drawing, mind mapping, and even doodling as parallel and complementary ways to study and interpret some of the Creation texts in Genesis – not replacing reading and discussing, but rather adding a novel approach to a more familiar one. With a “beginner’s mind” and a stance of “unknowing,” we’ll encounter these texts “again for the first time.” We’ll explore the creation of light, the celestial bodies in the heavens, the Garden of Eden, and the creation of humans. Each day will include study of Biblical, Rabbinic, and contemporary texts paired with multiple prompts to get us drawing — creating visual images in a non-judgmental and uninhibited way. You may be surprised at what you come up with, especially when you consider “the visual” as an additional chevruta partner. No previous art experience or text study required. Basic supplies will be provided and a list of additional supplies you may want to bring will be sent in advance.

  • Arts, Music, Performance
  • Text Study for Everyone

Eleni is a visual artist and independent scholar, combining background in art history, anthropology, and Jewish Studies with drawing, painting and mixed media collage. She is a long-time Havurah teacher who also teaches a weekly intuitive drawing and mixed media class in her local community.  Prior art-related courses offered at the NHC include: “Line, Color, and Form: The Shape of Torah & the Kabbalah of Color” and “The Hitbodedut (Meditation) of Drawing: Art as a Jewish Spiritual Practice” among others. She lives in Princeton, NJ, and works at The New School in NYC as Associate Provost Faculty Affairs.  

 

AM-9: Expand Your (Non-Carlebach) Kabbalat Shabbat Repertoire
Becca Rosen and Russ Agdern

Come learn and share melodies for leading Kabbalat Shabbat! This course is open to all prospective and experienced davening leaders. Each day, we’ll focus on a part of Kabbalat Shabbat services and go over various melodies that work. The class will involve lots of discussion, collaboration, and, most of all, singing. If time and technology allow, we’ll also build a directory of melodies (most likely a Google Doc or a simple website) that class participants can keep and use as a source sheet for years to come.

  • Arts, Music, Performance
  • Religious Life and Spirituality
  • Suited for Teens

 

Becca Rosen lives in Washington D.C. where she works as a senior editor at The Atlantic. She has been leading Shabbat evening services for more than a decade, including at Tikkun Leil Shabbat, New Synagogue Project, NHC Chesapeake Retreat, various weddings and in many living rooms.

 

 

 

Russ Agdern is a yid from New York who loves music. He’s the davening coordinator of Shir HaMaalot in Brooklyn, where he works with service leaders individually on their services, as well as teaching melodies to lots of communities. In his spare time from that, he’s a partner to Marisa, tateh to Elijah, coordinator of Joyous Praise standalone Hallels in NYC, and the Senior Organizer for New York for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He runs on nigonim, New Orleans music, and cold brew coffee.

 

 

 

 

AM-10: What’s So Funny? Jewish Humor from Genesis to Seinfeld and Soloway
Roberta Rosenberg

What are the sources and purposes of Jewish laughter? In what ways is Jewish humor particular to a certain people, place, and time? In what ways is it universal and timeless? How has Jewish comedy responded to the changing circumstances and relationships of the Jewish people throughout the ages and in contemporary America? In order to understand the Jewish comic vision and revisions, we will read a number of brief literary texts and screen several episodes of popular television programs. No prior knowledge of the subject is required beyond a good sense of humor! Texts: Biblical selections (Sarah, Joseph, Job), Franz Kafka, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Art Spiegelman, Philip Roth, Nathan Englander,  Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Roz Chast, and Jill Soloway.

  • Arts, Music, Performance
  • Contemporary Issues
  • Text Study for Everyone

Roberta Rosenberg’s interest in Jewish humor goes back to her love of Seinfeld and Larry David.  As a professor of English, she published several essays on contemporary Jewish humor and has lectured in Virginia and Massachusetts on the subject. She is particularly interested in the ways that traditional Jewish, European humor has been adapted to the assimilated and multi-faith, contemporary American diaspora.

 

AM-11: Pirkei Avot – Ethics of the Fathers and Maimonides’s Commentary
Joe Rosenstein

Unlike other commentaries on Pirkei Avot, the commentary of Maimonides has a goal which is both specific and general: To show that the writings of the ancient Greek philosophers were not only consistent with the ethical teachings of Ethics of the Fathers, but indeed could serve as the philosophical underpinning of Jewish spiritual practice. In this course, we will examine some of the philosophical principles that he presents in the introduction of his commentary and see how they play out in his discussion of specific teachings of Pirkei Avot. These principles address human nature, the purpose and meaning of our lives, spiritual growth, the evil inclination, and free will. Maimonides’s perspectives were all ultimately embraced as normative Judaism.

Joe Rosenstein is a founder and former chair of the NHC and of the NHC Institute. He is the author of Siddur Eit Ratzon and Machzor Eit Ratzon (see www.newsiddur.org) and Memorable Verses in the Torah (memorableverses.com), and a member of the Highland Park (NJ) Minyan. In real life, he is a professor of mathematics at Rutgers University (for 48 years, now emeritus) whose focus is K-12 mathematics education. He and his wife Judy are blessed with five daughters, five sons-in-law, and eleven grandchildren.

 

AM-12: Arise and Walk
Jonah Steinberg

This course will explore the image, practice, and theme of walking in our sources and traditions. Starting in biblical accounts of our ancestors and prophets and moving through classical rabbinic and medieval mystical teachings into present-day writings and practices, we will learn and we will walk together, discovering how this theme and this practice inform Jewish concepts of Torah, society, and spirituality. With selections and perspectives from off the beaten path, the course is designed to be satisfying for veteran learners and welcoming of newcomers – truly Advanced Text Study For All – with inter-linear sourcesheets enabling us all to be on the page with one another as we progress. Each meeting includes paired textual explorations alternating with full group conversations – and walks. (Anyone concerned for reasons of health about mobility is advised to be in contact with the instructor in advance to discuss together the best way of participating fully in the course.)

  • Meditation and Movement
  • Text Study for Everyone
  • Advanced Text Study

Jonah Steinberg is director of Harvard Hillel and a Jewish chaplain at Harvard, has served as Associate Dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the American Jewish University, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and has received the New Scholar Award from the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.

 

AM-13: Jewish Liturgy as Visualization Text: Re-encountering Prayer Using Tibetan Buddhist Pedagogy and Practices, Ira Zukerman

The course will present strategies for using pedagogy of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to engage in Jewish prayer whole-heartedly. In considering how another tradition has helped to open the doorway to its practitioners in engaging their liturgy, we’ll first examine our motivations for engaging in practice of any kind altogether. Consistent with modern approaches to teaching Western students of Tibetan Buddhism, our explorations will begin with simple sitting meditation (Shamata/vipassana). Then, to get a feel for the texture of using visualization, we will practice tonglen, sending and taking, which is similar to what is frequently taught in Jewish communities as blessings practice. Finally, having prepared the ground, we’ll continue where Jews conventionally start: by relating to liturgy. Drawing from the logic developed in Arnold Rosenberg’s Jewish Liturgy as a Spiritual System, we’ll walk through our liturgy’s different passages, discuss how we might regard the liturgy as a visualization text, and dig more conventionally into the meaning of its words.

 Ira Zukerman had early conventional training and upbringing as a Jew, and later, as a child of the 60’s, also conventionally explored eastern traditions. Affiliating with Shambhala and Tibetan Buddhism, he attended their 3 month seminary in 1980. Later, returning coincidentally to Jewish practice, he helped to instigate his synagogue’s meditation working group, where they integrate meditation into their shabbat service. In 2015, he completed the Institute of Jewish Spirituality’s 16 month Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training program. He offered a condensed 1-session version of this course at NHC 3 years ago, but will now add experiential practice.

 

Afternoon Courses

PM-1: Talmudic Form: An Experiment in Non-linear and Collaborative Storytelling
Timbrel Artist-in-Residence: Tikva Hecht

In this course, we will be using Talmudic form to explore and experiment with non-linear and collaborative storytelling. Since the 16th century, the Talmud has been published with the central text embraced by two columns of medieval commentary, Rashi and Tosefot. This structure makes the conversational nature of the Talmud and its study visually immediate and present. Instead of one voice, we are faced with many. Instead of one path mapped out from Start to Finish, we can—and must—take our pick. How does this form impact, enhance, inhibit, complicate and contribute to its content? What possibilities and experiences does it open up for those who approach it as readers? What about as writers? We’ll be finding out together as we co-write and construct our own Tractate NHC Institute 2019.

Tikva Hecht is a poet and fiction writer based in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in CV2, Canadian Literature, Ghost Town, The Broken Plate, HuffingtonPost Canada and other online and print publications.

 

PM-2: The Torah Case for Reparations
Aryeh Bernstein

Since the official end of American slavery, there have been calls for reparations to descendants of enslaved people. That case has amplified in recent years, especially since Ta-Nehisi Coates’s magisterial 2014 article, “The Case for Reparations.” Does Torah have anything to say about this? This course will trace abundant Torah sources to make a strong case for yes; in fact, we will explore how a central component of the central Jewish story of liberation from slavery should be read as the liberation from slavery *with reparations*. Whenever the Torah anticipated or narrated the liberation event, it centered the importance of collecting Egyptian property and the Rabbinic tradition understood that property as reparations. This course will dive deep into those Biblical and Rabbinic texts, both narrative and legal, on the Torah Case for Reparations, along the way pointing toward what Jewish activism on this contemporary issue might look like. The class will begin to flesh out potential halakhic models for what reparations might actually look like, and to learn Rabbinic and liturgical texts unpacking what it means, spiritually, to bear responsibility for the sins of our ancestors.

  • Contemporary Issues
  • Intermediate Text Study
  • Suited for Teens

Aryeh Bernstein is a 5th-generation Chicago South Sider and a veteran Torah educator, especially in social justice frameworks. He is the Chicago Director of the Avodah Justice Fellowship, Staff Educator for Farm Forward’s Jewish Initiative for Animals, Educational Consultant to the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Coordinator of Mishkan Chicago’s Social Justice Beit Midrash, and a Senior Editor of Jewschool.com. He has taught at Hadar, Drisha, and communities and campuses around the country and Israel and has studied at Columbia University, JTS, YU, YCT, and, for seven years, at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa. This is his third Institute and first since 2015.

 

PM-3: History and Mathematics of the Hebrew Calendar
Ben Dreyfus

Why do some Hebrew years have 12 months and others have 13? Why did some of the Jewish world observe the holidays two days earlier than everyone else in 922 CE (and why will this become relevant again in 2025)? Why will Passover fall in July in about 20,000 years? This class tells the story of the Hebrew calendar, from the early days of witnessing the crescent moon to our current mathematical algorithms. By the end, you will be able to calculate what day of the week Purim will fall on in 5800, with only a pencil and paper. Prerequisites: Familiarity with addition, subtraction, and multiplication required. Division recommended. Texts will be provided in Hebrew/Aramaic and in English.

  • History and Culture
  • Text Study for Everyone

Ben Dreyfus teaches physics at George Mason University in northern Virginia, and helps organize Minyan Segulah on the DC/Maryland border. He runs the “Hebrew Calendar Facts” page on Facebook. This is his 15th Institute.

 

PM-4: Let’s Play Jew: Examining Portrayals of Jews in Theatre
Josh “Ike” Eisenberg

Let’s pull back the curtain on portrayals of Jews in the canon of dramatic literature. We will sample from some of the finest—and some of the most socially damaging—scenes ever staged, backlighting plays and poets in a rich context of history, biography, and analysis. The first two sessions will feature a cast of non-Jewish playwrights, covering the blunt Jewish stereotypes of the Renaissance and moving to more enlightened and sympathetic characters. Acts three and four will celebrate Jewish writers, comparing their treatments of Jewish content with their non-Jewish counterparts, and exploring Jewish contributions to the stage more generally, across the various eras and schools. Women playwrights and characters will be represented. A full list of titles (with links when possible) will be offered for those willing to read the entire plays, but the class can be enjoyed with just the excerpts as provided. Much of our focus will be on interpretations, broad themes, and comparisons. This will be a great setting to discover, revisit-or possibly act out—some brilliant and challenging works in the company of friends.

  • Arts, Music, Performance
  • History and Culture

Josh will be returning for his third Institute with his wife and toddler. Josh needed a hobby when, in April 2018, he began a voracious play-reading campaign. When not reading, Josh works in child support enforcement and plays some basketball. 

Anyone taking this class is welcome (not required) to do some reading beforehand.
A list of plays we will be discussing can be found here.

 

PM-5: “A love without reproof is not love”: The Challenging (Jewish) Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback
Marisa Harford

An effective bit of feedback, delivered well, can make the difference for us between success and failure, hope and despair—but giving and receiving feedback effectively is very difficult! Through readings, discussion, scenarios, exercises, and reflection, this course will explore concepts like tochecha (reproof or rebuke); conditions when giving feedback is most helpful—or even ethically required; approaches for receiving feedback with intention (even when it isn’t delivered well); and strategies for framing and communicating feedback to maximize your positive impact. We will ground our discussions in Jewish texts and values, but also utilize contemporary secular readings and ideas from the education and business worlds. The scenarios, values, and strategies discussed will be relevant to feedback encountered in personal and professional situations, and the course will aim to be responsive to specific scenarios generated by the participants.

  • Contemporary Issues
  • Text Study for Everyone
  • Suited for Teens

As the director of Teacher Residency programs at an education nonprofit, Marisa Harford has studied, facilitated, and taught professional coaching, adult learning, and change management. In studying Jewish texts, she loves both the moments when you realize that rabbis 1500 years ago said something that exactly resonates with you, and the moments where Jewish tradition feels challenging and alienating. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner Russ and son Elijah and loves to sing in community and read mystery novels.

 

PM-6: Climate Change: What’s a Jew to do?
Madeline Hirschland

Climate change is bearing down on us and, by and large, we are scarcely responding. This course will help us take this issue on in ways that feel hopeful and provide community. The enormity of climate change can be paralyzing: our lives are full, we’re faced with so many pressing needs and, in any case, what difference can we really make? This course will allow us to access and articulate our feelings and perceptions – why do we care? why don’t we act? We will explore Jewish perspectives that provide a foundation for hope and action and also key research on how to approach this issue in ways that mobilize and activate rather than shut us and others down. We will identify and assess key strategies for climate action. Finally, we will consider individually what we each will do to make a difference.

  • Contemporary Issues
  • Religious Life and Spirituality
  • Suited for Teens

In 2008, Madi left her profession—microfinance in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East—to focus on climate action in her home state of Indiana. Madi co-founded a statewide faith-based climate action organization; founded a network of volunteers that increased residential solar in the state by 20% in six months; and founded and led the Seventh Day Initiative, which made national news by assisting congregations from 18 faiths to become models of deep energy conservation. Madi is currently working on an initiative to mobilize synagogues and Evangelical churches across Indiana to deeply reduce their energy use.

 

PM-7: Sing Unto the Lord: The Book of Psalms in Jewish History and Experience
Sherry Israel

Sefer Tehillim, the Book of Psalms, is the longest book in Ketuvim, the third section of the Tanach, and possibly the most widely quoted and known. Its poetry offers prayer, praise, comfort, pleas for help, descriptions of holy experience, scripts for ceremonial occasions, even theology. Nearly a third of the psalms are used in their totality in our liturgy and another third are quoted in fragments; many Christian denominations use them in their liturgies as well. After a brief introduction to the book’s structure and historical uses (did you know there are 5 books in it, corresponding to the 5 books of Torah?), we will dive into a selection of texts to deepen our understanding and appreciation of this treasure trove of religious possibilities. We will read them in the original with the help of a variety of English translations, hear musical settings for some, sing several that will be familiar from our davvening, and consider the ways this book can enrich our own spiritual lives.

  • Religious Life and Spirituality
  • Intermediate Text Study (students should be able to follow a Hebrew text with the help of a translation)

Sherry is a retired academic – social psychology, group dynamics, Jewish demography, and communal institutions – and loves Jewish learning of all sorts. She’s a long time NHC member and past chair of its board and has been coming to the Institute since 1983. She has lived in Newton MA since 1971 and helped cofound the Newton Center Minyan. Sherry sings in Koleinu, Boston’s non-audition Jewish community chorus; loves to cook, bake, have Shabbat company, and help people connect with each other. Mother to four, grandmother to nine, and now, a great-grandmother (!). Most recently, she has begun serving as a spiritual director for rabbinical students at the Hebrew College.

 

PM-8: What is Judaism in an Era of Technological Change?
David Zvi Kalman

Technology is eating the world; it is eating Judaism, too. For Judaism to remain relevant as both a source of moral authority and a source of meaning, it must address technological change directly and immediately. This class is an attempt to work through four of the most pressing questions for Judaism in the 21st century: (1) What will become of Shabbat in the 21st century? (2) What does human dignity mean in an age of superintelligent machines? (3) Who is God in a world of god-like humans? and  (4) What is the role of Judaism in the creation of the future?

  • Contemporary Issues
  • History and Culture
  • Text Study for Everyone – This course will not require knowledge of languages other than English, but Non-English texts will usually be given in both the original and translation and those with facility with the original should make use of those languages.

David Zvi Kalman is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he writes on Jewish law, the history of technology, and Islamic jurisprudence. A fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, he is the owner of Print-O-Craft Press and executive director of Jewish Public Media. David Zvi lives in Philadelphia with his wife and children.

 

PM-9: Beyond Babel: The Poetry Game in English, Yiddish, Arabic, Spanish, and Maybe Hebrew
Bracha Laster

Learn techniques for community building and cross-cultural communication through poetry. By playing the Poetry Game (designed by Zahara Heckscher z”l), novice and veteran poets will delight in the creativity of language as you write and share poetry, and playfully cross boundaries of English, Yiddish, and Arabic. We will consider how Hebrew could be inserted into a new version of the Poetry Game. Through havruta study of heritage texts (Torah, traditional commentaries, Yiddish texts, Arabic texts) and class discussions, participants will collaboratively explore meanings, interpretations, and modern applications of the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9).

  • Arts, Music, Performance
  • History and Culture
  • Suited for Teens

Bracha is an educator, gardener, author, friend, and mother. She attended Havurat Shalom in Massachusetts in the 1970s, has been an active member of Fabrangen in Washington, D.C., and organized a minyan in Northern Virginia: Fabrangen West. Bracha was a reading specialist in rural Florida, Appalachia, Massachusetts, and Northern Virginia, having taught at two elementary schools, five middle schools, one high school, and a homeschool. As a Professor of Education and Director of the Graduate Reading Education Programs at Towson University, she has taught teachers to become reading specialists. Bracha has written poetry and children’s books. Her publications include over 10 invited book chapters and over 30 peer-reviewed journal articles. A recent publication in English Journal was “Partner Learning (Havruta) for Close Reading Comprehension.”

 

PM-10: It’s Not Show Business: The Torah Embedded in American Popular Culture
Neil Litt

Once upon a time in America, being a Jew was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we could worship openly; on the other hand, we couldn’t get a hotel room. Jewish ideas were more digestible as such if they weren’t overtly labeled Jewish ideas. Louis Schneider performed as Lenny Bruce. Why wasn’t Louis Schneider the name on the marquee? “Well, ‘cause it’s not show business. It doesn’t fit.” In this course we will study some legal principles that originated in Torah and Talmud and see them come alive when Jewish writers embedded them in popular movies, stage performances, and radio and television shows from the 1940s to the early 21st Century CE. Seeing the Talmud “performed” in modern settings, we’ll come to a deeper understanding of its continued relevance and we’ll come to understand some of the risks of expressing Jewish ideas in exile, and why we sometimes used aliases to make them fit. Perhaps we will conclude that now it seems (finally?) safe to celebrate them in mixed company.

  • Contemporary Issues
  • History and Culture
  • Text Study for Everyone

A devoted student of the Talmud in translation for over 20 years, Neil is an experienced NHC teacher and a long-time member of the Princeton Library Minyan, where he frequently facilitates study sessions. He participates in three weekly study groups, including Talmud, Midrash, and contemporary Jewish philosophy. He is an Assistant Director of Princeton University Press.

PM-11: Mastering Presence: An Experiential Journey through the Hebrew Letters Alef through Dalet
Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks

The Hebrew letters are actually “Presence portals,” each with their own unique qualities that you can learn to cultivate and embody. In this class, you will learn sacred chant-verses that will connect you with the energy of the first four letters. You will then learn to vibrate the letters in your own body, as part of an advanced meditation practice with visualization and movement. The letters are also spiritual archetypes for different ways of embodying Presence. There’s a story that Rabbi Baer asked his teacher, the “Seer” of Lublin, to teach him the most important way to connect with the Divine. The master replied, “It’s impossible for one path to be the most important. For one person, the most important way is through fasting, yet for another it’s through eating. Everyone must carefully observe themselves to see where their heart is drawn, and then consciously choose this way with all their strength.” In addition to being a powerfully transformative meditation course, this is also an opportunity to learn about yourself by reflecting on the archetypes of the Hebrew letters. Through this deep clarification process, your whole life comes more and more into alignment with the Divine.

  • Advanced Meditation and Movement
  • Religious Life and Spirituality
  • Text Study for Everyone

Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks is a Jewish spiritual teacher and musician. He has been teaching on Presence and Judaism since 2006, and founded Torah of Awakening in 2007. He received s’miha as Minister of Sacred Music from Reb Zalman z”l (2012), Spiritual Teacher and Awakener of Souls (Morei Rukhani uM’oreir N’shamot) from Shaykh Ibrahim Baba Farajaje (may his secret be sanctified) and Rabbi SaraLeya Schley (2012), certification as Teacher of Jewish Meditation from Dr. Avram Davis (2004), and holds a Bachelor in Music from the Eastman School (1991). He lives with wife Lisa and two children in Tucson, Arizona.

 

PM-12: Cultivating the Middot of Kindness (Hesed) and Gratitude (Hakarat Hatov): Mussar Practice
Jacob Staub

Mussar assumes that virtues (middot) can be cultivated. It is not sufficient to have a good heart. Rather we can and should engage in practices that incline us to virtuous behavior. Rav Shlomo Wolbe, z”l, was the preeminent teacher of Mussar in the late 20th century. He was in charge of the spiritual formation (hashgakhah rukhanit) of all of the students in a system of yeshivot in Israel. In his book Alei Shur, he offers week by week instructions about how to cultivate each middah. In this course, we will read (in English translation), discuss, and then practice some of his suggestions.

  • Religious Life and Spirituality
  • Text Study for Everyone
  • Suited for Teens

Jacob Staub is Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Spirituality at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA, where he co-directs Bekhol Derakhekha Da’ehu (Know God in All of Your Ways), a training program for Jewish Spiritual Directors. He is the co-author of Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach and the Editor of Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations.

 

PM-13: Jewish Life and Experience: A Whirlwind Tour of Four Cities
Robert Tabak

Jewish life has centered in cities, especially in the recent past. This course explores Jewish life in four very different cities — Amsterdam, Warsaw, Baghdad, and Tel Aviv — from the late 19th century to the present. Major questions will include: (1) How did Jews and their neighbors see one another, especially until World War II or 1948? (2) How did Jews relate to one another? This will introduce the topics of cultural, political, language, and religious differences. (3) How did Jewish life change post-World War II/1948? What choices did people have at particular points? This will be a discussion-oriented interactive class. For each city, we will use photos, video clips, poetry, and brief selections from writings to explore an underlying thematic question: how is being Jewish constructed as well as inherited? The focus in this class is Jewish life before and after the Holocaust, not the Shoah itself.

  • Contemporary Issues
  • History and Culture
  • Religious Life and Spirituality

Robert Tabak served as a staff chaplain at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for thirteen years. He has been an adjunct professor at Cabrini University, St. Joseph’s University, and La Salle University; program director of a museum; associate director of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia; and a congregational rabbi. He is active in interfaith activities. He is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and received a PhD in history from Temple University. He also edits the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association newsletter. He is an active member of Minyan Dorshei Derekh in Philadelphia.

 

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