Afternoon Courses

At the center of the Institute are a wide array of courses offered in morning and afternoon sessions. Each course has a maximum of 20 students and is led by a teacher who is also an Institute participant, neuropathist presenting material that she or he loves in an inclusive style that encourages everyone to participate. Choose from classes in traditional texts, viagra 60mg Jewish politics, poetry, Jewish ethics, dance and singing, Judaism and world religions, and contemporary topics.

Extended Format courses meet during the regularly scheduled course time and the adjacent workshop time.

PM-02 – Enter the Temple: Discovering the Inner Sanctum

Elyssa Joy Auster

Out of destruction comes transformation and the opportunity for wholeness. Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, and other tragedies the Jewish people have experienced over centuries, yet it leaves the door open for something new. We will explore the joy and creativity that are released by breaking open through four paradigms: the Temple of the Body (Yoga), the Temple of Emotion (Meditation), the Temple of the Mind (Text Study), and the Temple of Beyond (Chanting).

Photo of Elyssa Joy Auster Elyssa Joy Auster has served as the rabbi for a Conservative congregation in Florida and a Reform congregation in Alaska; she has brought inspiration to other congregations in Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, and Maryland.  She has published in The Forward and in Jewish Philanthropy, is a trained mikveh guide, has led Hallel with Women of the Wall in Jerusalem, and has written and illustrated two children’s books.  She a certified yoga teacher, and has been a teacher of contemplative Judaism in diverse venues.

PM-03 – Shmita! Designing a Year of Radical Cooperation, Economic Justice, and Ecological Sustainability

Laura Bellows

What can the Torah’s ancient Shmita practice teach us today?  This Tisha B’Av begins the next High Holiday season and, with it, the once-every-seventh-year radical rest of the sabbatical cycle.  Through collage, text motifs, and creative design, this timely course will explore contemporary perspectives on three of Shmita’s core practices: letting the land rest, forgiving debt, and resource sharing.  Participants will use a collaborative art process and resources from The Shmita Project to develop a Havurahnik’s Guide to Shmita Practice for community use in 5775 / 2014-2015.

Photo of Laura Bellows Laura Bellows is a life-long havurahnik and artist, and is now entering her third year of rabbinical school at Hebrew College in Boston.  Most recently Laura served six years designing and directing experiential Jewish environmental education programs for communities across the country through the Teva Learning Alliance.  She enjoys praying outdoors and playing at the intersection of ecology, Judaism and justice.

PM-04 – Praying With Song: Hasidic Spiritual Melodies And Our Spiritual Selves

Robert Cohen

We’ll study Hasidic spiritual melodies (niggunim) in Hasidic philosophy and spiritual practice and explore how they — and contemporary, ‘quasi-Hasidic’ melodies — can enrich our own spiritual practice. We’ll learn melodies from various Hasidic traditions and sing some of them; learn and sing contemporary spiritual melodies; and perhaps touch on the tradition of borrowing melodies for prayer — experimenting, if we have time, with our own, new shidduchim (matches) of melody with traditional or original prayers.

Photo of Robert Cohen Robert Cohen has produced and hosted over 100 Jewish radio programs, including “One People, Many Voices:  American-Jewish Music Comes of Age” on NPR.  He has pursued Graduate Education at JTS, where he created the first Jewish music curriculum, written on Jewish music for magazines and newspapers, edited all music (and Hasidic rebbe) articles for the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, and produced  Open the Gates! New American-Jewish Music for Prayer (compilation CD).

PM-05 – Tisha B’Av Through the Midrash

Richard Friedman

Tisha B’Av is the first day of the Institute; on that day and the next three days, we’ll study midrashic texts that address the problems it raises — what caused the destruction of the Temple(s)?  what was lost?  how did that destruction affect the Jewish People?  how do we respond to that destruction?  and is there hope for the future?  We will begin with the classic account in the Talmud of how the destruction was caused by an erroneously-delivered invitation; other texts will come from Midrash Rabba on the book of Eicha (Lamentations).  Time permitting, we will finish with a text about the festive day Tu B’Av, which comes six days after Tisha B’Av.

Photo of Richard Friedman Richard Friedman has taught text classes at several Institutes.  He also teaches Talmud and Rashi’s Torah commentary at his shul.  He studied at Pardes, and he is a lawyer with the federal government.

PM-06 – Darosh Darash: the Masoretic Journey

Sherry Israel

Pirke Avot reports that “Moshe received Torah from Sinai and passed it on….” How did this passing on happen? Sacred texts were believed to have been received directly as Divine words or under the influence of the holy spirit, so they had to be passed on correctly, with everything exactly right.  But even the most careful scribes make errors, so an apparatus called the masorah was devised to insure the correct transmission of our sacred texts.  In this class, we will examine the evidence for scribal errors (or improvements?), and study the origins and development of the masoretic database; we’ll encounter some materials that are familiar and others that are esoteric and fun to decode.  Along the way we’ll explore our own understandings of our Text and its holiness, and experience the sacred tension between attention to details and attention to deep meaning.

Photo of Sherry Israel Sherry Israel, a founding member of the Newton Center Minyan, is a past Chair of the NHC Board.  She retired from teaching in the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University in 2007, and has since been trained for a new vocation as a spiritual director. She is a lover of Jewish texts, a cook and baker, a walker, a member of a local Jewish community chorus, and a friend, mother and grandmother; now she is trying to learn to do tai chi and to knit.

PM-07 – Sh’viti ‘Nachamu’: An Artful Journey from Mourning to Comfort

Jennifer Judelsohn

Judaism teaches that times of deep loss needn’t last forever and can lead to rebuilding and renewal. The period between Tisha b’Av and Shabbat Nachamu provides a metaphor and a map to express  our individual stories of the journey from loss to wholeness, from mourning to healing, from despair to rejoicing. Traditional texts of Tisha b’Av and Shabbat Nachamu will inform us as we write our own personal narratives of our journeys. Using the form of a circle (mandala), we will draw the light of renewal from the darkness of loss.  Through chevruta text study, discussion, journaling, meditation, and hands-on art-making, participants will explore the concepts of loss and renewal. By the end of the class, each of us will have created an illuminated manuscript reflecting our personal journey.

Photo of Jennifer Judelsohn

Jennifer Judelsohn is an artist, psychotherapist, and educator and author/illustrator of the book Songs of Creation: Meditations on the Sacred Hebrew Alphabet. Her artwork, including acrylic paintings, Prismacolor drawings, and Giclee prints,  has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows and is in private collections worldwide. Jennifer has presented workshops, seminars, and classes on Judaism, spirituality, and other topics at conferences nationally and internationally. She was an Artist-in-Residence at the 2013 NHC Summer Institute.



PM-01 – Modern Prophets in Action: Biblical Street Theater

Eli Kaplan-Wildmann

Prophets stood at the city gate and spoke about injustice and hypocrisy, destruction and hope.  They often used theatrical tricks such as props or audience interaction.  In this course we will explore theatrical storytelling and use our new skills to create modern interpretations of biblical prophecies: if you were standing at a modern city gate, such as an airport, what would you tell the world to fix? The class will be divided into groups;  each will choose a prophecy and use it to make an exciting, colorful, relevant call to action that will be performed as street theater.

if you were standing at a modern city gate, such as an airport, what would you tell the world to fix?

Photo of Eli Kaplan-Wildmann

Eli Kaplan-Wildmann is a designer based in Jerusalem.  He has worked extensively on set design for television, theater and events, with projects for NBC, MTV, ESPN, George Tsypin, Beowulf Boritt and the Toy Fair, and various off-off-Broadway theaters.  The experimental side of things is far more interesting  –  he designed puppetry for a show about mermaids that was performed on a barge; a Liz Swados musical about the Dominican Republic’s Jews; and more.

The NHC Summer Institute’s Poretsky Artists-in-Residence program was launched and has been supported for two decades by the Rita Poretsky Foundation. In appreciation of its importance to the Summer Institute and the importance of the arts in Jewish life, it will be sustained in 2014 and going forward as the Timbrel Artist-in-Residence program by the Timbrel Fund, through the generosity of Elaine Reuben.



PM-08 – Our Lives are in our Songs: Yiddish Voices Moving us Forward!

Susan Pearl Leviton

Using Yiddish song as a roadmap, we’ll travel through social justice activism, yearning for actual and abstract homelands, the world of women’s voices,  the experiences of dreams and realities of America, and an examination of our culture through foodways.  Shake off any images you have of dusty old chestnuts (the Yiddish ‘top ten’) and prepare to encounter songs of the aguna and domestic violence, developing class struggle among children and I. B. Singer’s magical literature as interpreted by his illustrators.  Translations and archival images will be provided.

Photo of Susan Pearl Leviton

Susan Leviton’s joyful embrace of Yiddish arts is matched by her enthusiasm in sharing.  As an interpreter of song, and one of few who are reviving women’s a cappella singing today, she dips into a treasure trove and weaves programs of unexpected beauty.  Her naturally clear instrument and background in theatrical (Sign) interpreting brings story-telling magic to her teaching.



PM-09 – How Much Christianity is There in the Talmud?

Micha’el Rosenberg

The Babylonian Talmud has shaped Jewish life for over a thousand years, but it’s easy to forget–or never to have considered–that the Talmud was produced by a Jewish community living in multicultural Iran, where Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians, and a host of other religious groups lived side by side. In this course, we will look at talmudic passages that have striking parallels to texts written by Christians in the surrounding area; they wrote in Syriac, a language very similar to talmudic Aramaic. These will help us make sense of passages in the Talmud that otherwise would be impossible to understand, and will show both the competition with and the allure of Christianity for the Babylonian Jews who shaped the future of Judaism. What does it mean that there’s so much Christianity in the quintessential Jewish text?

Photo of Micha’el Rosenberg Micha’el Rosenberg is assistant professor of rabbinics at Hebrew College in Boston. Formerly the rabbi of the Fort Washington Jewish Center in the Washington Heights section of New York, he has taught at JTS, and the Northwoods Kollel and Beit Midrash of Ramah Wisconsin.

PM-10 – Embodied Teshuvah: A Journey from Brokenness to Wholeness

Josh Schreiber Shalem

Teshuvah can begin not at Rosh Hashanah or even at the first of Elul, but at Tisha B’Av, when the walls we build to shield ourselves from our own fragility collapse like the walls of Jerusalem. What follows is a period not always of rebuilding, but of confronting what is actually there behind those walls; perhaps one can learn to live with one’s self and one’s God with honesty and vulnerability. Through the Awareness Through Movement® developed by the Israeli physicist and Judo master Moshe Feldenkrais, we will follow this path through the experience of our body, learning to attend to, accept, and transform the feelings of brokenness and inadequacy we carry within us.  This class is open to anyone with a body; no prior movement experience or ability is necessary.  Mats will be provided.

Photo of Josh Schreiber Shalem Josh is an active member of Havurat Shalom in Somerville, MA, a certified teacher of the Feldenkrais Method® of Somatic Education, and a performing musician. He loves combining all these interests in the experience of Jewish prayer both privately and as a shaliach tzibur.

PM-11 – Preparing to Do Teshuvah

Darius D. Sivin

This class will explore Rambam’s Laws of Teshuvah, a classic Jewish text, and Rabbi Alan Lew’s This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared, a modern work, influenced by Buddhism, about the spiritual practice of Teshuvah.  Through chevruta  study and class discussion, each student will develop a personal Teshuvah plan based on class materials and life experience.

Photo of Darius D. Sivin

Darius D. Sivin, PhD is an occupational health and safety professional with the United Auto Workers.  Much of his work involves teaching health and safety to adults.  His family belongs to Fabrangen Cheder where he led the adult discussion seminar for several years.  He has studed at the NHC Institute and at the Jewish Study Center in Washington DC.  He has developed his own spiritual practice of Teshuvah based on the works he will be presenting.



PM-13 – Plugta: Sects and Schisms in Jewish History

Max Weinryb

Bitter controversy among Jews is not new and still with us. A look at selected divisions from different historical periods through Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the times.  Examples will include sects in the second temple period , Karaites vs. Rabbanites, Maimonides vs. his critics, and Hasidim vs. Misnagdim (and Maskilim).  Controversies in today’s Jewish world are often characterized by each side’s perception that the other is jeopardizing everything important. We’ll see similar perceptions in the past, and consider how past conflicts look now.

Photo of Max Weinryb Max Weinryb has been a participant, leader, and teacher in SF Bay Area havurot.  He has taught Hebrew, Talmud, and Rabbinic texts in havurot and congregations as well as NHC summer institutes and regional retreats. He is a computer consultant and urban homesteader in Berkeley.

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