Tisha B’Av Courses meant to be compatible with traditional Tisha B’Av observance
Extended Format These courses extend into the adjacent workshop time, denture making them incompatible with workshop teaching or participation for that morning or afternoon.
(sorted by teacher’s last name)
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).
PM-03 – Shmita! Designing a Year of Radical Cooperation, Economic Justice, and Ecological Sustainability
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.
AM-02 – We Are What We Eat… and How We Eat: Food Justice in Halakhah and Aggadah
In this course, we will study and discuss halakhic (legal) and aggadic (narrative and philosophical) texts addressing various questions of responsible and sustainable approaches to eating, such as: What attitudes are we called to bring forth when we eat animals and animal products? How do we distribute limited resources? Who owns water and who gets access to it? During the first session, on Tisha B’Av, we will look at images of starvation in the poetic literature of Eicha (Lamentations) and kinnot (elegies) and will consider fasting as an exercise in radical empathy with the experience of starvation.
AM-01 – Towards a New Jewish Art!
Jewish tradition prohibits making graven images. This prohibition may have prevented a full blossoming of Jewish art besides ritual objects and documents. But isn’t God present in every beautiful thing on the planet? What would it look like for us to go back and reclaim symbols and imagery for a new Jewish art? In this course, participants will develop a new Jewish iconography, based on our research into historical Jewish art, as well as reflection on what images and symbols communicate our current understanding of our own Jewishness.
Through discussion, visual brainstorming, self-reflection, and visual research, collaboratively we will create a large visual mixed media art piece portraying both historical and contemporary Jewish life and spirituality. The artwork will be on display for the community; each participant will be able to take home a section of the final product at the conclusion of the Institute.
PM-04 – Praying With Song: Hasidic Spiritual Melodies And Our Spiritual Selves
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.
AM-03 – Facing History: An Intergenerational Jewish Conversation
Shahar Decassares Colt
How do identities affect one’s perspective? How is honoring individual identity a matter of social justice? Generations after the Holocaust, questions about human nature, personal and group identity, behavior, bias and social boundaries resonate deeply today. We will use selections from Facing History and Ourselves curriculum, which explores the Holocaust and other historical moments as case studies in human behavior, to experience the relevance of these questions across age groups. Using traditional Jewish sources and contemporary case studies for comparison, we will take advantage of the NHC’s intergenerational community to listen to the wisdom of all ages and support each other in asking hard questions about how these themes play out in our lives today.
AM-04 – Cracking the Sefer Barrier: Breaking into Four Primary Jewish Texts
Jewish literacy has an extremely high barrier to entry. Classic texts are written in languages many readers don’t understand, and meanings are often hidden by lots of insider code.
This course will provide an introduction to four ancient classics in the Jewish library: the Hebrew Bible, the prayer book, the Talmud, and the Midrash. Each of them constitutes mini-libraries in their own right. We will begin by talking about how literary texts work, looking at genres, various methods of interpretation, assumptions brought to the text by readers, and the context of the Ancient Near East. We will look at selected texts in English, unriddle their secret codes, and learn how best to hear their ancient voices with modern ears.
PM-05 – Tisha B’Av Through the Midrash
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.
AM-05 – What did we Lose When we Lost the Temple?
The Temple is a central element of our learning and liturgy, not only on Tisha B’Av, but also at weddings and even at funerals. The echo of lament and yearning for this ruin can seem very strange, remote from both our experience and our values. In fact, the rabbis of the Talmud faced a similar disconnect. They were apparently fascinated with the Temple, devoting scrupulous attention to the details of its daily existence. In this class we too will attempt to make the Temple less remote. What did it feel like to be there? Was that feeling different on Erev Pesach compared to regular Tuesdays? What did it smell and sound like? While involving ourselves with in-depth study of the rabbinic Temple imagination, we will also try to determine why this utopian nostalgia was of such value to the rabbis, and what it can offer us today.
PM-06 – Darosh Darash: the Masoretic Journey
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.
PM-07 – Sh’viti ‘Nachamu’: An Artful Journey from Mourning to Comfort
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
AM-06 – Methodologies in Midrash-Making: Poetry, Movement, Bibliodrama, and Theater of the Oppressed
Bronwen Emilia Mullen
The rabbis used various methodologies to generate midrashim from Biblical exegesis. Participants will continue in these traditions via different creative media. From rewriting verses and individual words to playing word-association with Hebrew roots, we will use bibliodrama to interpret medieval commentaries, poetry, and the spoken word. We will utilize the methods of Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed to explore ways in which the themes of questioning, struggling, and journeying reflect and make an imprint on the challenges of our world and our times.
Bronwen Mullin is a playwright, composer, educator and rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She earned her B.A. at Sarah Lawrence College (2006) in Theater and Religious Studies and was Arts Fellow 2008-2011 in Musical Theater Composition at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. Bronwen is the co-founder of MetaPhys-Ed, a gymnasium for the multi-media exegesis of Jewish texts with performance artist/director Jesse Freedman.
AM-08 – The Constant Prayer of the Soul: Rav Kook’s Ecstatic Vision of Prayer
Louis A. Rieser
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook articulated an expansive and poetic vision of prayer. He describes prayer as a dynamic force that flows from heaven and acts through the soul in order to affect the cosmos. We will study and discuss passages from his prayerbook commentary, Olat R’ayah, on the purpose and action of prayer. Rav Kook’s notions of prayer will serve as background to a discussion of our own experience of and desires in prayer.
PM-09 – How Much Christianity is There in the Talmud?
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?
AM-09 – Three Legs or One Foot: Rebalancing Our Jewish Communities
We are taught that the world stands on a tripod of study, worship, and caring actions. When our communities run on the two legs of study and worship, the third leg of caring is often shortened. Yet the third leg is the only one that can support us “on one foot.” This week, as we stop to mourn our brokenness, we’ll seek the comfort of a new equilibrium that integrates kindness and justice. We’ll explore familiar junctures in the regular rhythms of learning and prayer that can be leveraged as “caring points” to build more balanced and inclusive communities.
AM-10 – Who are the Jews? Contemporary Sociology of American Jews
Talya Weisbard Shalem
This course will dive into the vast world of current surveys of American Jews, from Pew to the National Jewish Population Surveys. We will contextualize these studies by looking at the broader world of current American religious trends. We will compare quantitative and qualitative types of analyses, examining an in-depth analysis of individual Jewish journeys by Bethamie Horowitz. We will look closely at data on intermarriage and children’s upbringing, using studies from InterfaithFamily.com and the Jewish Outreach Institute.
We will explore how definitions of who is a Jew, and the choice of which survey questions to ask, can massively shape outcomes and conclusions. At the end of this course, you will know how to read handwringing articles in the Jewish press with a hermeneutic of suspicion, and you will be well-informed for engaging in contemporary debates about the future of the community and where to best direct energy and funding.
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.
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.
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.
AM-11 – Yitgadal v’Yitkadash: Jewish Rituals of Grief and Mourning from Aninut (Mourning) to Yahrzeit (Annual Remembrance)
The journey from the intense mourning of Tisha B’Av to the comfort of Shabbat Nachamu reminds us not only of the Jewish people’s communal loss of the Temple, but also of our own personal experiences of loss. In times of loss, particularly the deaths of loved ones, each of us goes through a process of grief, mourning, and, ultimately, healing.
We will explore how the Jewish rituals of mourning track or reflect Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief—and how they differ. Some of these rituals are derived from Halakha (mitzvot); others are traditions (minhag). Some we observe strictly; others we put our own spin on. We will look at these rituals through text study and sharing of personal experiences, whether as mourner or comforter, and across variations in observance. Together, we will seek both a better understanding of these rituals and a greater appreciation for how they support us.
PM-13 – Plugta: Sects and Schisms in Jewish History
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.
AM-12 – Text and Interpretation: A Series of Journeys through Time
A tradition cannot be grasped simply by reading its sacred text, and certainly Jewish tradition requires, along with the Torah-text, serious understanding of the ongoing interpretation, which often transforms and gives new life to the text itself. That process of interpretation is an exciting story, often a process of highly creative, even radical, understanding of the literal text itself. We will examine, each day, a different kind of textual passage(s) from the Torah along with some representative and sometimes startling re-readings of the same passage. We will look at passages concerning law and society, cultic practices, the creation of light, and revelation.
AM-13 – Rebuilding through Song: Making the Zemirot our Own
Jonathan D. Zimet
The Zemirot are our people’s folk music, expressing the themes of our tradition and Jewish experience. They rest on allusions and inside secrets, which we will unlock and explore. We will also look at the authors’ social circumstances that resemble those of our contemporary folk artists, examine the ways we can embrace these poems even if we do not agree with all their themes (such as rebuilding the Temple), sample the wide variety of melodies, and discuss how these songs can enhance our Shabbat meals and bring people together.
After avocationally doing diverse celebrations and programs and leading a community Jewish chorus, lawyer Jonathan Zimet received ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion. He offers programs especially in zemirot, Shir Hashirim, and nusach for lay people, and is currently writing an English commentary, “Zemirot are for Everyone: An Invitation to the Shabbat meal and the songs that adorn it.”