Courses suited for teens

Everybody is welcome in every course. The teachers of these courses have indicated that they are especially suited for teens.

AM-02 – We Are What We Eat… and How We Eat: Food Justice in Halakhah and Aggadah

Aryeh Bernstein

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.

Photo of Aryeh Bernstein Aryeh Bernstein, a Chicago native and Jerusalem resident, translates for the Koren-Steinsaltz English Talmud edition and is an Editor of Jewschool.com.  He has studied at Columbia, JTS, YU, YCT, and Yeshivat Maale Gilboa, and taught at Yeshivat Hadar, Drisha, Yeshivat Talpiot, the Hartman High School, Camp Ramah in WI, and elsewhere.  He has led High Holiday services at Kehilat Hadar for 11 years.  And he released a hip-hop album, called A Roomful of Ottomans.

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.

Photo of Shahar Decassares Colt Shahar Colt, a third year rabbinical student at Hebrew College, has been attending the Institute for over ten years. She has taught middle and high school students from the Facing History and Ourselves Curriculum in Jewish and secular school contexts, as well as studying it as part of her Master’s in Education program.  She recently founded the Teen Beit Midrash, a cross-community collaborative Jewish learning program for teens, and leads adult learning programs for a Boston area religious school.

AM-04 – Cracking the Sefer Barrier: Breaking into Four Primary Jewish Texts

Ellen Frankel

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.

Photo of Ellen Frankel After serving for many years as Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Publication Society, Ellen now works as a freelance writer, librettist, editor, and community volunteer. She is the author of The Classic Tales, The Five Books of Miriam, and The JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible; as well as several librettos, including an opera, Slaying the Dragon, with composer Michael Ching. She has been coming to the Institute, off and on, since 1980.

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.

Photo of Talya Weisbard Shalem Talya grew up attending the Institute with the rest of the Weisbards.  She is a Reconstructionist Rabbi and active member of Havurat Shalom in Somerville.  She has taught at several prior Institutes including in Kids Camp, is a former NHC Board member, and serves on the Fellows Committee. Her day job for the past four years has been with the US Census Bureau, where she currently supervises employees collecting data for many important surveys, including the American Community Survey, and the monthly unemployment statistics (CPS).  Her bachelor’s degree from Harvard is in Anthropology, and she has always loved interviewing people, crunching numbers, and drawing conclusions.

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.

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