Courses text study for everyone

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-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.

Photo of Bronwen Emilia Mullen

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-09 – Three Legs or One Foot: Rebalancing Our Jewish Communities

Regina Sandler-Phillips

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.

Photo of Regina Sandler-Phillips Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips created WAYS OF PEACE Community Resources in Brooklyn, NY, so that she could do more while standing on one foot.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Jewish Daily Forward, Tablet Magazine, and elsewhere.  On two legs, Regina enjoys long walks, dancing, singing and birding, with gratitude for her mobility while it lasts.  She co-coordinates electronic caring notifications to help keep the NHC balanced throughout the year.

AM-12 – Text and Interpretation: A Series of Journeys through Time

Aryeh Wineman

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.

Photo of Aryeh Wineman Aryeh Wineman has taught at several Havurah Institutes over the years, as well as having taught at an Israeli youth-village and later at SUNY-Albany, and having served as a congregational rabbi. He has written various studies in the areas of Hebrew literature and Jewish mysticism, including The Hasidic Parable: An Anthology with Commentary and Ethical Tales from the Kabbalah.

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-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.



Comments are closed.