Courses with no prerequisites

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-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-07 – Jewish Spiritual Direction

Sharon Pearl

Jewish Spiritual Direction has a rich history and is referenced in Pirke Avot  1:6, which states, “Make for yourself a teacher and acquire for yourself a friend.”  Our sages suggest that this “friend” is one who serves as a spiritual guide. Viewing your joys and struggles from a spiritual perspective is incredibly empowering.  In this class you will experience Jewish Spiritual Direction,  a contemplative practice that will support your connection and understanding of the Holy in your everyday activities and in the extraordinary events of your life. You will have opportunities for deep listening to spiritual narratives, both your own and those of other participants, for the purpose of understanding, exploring and deepening God’s role in your life.

Photo of Sharon Pearl Sharon K. Pearl provides individual and group spiritual direction. A veteran teacher of adult education at area synagogues, Jewish service organizations, Sharon  is a lay leader at P’nai Or Philadelphia.  Sharon leads enriching workshops that support participants’ spiritual growth.  She is an ordained Mashpiah Ruchanit (Spiritual Director), having studied in a three year mentorship with Sandra B. Cohen, DSW, and is a member of Spiritual Directors International.  This is her first Institute.

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-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 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.

AM-11 – Yitgadal v’Yitkadash: Jewish Rituals of Grief and Mourning from Aninut (Mourning) to Yahrzeit (Annual Remembrance)

David Stearman

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.

Photo of David Stearman David Stearman grew up in a Conservative Jewish home and had a traditional Bar Mitzvah. Since then he has gone through periods of atheism and total non-observance, dabbled in Reform Judaism, learned to keep kosher, and encountered Orthodox and Chasidic Judaism. In the past year he has lost both parents, so he has been embedded deeply and personally in the Jewish rituals of mourning. Although he remains unaffiliated, he davens and says Kaddish for his parents at the local Chabad.

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-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-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-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.

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