Eser 2014-2015: Ten Best-Kept Jewish Secrets

This winter's Eser theme, the Top Ten Jewish Cultural Creations, will explore the fascinating evolutions and revolutions of different cultural expressions in Judaism.   

Each Eser topic will funtion as a gateway to a specific set of important and deep issues, generating the kind of thought-provoking and stimulating conversations that have come to define the Eser experience.    

A committee of Eser alumni chose last session's topics. A group of dynamic young rabbis and Jewish educators served as our discussion leaders in living rooms throughout Greater Boston. This year for the first time, Eser will also be offering classes in the fall. 

Below is a sampling of some of the topics that were discussed.



Some Jews today proudly sport tattoos (even tattoos of Jewish symbols), yet the Bible explicitly prohibits permanent body markings. Exploring traditional Jewish perspectives on tattoos, and how these have been received today, can teach us a great deal about historically changing conceptions of, and feelings about, the human body.

Secret: Persons with tattoos are permitted to be interred in Jewish cemeteries. 



 The Bible prohibits magic, and most modern Jews assume that their ancestors rejected such practices. Nonetheless, Jews throughout history have been interested in the supernatural and held superstitious beliefs. How did these practices originate, and what purposes did they serve? Have the challenges of living in the modern world made us more or less open to the coping strategies of our ancestors?

Secret: Many Jews today wear red strings they believe possess protective powers. 

Moses Maimonides


Ancient Jewish texts suggest evidence of nonheterosexual relationships in days of yore. We will study the background of and context for these relationships and try to ascertain the extent to which these relationships resemble today’s LGBTQ relationships. In what ways are thoughtful people, across Jewish denominations, challenging the biblical prohibition and traditional attitudes against same-sex intimacy?

Secret: More than three-quarters of Jews support same-sex marriage.



 Jewish rules and customs around food, some would argue, constitute the foundation of Jewish culture. Discussing these approaches to diet, ritual foods, treatment of animals, feasting and fasting can help reveal surprising and informative insights into the meaning of the most basic human activity.  

Secret: There’s a lot more to kosher than some bearded guy blessing food.