Me’ah Select Fall 2021 Courses

From the Corners of the Fields to the Repair of the Universe: How Judaism Teaches Justice, Righteousness, and Peace

Instructor: Rabbi Neal Gold
Dates: 10 Thursdays:  10/7, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28, 11/4, 11/18, 12/2, 12/9, 12/16, 1/6
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: The Lexington Collaborative: Temple Emunah and Temple Isaiah
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here

Since the days of Abraham, Jews have been instructed to pursue “what is just and right” (Gen. 18:19). This course will explore many strata and eras of Jewish history, from the Bible, Talmud, and law codes through Kabbalistic ideas of Tikkun Olam, Zionism, and 20th- and 21st-Century Jewish experience, to understand how the ancient agricultural model of “the corners of the fields” evolved into later understandings of social justice.

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


The Modern Jewish Experience Through the Lens of Short Stories

Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin
Dates: 10 Mondays: 10/4, 10/18, 10/25, 11/1, 11/8, 11/15, 11/22, 11/29, 12/6, 12/13
Time:  7 -9:15 p.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Temple Sinai, Brookline
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

Most of us learn the history of Jews and Judaism in the modern period from scholarly texts and original documents. This invaluable view of the big picture leaves out the lived dimension of the events. How did Jewish individuals in widely separated and quite different communities experience the challenges and changes of modernity? How did these experiences, and the feelings they evoked, shape new Jewish hopes and projects? This course uses Jewish short stories, beginning in the late 19th century, from England, Russia, Eastern Europe, Israel, and America, to give unique insights into generational struggles, changing gender roles, and the search for “authentic Judaism” outside the precincts of religion. The most recent stories highlight the fear that traditional forms of Jewish memory and identity may be disappearing entirely and ask whether these can be replaced with a commitment to social justice or with “Israeliness.”

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


Connections and Disconnections: The Biblical World and our Lives

Instructor: Dr. Susie Tanchel
Date: Eight Thursdays: 10/7, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28, 11/4, 11/18, 12/2, 12/9
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $260, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Hebrew College
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

In this course, we will discover and uncover together the central themes, ideas, and vision of biblical texts including concepts such as familial connections, identity formation, gender dynamics, and religious ideals. Through our discussions about the lessons and ideas of these texts, we will explore the places of resonance for us in our own lives and the places of important differences from which we also can learn.  No prior knowledge is required.  Please bring an open mind and heart, ready to listen and to share.

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


Monday – Changes and Challenges for a New Generation: The Book of Joshua

Instructor: Rabbi Benjamin Samuels
Date: 10 Mondays:  10/18, 10/25, 11/1, 11/8, 11/15, 11/22, 11/29, 12/6, 12/13, 12/20
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

From the dynamics of leadership succession to the ethics of war and conquest, the Book of Joshua narrates the story of the Children of Israel becoming the People of Israel in a land of their own. Themes of leadership, covenant, and human relationships recur throughout the book as we learn how a new generation guided by new leadership navigates the novel challenges of realizing their Divine promises. The conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel consistently challenge the wholeness and holiness of the nation. Students of the Book of Joshua are often surprised to learn how relevant its ancient themes are to the dilemmas of our own contemporary times.

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


The Diverse Cultures of Contemporary Israel: Exploring A Multiplicity of Identities Through Story and Film – FULL

Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin
Dates: 10 Wednesdays: 10/13, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/10, 11/17, 12/1, 12/8, 12/15, 12/22
Time:  7-9 p.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location:  Zoom
Hosted by: The Cambridge Collaborative: Congregation Eitz Chayim, Kahal B’raira, and Tremont Street Shul
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

For a variety of reasons most American Jews have learned more about the history of modern Israel, but less about the full complexity of cultures that make up contemporary Israeli society.    This course will help participants grasp how that history actually gets lived out in the day-to-day life of a sprawling, vibrant, deeply multicultural, and multi-religious society. Drawing on both popular and more elite media, such as film, short stories, television programs, and popular song videos (all in translation), and also taking advantage of helpful scholarly literature, this course will explore many facets of the contemporary cultural experience in Israel. A great number of very different identities thrive in contemporary Israeli society.  This ten-week course will focus on these identities, their histories and politics, and the relationships between them.

Some of the identities and topics we will be exploring include:

  • Religious and secular Jews
  • Different Kinds of Jewish culture (Ashkenazi, Mizrachi, Russian, Ethiopian, etc);
  • Israeli Arab Identities (Muslim, Christian, Druze, etc.)
  • Palestinian intellectual and cultural perspectives on Palestinian identity
  • How Changing Conceptions of Gender Affect Identity
  • The multiplicity of LGBTQ identities in Israel

We will also be looking at popular culture and, in particular, at the growth of satire and humor as responses to and critiques of Israeli society. Students will be asked to watch a few films at home, prior to class.  This may require access to free and paid streaming services.

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


The Modern Struggle with Jewish Textual Tradition

Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin
Dates: 10 Sundays: 10/17, 10/31, 11/14, 12/5, 12/19, 1/9, 1/23, 2/6, 2/20, 3/6
Time:  3-5 p.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Harvard Worship and Study Minyan
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

Whether one sees this as “theological” or historical and sociological, Jews take the ongoing study and teaching of classical religious Jewish texts to be a religious obligation of the highest importance, a holy activity.  While all religious traditions reserve a treasured place for text study, its overwhelming centrality in Judaism has made the relationship of modern Jewish readers with the Jewish textual tradition a crucial concern — and a flashpoint of great contention.

We will study a set of well-known and powerful Jewish texts including Biblical narratives from the creation of Eve, the akedah, the spies, and the Book of Esther and Talmudic texts including “God holding Mt. Sinai over the head of the Jews to get them to accept the Torah” (Shabbat 88a) and the extended tale of “the Oven of Akhnai” where the rabbis overrule God (Baba Metzia s59a-b) all of which elicited divergent readings in ancient and medieval times and continue to incite serious controversies and debates today.

In each case, we will explore the distinctive and intriguing ways in which a select group of modern Jewish thinkers have grappled with these challenging texts including re-readings by R. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Ilana Pardes, R. Abraham Isaac Kook, Emmanuel Levinas, Aviva Zornberg, Cynthia Ozick, and more.  Their reinterpretations will involve us in contemporary Jewish concerns such as the nature of authority, the relationship between Judaism and modernity, women and Judaism and Jewish feminist thought, and the quest for religious experience.

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


Discovering the Art of Midrash

Instructor: Rabbi Neal Gold
Date:  10 Tuesdays: 10/19, 10/26, 11/2, 11/9, 11/16, 11/23, 11/30, 12/7, 12/14, 12/21
Time: 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Temple Beth Sholom, Framingham
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

The Rabbis of the Talmudic and post-Talmudic eras expressed their spiritual ingenuity by approaching the Torah with a variety of creative techniques, developing dramatic and important ways of interpreting the ancient text. Their approaches are gathered in the genre of literature known as Midrash. We will explore an array of primary texts to learn the approaches that produced the wide variety of legal (halakhic) and non-legal (aggadic) midrashim, the quintessentially Jewish way of understanding the Torah.

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


The Book of Judges: Subversive Narrative or Instructive Text?  You Be the Judge!

Instructor: Dr. Lynne Heller
Date: Six Wednesdays: 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/17, 12/1, 12/8
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $195, generous financial aid is available
Location: In-person, Temple Emanuel, Newton
Hosted by: Temple Emanuel, Newton
Registration: Open to all learners.  Register here.

The Book of Judges presents us with a vision of biblical Israel’s destiny that seems to run counter to the model for sacred community that is set forth at Sinai. Instead of fulfilling God’s promise of becoming Mam’lechet Kohanim (a kingdom of priests serving God) and Goi Kadosh (a holy nation), Judges presents us with a nation that is flawed, its heroes flawed.

The operative phrase that relentlessly pounds through the text—Ish Kol  Ha’yashar Be’ei’nav  Ya’ a’she (Each man did as he pleased) reveals the ugly underbelly of a people that seems to have failed to build a sacred community of shared values. Why then, you might ask, is this book included in the biblical canon? What does it come to teach us? Who can become our role models? Can positive national aspiration ultimately outweigh disruptive negative example? Through a close reading of the biblical text and related rabbinic commentary and midrash,  the “painterly” midrash of Rembrandt and other medieval masters, and insights gained from modern Israeli poetry, we will weave a complex and rich tapestry of compelling meanings.Then you pass judgment!

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


Tradition on Screen: Divergent Images of Jewish Traditional Life in Film

Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin
Dates: Five Tuesdays: 11/23, 11/30, 12/7, 12/14, 12/21
Time:  10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location:  Zoom
Hosted by: Kerem Shalom, Concord
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

This course involves screening popular American and Israeli movies in order to study a complex and profound issue in Jewish life today.  This issue is the fundamental tension between the lives and attitudes of modern Jews, and the lives and attitudes of traditional religious Jews (also sometimes referred to as hareidim, ultra-orthodox, or hassidim). Designed as the first of two courses (each may be taken separately), this course focuses on films that offer starkly different depictions of traditional Jewish life.  In particular, these films will help us attend to deep conflicts over issues such as individual self-expression, family, the value of communal life, and the experience of romance and love.  Students will screen the films on their own before class; important clips will be shown in class.  Carefully chosen academic readings, and short stories will be provided each week, both for background on that week’s film, and to enhance the experience of viewing it.

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu


Abraham Joshua Heschel: Spirituality & Social Justice

Instructor: Rabbi Or Rose
Dates: Six Tuesdays: 1/11, 1/18, 1/25, 2/1, 2/8, 3/1
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $195, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Hebrew College
Registration: Open to all learners. Register here.

While the name Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) is well-known today and many people quote or paraphrase snippets from his writings, the legacy of this unique twentieth-century religious figure requires much more unpacking. How did Heschel, originally from Poland, arrive in the United States? How did he seek to present the teachings of Eastern European Hasidism (on which he was raised) to a North American audience after the Holocaust? What were the circumstances that led this rabbi and scholar to engage in the Civil Rights Movement and forge a friendship with MLK? What might we learn about the interconnected realms of spirituality and social justice from Heschel’s life and work?

For more information, contact Marilyn Stern at meah@hebrewcollege.edu