Me’ah Select Winter/Spring 2022 Courses

Honoring Many Voices: The Biblical Legacy of Valuing Different Perspectives

Instructor: Dr. Susie Tanchel
Dates: Eight Thursdays: 2/3, 2/10, 2/24, 3/3, 3/10, 3/24, 3/31, 4/7
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $260, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Lexington Collaborative – Temple Emunah and Temple Isaiah
Registration: Register now

In this course we will read select biblical texts closely, uncovering the multiple perspectives the texts present on a variety of topics including founding myths, leadership, religious ideals, and women’s sexuality. At this tense time of polarization in the United States, the Bible offers us a different path for managing disagreements. Through our class discussions, we will explore what modern resonance lies within these ancient texts and how we might apply some of the learnings to our lives today. Our close analysis will employ a number of different methodologies, including literary, traditional and modern critical approaches. No prior knowledge of biblical texts is expected. Bring an open mind and heart.

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


Tradition on The Screen II: Challenges and Joys of Traditional Jewish Life in Film 

Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin
Dates: Five Tuesdays: 2/15, 2/22, 3/1, 3/8, 3/15
Time: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Kerem Shalom, Concord
Registration: Register now

Designed as a free-standing companion course to Tradition On The Screen I (each may be taken separately), this course screens films that explore the profound personal experiences, and struggles, of those living traditional Jewish lives today.  Using the films and readings this course tries to articulate — from the “inside” — the thoughts and feelings of traditional Jews as they face both wrenching dilemmas, and truly joyous moments. Some of the topics taken up in the films include spirituality and faith, the experiences of women, the challenges faced by gays and lesbians, dealing with other religions, and the struggle to believe in God after the Holocaust. 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


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

 Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin
Dates: 10 Thursdays: 2/10, 2/17, 2/24, 3/3, 3/10, 3/24, 3/31, 4/7, 4/28, 5/5
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Jewish Community Center of the North Shore & Temple B’nai Abraham, Beverly
Registration: Register now

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


MONDAY Mystics, Philosophers, and Poets in Medieval Spain

 Instructor: Dr. Alan Verskin
Dates: 10 Mondays: 2/14, 2/28, 3/7, 3/14, 3/21, 3/28, 4/4, 4/11, 4/25, 5/2
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by:  Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley
Registration: Register now

Spain was both the birthplace of the father of Jewish mysticism, Moses de León, the author of Zohar and of Moses Maimonides, the father of Jewish rationalism. It was in Spain that Jewish secular poetry about frivolity, love, and natural beauty began and flowered, yet it was also in Spain that Jews developed new visions of asceticism. So powerful was the creative energy of Spain that even the banning of Judaism in the country in 1492 could not efface Spanish Jewish (Sephardic) identity that persevered in Jewish communities across the Middle East and in the New World. In this class, we will read and discuss some of the core Jewish texts of Spain – mystical, philosophical, and poetic – and explore why they have resonated so deeply among Jews from medieval times until today.

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


WEDNESDAY Mystics, Philosophers, and Poets in Medieval Spain – CLASS IS FULL

Instructor: Dr. Alan Verskin
Dates: 10 Wednesdays: 2/16, 2/23, 3/2, 3/9, 3/23, 3/30, 4/6, 4/13, 4/20, 4/27
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $325, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley

Spain was both the birthplace of the father of Jewish mysticism, Moses de León, the author of Zohar and of Moses Maimonides, the father of Jewish rationalism. It was in Spain that Jewish secular poetry about frivolity, love, and natural beauty began and flowered, yet it was also in Spain that Jews developed new visions of asceticism. So powerful was the creative energy of Spain that even the banning of Judaism in the country in 1492 could not efface Spanish Jewish (Sephardic) identity that persevered in Jewish communities across the Middle East and in the New World. In this class, we will read and discuss some of the core Jewish texts of Spain – mystical, philosophical, and poetic – and explore why they have resonated so deeply among Jews from medieval times until today.

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


The Passover Haggadah: The Endless Renewal of the Jewish Story

Instructor: Rabbi Neal Gold
Dates: Five Wednesdays: 2/23, 3/2, 3/16, 3/23, 3/30
Time: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Hebrew College
Registration: Register now

The Passover Haggadah is one of the most familiar and wonderful texts that the Jewish people have ever devised: a midrash of endless riches that evokes all of a person’s senses. We’ll explore its history and evolution, as well as its art and myriad reinterpretations, as it takes a simple story and makes it relevant in every generation.

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


Music and Melody in Jewish Spiritual Practice: The Transformative Power of the Hasidic Niggun

Instructor: Rabbi Nehemia Polen
Dates: Five Wednesdays: 2/23, 3/2, 3/9, 3/23, 3/30
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Hebrew College
Registration: Register now

Music, both vocal and instrumental, has always been central to the Jewish spiritual quest.  Our course will examine how the role of music evolved from biblical and rabbinic roots, embodying the belief that the emotional uplift of melody can channel holy spirit and even prophecy.  The kabbalistic tradition advanced the idea of ‘sonic theology’—that sound is sacred, that sonic reverberations are constitutive of creation and can be evoked even in our day and age, in chant and song.  These ideas were enthusiastically embraced by the hasidic movement, which promoted music and dance to the very center of religious life. We will study the rich traditions of hasidic niggun, learning about the various lineages and their musical styles. Our sessions will be punctuated by niggun selections that you may choose to commit to memory if you desire. We will read hasidic texts in English translation on how hasidic masters understood the role of melody/niggun in the religious quest, with practical advice on how to apply this powerful vehicle to heighten awareness, ennoble one’s vision, and bring greater joy and tranquility to one’s daily life.

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


The Sacred Patterns Which Connect: A New Integration of Judaism and Ecological Thinking

Instructor: Rabbi Natan Margalit
Dates: Five Mondays: 4/4, 4/11, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Hebrew College
Registration: Register now

The multiple global crises we face, from climate change to a culture of addiction to threats to democracy will not be solved by technical fixes alone but will take a deep shift in our worldview. Jewish tradition, which prioritizes relationships and connection in our sacred stories and communities, can promote a paradigm shift from either/or thinking to pattern thinking which connects us all, even while we maintain our unique identities.  In this course, we will draw from the deep well of Jewish wisdom to demonstrate the ecological nature of ancient Jewish thinking and how it can be integrated with cutting-edge ecological thinking, creating a powerful new synthesis.

We will read sections of Rabbi Margalit’s new book, The Pearl and the Flame: A Journey into Jewish Wisdom, Ecological Thinking and Healing in a Fragmented World. as well as background readings from Jewish sources and contemporary writers such as Wendell Berry, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Michael Pollan, Mary Douglas and more.

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


Jews and Race: A Historian and Anthropologist Reflect on American History from the Civil War to the Present Day

Instructor: Rabbi Dan Judson and Dr. Meredith Reiches
Dates: Five Tuesdays: 3/1, 3/8, 3/15, 3/22, 3/29
Time: 7:15-9:15 p.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Temple Emanuel
Registration: Register now

In his classic 1967 essay on black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism, James Baldwin writes that, “A genuinely candid confrontation between American Negroes and American Jews would certainly prove of inestimable value.” This course is an attempt at just such a candid confrontation from the perspective of American Jewish history. Beginning with Jewish views on race during the Civil War era and working our way to the present day, this course will present Jewish views which will surprise, inspire, and probably frustrate you as well – in other words we will be trying to have that candid confrontation which Baldwin called for. To aid us in getting our minds around race, we will use frameworks from contemporary anthropology, examining the cultural, biological, and biocultural avenues through which this identity category shapes – and has in the past shaped – lived experience.

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: 3/1, 3/8, 3/15, 3/22, 3/29
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location: In-person, Beth El Temple Center, Belmont
Hosted by: Beth El Temple Center, Belmont
Registration: Register now

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


Profiles in Leadership and Resilience: Exploring Biblical, Rabbinic & Jewish Historical Personalities

Instructor: Rabbi Benjamin Samuels
Dates: Five Tuesdays, 3/29, 4/5, 4/12, 4/19, 4/26
Time: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Cost: $165, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Kerem Shalom, Concord
Registration: Register now

This series seeks to find inspiration and uplift in the narratives of Jewish personalities whose encounters with life’s challenges serve as enduring lessons in leadership and resilience. Over the course of five sessions, we will interactively study the biblical personalities of Abraham and Sarah; the rabbinic personalities of Rachel and Rabbi Akiva, and Beruria and Rabbi Meir; and the Jewish historical personalities of Moses Maimonides, Gluckel of Hameln, and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.  Each session represents a study in courage and determination, and our study of all of them together will help us discover and strengthen our own hidden resources of leadership and resilience.

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


A Dialogue of Devotion: Thomas Merton and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Instructor: Rabbi Or Rose
Dates: Six Tuesdays: 4/26, 5/3, 5/10, 5/17, 5/24, 5/31
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $195, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Temple Beth Zion, Brookline
Registration: Register now

Between 1961-1968 Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (d. 2014) and Father Thomas Merton (d. 1968) developed a close friendship through an exchange of personal letters, published and unpublished writings, and in-person meetings. This relationship not only had a significant influence on these two spiritual virtuosos, but by extension, on the countless nu d through their teaching, counseling, and writing. In this presentation, we will explore the context—biographical and historical—in which these men met and their intellectual and spiritual affinities. In so doing, we will also explore the legacy of this relationship as a model for interreligious engagement today.

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


To Dwell Within Them: Rabbi Art Green Shares His Interpretations of Selected Torah Portions

Instructor: Rabbi Art Green
Dates: Eight Tuesdays: 5/3, 5/10, 5/17, 5/24, 5/31, 6/7, 6/14, 6/21
Time: 12:30-2:00 p.m.
Cost: $250, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Hebrew College
Registration: Register now

Rabbi Green has spent a lifetime studying the writings of the Hasidic masters.  They developed an uncanny talent for making the Torah relevant to the spiritual and moral lives of their followers.  Now Green is trying to do the same for the contemporary seeker.  His yet unpublished book TO DWELL WITHIN THEM treats themes from each Torah portion as they relate to the most essential task of religion, that of cultivating the inner life.  The course will begin with Bereshit, the beginning of the Torah, and will involve discussion of his comments.  The comments will be available in both Hebrew and English, but we will discuss the English text.

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


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

Instructor: Rabbi Neal Gold
Dates: Eight Wednesdays: 3/23, 3/30, 4/6, 4/20, 4/27, 5/11, 5/18, 5/25
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $260, generous financial aid is available
Location: Zoom
Hosted by: Cambridge Collaborative – Congregation Eitz Chayim, Tremont Street Shul, Kahal B’raira
Registration: Register now

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