Me'ah

Me’ah, sponsored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) is the oldest Adult Learning program at Hebrew College. Me’ah (Hebrew for 100) offers three tracks of learning experiences, all led by outstanding faculty:

  • time Adults of all ages
  • location Synagogues and community spaces (Me'ah Classic and Select); or online (Me'ah Online)
  • duration Me'ah Classic (100 hours over two years);
    Me'ah Select (10-12 sessions over one semester);
    Me'ah Online (Flexible)

Me’ah Classic has truly been a wonderful experience for me-academically, spiritually, and socially. – Anonymous

Year One Curriculum

The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is the central text of ancient Israel and the foundational text for Judaism through the ages. You’ll examine the various biblical genres, structures, concepts, theological and historical settings of the biblical world, and then explore selected topics, often integrated with rabbinic perspectives.

This sequence balances an overview of the Hebrew Bible with focused discussion of core texts, such as the Creation stories, the binding of Isaac, the Exodus story, the revelation at Sinai and the prophetic books. You’ll analyze the primary biblical texts and secondary scholarly materials through various lenses: literary, historical-comparative, and rabbinic commentary.

While you may be familiar with the Bible from childhood, this in-depth exposure to other texts and different modes of reading will challenge you — and may well lead you to reassess some long-held views.

The Rabbinic Period — the millennium from the Second Temple to the completion of the Babylonian Talmud (500 BCE to 600 CE) — refers to a time when new Jewish leaders, sages and rabbis emerged and developed rich texts of their own. Some of those texts took the form of extensive commentary about the earlier world of biblical Israel. During this seminal period, rabbinic scholars created a legal system which led to a Jewish belief system that has informed and ordered Jewish community, culture, and behavior for the past millennia.

Your instructor will guide you through enduring questions:

  • What is the relationship between God and human beings?
  • How do we understand Jewish history and Jewish ethics?
  • What is the role of ritual, holy days and life-cycle events?

Readings illustrate the development of the rabbinic mindset and talmudic beliefs. As with the Hebrew Bible sequence, you’ll first cover selected historical, textual, and conceptual areas, then examine core concepts in conjunction with Bible study to illustrate how beliefs and practices evolved over time.

Suggested Readings Before Year One:

Below are a few suggestions (not mandatory!) for reading before Me’ah Classic Year One begins.

Historical Fiction

  • Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, Adina Hoffman, 2016
  • The Aleppo Codex: In Pursuit of One of the World’s Most Coveted, Sacred, and Mysterious Books, Matti Friedman, 2013
  • As a Driven Leaf, Milton Steinberg, 1996 or 2015
  • Rashi’s Daughters, Book I: Joheved: A Novel of Love and the Talmud in Medieval France, Maggie Anton, 2007

Non-Historical Readings

  • Exploring Genesis, Nahum Sarna, 2015
  • Exploring Exodus, The Origins of Biblical Israel, Nahum Sarna, 1996
  • How to Read the Jewish Bible, Marc Brettler, 2007
  • Who Wrote the Bible, Richard Friedman, 1997

If your local independent bookstore does not carry these titles, we invite you to search on smile.amazon.com, and select Hebrew College as your charity. A small portion of the proceeds of your purchase will support our ability to continue to provide this kind of programming, and more!

Year Two Curriculum

Study the Jewish mindset and the contours of medieval Jewish civilizations under Islam and Christianity during the Middle Ages (600 to 1700 CE).

Jewish life during the Middle Ages (about the seventh century through the 17th century), built upon earlier rabbinic foundations, made manifest in form and content what the rabbis of the Talmud had only begun: the construction of a rabbinic Jewish civilization, with distinctive approaches to community life, behavioral norms, and beliefs and values. As a result, Jewish culture and its genres expanded dramatically in several areas: philosophy, mysticism, liturgy and commentaries on the Bible and talmudic texts.

Readings and discussions in this sequence focus on Jewish encounters with non-Jews, including the rise and fall of Jewish life in Spain and Eastern Europe. You will examine the modes of community that Jews constructed in the shifting diaspora, as well as the expansion of Jewish thought in the areas of philosophy, mysticism, liturgy, and biblical and talmudic commentaries.

Beginning with the 17th century Age of Enlightenment, modernity posed a significant challenge to traditional Jewish culture, community, and identity, creating new social and economic opportunities but also threatening traditional Jewish values and society. As in each of the previous eras, modern Jews remained preoccupied with sacred texts, suggesting that however great the impact of rupture and discontinuity, their passion for reading and re-reading classical Jewish texts became the creative wellspring for modern Jewish thought.

You’ll delve into some of these modern primary texts representing differing ideological viewpoints — works of Jewish philosophers such as Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, and Zionist thinkers such as Ahad Ha’am and Micha Josef Berdyczewski — that mirror the issues faced by Jews of that era.

And you’ll wrestle with the subtle points of comparison and contrast between Jewish modernity and the civilization we’ve inherited. Texts will examine the emancipation of European Jewry; the rise of Hasidism; the Jewish cultural revolution of Eastern Europe; and the birth of Modern Zionism.

Suggested Readings Before Year Two:

Below are a few suggestions (not mandatory!) for reading before Me’ah Classic Year Two begins.

Historical Fiction

  • People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks
  • A Guide for the Perplexed, Dara Horn
  • The Coffee Trader, David Liss
  • The Day of Atonement, David Liss
  • The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish

If your local independent bookstore does not carry these titles, we invite you to search on smile.amazon.com, and select Hebrew College as your charity. A small portion of the proceeds of your purchase will support our ability to continue to provide this kind of programming, and more!

We encourage students to take Year One before registering for Year Two. If, however, starting with Year Two would work better for your schedule, please contact Sara Brown, Director, Me’ah Classic & Select, at 617.559.8708 or meah@hebrewcollege.edu.

If you are interested in shorter time commitment or more flexible schedule, check out Me’ah Select [link] (a one-semester in-depth exploration of a specific theme, text, personality or slice of Jewish history) and Me’ah Online [link], both taught by outstanding Me’ah faculty.

Note: We encourage students to take Year One before registering for Year Two. If, however, starting with Year Two would work better for your schedule, please contact Sara Brown, Director, Me’ah Classic & Select, at 617-559-8708 or meah@hebrewcollege.edu.

Want to learn more about Me’ah?

If you need additional information or have questions about registration, please contact Sara Brown, Director, Me’ah Classic & Select, at 617-559-8708 or meah@hebrewcollege.edu.