Teen Beit Midrash

TeenBeitMidrash_logoTeens who love to learn come together to explore the big questions and issues of today through Talmud. 

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>> Read “The Talmud of Tough Decisions”

 

teen beit midrash students
  • time 8th-12th grade
  • location Online
  • duration Tuesdays, 7:00-8:30pm, throughout the school year with rolling admission.
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Tal Pemstein, Newton

“Every week, I have that feeling of ‘Wow! This is a place where I can think!’ It’s a place where you get to think for yourself and really be yourself. For example, when translating, one word could mean many different things, but it’s up to each havruta to figure out which translation makes the most sense, resulting in slight differences in translation between havrutot. There’s so much freedom to understand things your own way. I think that’s really what makes me come back to TBM every year.”

Hebrew College Teen Beit Midrash (TBM) is an intimate and challenging program for teens in 8th-12th grades of all denominations who are looking for a pluralistic and inclusive place to explore their identity as a Jews and deepen their knowledge.

Founded by Hebrew College alumna Rabbi Shahar Colt `16, the program bring together a dedicated and diverse group of Jewish teens who are excited to delve into traditional Talmudic text and find contemporary meaning relevant to our lives. We open the library  of our Jewish heritage to help teens understand our multi-voiced, nuanced tradition and gain the skills to reach their own conclusions. Talmud study enables us to hone our reasoning and persuasive argument skills that are applicable to all aspects of our lives. Together, we study, share dinner together, build community and learn and have fun.

Teen Beit Midrash parent

“Our family hit the jackpot when we found TBM. It is a welcoming community with high-quality Jewish learning at the center. My teens went every week without complaining (really!). TBM is just the right combination of educational and social — with all kids, even the most quirky, welcomed. To this day, my children count graduates of TBM among their closest friends.”

Questions about Teen Beit Midrash

A Beit Midrash or Study House is a unique and traditional Jewish way of learning. In a beit midrash, traditionally,  students learn in pairs or small groups grappling directly with texts. This intimate form of study lets the students be in charge of their learning and build relationships built on trust and openness.

Students are supported by dedicated teachers who take teens seriously. They encourage and guide the teens in making meaning of both the texts and the big ideas and questions and how they relate to their lives. In our one room classroom, students learn to use dictionaries, grammar and translations.

Each year we choose a different Massechet (section or tractate) of the Talmud and follow it in its rich combination of Jewish law, morals, history, stories, and theology.

Each week we meet on one night a week for dinner and community building. We then delve into the sugiya or section for the night. Some students begin the translation process with hints and tools to access. Other students have more English support. We break part way through for a snack and then dive deep into discussions about the texts and the bigger questions raised in the sugiyah.  We end the evening with how these ideas relate to our lives and our society.

We meet on Tuesday evenings, 7-8:30 pm, over Zoom.

A Beit Midrash or Study House is a unique and traditionally Jewish way of learning. In a beit midrash  students learn in pairs or small groups grappling directly with texts and each others ideas and interpretations. This intimate form of study lets the students be in charge of their learning and build relationships with each other and with the text based on trust and openness.

Students are supported by dedicated teachers who take teens seriously. They encourage and guide the teens in making meaning of both the texts and the big ideas and questions and how they relate to their lives. In our one room classroom, students learn to use dictionaries, grammar and translations.

Each year we choose a different Massechet (section or tractate) of the Talmud and follow it in its rich combination of Jewish law, morals, history, stories, and theology.

Each week we meet for dinner and community building. We then delve into the sugiya or section for the night. Some students begin the translation process with hints and tools to access. Other students have more English support. We break part way through for a snack and then dive deep into discussions about the texts and the bigger questions raised in the sugiya.  We end the evening with how these ideas relate to our lives and our society.

Teen Beit Midrash is open to curious 8th-12th graders who want to spend their free time in an intellectually stimulating Jewish environment where they can try out big ideas and be actively engaged in their learning.  We currently have students from Cambridge, Sommerville, Brookline and Newton. Some teens go to public school and some to private school. Students enter with a wide range of language and text skills and varying levels of knowledge of Jewish content. In general, we ask that teens be able to sound out the Hebrew alphabet before they join the program. But most important, teens who are looking for an intimate and challenging, pluralistic and inclusive, Jewish teen experience.

Want a taste of what learning Talmud is like? Here’s an example of a text that we will learn this year from the Babylonian Talmud. It is from the section called Sukkah, on page 28b. This section is talking about the holiday of Sukkot – the fall harvest festival.

Step 1: First we look at the Hebrew or Aramaic.

כל שבעת הימים
אדם עושה
סוכתו קבע
וביתו עראי

Step 2: Then we start to translate. Different teens do it in different ways but everyone works with a hevrutah or learning buddy. Some people translate the Hebrew or Aramaic text using dictionaries and hints. Others start with the literal or rough translation which helps you figure out why the words mean what they do and how they’re structured (sometimes we call it the Yoda translation, you’ll see why).

Talmud Text

כל שבעת הימים
אדם עושה
סוכתו קבע
וביתו עראי

Rough translation

All seven+of the (ת) the day (plural)
Person does
Sukkah+his (תו) permanent
And house+his (תו) temporary

Step 3:

Talmud Text

כל שבעת הימים
אדם עושה
סוכתו קבע
וביתו עראי

Polished (or real English) translation

All seven days of the holiday of Sukkot (see you have to add some words so that it makes sense)
A person makes
His Sukkah his permanent residence
And his house his temporary residence

Rough translation

All seven+of the (ת) the day (plural)
Person does
Sukkah+his permanent
And house+his temporary

Step 4: Now here comes the really fun part: The Wondering About!

This is when we take this really old text (1500 years, give or take a few centuries) and try to figure out what it really means beyond its face value and what it can teach us for our lives today. We suggest a few questions to start with, but really it is the teens who do the deep dive thinking and wondering: Teen Beit Midrash is a place for you to be in control of your learning.

Questions

  1. When do our houses feel permanent or temporary? What makes them feel that way?
  2. What does it mean to have a holiday/experience that takes us out of our comfort zone on purpose?
  3. How does it affect us to make nature our permanent home? What does it say about how we think about our planet as our home?

Teen Beit Midrash is not only about learning Talmud. We also care about building a Jewish community. When we meet in person, we share dinner together each week. While meeting online we will still make time to connect socially and learn about each other’s lives. We share important milestones and celebrate small events as well.

Each semester we have a Shabbaton. We spend Shabbat together in a community. We pray, eat, learn and play games together. We accommodate a variety of Shabbat observance. We will not have this Fall, but hope to in the Spring.

Gratitude

Teen Beit Midrash was founded by Hebrew College alumna Rabbi Shahar Colt as a small but mighty Jewish startup. We are grateful to the following amazing groups and individuals:

  • Our founder and board chair Rabbi Shahar Colt `16

  • Harvard Hillel and Kehillat Israel for generously providing space

  • All of the teens and families that have brought their T to TBM

We are thrilled that Teen Beit Midrash will be joining Hebrew College’s teen learning options. We share a commitment to serious, relevant, inclusive, and fun Jewish learning.

Rabbi Laura Bellows, Director of Hebrew College Teen Learning
Teen Beit Midrash Alum

“I came back to TBM every week because the three values it radiates. TBM values belonging to an engaged Jewish community of like-minded people: Through community dinners and outside events like Shabbatons, we bond and strengthen the connection of the community. The TBM classroom is not one you will commonly find; teachers encourage everyone to want to learn, because they cater to the students’ different learning levels and styles. TBM promotes learning that directly relates to our lives, making the material easier to internalize.”

Contact Us

Claudia Marbach
Director, Hebrew College Teen Beit Midrash
cmarbach@hebrewcollege.edu