2019-2020 Midrasha Electives

The 10 Hardest Jewish Questions
Taught by Rabbi Yosi Gordon. (Mondays, 8:00-9:00 pm, Year-long)

We study Hebrew and Torah and Jewish history and holidays. We learn the what, the when, the where and the who of our tradition. But what about the why? The ‘what does it mean’? The ‘what does it mean to me?’ For 3000+ years till today, the greatest Jewish minds have offered ideas for our consideration: to accept, revise or reject. In this course we will consider the 10 hardest questions ever posed to Jewish thinking and living. We may even find an answer or two.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Three Good Religions
Taught by Rabbi Yosi Gordon. (Wednesdays, 7:00-8:30 pm, Year-long)

If you are looking for a course to tell you that Judaism is the right religion and Christianity and Islam are wrong religions, this in not it! We will look with understanding and respect at our two sister religions and see how they align with and differ from Judaism. We will read their holy books and understand how they began and developed into what they are today. We will see how their faiths enrich and challenge us as Jews.

Family, Money, and Loose Talk
Taught by Earl Schwartz and Nina Samuels. (Mondays, 8:00-9:00 pm, Nov. 11 – Dec. 16)

In this course we reflect on moral conflict in three areas of everyday life: duties related to being a member of a family, the relationship between a person’s relative wealth and one’s place in the Jewish community, and communication-related responsibilities. Moral dilemmas related to each of these areas are explored in light of pertinent Jewish sources and the experience of invited guests.

Ten Jewish Heretics
Taught by Earl Schwartz. (Wednesdays, 7:00-8:30 PM, Sept. 4 – Oct. 23)

This course centers on the actions and words of ten Jews identified by many of their contemporaries as having gone beyond the boundaries of a proper Jewish worldview. Examples range from ancient times to current figures. In exploring these attitudes and the lives of the people who expressed them, we will ask ourselves: Are there, in fact, limits to what Jewish life can, and cannot be? How do we know them, and what ought to be the consequences of going beyond them?

The Zionist Revolution and Its Visionary Leaders
Taught by Dr. Arie Zmora. (Mondays, 8:00-9:00 pm, Year-long)

For close to two millennia, Jews did not actively pursue the founding of a Jewish State in the ancestral biblical homeland. Since they were expelled from the Holy Land, Jews were largely apolitical, believing that only the Messiah will deliver them from oppression and lead them to freedom and independence in The Promised Land. What happened in the 19th century that caused them to become politically active and embrace Zionism as the solution to the misery of life in the diaspora? How did the French Revolution, the Enlightenment and Nationalism affect the collective behavior of Jews and rekindle the Jewish National movement? How and why was Zionism founded in the most backward countries of Europe and Tsarist Russia? How did Theodore Herzl create political Zionism and ignite the desire to regain political independence? What important roles were played by Orthodox rabbis like Zvi Kalisher, communist leader Moshe Hess, literary giant Leo Tolstoy, and A.D. Gordon? How was the Hebrew language revived to be a living language, not exclusively a language of religious liturgy? We will pursue these exciting topics and show their relevance to today’s discourse on Zionism and your lives.

Violence and Jewish Law
Taught by Rabbi Yosi Gordon. (Thursdays, 6:00-7:00 pm, Sept. 5 – Dec. 19)

Violence is all around us: on the streets, in our schools, in acts of terrorism, in wars around the world and sometimes even in our homes. It fills the media. How can society deal with violence without becoming itself a cause of more violence? In our course we will become the judges in an imaginary murder case. We will know the victim, know the perp, but ask, “Is it really murder?” To answer the question, we will consult a 1900-year-old book.

Violence and Jewish Thought
Taught by Rabbi Yosi Gordon. (Thursdays, 6:00-7:00 PM, Jan. 9 – May 21)

Although this is the companion course to Violence and Jewish Law, it can be taken separately. Using ancient Jewish sources, we will ask why violence is ubiquitous throughout human time and space; what are the causes of anti-Semitism; and where is God in a world on fire. Our goal is to spark ideas, not to provide pat answers.