Fall 2022         

Judaism and American Law

David
Weinstein

This class will briefly introduce the students to what the US Constitution says about freedom of religion and the relationship of church and state.  Then, the students will learn about and have the chance to discuss and debate, actual legal issues that have or will come before the courts of importance to the Jewish community.  These will include:  Can an employer ban an employee from having a beard or wearing a kippah?  Can it force someone to work on Shabbat?  Can a local government display a Christmas Tree, creche, menorah, or all of them during the winter holidays?  Can Yeshiva University ban its students from forming an LGBT club on religious grounds?  Can a public school sports coach pray in front of students after a game?  If a parent writes in her will that her children will lose their inheritance if they marry a non-Jew, will the courts enforce it?

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Give the students a general understanding of what the constitution and courts say about religious freedom and the separation of church and state.  

  • Introduce the students to current legal issues facing the Jewish community.

  • get the students to think through their own views about the proper role of religion in American society, and what position they should take as Jews about such questions.

The 100 Years War: 
The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Arnon Adler

We were all transfixed by the images coming out of Israel in May 2021, when more than 5000 missiles were launched from Gaza by Palestinian militants from Hamas, targeting civilian areas of Israel, and when Israel responded by bombing Hamas targets in Gaza.   This past Summer, there was another such exchange of fire, though more limited in scope and duration.   And, unfortunately,  it will likely happen again.  After such violent exchanges,  as Jews here in Capital Region, many of us were challenged at school, by our friends, and by social media, by accusations blaming Israel, portraying Israel as the aggressor – establishing Israel as a pariah in the eyes of many.   What is clear is that those making such accusations are not at all familiar with the overriding history and fundamentals of this ongoing conflict – a 100 Years War, of which the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is just the latest chapter.    If you would like to get the “straight-up” on the historical background of the conflict, cut through the opinion and emotions which cloud the story of two peoples struggling for control of one land (a Holy Land, at that)  and discuss what’s in store for Israel, the Palestinians and other neighboring Arab countries in the future, this might be the Mifgash class for you!  Be prepared to share and discuss your thoughts and experiences!

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Study, discuss, and analyze the history of the Arab-Israel conflict, establishing the foundations necessary to understand current events in the Middle East, and providing an opportunity not available to our students in their high schools.   

  • Review the facts and falsehoods of the conflict and its popular, widespread misconceptions, to develop an appreciation of the conflict’s complexity and the obstacles to lasting peace.

  • Provide a safe and supportive, Jewish learning environment necessary for our students to develop their own perspectives and to address the questions, challenges, and arguments they will likely encounter in college and beyond.  

Pirkey Avot

Fred
Rheingold

Pirkei Avot, or Chapters of the Fathers, is one of the most beloved parts of rabbinic literature that Jews have enthusiastically studied for almost 2,000 years. Unlike the rest of the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot consists of short sayings that are relevant today, and guide us to an ethical way of acting or thinking. You may be surprised to find how many ethical principles and sayings that you’ve been taught over the years come right from this text. Diving into Pirkei Avot will make us think about the foundations of our lives, how we judge others and ourselves, and how we conduct our lives. These and countless other questions are discussed in seductively short statements, but each statement leads to a whole world of debate that invites us to think about what our goals and values are. 

Hot Topics & Ethical Dilemmas

Emily
Brocks 

Scrolling the news, talking with family and friends, we know that there are topics that feel charged--ones that people feel strongly about, or find it hard to discuss, or that cause tension in our country and our communities. Topics like beauty and body image; smoking, alcohol abuse and over/undereating; an appropriate minimum drinking age; racism, police, and community; abortion; and sexuality are incredibly complex, but most public conversations about them don't allow us to engage with the complexity. Maybe we feel like we have to have a position for or against something, but how do we get to the point of knowing what we believe? In this class, we will look closely at some big issues, considering possible responses. We'll think about where the controversies lie, and identify competing priorities and values. We'll look at what Jewish text tells us about these issues and the values that underlie them. In the process, we'll create a space in which we can articulate our own values and beliefs, and use those to guide our choices.

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

 

  • Engage with Jewish textual sources relevant to topical discussions, and articulate the ways in which texts enhance and/or contradict their understanding of the ethics of hot topics.

 

  • Articulate the emotional, social, familial, and communal aspects of any path of action associated with a hot topic.

 

  • Relate broad topics to relevant personal experience

 

  • Demonstrate active listening, including to those with different opinions.

 

  • Debate possible communal, local, and/or national policy responses to hot topics.

Let's Chat in Hebrew

Rivi
Bahir

Conversation Hebrew:  Keeping up your Hebrew is important, but it can also be fun. This course will provide opportunities for participants to speak contemporary Hebrew, discuss a variety of topics and brush up on grammar/diction skills in a casual and informal framework through a variety of music, media, games, and improvisations. Since Hebrew and Israel go hand in hand, we will also be learning Hebrew through exploring aspects of Israeli culture.  This course will be available for beginners and advanced speakers of the language.

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Students will learn Hebrew vocabulary and phrases.

 

  • Contemporary conversational Hebrew will be practiced.

 

  • Students will gain exposure to Israel through Hebrew music,

     games, and activities.

Biblical Archaeology

Fred
Rheingold

Imagine visiting Israel and right in the middle of the city of Jerusalem, you realize that you're standing on the spot where something you've learned about in the Torah or read about in your bar mitzvah parsha really happened! Through archaeology, one of the most important tools we have to understand the world of the Bible, we will bring life to the sacred texts and explore how certain events happened in the Biblical world. What was life like in the biblical world, what did people eat, what were their houses like, how did they live? We will learn some of the scientific techniques that archaeologists use and try to use a detective’s skills to see what even small pieces of pottery can reveal to us about life three thousand years ago. This course will help bring your understanding of the biblical world and the land of Israel to a whole new level!

What Would Jew Do (and why)?

Emily
Brocks 

The Girls in Trouble Every day, we make hundreds of decisions, big and small. In some cases, the stakes are very low and personal preference can guide us. In other decisions, right and wrong are quite clear, and we don't hesitate to make the right choice. But sometimes we face decisions where there is no single clear "right choice" either because there are multiple acceptable options, or because each option forces us to compromise on some aspect of our morals. In this class, we will explore everyday situations in which people have to choose a path of action when none is ideal. Students will discuss what they would choose to do and why, and we will examine the Jewish guidance offered by our Jewish textual tradition, querying how texts enhance our own understanding of how to approach real-life dilemmas.

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Become adept at identifying multiple courses of action possible in dilemma situations, and clearly articulate their understanding of the moral/ethical concerns associated with each path

 

  • State the path of action they would choose in a hypothetical situation, and explain why they would make that choice

 

  • Identify the concerns addressed by the authors of Jewish texts pertinent to the ethics of a dilemma situation, and explain how the textual treatment of an ethical issue enhances and/or contradicts students' own treatment of the issues at play.

Jewish Art for Every Household

Amy
Rosenstrauch

The Torah puts great emphasis on the importance of welcoming people into our homes, – it’s a mitzvah called Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality to guests). In this class, we will begin by creating a beautiful Shalom sign, in conjunction with the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim, the religious obligation of welcoming guests to our homes, a value learned by Abraham.

We will also create a beautiful Shabbat plate so that we adorn our Shabbat table as we enhance our observance of Shabbat. This, in addition to other Judaica we create, coincides with the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah,  which means taking the time and making an effort to create or acquire the most beautiful ceremonial objects.

Join us in this hands-on art class where you will make, create, and design your own beautiful Judaica to bring home and enrich your religious observances with aesthetic dimensions. 

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Learning about the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming the stranger) by creating a welcome to our home, Jewish-themed piece of art.

 

  • Teaching the importance of Hiddur Mitzvah (creating beautiful religious ceremonial objects) by creating traditional holiday and Shabbat artifacts that will be used in students' homes during holidays and Shabbat.

 

  • Using Hebrew, Torah, and Israel as themes in various art projects to enhance the student's Jewish connection. 

A Culinary Journey Through Israel

Rivi Bahir

Join me for a culinary experience that will include both cooking and tasting of traditional and unqiue Israeli foods. In this class you will "travel" to and experience the rich and wide variety & vibrancy of Israeli cuisine. Together we will learn to prepare a variety of the popular and authentic Israeli dishes and visit the Shuk, (the Israeli marketplace), the heart of Israeli kitchen where local spice blends such as za'atar show up in falafel, hummus, shakshouka, and couscous. Israeli fare is a melting pot of regional dishes. In Israeli cooking, you will find Mizrahi, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi styles. Classic Mediterranean ingredients mingle with foods traditionally included in other Middle Eastern cuisines. Israeli cuisine is all about Israel's people and their journeys. So if you love to cook and want to learn how, if you love to eat and want delicious food every Sunday evening, if you want to learn about Israeli culture, and Hebrew, here’s your chance! Come with me to Rivi's kitchen (at Ohav).

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Through the culinary experience, the students will get familiar with a wide variety of Israeli food and its ethnic origins.

 

  • Students will be exposed to and learn the health benefits of a variety of spices, herbs, and spices blends.

 

  • Students will enhance their knowledge of Jewish holidays and the Hebrew language while learning new recipes.

 

  • Students will gain skills and confidence in the kitchen.

Tikkun Olam - Learning To Give

Amy
Rosenstrauch

Tikkun Olam is a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to repair the world. The phrase is found in the Mishna and is often used when discussing issues of social policy, insuring a safeguard for those who may be at a disadvantage.  The phrase "L'taken Olam B'malchut Shaddai", encapsulated the essence of Jewish values. The term, meaning "when the world shall be perfected under the reign of the Almighty," is found in the liturgical prayer "Aleinu. In modern Jewish circles, Tikkun Olam has become synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice. In this Mifgash class the students will participate in repairing the world by participating in tzedakah (justice and righteousness) and G'milut Hasadim: (acts of loving kindness) and Jewish communal actions to help the needy in our community.

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Recognizing the value as stated in the Torah,  that doing acts of kindness brings us closer to G-d.

 

  • Learning that through various acts of charity, kindness, and political action students can help repair the world.

 

  • Experience the impact of Tikkun Olam through a class project.

Jews And The News

Arnon Adler

Welcome to the Fall  2022 Semester of “Jews and the News” at Mifgash!  Our discussion-based course focuses on the complex issues we face both as Jews and as American high school students in the turmoil and confusion of our fractious political and social culture.  As a class which focuses on current events, their historical context (really the key to understanding the present lies in the past),  and their impact on us, it is often difficult to predict the topics which we will consider this Semester.  Okay – so if I have to anticipate some of the issues we will discuss -  as of this writing in August 2022 - we will focus on current controversial societal trends, such as the impact of the November 2022 midterm elections (one of the most contentious in recent history), the threats posed by both far-right and far-left extremism,  and challenges to cherished individual freedoms in our nation. Talk about the fractious elections, we will also discuss and analyze the implications of the upcoming national elections in Israel; only the fifth in the last three years. And student suggestions are always welcomed!   If you would like to discuss and debate these and other current issues in a friendly, fun, and supportive Jewish environment,  “Jews and the News” is hands down the class for you – no doubt about it!!   

Learning objectives:

Over the course of the trimester, students will:

  • Explore, discuss and analyze current events through a Jewish lens and historical context.

 

  • Develop an understanding, appreciation, and the ability to address diverse opinions within both the Jewish community and our broader society.

 

  • Engage in lively discussion and debate issues in a fun, respectful, and safe Jewish environment, focusing on topics which might not be freely discussed as part of the students’ standard high school experience.