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Fall 2012 Courses

Art of the Word

Join with other students with an interest in creating art. We will use a piece of Jewish text which has great meaning, discuss it, interpret it, and turn it into a visual wonder. There is a $30.00 materials fee for this course.

Advanced Hebrew

The students will use contemporary songs and games to help practice both reading and speaking out loud. The focus of this course is on making Hebrew accessible and to share the joy of modern Israeli Hebrew.

Dialogue with Israel

What is my relationship with the state of Israel? Where do I find information to help me define that relationship? How does that information inform my core understandings of what it means to be a Jew? In this course, students will have the opportunity to explore and define their own beliefs regarding their connection to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, Medinat Yisrael, the state of Israel, and K’lal Yisrael, the community of Israel. They will acquire skills and tools that will help them to incorporate new information and understandings over the course of time while remaining true to their beliefs. Through debate and discussion with peers and community leaders, students will cultivate community and build connections to the greater community of Israel.

Ethics of Intimacy: Exploring a Philosophy of Love

How do we relate to ourselves, to others, and does God play a role? In reading “I and Thou” by Martin Buber together we will explore a 20th century thinkers’ views on a philosophy of love. For Martin Buber, it is our relationships, to ourselves, others, and potentially with God that define who we are and how we create meaning in our lives. What does it mean to love? What does it mean to hate? How do we exist as human beings in our relationships? What does it mean to lovingly exist as an “I”? What does it mean to exist as a “we”? Is it ethical to relate to someone else in a manner that is entirely selfish? Through the shared text and our own thoughts, feelings, and stories we will begin searching for some of the answers to questions that define who we are and who we will be.

Jews in the News

This discussion-based class will involve a review of current events and issues affecting Israel, Jews around the world and here at home. We’ll talk politics, entertainment, sports, culture and religious issues, war, peace, academic experiences… really anything the befuddled instructor or the students who so optimistically enrolled in the class can think of. When necessary, we’ll explore the historical context of current situations to help understand how we got to where we are today.

The Secret Life of the American (Jewish) Teenager

This is a creative writing course in which using our own lives as a jumping off point, we will explore how Judaism affects each one of us. As we all have a story to tell, the emphasis in this class will be on semi-autobiographical writing, with a creative license to embellish. The semester will be divided into 2 sections – the first will focus on a different theme each week. We will write about these themes and share our pieces in class. In the second unit, students will each choose their favorite themed piece and we will spend the remainder of the sessions expanding upon and polishing up each piece to either be performed in class, or recorded on a compilation DVD. Sample themes will include: Celebrations, Relationships, Jewish Food, Holidays, Milestones, Prayer/Praying, God, and Education.

Tikkun Olam

Usually translated as “repairing the world,” Tikkun Olam is a concept that we use to focus our attention on doing good deeds and community service. Students will practice Tikkun Olam, weaving it into an integral part of our educational experience. By participating in weekly programs and and activities, students will not only be learning but living this Jewish principle. Part of our experience will also be the exploration of the concept of Tikkun Olam and different areas that fall under this large category and implementing our ideas into making Albany a better place.

Who Wrote the Bible?

This course looks at the text of the Torah itself, the Talmud, and other Jewish commentaries as well as contemporary thinkers and scholarship to answer the very big question: Who Wrote the Bible? The course provides an understanding of the diverse beliefs that Jews hold about God’s role in the writing of the Torah as well as the opportunity for students to begin to formulate a clearer sense of what they believe.

Judaism Through a Lens

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this class, we will put that phrase into action. Each week will focus on a different Jewish theme, prayer, phrase or word such as Kadosh (Holy), Shalom (peace), Tikkum Olam, etc… and using our cameras, we will try to capture and express pictorially the imagery that is evoked in each of us. Requirements for class: Digital camera, usb flash drive. Laptop is preferred, but not required. All items must be brought to every class. There is a $30.00 materials fee for this class.

Sex in the Text

The Bible and our other sacred books are actually filled with stories of love, relationships, lust and even sex. Using these stories as a basis, this class will examine human relationships and what we can learn from our tradition to ensure that our relationships are healthy and functional. Based upon Rabbi Paul Yedwab’s book, Sex in the Texts.

This I Believe: What Does it Mean to be a Jew?

This course asks more questions than it will answer – but we often learn more from asking the right questions than finding the ‘right’ answers. Is being Jewish important to your identity? Is Judaism a civilization? A culture? A religion? A set of ethical values? A race? An ethnicity? Is it a revelatory religion (think Torah and Sinai)? Is believing in God important as a part of identifying as a Jew? What does it mean (and what has it meant) for Jews to exist Jewishly who have not believed in God? If Judaism is a religion, does it matter what form that religious Jew takes – Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox? Should our politics be informed by our Judaism? Our life partners? Who we marry? Is being a Zionist an integral part of identifying as a Jew? Is loving Israel? Are questions of social justice Jewish questions? This class will attempt to begin thinking about and answering these questions by sharing our different experiences and stories and when appropriate looking to other thinkers, texts, poems, art, or anything else that we want to use to help us find meaningful answers to these difficult questions.

Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict

A frank review and discussion of the history – after all, we need to know where we’ve been in order to know where we’re going – paralleled with the current situation and the seemingly polar opposite perspectives of Arabs and Jews in the struggle for the Land of Israel. We will attempt to consider and understand arguments from the opposing sides in the conflict.

What would Jew do?

Leah Wolff-Pellingra A teenage friend is texting while driving, an overweight classmate is being harassed..... Making decisions on ethical issues is often a challenge. What would a hidden camera reveal about your reactions to some of the tough ethical decisions facing teens today?

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