Judaica Courses I've Taught and Continue to Teach to Both Adults and Teenagers.
LAW, VALUES AND MORALITY: These days, it isn’t so easy deciding who is right and who is wrong and what is good and what is evil. Judaism requires that we make such judgments on people and governments. Judging good and bad in others isn’t something most people find easy, yet it must be done if the world is to become a better place. This course explores the process and the laws Judaism offers to help us decide what’s right and what’s wrong. People who believe that an individuals “opinion” is more important than “moral law” might have difficulty in learning that when you take Judaism seriously, tough choices have to be made.
COMPARATIVE RELIGION: Judaism and Christianity Primarily With References To Other World Religions. Because Western Civilization has adopted the ethical principals of Torah (e g. The Ten Commandments etc.) as part of its moral foundation, Jewish values and morality have become universal and that is why, in America at least, our non-Jewish neighbors are so very like us in our feelings, values and behaviors. The differences between us are seen in our religious belief systems which are worlds apart in our view of God, the law, faith, pre-destination, after life, salvation, human suffering and personal freedom. This class explores these differences for the purpose of both understanding our neighbors better, for understanding how religion functions on the world’s stage, and for coming to an understanding of how our “truths” differ from theirs. Our focus will be on Western and non-Western faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: Are They Relevant For The Millennia? The Ten Commandments are the foundation of western morality, yet wherever we turn, people continue to behave badly. Perhaps people do not like being “commanded” or perhaps people just don’t believe that God and religion have anything to do with their behavior. Judaism teaches that God and religion have EVERYTHING to do with behavior and as Jews, we must come to terms with God’s expectations for us. Understanding the Jewish interpretation of the Ten Commandments is a good place to begin.
THE GENESIS SEMINAR: Familiar and Not So Familiar Stories Read and Discussed With A Concern For Their Relevance Today. Patterning itself on the PBS program facilitated by Bill Moyers, this course considers the question: “What do these stories and people have to say to us today and can they give insight and guidance to us in these times?” Adolescent disregard of parental wishes, parental displeasure and response, sibling rivalry, arrogance of power, survival etc. are just some of the basic concepts considered as we read these stories. Archeology is also considered from time to time.
THE HISTORY OF ANTI-SEMITISM: (The Longest Hate in History): Why have the Jewish people been the object of the most enduring and universal hatred in history? What distinctive Jewish values have caused such a reaction, making Jews throughout history and now, the Jewish State, the object of xenophobia? Explore these questions and anti-Semitism as the Jewish people experienced it at the hands of ancient pagans, Christians, Muslims, the Enlightenment, the extreme political left, the extreme political right and the Nazis. What can be done and what is being done will be considered.
WESTERN CIVILIZATION AND THE JEWS: One required high school course in New Jersey is entitled, “Western Civilization.” A Jewish student or any student for that matter, can take this course and conclude that Jews were tangential to this civilization. Yet the Jewish people were there to see the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans and a host of other empires come and go. Do you imagine that we had nothing to say and nothing to contribute in all those centuries? Get real! Jews have something to say about everything and a commitment to change how people think and act! We saw it all and they are gone and we are still here. Ever wonder why? In the past three thousand years, Jews made the most significant contributions imaginable, continue to remain intact as an identifiable people, and continue to influence “Western Civilization” on a daily basis. So what have we given the world that the secular schools do not teach, will not teach or are afraid to teach? Come and find out.
BASIC JUDAISM REVISITED: A survey course that will discuss everything you should know about Judaism before your formal Jewish education ends. This course will explore how Judaism functions in the life of someone who chooses to take it seriously. We will consider some basic theological beliefs held by our people, how Judaism organizes the time we spend on earth, some concepts and values Judaism honors, some laws we hold dear, a few of the Biblical families and stories we tell about them, the array of organizations that hold us together and several reasons why being Jewish is a good thing to be.
G OD STUFF: Everything you ever wanted to discuss about G od if you could find someone willing to listen. Fundamental to the Jewish religion is a belief in G od, yet few students are ever given the opportunity to be involved in any kind of extended formal exploration or discussion about the G od of Judaism. This course will consider G od as revealed in the literature of the Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval and Modern periods. A variety of G od proofs in the philosophic, scientific, and mathematical areas will be discussed along with personal views and experiences.
JEWISH LITERACY: What is the Messianic vision and why are we still waiting for the Messiah to come? How do our philosophical ideas about equality, personal freedom and life and death differ from that of other faiths? What specifically do Jews value and what are the meaning of our rites and symbols? What are our theological beliefs and what laws are the source of Jewish behavior?
A Jew who has the answers to such questions can be viewed as a literate Jew and such a person need not avoid such conversations where he or she might be asked, "What do Jews believe in regarding...?" Literate Jews have no difficulty understanding why we have struggled to preserve our special identity and place in history over the centuries and in the face of overwhelming hostility.
A HISTORY NOT OFTEN TAUGHT: The vision of unifying the Muslim world in a global Islamic empire was posited in 1929 by the Muslim Brotherhood and nurtured by Islamic radicals since then. The Zionist movement and the creation of Israel in 1948 threatened this goal, and Jihadists found support by aligning themselves with the Nazis. Israeli success in the wars that followed and a dominant Jewish presence in what the Arabs perceived as their land, also contradicted Islamic teachings. After WWII, these Islamo-fascists sought support from Russia’s KGB and other Communist dictators in Asia and in Europe. With such guidance and support, the PLO and the myth of a Palestinian people displaced by Israel, was created. This narrative, written in the Kremlin to support the PLO as one of its many proxy army to battle western ideology, was a narrative welcomed by the extreme Left in America and by institutional Jew hatred abroad on both the Left and the Right.