Rabbi Miriam-Simma Walfish
At times, modern death penalty discourse can seem black and white and simplistic. Those who support it cite deterrence and retribution as the primary reasons for this punishment, while those against often cite the possibility of wrongful conviction and the sanctity of human life as reasons against.
What often gets neglected, however, is any discussion of the intricacies of the death penalty process itself. As Beth Berkowitz states in her book Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures (which inspired this course), we will examine rabbinic discussions of the death penalty, “…in order to better understand the nexus between violence and authority in the cultures of ancient Judaism and, ultimately, in our own.”
Together we will explore questions such as "is a 'good death' ever possible?" What is the role of retribution in the criminal justice system then and now? How do the rituals of death empower or remove agency from the various actors involved?
We will pair rabbinic texts with more modern takes on the death penalty and allow both types of sources to draw out aspects in the other we may not have seen otherwise.
Rabbi Ethan Tucker
Not eating food in the same way as everyone else has been one of the central markers of Jewish identity for millennia. But many core questions about this practice of Kashrut remain open. Why do we keep Kosher in the first place? What is in our food and how do we know? What about how the food is prepared? Does it matter who prepared it? Who do we trust to prepare food that we can eat? How do we apply these ancient sources on what we can and can't eat in a modern world with abundant soap, dishwashers, and stainless steel?
These 10-sessions are a whirlwind tour through the theoretical and the practical, the whys, whats, and hows of keeping Kosher in an overwhelmingly non-Kosher world.
Rabbi Yonah Hain
This course will investigate pluralism as a value in Jewish life. We will study various dimensions of pluralism and its limits through both text and case studies, empowering participants to live in communities of diverse multiple Jewish identities.
Together, we’ll ask the questions: How do I live a life of conviction while remaining tolerant of others? How can I emphasize what's right for one may not be right for another without falling into relativism? How do I cultivate a sense that you don't have to be wrong for me to be right? How do I satisfy diverging contingents within my community? What are the limits of pluralism?
We turn to our tradition for answers to the greatest questions of our times: how to handle the messy business of love, sex and relationships.
In this course, we’ll dive into texts across the Jewish canon, from Torah to Mishnah, Talmud to the Legal Codes, exploring questions of “What does it mean to love someone,” “What does a holy, healthy sex life look like,” and “Is there such thing as permitted, sacred sex outside of marriage?”
No topics are off limits for the rabbis! We turn to our Jewish texts as a jumping off point for our own exploration of what it means to be in a relationship.
Is there a right way to question authority? Should I speak out on every issue or choose my battles? What role should shame and humiliation play? When can I leverage power-dynamics, and when should I just keep quiet? In this 10-session course we will explore Jewish stories where our ancestors pushed back on the authority of their government and society, of their own Jewish leadership and even of God.
This course was inspired by the book Why Be Jewish? by Edgar Bronfman.
This course was made in partnership between Project Zug and Samuel Bronfman Foundation. The course was inspired Edgar Bronfman’s book, Why Be Jewish? which can be purchased on Amazon.
Rabbi Avital Hochstein
Visiting the sick is an important Jewish value. We learned this as children, and yet many of us still avoid the actual visit. Illness is complicated for both the one who is sick, and for the visitor. What do we say? How long do we stay? Where do we sit? What is the real purpose of the visit?
"Visiting the Sick" will explore a familiar topic from a uniquely Talmudic perspective and delve into the dynamic between visitor and visited.
This course is designed for someone with some previous Talmud study experience, and also for those interested in exploring this important topic.
Parenting young children, while often a blessing, can sometimes be an isolating experience. Now and then, we all need to talk to another grown-up. This course was created in partnership between Project Zug and Kveller to offer parents a way to meet and connect (digitally, or in person) through exploring what it means to be a Jewish parent.
This 4-session course uses text-study as a mode to explore the multiple demands and values that are constantly tugging at Jewish parents. What from your own parent(s) are you trying to pass on to your kids? When should you prioritize yourself over your kids? What does it meant to raise a child as Jewish?
The course was created by Rabbi Avi Killip, Kveller reader, mom to two young children, and Director of Project Zug at Mechon Hadar.
The Jewish people have long been called the People of the Book, a fitting name given our deep love for the Jewish textual tradition. For hundreds of years, we've pored over the same sacred texts in an attempt to unlock their wisdom, understand their relevance, and take part in a dialogue and debate that spans generations. Yet, it can be difficult to enter into this conversation without having a good sense of what these foundational books are, how they work, and how to best bring them into our own libraries and lives.
In this course, we'll take a close look at the essential core texts that make up the Jewish Bookshelf beginning with the Torah. In the course of our study, we will learn not only what these texts are and how they work but we'll use them as an entryway into conversations about creation in the Torah, self-defense in rabbinic texts, and revelation through the eyes of modern thinkers.
How do we define prosperity? What material and non-material goods are needed for a meaningful, fulfilling life? This course will explore a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources that engage the question of our relationship to money, happiness, and the good life.
This course was created in collaboration with Limmud, based on material collected by Limmud Galil for Limmud's Chavruta Project.
Dr. Gila Vachman
Since the dawn of human history, different cultures have drawn a connection between femininity and nature, fertility, earth, water and rain. Notable examples are Tiamit (Chaos) of Mesopotamian mythology, the god of salt water and the female foundation in the Babylonian story of creation, or Thetis, the water goddess in Greek mythology.
Many expressions and images that stemmed from this cultural affiliation are embedded in both modern-day English and Hebrew (mother-earth, virgin ground, mother-nature, and others). What is the nature and what are the significances, both in ancient times and today, of this connection? Do these images contribute toward proper relations between the sexes or damage them? How do images of femininity assist us in understanding our Jewish ancestors' perceptions regarding women, and are they relevant today in Israel or the Diaspora?
The course will deal with a selection of stories and maxims from the Talmud and Midrash that deal with the existence or lack of rain, with the cycle of water in nature, and with the Israeli climate, while making use of feminine and masculine images. We will engage in a discussion of the relationships between God and God's people, between men and women, and between Jews from different geographic locations.
This is a great course for people who are new to Talmud study.