teacher and student

Fall 2017 Me'ah Select Classes

Beverly | Boston | CambridgeLexington  | Marblehead| Needham | Newton | South Shore-Sharon |Sudbury

Please register for a Me'ah Select class using a non-mobile device.  Please contact our office regarding financial aid, generous aid is available. Thank you!

Beverly, Temple B'nai Abraham

Fateful Encounter: Relations between Jews and Muslims in the Medieval, and the modern, Islamic World

Jacob Meskin, PhD
Meets Wednesdays, 7:00 pm-9:30 pm 
Fall 2017 class begins October 18
Cost for 10 sessions: $250 member (B'nai Abraham, Temple Ner Tamind, Temple Tiferet Shalom), $350 non-member  

This course focuses on how Jews and Muslims have thought about each other and lived together, both in medieval and in modern times.  Along the way the course also offers an introduction to Islamic texts, covers a variety of Islamic views of Jews and Judaism, analyzes stories of Muslims and Jews interacting in different times and places, looks at the lives of Jewish women under Islam, and explores the modern period in some detail.  In the modern period we examine the roots of the distinctively nineteenth and twentieth century phenomenon of "radical Islamism" and its unfortunate perspective on Jews.  We also study Jewish-Muslim relations in the context of the Zionist settlement of the land of Israel/Palestine.  

The course will answer questions like these: What was it like to be a Jew living under Islam in the medieval period?  How did this vary in different eras and in different locations?  How was this experience different for Jewish men and for Jewish women?  How did the history of Islam, its theologies, its religious laws, and its social and political institutions shape the overall context within which Jews found themselves?  What are some of the enduring consequences and questions that Jews and Muslims today have inherited from this fateful period of coexistence?


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Boston, Temple Israel of Boston

An Inquiry into Jewish-American Film

Aaron Tillman, PhD
Meets Tuesday nights, 7-9:30 pm
Fall 2017 Class begins October 17
Cost for 10 sessions $300 temple members, $400 community members

In this course, we will view and discuss films by and about Jewish Americans, focusing primarily on the 20th and 21st centuries. Along with immigrant and cultural concerns, topics may include aspects of assimilation, tradition, community, humor, religion, identity, alienation, discrimination, voice, visibility, and violence. We will consider an assortment of questions: How do these films attempt to convey what it means to be Jewish in America? How do these films depict the changes that Jews have experienced over time? How are Jewish American movies in conversation with each other and with cinema more broadly? The films will span genres, from comedy to drama, and may include works from such filmmakers and writers as Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Steven Spielberg, Sidney Lumet, Barbara Streisand, Sarah Silverman, the Coen Brothers, Paul Mazursky, David Mamet, Billy Wilder, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Gene Saks, David Grubin, and Ivan Reitman.

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Cambridge, Eitz Chayim

Jews and Christians in the First 400 Years

Micha'el Rosenberg, PhD
Meets Mondays 7-9:15 pm
Fall 2017 class begins October 16
Cost for 10 sessions: $360

People often think of Christianity as a “daughter” religion of Judaism, breaking away from the earlier, more ancient religion in the first century CE to become its own, distinct religious identity. But is that a proper reading? Is it more accurate to see both Judaism and Christianity as denominations that arose contemporaneously in the first few hundred years of the common era? Through the study of ancient texts, we will gain a more nuanced understanding of the early beliefs and practices of Jews, Christians and Jewish Christians. We will also explore how these groups eventually gave rise to two distinct religions and what this early history teaches us about contemporary intra-Jewish debates, radical theologies, and Jewish-Christian relations.

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  Cambridge, Co-Sponsored by Harvard Worship and Study and Harvard Hillel

The Passover Seder: A Case Study of the Rabbinic Mind

Dr. Jay Berkovitz
Meets Sundays 3-5:30 pm at Harvard University Hillel
Fall 2017 class begins October 15
See preliminary class schedule here
Cost for 10 sessions: $375

The Passover Seder is the most beloved of all Jewish rituals.  Yet the Haggadah— the time-honored text that guides us through the evening— can seem confusing and distancing. In order to gain a more meaningful understanding of the Haggadah, we will study its rabbinic sources, with particularly close attention to the most ancient version of the Haggadah,  found in the Mishnah and in its companion work, the Tosefta. We will also study  enhancements of the Mishnah narrative developed  in  the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, as well as a Haggadah from the Cairo Geniza.  As we discover how the Passover Seder developed and changed over time, we will also ponder what this process can tell us about keeping the Passover Seder vital today.

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Lexington, Class meets at Temple Emunah, co-sponsored by the Lexington Collaborative

Crucial Moments in Israeli History Through the Lens of Short Stories

Jacob Meskin, PhD
Meets Thursdays 9:30 am-12 pm 
Fall 2017 class begins October 19, 2017
Cost for 10 sessions: $350

This course aims to introduce students to certain critical moments in the history of the modern state of Israel through short stories. The stories we will read together range from the earliest days of the pioneers to the twenty-first century. Written by men and women, Ashkenazim and Sefardim/Mizrachim, Jews and Arabs, secularists and traditionalists, these stories open up for us uniquely visceral and imaginative windows on many of the compelling events that have shaped the history of Israel. Although our focus each week will be on the stories, excerpts from various academic and secondary sources will also be supplied, in order to provide historical background for the setting of each story. Depending on logistical considerations we may also screen one or two Israeli films, which tie in to some of the stories. The idea for this course arose from the instructor's observation that busy adult students often find well-written short stories more useful in crystalizing the central conflicts, prevailing dynamics, and crucial issues in Israeli history than academic writings.

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Marblehead, JCC North Shore

Thanks for your interest!  We will not be offering a fall class, but will be offering a class in the Spring of 2018.

Needham, Temple Beth Shalom

The History of Antisemitism

Jacob Meskin, PhD
Class meets Mondays 7:30-9:30 pm
Fall 2017 class starts October 16
Cost for 12 sessions: $300 temple members, $350 community members

This course begins by introducing students to the medieval roots of antiJudaism in both the Christian and the Islamic traditions, and proceeds to show how various processes in the nineteenth century helped to transform those medieval roots into the distinctively modern phenomena of political and racial antisemitism.  Although this transformation looks different in the Christian West and the Muslim East, in both contexts similar factors drive the process: nationalism, the concept of race, modern economics, colonialism, and the battle for political power. Interestingly, as recent scholarship has shown, in both contexts non-Jewish intellecuals often severely attacked the idea of Judaism -- quite apart from actual, flesh and blood Jews -- and this ended up shaping popular culture in powerful ways, changing how common people looked at real Jewish men and women. The course also analyses factors in the contemporary scene that have created a climate of Islamic antisemitism in the Middle East and, to a lesser but still significant degree, a climate of far-right antisemitism in America.  We will analyze how older forms of antiJudaism and antisemitism have come to play a variety of roles in both these forms of antisemitism today, including the famous forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion".  We will also study the specific historical details that led to the rise of what scholars call "radical Islamism" in the modern Islamic world, and its unfortunate contribution to the hatred of Jews.

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Newton, Hebrew College

Antisemitism: Origins to Today

David Bernat, PhD
Meets Wednesdays 9:45 am-12:15 pm 
Fall 2017 class begins October 18
Cost for 10 sessions: $350

The course will take a close look at the phenomenon of antisemitism, the systemic and pervasive hostility to Jews.  We will study antisemitism’s origins in the Roman Period and early Christianity and its development through the ages, focusing on pivotal moments and events. These will included the devastating First Crusades in the Rhineland, the Blood Libels, the Spanish Inquisition, Pogroms of Eastern Europe, the Dreyfus Affair, and the lynching of Leo Frank. We will also spend one session concentrating on Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. The course will also analyze factors that have created a climate of antisemitism in Muslim majority countries.  Finally we will consider the extent to which this history can provide some perspective on the recent and  profoundly disturbing uptick in antisemitism globally and at home.

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Newton, Hebrew College

The Relationship Between Judaism and Islam

David Ariel PhD
Meets Thursdays 9:45 am-12:15 pm 
Fall 2017 class begins October 19
Cost for 10 sessions: $350

This course will explore the intertwined destinies of Judaism and Islam including the myth of the Jews and Arabs as cousins, the Jewish background to the Islamic religion, and the Muslim-Jewish symbiosis during the medieval period. Topics will include the influence of Jewish teachings on Muhammad (570-632), the founder of Islam; the relationship between the five pillars of Islam and Judaism; the Qur’an’s attitudes to Jews and Judaism; the status of Jews as dhimmi (“protected minority”) under Islam; the role of the Jews in Islamic societies; the Golden Age of Jewish life in Muslim Spain; the Arabic writings of Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides; the influences of Islam upon Judaism; and the status of Jews living under Islam before the founding of the State of Israel.

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We are close to capacity for this class!  Please register soon, as registration will be closing in the coming days.

Newton, Temple Emanuel

The History of Zionism and Israel

David Ariel, PhD

Meets Wednesdays, 9:30-12:00 pm
Fall 2017 class starts October 11
Cost for 10 sessions $275
The course covers the history of Zionism and Israel from the emergence of modern Zionism in 1881 through the collapse of the peace process. The topics include the biblical vision and connection to the Land of Israel, the competing visions of the founders of Zionism, the period of the British Mandate, the conflicting promises made to the Jews and Arabs, the stages of Jewish immigration, the creation of the State of Israel, the War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the role of the United Nations, the Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), and the Arab-Israeli peace process and recent proposals.

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As of September 25, this class is very close to capacity.  Please register ASAP, as we expect to close the class this week.

Newton, Temple Emanuel

The Passover Seder: History, Ritual, and the Shaping of Jewish Collective Memory
Fall Class: The Exodus in Historical Perspective

Rabbi Jay Berkovitz, PhD
Meets Monday nights, 7:45-9:45 pm
Fall 2017 class start date September 25
Cost for 10 sessions $275

The Exodus in Historical Perspective

This course directs its attention to the historical background of the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt until the liberation from slavery. Readings will draw from Biblical sources (Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa); rabbinic literature, Midrash; and literature surrounding challenges to the historicity of the enslavement and exodus narratives. Topics will include the entanglement with Egyptian culture, Israelite leadership, the pivotal role of women, the impact of persecution, and the biblical memory of the Exodus.

As of 9/19, this class is very close to capacity.  Please contact our office to discuss registration.

South Shore-Sharon, Temple Israel

Jews and Christians in the first 100 years

Michael Satlow, PhD
Meets Monday nights, 7:30 pm-9:30 pm
Fall 2017 class start date October 16
Cost for 11 sessions $350

Jesus was born and died a Jew, as did (perhaps arguably) Paul.  And yet, within a century after Paul's death clear boundaries began to form between Judaism and Christianity.  This course will look at the emergence of Christianity from its Jewish context and the ways in which Jews and Christians created their own distinctive identities in dialogue with each other.  We will look at questions such as: How did Christians treat Jewish law - that is, did you have to be a good Jew to be a good Christian?  What did it mean to be a "Christian" in the first century CE?  How did Jews talk about Christians as it was emerging?  What role did Roman imperial power play in the development of both Judaism and Christianity (hint: a lot!)?  We will also spend some time discussing recent developments in Jewish-Christian relations against this ancient background.

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Sudbury, Temple B'nai Torah

Ancient Stories and Insights for our Complex World

Rabbi Natan Margalit, PhD
Meets Thursday nights, 7:30 pm-9:30 pm
Fall 2017 class begins October 19 (new start date)
Cost for 10 sessions $350

What contribution do our ancient stories and wisdom make to our understanding of contemporary issues ranging from economic inequality and addiction to climate change and healthcare? Through study of lesser known passages in the Hebrew Bible as well as Midrash, Talmud and Jewish mysticism, we’ll challenge ourselves to look with fresh eyes at our relationship to one another, to nature and to our spiritual tradition. We will look at the creation stories, the prophets’ calls for justice, rabbinic discussions and mystical insights.

The class will also focus on some  of the most entertaining and enlightening of the Talmudic stories. Not only will we enjoy the great storytelling of the Talmud, but we’ll take a deeper look and ask what these stories can tell us about the beliefs, values and personalities of the Sages (and their wives, children, friends and enemies). These people created the Judaism that we inherited, so their stories are our stories. Going deeper, we’ll also delve into the commentaries of some top scholars who help us find hidden meanings we probably wouldn’t have found on our own.  But, once we start digging in ourselves, most likely we’ll come up with interpretations that they never thought of!


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