Spring 2014 Courses

First Period Classes

Course Title
Course Description

8th Grade Core Course: Welcome to the World of the Rabbis

Rabbi Ariel Goldberg

How do Jews make decisions?  How does rabbinic literature (Talmud, Mishnah, Halakhah) help me make decisions?  Why does any of this matter in the 2000s?  These are among the questions to be answered in this survey of the times and lives of the Rabbis.  Students will take a survey of the variety of rabbinic texts and look to how Jewish communities made decisions and how individual Jews can use these same processes to make decisions today.

9th Grade Core Course:

How Not to Be a Jerk

Rabbi Molly Karp

What is a good person?  Is there a different definition between a good Jew and a good non-Jew?  How has this vision of good-ness changed over time?  How does Hassidism change this conversation?  How do Jewish ethical concepts play into this concept of goodness?  Students will examine a variety of ethical texts from the Bible, the medieval period, and modern times, and will look at how the views expressed have changed and stayed the same, seeking to create a Jewish ethics.

The Stories of S. Y. Agnon: Hebrew's Most "Nobel" Writer

Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky

Agnon was a great master of modern and ancient writing, composing modern works of art, quarried from the ancient stones of Jewish literature.  Join me to read stories (all in English translations) about the possibilities of modern life, both in Europe and in Israel.  Agnon's stories will help you reflect on faith, tradition, Zionism, truth, lies, and love.  He's such a great writer!


Holy Madness - Rabbi Nachman's Radical Torah

Josh Schwartz

There has perhaps been no Jewish thinker more insightful, sensitive, outrageous, and challenging than Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav.  Born a scion of the line of the Baal Shem Tov himself, Rebbe Nachman still managed to carve out space for himself as a thinker in his own right.  Rebbe Nachman's Troah is struck through with an obsession with boundaries, separation, depression, ecstatic joy, all the powerful extremes of human life.  In this class, we will learn Rebbe Nachman's radical Torah on singing, dancing, screaming, silence, and truth.  Prepare to have your life changed!

Great Debates

Daniel Kirzane

The greatest advances in society come about through debate.  Judaism is based on the process of heartfelt dispute, and Jewish sources speak to the most profound tensions in our lives.  In this course, students will study great debates through Jewish eyes, including both classical and contemporary issues.  We will debate topics such as when life begins, the relationship between Diaspora and Israeli Jews, and how to understand intermarriage.  Come ready to share your opinions and also to learn new perspectives on ancient issues.

 

Second Period Classes

Course Titles
Course Descriptions

10th & 11th Grade Core Course: Israel: From the Bible to Today

Josh Schwartz

How can we best understand Israel today?  What do we know of Israel from the Biblical text?  How has Israel changed over the course of the Bible and through modern times?  What are the goals of a Jewish state?  How do the various Zionist philosophers state those goals?  Do they generally agree or disagree?  Does Israel meet those goals?  Students will examine Israel from the perspective of the Bible, and will then look to the modern state through the lenses of Zionist thought and of modern social issues in Israel to see how her past helps us to understand Israel's present and future.

12th Grade Core Course: Senior Seminar

Visiting Faculty

This is your chance to hear from some of the best and brightest Jewish minds in the New York area who aren't already on the Prozdor faculty!  We invite rabbis, educators, and university professors to teach on interesting topics that aren't part of the Prozdor curriculum.  You will learn about Israel advocacy, Judaism and science, Jewish demography, and much, much more!

Devils and Demons, Love and Laughter: Yiddish Theater

Jessica Kirzane

Do you like going to Broadway plays?  Well, step back in time to immerse yourself in the world of Yiddish theater that thrived, not on Broadway, but in Eastern European capitals and on the Lower East Side of New York.  We will read God, Man, and Devil, by Jacob Gordin to see what happens when a Jewish man makes a pact with the devil; The Dybbuk, by S. Ansky, to learn how to exorcise the spirit of a dead fiancé from a haunted young woman; and The Two Kuni Lemls, by Avram Goldfadn, to see what made the Jews laugh at the beginning of Yiddish theater.  In this course, we will read from a diverse assortment of some of the most famous plays of the Yiddish theater in English translation.  We will stage scenes, rehearse monologues, rewrite scenes in our own words, and watch clips from film interpretations of the plays.

Wandering Stars: Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction

Rabbi Molly Karp

Jewish science fiction and fantasy?  Yes!  Together we will read stories from Wandering Stars, a Jewish science fiction anthology.  These stories will remind us that we are still studying, still suffering, still making jokes and myth, and still trying to figure out what it means to be Jewish.  In Wandering Stars, we meet futuristic rabbis, Hasidim, dybbuks, golems, and more.  Some of the stories are humorous, others are spine-chilling.  "Gather Blue Roses" falls into the second category: imagine a highly developed empathy trapped in a Nazi concentration camp.  Then there's "Trouble with Water," which is more of a fantasy, as is the I.B. Singer classic, "Yachid and Yachidah."  Two of the stories also deal with the theme of gilgul (reincarnation): "The Jewbird" by Bernard Malamud, and "I'm Looking for Kadak" by Harlan Ellison.

 

Third-Fourth Period Intensives

Course Title
Course Description

Hebrew

Hebrew Faculty

We will be offering up to six different levels of Hebrew language classes from beginner to very advanced.  Students will work to improve their reading, grammar, writing, and speaking skills.  Various materials will be used, including modern Hebrew passages, computer-based work, and creative projects, to get students to practice their Hebrew speaking skills.  Students are expected to do one hour of Hebrew homework per week to ensure progress.

Beit Midrash Course

Josh Schwartz

"Beit Midrash" literally means a "house of exploration," and "exploration" is the watchword for this two-period intensive.  The mandate of the Beit Midrash intensive course is to provide students with the tools to develop authentic relations with the Torah, such that they would be able to pursue any topic they find compelling in any major Jewish text found in a yehivah.  Texts are studies in the original Hebrew with only one's wits and a trusty Jastrow dictionary at hand.  This class will whip your Hebrew language comprehension into shape!  However, do not allow a lack of prior experience deter you from enrolling, for according to the effort is the reward (לפום צערא אגרא)!  This semester, we will be focusing on Maimonides' guidelines for personal development as well as other ethical issues.

Social Jusitce Beit Midrash

Rabbi Ariel Goldberg

Want to be part of changing the world AND earn volunteer hours?  Join us! In this two-period class,  we will be discovering powerful Jewish texts about tikkun olam - repairing the world - in a dynamic, inter-active setting.  Every second week, we'll be volunteering, together, and making a difference.  All texts will be provided, with translations. No background required

 

Third Period Classes

Course Title
Course Description

Why Jewish Children's Books Matter

Jessica Kirzane

The first books we read shape the way we see the world in unique ways.  For centuries, books created with Jewish children in mind have taught generations of children about God, the Torah, the Jewish people, the Jewish past, and helped to create their Jewish identities.  Funny, beautiful, poignant, and imaginative, these books can in turn teach us about how Jewish culture has changed over time.  What are key themes in Jewish children's literature, and what does that tell us about what the Jewish community has considered its priority in shaping new generations of Jewish children?  In this class, we will read children's books together and ask big quesions about the books that we read and the goals and ideals they reflect.  We will also create our own children's books, and through drafting and peer editing, illustrating, and formatting, we will try to create finished products that wer can share with children, taking part in this great tradition of Jewish children's literature.

Siddur 'Zine

Abbey Teller

Let's make our own siddur!  In this class, we will reconsider Jewish prayer, and make it personal.  We will write our own prayers, illustrate and write commentary and meditations for traditional prayers, and, if so inspired, compose melodies for inspired davvening.  The final product will be our own printable Prozdor siddur.

Idolatry

Avi Garelick

What is idolatry, and what's wrong with it?  Throughout the Bible, the desire to worship other gods is depicted as the powerful archenemy of true worship.  But later on, that desire seems to reced into the background of the Jewish consciousness--so much that one Talmudic story depicts its demise.  Does idolatry ever make a return, and if so, in what form?  In this class we will trace the debate over idolatry through generaations of Jewish thought, and even within the thought of other religions.  How does the concept of idoloatry place a limit on religious expression, and what does it teach us about acceptable notions of the divine?

 

Fourth Period Classes

Course Title
Course Description

Taamei Hamitzvot

Avi Garelick

Are the mitzvot about more than simple obedience?  Should they be?  This class will explore the possibility of a meaningful relationship with the mitzvot.  Starting with a well-known rabbinic dichotomy between reasonable and unreasonable mitzvot, we will debate the pros and cons of sense-making in the performance of the mitzvot.  Jewish thinkers from throughout history will provide us with different models for understanding what exactly is the point in all this.  Are the mitzvot supposed to make you a better person?  Are they supposed to repair our cosmic relationship with God?  Are they designed to create national unity?  A variety of mitzvot will be examined with all our different points of view in mind.

Chagall in Context

Abbey Teller

In this class, we will discuss the life and work of Chagall, analyzing the history of his cultural climate.  Projects will involve interpreting Chagall's style, motifs, and subject matter for our world.

Parashat Hashavua

Daniel Kirzane

In this text course, we will root ourselves in the foundation of Torah.  We will study each week's Torah portion, paying attention to major themes that arise commonly in Jewish life and literature.  We will get to know Rashi, the 11th century biblical interpreter par excellence, who will help us uncover major themes in the text.  The course is intended for students who have not had an opportunity to study Torah directly, though there is depth enough for students with considerable background.