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Dr. Beth Samuels High School Program: Classes

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Course Descriptions

Daf Yomi:  Masekhet Makkot
Ms. Eleorah Sandman
Conspiring witnesses, accidental murderers, corporal punishment, and a good dose of discussion about the Rabbinic ethic of crime and punishment (not to mention some Talmudic wisdom and Aggadeta thrown in for good measure). These are the themes that will take us through Masekhet Makkot in our time together this summer. We will aim to complete the Masekhet and celebrate with a siyyum at the conclusion of the program. This class will be fast-paced yet welcoming to those who want to learn broadly and build valuable Talmud skills.

Nakh Yomi: Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi
Ms. Tamar Benus
The Exile from Israel was a major turning point in Jewish History. For generations, prophets warned that the exile was looming; finally their words had come true. 70 years later the Babylonian Empire fell and the Temple was rebuilt. Through the eyes and words of the post-exilic prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, & Malachi, we will explore themes including: Eschatology, Divine rejection, Selfishness & Apathy, and the spirit of nationalism. Using classical & contemporary commentaries, we will study whether these minor prophets’ experiences are relevant today.

Talmud I & II: & III:  Masekhet Ketubot
Ms. Wendy Amsellem & R. Nechama Goldman-Barash
We will be learning parts of the fourth and fifth chapters of Ketubot where we will delve into topics having to do with family law, parents and children and social justice. We will also explore some of the rights and duties husbands and wives have towards one another. Ketubot is often referred to as a “Mini Talmud” for having so many diverse conversations that really span a wide spectrum of topics embedded within it. Over the course of our learning together we will see how apt that description is. We will also note how relevant some of the topics are in contemporary halakhic discourse.

Tanakh:  Poetry in Tanakh
Dr. Aaron Koller
Some of the most famous poems in Tanakh are also the hardest: shirat ha-yam (the Song at the Sea), shirat Devora, tefillat Hannah, and others. We will study these poems, looking at the imagery, the language, the historical contexts and literary contexts, to gain an appreciation for how poetry contributes to the power and significance of the Hebrew Bible.

Rabbinics/Halakha I:  Rabbis and Witches, Magicians and Miracle Makers
Ms. Rachel Rosenthal
Although sorcery is explicitly outlawed by the Torah, the rabbinic tradition is replete with stories of people doing magic. How does this magic happen and where does it come from? Are there forces outside of God in the world? Are men permitted certain magical activities that are forbidden to women? We will explore these questions and consider what they tell us about rabbinic perspectives on outsiders, miracles, and forces they cannot understand.

Rabbinics/Halakha II: Being a Good Person: Halakha and Ethics
Shlomo Zuckier
The interpersonal commandments (Mitzvot Bein Adam Lachavero), are a core part of the Torah, although at times they might be overlooked or overshadowed by more ritual Mitzvot. This class studies the interpersonal commandments, both looking at specific Mitzvot and considering some questions that relate to the category overall. We will consider topics such as the prohibition against embarrassing others or the question of telling white lies. At the same time, we will consider broader issues: What is the conceptual basis of interpersonal laws? What do we do if something seems wrong but there is no Halacha against it?

Rabbinics/Halakha III:  Emotions and Halakha
Jesse Abelman
Can halakha tell you how you should feel?  Does halakha care about your feelings and emotions?  This class will investigate a number of areas of halakha where emotion plays a central role, and we will think about the way religious law and human sentiment interact while developing our facility with a range of halakhic genres.

Visualizing Jewish Texts
Ms. Nomi Schneck
What role do the arts play in grappling with Jewish texts and ideas? How have painting, poetry, and stained glass been utilized to gain a deeper understanding of stories in Tanakh and our role as Jews? And what lies behind the halakhic and philosophical debate of image making? We will explore these issues through visiting some of the most vibrant institutions of culture in Manhattan, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, and the Museum of Modern Art.

In the studio component, led by different educators, each participant will also have the opportunity to design and develop her own creative project through a guided exploration of Jewish texts.

Essential Questions Workshop
Ms. Zissy Turner
An essential component of the Drisha summer high school experience is the research-based Essential Questions Workshop, where participants have the opportunity to select, research, and write about a topic that intrigues them. Under the close guidance of faculty members, students are able to explore a vast array of topics with resources and material for study, and guided questions for thoughtful writing and analysis. Topics have included Halakhic organ donation, the values of war versus peace in Judaism, and the psychoanalysis of biblical characters.

Shiur Klali
Rabbi David Silber & Ms. Shira Hecht-Koller
Once a week we will gather as a full group to learn together, exploring texts and core themes related to identity and community in Biblical and Rabbinic literature.


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