Holistic Jewish Studies

2013_max_jillAs summer draws to its inevitable close, I eagerly anticipate the back-to-school rituals that are invariably intertwined with the Jewish holidays. This year, the holidays are early. A rabbi once told me that the holidays are either early or late; they are never on time. I smile whenever I recall this notion.

For those of us in the business of Jewish education, the holidays can be a mixed blessing. We look forward to celebrating the chagim but worry about disrupting our back-to-school transitions. Some years, it seems as though the school year doesn’t really get under way until almost Thanksgiving.

We greet the New Year with enthusiasm, optimism and goals. I always loved assembling new school supplies with my kids — fresh, clean, blank notebooks, ready to be filled with ideas, dreams and equations. Our own notebooks, the ones we keep either in our heads or on paper, are prepared as well. Rosh Hashanah and the subsequent Days of Awe provide us with the opportunity to reflect, evaluate and envision what the next year might look like.

As director of the Baltimore Heb-rew Institute (BHI) at Towson University and a volunteer at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, focused lately on Israel and Overseas initiatives, that reflection and vision includes providing programs and opportunities that will help to expand Israel engagement and education in our community.

This fall, through the generous support of The Associated, BHI will introduce a new adult education course called Tzion, which explores the history of Zionism and the State of Israel through interactive learning and dialogue. The goal of the course is to connect a cross-section of community members in study, discussion and debate. Neil Rubin, a respected lecturer, journalist and historian, will teach the class, conveniently located at Beth El Congregation, Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9.

For those interested in literature and the arts, I invite you to join us as we host acclaimed Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret to Towson on Monday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. in the College of Liberal Arts. Keret has been called the “voice of his generation” by Salman Rushdie and is known for his wit, charm and engaging personality. Prior to the lecture, Keret will work with our Judaic Studies graduate students in a writers’ workshop. Selected works will be available for purchase at the event, and Keret will sign copies at the reception following the lecture.

An important component of a holistic Judaic Studies educational experience is the opportunity to study abroad in Israel. At Towson, we offer an intensive, two-week minimester course, created and taught by Hana Bor, program director ofthe Masters in Leadership in Jewish Education and Communal Service program. The course explores Israeli culture and service. Students will learn how Israel developed its education and social-service models at national and local levels and how policies and practices are implemented in urban areas such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Baltimore’s sister city, Ashkelon.

An integral part of BHI’s mission is to provide adult learners with a variety of educational and cultural opportunities. As a founding member of the Baltimore Israel Coalition, BHI has worked cooperatively over the last two years with 23 other community agencies and organizations to support and provide Israel education and advocacy in Baltimore. Our work continues, and our membership keeps growing. Join us!

Jill Max is director of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University. BHI is a member of the Baltimore Israel Coalition, baltimoreisraelcoalition.org.

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