Shabbaton Saturday Classes

SESSION 1—Choose from A-D (1:30-2:15 PM)

  • A – Lenny Picker – Was Chanukah Really Celebrated At Valley Forge? Or, The Yiddish Are Coming, The Yiddish Are Coming – As we celebrate a victory over tyranny, what better time to review the role American Jewry played in the Revolutionary War? Were all American Jews supporters of the rebels? How did involvement with the Revolution correlate with level of religious observance, level of affluence, profession, or country of origin? Is there a plausible way of integrating the mega-hit musical Hamilton into the talk? Was Chanukah really celebrated at Valley Forge, and did it actually inspire George Washington at his hour of greatest need? Finally, which of the above are rhetorical questions? Lenny Picker, extreme reader, life-long learner, writer, lecturer, investigator, attorney, and mediocre chef, will explore the non-rhetorical questions, and others, with the help of members of the Pembroke Place Players.

  • B – Nora Lee Mandel – Hasidim in the House: Recent Portrayals of the Ultra-Orthodox In Movies – Recent portrayals in Israeli and U.S. films of today’s Ultra-Orthodox/Hasidim/Haredim may help us to understand them and hopefully reach out in real life. Nora Lee Mandel has been a film critic for a dozen years, particularly covering movies of Jewish and women’s interest.  Her ongoing Critical Guide to Jewish Women in Movies, TV, and Pop Music [] has been the basis for her previous Shabbaton talks.

  • C – Jessica Braginsky – Judaism: the Happiness Life Hack – Studies show that people are becoming less empathetic, sadder and more anxious.  Scientists are finding signs of serious depression in younger and younger children.  Explore the alignment of new positive psychology and ancient Jewish wisdom that can help you and your family thrive.  Jessica Braginsky is the new FHJC Director of Education and Engagement.  She has been a Jewish education leader for over 10 years.  Jessica has a Masters in Jewish Education from JTS and has honed her parenting skills raising her 4 sons.

  • D – Eric Greenberg – Jews and Catholics: The Unfinished Agenda – Just over 50 years ago, the Vatican’s adopted the historic document Nostra Aetate. It called for a new and improved relationship between Catholics and the Jewish people and there have been some historic successes to improve a horrifying 2,000 year relationship of persecution and murder of Jews by Christians. Yet many, of both faiths, remain unaware of this historic transformation, which is a model for religious reconciliation. This presentation will explore Nostra Aetate, the changes in the Jewish Catholic dialogue, and how much more work is left to be done. Eric Greenberg is a national award-winning investigative newspaper reporter with expertise in religion and environmental issues. He is the former national director of outreach and interfaith affairs at ADL, a national director of communications and programs at the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, and currently is Director of Public Affairs for the Center for Interreligious Understanding.

SESSION 2—Choose from E-H (3:00-3:45 PM)

  • E – Marcia Belgorod – Emma Lazarus and The New Colossus: An Exploration – Speakers often quote “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus when discussing immigration. However, there is more to the poem than a few well-known lines. Emma Lazarus was more than the author of a single poem. We will talk about her short life and then review the full text of the poem. Marcia Kaplan Belgorod is the Co-President of FHJC Sisterhood. Marcia has a long-standing interest in New York history and women’s history which has been demonstrated every year with the Eshet Chayil presentation on Sisterhood Shabbat. Born in Brooklyn, raised in Oceanside, with a BA from Brandeis and an MBA from Columbia, Marcia spent over 30 years working for City of New York. Since taking an early retirement package from NYC, she has worked in health care and as the proud administrator of a women-owned law firm. Throughout her professional career, Marcia has been engaged in issues of diversity and inclusion.

    F – Rabbi Channa Thompson-Shor – Views into an ancient “Bromance”:  David and Jonathan – The relationship between the biblical David and Jonathan is generally presented, in the Jewish tradition, as a model friendship.  Were the biblical David and Jonathan (just) the best of friends?  What was the significance of the “covenant” Jonathan made with David?   Should we look to these two men for the ideal same-sex friendship?  We will look at the context in the book of Samuel, and explore different views of this key relationship, to discover what may be behind the scenes. Rabbi Chana Thompson Shor was ordained from JTS in 1995, where she went on to complete “about half” of an advanced degree in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Languages.  Among other activities, Chana makes hand-dyed tallitot, and pursues an ongoing (obsessive) interest in the Books of Samuel.

    G – David Snyder – Thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed: Halacha of GMOs, grafting and other agricultural practices – While farming is not a stereotypically “Jewish” profession, regulation of agriculture is one focus of Jewish law. The Torah makes and maintains distinctions such as between the sacred and the profane. Where it states, “thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed,” it prohibits what the Mishna calls “Kilayim” or “mixtures”. How does this mesh with the insights of modern agricultural science? Many Jewish agricultural traditions, such as letting fields lay fallow for Sabbatical years, are forward thinking. However many modern agricultural practices – including grafting different trees together, intercropping to maximize soil fertility and pest resistance and the creation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – all seem to create prohibited mixtures. Does the Torah actually prohibit us from engaging in ecologically responsible and scientifically sound agricultural practices? Or are the Torah’s prohibitions against Kilayim more limited than they appear? David Snyder, a biochemist and Professor of Chemistry at William Paterson University, will briefly introduce some of the relevant Halacha and how it actually applies both within and outside of the land of Israel.

    H – Rabbi David Cavill – Aleinu – Whether it is Shabbat, a holiday, or ordinary weekdays, one prayer is recited at every service – Aleinu. Even those who come late to services, arrive in time for Aleinu. There is even a special additional recitation of Aleinu during the high holidays. Other than Kaddish, it is our most recited prayer. Rabbi Cavill will lead an exploration of Aleinu that will touch on the historical, theological, and literary. David Cavill was ordained as a rabbi in April 2017 at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He earned the degree of Master of Divinity at Yale University and completed the Jewish Theological Seminary’s undergraduate Joint Program with Columbia University.  David currently works as the Controller of New York City Audubon Society and has a background in nonprofit management.

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