JOLT Course Descriptions

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Students who register for courses listed as College Credit are eligible for Concurrent Enrollment in JCHS JOLT and Gratz College and may earn college credit for their work.  For additional information on Concurrent Enrollment programs, click here.

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Judaism and the Environment

The “Green Movement” may be a recent trend, but Jewish tradition has valued ecology and environmental issues for millennia.  In this course we will explore the timeless Torah values that deal with our ethical treatment of our planet, and learn how this ancient tradition speaks to the modern world in so many ways.  We will explore issues of sustainability, simplicity, food ethics beyond Kashrut, and incorporating these values into our personal practice, the Jewish community, and Israel.

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Israel: Current Events and Controversies   (For College Credit)

This course is designed to 1) provide an introduction to the political history of Israel, from the emergence of the Zionist movement through the present, 2) situate the development of an Israeli national identity, focusing on a variety of social, cultural, and political features, and 3) provide comparative perspectives on modern national states, cultures, and identities.
Issues to be discussed include immigration, minorities and social integration, the political, military, and educational systems, media and popular culture, and relationships with neighboring states and the world community.

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Why The Jews: History of Anti-Semitism (college credit course)

This course will examine the diverse forms that hatred of Jews has taken throughout history, from the ancient world to the present day.  Our focus is the extremely difficult question: why have Jews been singled out for hatred so often for so many centuries?

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Songs of My People   (college credit)

Throughout history, Jewish communities around the world have used music to express their values and to preserve their traditions.  In this class, students will explore the diverse languages, texts and sounds that are part of Jewish culture, and discover the ways in which music has evolved in the wake of geographic location and historical circumstance.  Special attention will be paid to the role and development of choral music in Jewish tradition, with particular focus on the repertoire selected by performance by HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir.  Participants in this class will combine their rehearsal time in local HaZamir chapters with online study and special Forums devoted to discussion of the music and reflections on the experience of creating Jewish community through choral singing.

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Living the Torah in Today’s Modern World (College Credit)

In this course, we will get a bird’s-eye view of the Pentateuch, also known as the Torah. We will integrate interesting media platforms into the course, such as Facebook, Skype, YouTube clips, movies, music, and more to help enliven the experience. We will explore the question of who wrote the Bible, and  key in on the central questions that each of the Five Books asks, reading some of the more fascinating stories in the Torah closely to understand what each book's essential concern is. We will also probe some of the deeper philosophical quandaries: why do bad events happen to good people? What is the correct way to live? What are my obligations towards society? Who is God, and to what extent is God involved in my life? We will analyze texts together and voice our own interpretations on what the Bible is saying to us—for our modern lives. No previous knowledge of the Bible, or of Hebrew, is required for this course.

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Israel Today: Realizing the Dream

This course begins and ends with a look at and celebration of the wonder of Israel.  Students combine the 4MAT method used throughout the Etgar curriculum with a problem-solving approach for a realistic, sophisticated, and in-depth study of the many challenges Israel faces today.  Lessons cover Israel’s pursuit of peace, diversity, and social justice challenges.  The course is offered in partnership with Project Etgar, a joint curriculum initiative of the Melton Research Center of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.  It is designed as a natural follow up for students who studied in Etgar schools in sixth and seventh grade, but is open to any teen who wants to learn about Israel in an interactive way!

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Reform Judaism

A study of Reform Judaism’s development, including its American origin, its philosophy, principles and institutions.  Students will review life cycles from the Reform Jewish perspective.  Students will discuss environmental issues, civil rights and the role of Israel in their Jewish lives.  This course touches on topical issues like the history of anti-Semitism, homosexuality and CCAR rulings.  Students will discuss various issues, dialogue with one another and explore their own belief system.

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Dilemmas in Jewish History

Jewish history presents many dilemmas of Jews who lived in different societies. Jews were usually strangers and sojourners in the lands where they lived, their history the symbol of homelessness and vulnerability. They wanted to obey G-d's laws but they wanted to stay alive too. The societies in which they lived forced life choices upon them, which were rarely clear options of "right and wrong." The course will question how Jews fared in the societies in which they lived and what dilemmas they had to solve in order to survive against all odds.

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The Torah's Top 50 Ideas

Why is the Bible more famous than known, as Voltaire once asked?
Partly because it is an anthology of so many books, written over so many centuries, by so many different authors. It is like reading through the Encyclopedia Britannica, cover to cover. No one goes through an encyclopedic work like this page by page, book by book. It takes diligent study, infinite patience, a good teacher, and long years of commitment.

How sad, then, that the Book of Books, the literary legacy that the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called our "greatest privilege," is so little read, and even worse, so little known.
This vast collection of morals, poetry, laws, stories and divine revelation remains a hidden treasure for most people. Yet it forms the basis of all ethical standards ("Love your neighbor as yourself"), all great moral philosophy ("In the image of God was the human formed"), and legal majesty ("There shall be one law for you and for the stranger among you").

Too many people think of the Bible as a collection of outmoded laws, descriptions of old-fashioned customs such as animal sacrifice, boring genealogies, and irrelevant miracle tales. Yet the core of the Tanakh contains the essential moral legacy of the Jewish People. This course will examine fifty verses and verse-clusters that are the fundamental principles of Jewish ethics, and the passages which make the Hebrew Bible the most important collection of books ever written.

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The Whole Megillah

The third section of the Tanakh includes five books, originally written on parchment scrolls, that we call the Megillot.  These interesting stories are each associated with a holiday in the Jewish calendar, and recall various historical events and relate biblical wisdom that is applicable today.  In this course we will examine the text, learn the historical context, the liturgical connections, and the contemporary associations of each Megillah.

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Music of Israel

Discover Israel through music!  From European-influenced songs of the pioneers to exotic melodies from Arab lands, the pre-State era was filled with the sounds of ingathering.  And the music continues as the State is born and grows!  Hear Israel's songs of peace in times of war, the shepherd songs and love ballads that bring the Bible alive, and the drum beat of rap and religion as Israel brings together tradition and today.  This course is for lovers of music, history buffs, and anyone eager to take a tour of the Jewish state -- all from the convenience of your home computer!  No prior knowledge of Hebrew or music is required -- just a quick internet connection and a fascination with all things Israeli.

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American Jewish Debates and Dilemmas

Through a team-collaboration approach students will select their topics of study from a menu of subject areas  of interest to American Jews.  Examples include Jewish ethics, social justice, civics, and teen issues.  Then the class will be directed toward an understanding of these issues, culminating in student group presentations. 

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Confronting the Holocaust

This course focuses on Jewish identity.  Students will examine their own identities as well as those of a variety of Jewish youth who lived before and during the Shoah.  They will learn hwo the Shoah was the ultimate and tragic result of manipulating identities to label one group as unworthy of living.  They will also have the opportunity to respond to the Shoah through their own art, poetry or prose.  The course is offered in partnership with Project Etgar, a joint curriculum initiative of the Melton Research Center of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.  It is designed as a natural follow up for students who studied in Etgar schools in sixth and seventh grade, but is open to any teen who wants to learn about Israel in an interactive way!

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Hebrew Language Mechina

The Preparatory Program (Mechina) provides the student with the required reading and writing skills necessary for admission and successful transition into Hebrew level one.  Through extensive practice, student will gain fluency in reading and writing of Hebrew print and script,
The course uses many sources and activities to enable learning in a fun and productive way.

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Hebrew I 

This course provides an interactive and fun introductory experience for students who have had some beginning exposure to basic decoding and writing in Hebrew. Students will meet once a week for a live online session to learn and review the material. In addition, a special website will be available for students to log on at any time for learning and review.. The course focuses on the development of all language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing). Students will learn grammatical terms and principles such as pronouns, adjectives, gender and number agreement, prepositions, roots, numbers, special expressions, and the different categories (Gzarot) of Bynian Pa'al in the present and past tense. Students will read texts that reflect Hebrew and Jewish culture, including a weekly selection from the Siddur (prayerbook). Topics will include: home and school, food, family life, and the daily schedule.

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Hebrew II

This course continues the format of once-a-week live webinar sessions combined with follow-up reinforcement through a 24/7 website for individual learning and review. All language skills are mastered through more advanced syntactic and grammatical structures. Students will begin to read and write texts requiring critical thought. Hebrew texts that reflect Israeli culture and Jewish History will be read and discussed, with continuing exposure to liturgical Hebrew through a weekly selection from the Siddur (prayerbook). Topics will include: seasons and clothes, traveling, health and the body, people and places, and other daily activities.

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Hebrew for Day School Graduates

This course is designed for students with a Hebrew day school background, preferably those who have graduated from eighth grade in Jewish day school. The goal of this course is to refresh Hebrew day school students' knowledge of Hebrew and enhance their language skills. Students will learn advanced modern Hebrew texts as well as traditional Jewish texts. We will read newspaper articles and discuss current events. Grammar topics will be reviewed as they appear in the text. This course is geared toward students with a minimum of four years Hebrew day school background. Students who desire to learn in this course must pass an admission test. 

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Engage, Enhance & Educate: Learn how to become the Greatest Religious School Aide (Madrich/a).

So you’re a religious school aide – a madrich or madricha,  but you don’t want to only sharpen pencils or be on playground duty.  You want to make a difference in your students’ lives.  You want to mentor them and be a role model.  This course will give you the tools that will help you become more than a helper. It will transform you into a thoughtful educator. You will be exploring different models of teaching, classroom management and learning how to create your own learning experiences that your students will love!  Seize the opportunity to gain the educational tools in order to be a more effective Madrich/a!

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Jewish Civics Initiative

This course introduces students to Jewish advocacy in American government, and offers a unique lens into the differences between Jewish and American approaches to the issues of our time. You will explore texts that will help enhance your understanding of Jewish attitudes toward important social issues; Jewish obligations to society, the poor, judgment, liability, tzedakah, advocacy, and service. This course offers an optional trip to Washington, D.C. sponsored by Panim that you would be prepared to participate in to the fullest extent. Panim also awards scholarships to prospective attendees and also funding to allow students to pursue advocacy, community projects, and social entrepreneur endeavors. 

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Wresting with G-d  (6 week mini course)

Can you be an active member of the Jewish community and not believe in G-d?  What does it mean to participate in t'filah (prayer) and other blessings if G-d isn't a part of your life? Sometimes, it’s a struggle to find a place for our own personal relationship with G-d and that which our community may expect us to have.  Together, we will tackle the tension that exists when we are active communal Jews and wrestle with G-d.  By the end of the course, you will develop your own personal G-d Theology.

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Sacred Scandals:  Bad Behavior in Biblical Texts   (6 week mini course)

You think the Bible and other historical stories are all about good people and good choices?  Did you know that it’s filled with scandal – perhaps even evil urges?  Eve disobeys orders. Cain kills his brother. Jacob tricks his father and cheats his brother. And the scandal doesn’t end there.  The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) is filled with sexual misconduct, lies and other bad behavior.  We will try and figure out what do these stories tell us and what are we supposed to learn from them?

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Encountering American Holidays as a Jew (6 week mini course)

All of us do it … Jews living in America celebrating non-Jewish holidays.  Is there anything wrong with that? The rabbis have an opinion on the topic and we can learn some ways to evaluate specific holidays to see if they meet their litmus tests. Is there a difference between Jews celebrating Thanksgiving and Fourth of July vs celebrating Halloween and Valentine’s Day? We will learn a bit about the origin of a few American holidays and discuss if and how Jewish people should observe them.

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God and Our Country (6 week mini course)

What are the actual laws about separation of “church/state”?  As a religious minority living in North America, what can we expect of our government in terms of protecting our religious freedoms and how does a separation between “church and state” do that? Should God/prayer exist in our classrooms, in our senate sessions, at our graduations, on our money, in our Pledge of Allegiance?    What limits should be set our legal system in terms of potential interference with religious practices:  ritual slaughter of animals?  Male circumcision?  Polygamy?  Participants will encounter a range of issues that arise when we consider the role of religion and government.

Gratz College: Education Grounded in Jewish Values

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JCHS is possibly the greatest investment I have made in my future”

Jason Vessal