Sample Talks

It is possible to alter a given talk in multiple sessions if desired, or to create a new talk.

PLURALISM AND THE ETHICS OF CONTROVERSY:
One of the inescapable characteristics of modernity is the pluralism of our experience. Literally every day, we find ourselves in the company of people unlike us: of different races, different nationalities, different religions. And this pluralistic condition describes the Jewish world as much as it does the world in general; we are Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Hasidic, Zionist, Secular, Yiddishist, ethnic, assimilated, Ashkenazic, Shephardic, affluent, poor, and every possible combination of the above. How can the Jewish community negotiate this variety? Can we claim “we are one” despite our many differences, or will our differences inevitably tear us apart?

MURDERS, THIEVES AND PROSTITUTES:
NO IT’S NOT A MOVIE OR THE NIGHTLY NEWS IT’S THE BIBLE

One would think Biblical heroes and heroines are those figures who faithfully and piously uphold the traditions, models of morality and ethics. A study of Biblical texts will reveal the imperfections of our Biblical heroes and heroines. Why do we find such imperfections in our Biblical heroes and heroines? What are we supposed to learn from these imperfections? How do these heroes and heroines still serve as role models in spite of their imperfections?

KILLING AND DIEING FOR GOD:
THE MEANING OF THE ATTEMPTED SACRIFICE OF ISAAC

In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Though the sacrifice is aborted, the theological questions raised by the story continue to engage, perplex, and trouble us. What are the ethical and theological questions raised by this story? How do we understand Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son? How do we understand his lack of questioning? How do we understand Isaac’s willingness to submit himself for sacrifice? How do we understand God?

THE MANY VOICES OF ISRAEL
We in the diaspora often view Israel as a place of extremes. Religious, secular, right wing and left wing. A closer look will reveal a more complex, more diverse society. In this class we will explore the many different voices that make up the Israel of today.

PURIM AND AMALEK: THE JEWISH CONFRONTATION WITH EVIL
What is evil? From where does it come? How should we respond to it? We will examine the Biblical stories of Israel’s encounter with its archenemy, the nation of Amalek. Explore the ways Amalek came to personify evil throughout Jewish history; then apply these ancient ideas to some of our modern day confrontations with evil.

RE-INVENTING JUDAISM AFTER THE TEMPLE’S DESTRUCTION AND BEYOND:
Judaism, as we know it, in significant respects is quite different from the times of the Temple. A Jew living in the times of the Temple would not recognize their religion and ours as the same. How did we evolve from sacrifices to prayer? Explore the path from a religion centered on the Temple and sacrifices to one centered around prayer, ritual, and learning.

DARKNESS AND THE KILLING OF THE FIRST BORN
The plagues of darkness, and the killing of the firstborn are the last two plagues of the ten plagues. We assume that the plagues get worse as they go along. What’s so bad about darkness in comparison to some of the earlier plagues (wild beasts, pestilence, and hail)?
Why is the killing of the first born the last and worst plague? Many Egyptians could have been killed due to the first nine plagues. We will try to answer these questions.

JOSEPH, ESTHER, AND MORDECHAI: A STUDY IN EXILE LEADERS OF THE BIBLE
Joseph, Esther, and Mordechai all are exile leaders in the Bible. They all have to deal with what it means to live as Jews not living in their homeland. They also need to transmit to the rest of the Jewish people how to find meaning and to achieve continuity in exile. We, as Jews living in 21st century America have similar challenges to Joseph, Esther, and Mordechai. We will study these leaders’ stories and use them to inform us about how our story as Jews living in America could unfold.

WHAT IS JEWISH LEADERSHIP AND HOW IS IT DONE?
Drawing on a range of experiences and Jewish text, we will look at critical moments in Jewish history to explore Jewish leadership and how it was done.

TZADAKAH AND THE ETHICS OF ALLOCATION
Whom or what do we support and why? The answer to this question underscores the values of the Jewish community perhaps more than anything else. We will discuss how our values are expressed in the way we allocate dollars.

TIKKUN OLAM: A RESPONSIBILITY TO CHANGE THE WORLD
We use the expression Tikkun Olam frequently. We will discuss the relationship between Judaism and Tikkun Olam. What is meant by responsibility? What is meant by change?

CONFLICT AND STRUGGLE IN THE BIBLE
The Bible is full of conflict and struggle. Each generation of the Bible is involved in conflict and struggle. In this class we will analyze why this is the case. What does this tradition of conflict and struggle do for us as Jews today? What are we supposed to learn from this?

THE CONTROVERSY OVER CONVERSION AND THE POTENTIAL SOLUTION FROM A SEFARDIC SOURCE
Conversion is one of the most controversial issues in the Jewish Community today. The four different movements of Judaism have four different approaches to conversion. The different approaches create conflict. Could a Sefardic source contain the solution?

REVOLUTION, RADICALISM, AND REBELLION IN JUDAISM
In this class we will analyze dissent and challenging religious, communal, and political authority. When is it obligated? How does critique degrade itself into fundamentalism? We will study Biblical sources on this topic and then apply it to our current situations as Jews living in the 21st century.

WHY WE WERE SLAVES IN EGYPT?
The experience of the slavery and eventual redemption from Egypt is one of the most important historical moments in all of Jewish history. Many of our texts, prayers, rituals, and holidays make reference to this important historical event. But why were we slaves in Egypt? We will analyze in this class through a study of diverse Jewish texts.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: A LOOK AT THE MATRIARCHY
In this session we will take a look at the Matriarchy, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Were they desperate? What made them do the things they did? What were the consequences of their actions? How would things have been different if they didn’t act?

JUDAISM IN A POST-HOLOCAUST ERA
How has Judaism responded to the Holocaust and its inherent theological questions? How does Judaism teach the Holocaust? Does the Holocaust inform our daily Jewish lives? These, and more questions will be discussed in this session.

WHAT’S JEWISH ABOUT FOOD, SEX, AND MONEY?

Communities define themselves not only by their public policies and politics, but in the small and intimate details of their individuals’ everyday live. The ways in which we work, spend money, eat, make love, and sleep distinguish us and affirm our values and beliefs. In this session we will explore the relationship between food, sex, and money and our personal and communal identities.

SIBLING RIVALRY IN THE BOOK OF GENISIS
This session will look at the Book of Genesis and sibling rivalry. How do the brothers in the Genesis stories relate to each other? Does age and birth order affect how they act? We’ll look at these and other questions in this discussion.

JEWISH LEADERSHIP
What does it mean to be a Jewish leader? What makes Jewish leadership Jewish, and how, if at all, does it differ from general notions of leadership? What are the values of Jewish leadership? We will look at Biblical and post-Biblical leadership and learn how our tradition can inform our present work.

THE ART OF CRITIQUE
At times Jewish leadership, including us, needs to be critiqued. What are the issues? How do we prevent critique from lowering itself into character assassination? Using traditional texts, we will look at Biblical, medieval, and modern sources for when and how to critique.

KABALAH: THE SHEMA: A PRAYER OF ONENESS
We will focus on the central prayer of Judaism, the Shema, or “Hear O Israel” prayer. We will discuss the philosophical and mystical hidden meanings behind this prayer, which we say twice a day, and before death.

BASIC JUDAISM: WHY AND HOW WE DO WHAT WE DO
We will discuss the basic beliefs of Judaism and how they are applied to our daily, Shabbat, and festive practices. The discussion will focus on the practical halacha (Jewish law), the Hashkafa (philosophical reason), and the mystical reason for the practice of the mitzvot. We will also explain, describe basic Jewish rituals that are performed at home and in the synagogue. This course is excellent for those who always wanted to know “why we do, what we do” or for those beginning a path of deeper connection to Judaism.

RE-INVENTING JUDAISM FOR THE 21st CENTURY
Judaism has changed and evolved through out Jewish history. A Jew living in the times of the Temple would not recognize the Judaism that is practiced today. How does Judaism evolve? Do we need to re-invent Judaism today?

TEACHINGS ON TORAH OF THE
GREAT HASIDIC MASTERS

We will study such works as the Sefat Emet, Aish Kodesh and Mei Hashiloach. These are deeply powerful texts that will be interesting and exciting to anyone who is willing to engage in a spiritual journey. The class provide and entirely new way of looking at Torah.

JEWISH LAW: WRITTEN IN STONE OR EVOLVING?
Is Jewish law a fixed and final entity or has it evolved and will it continue to evolve? If so how does the process work? We will discuss such issues as the process of Jewish legal decision-making, the role of precedent and minority opinions?

THE PASSOVER SEDER WORKSHOP
This session will help you to create a great Seder. The class will answer such questions as:

WHICH HAGGADAH IS THE RIGHT ONE FOR MY SEDER?
How to involve children?
How to involved people who are not so knowledgeable?
How to make the Seder fun and interesting but running at a good pace?

AISHET CHAYIL THE WOMAN OF VALOR
Who is the Woman of Valor?
Why is she being sung about at Shabbat Dinner?

In this class we will look at the Biblical text in proverbs that the song is taken from. We will study how different commentators have understood this text. Then we will discuss how this texts fits with the changing Jewish family of the 21st century.

WRITING OUR OWN PRAYERS
While Jewish tradition is rich with a vast liturgy, the formal nature of traditional Jewish prayer some times makes it hard to connect to God. In this session we will study texts from different periods of Jewish History that deals with the value of creative prayer. We will then learn how to write our own prayers.

CONNECTING TO GOD THROUGH PRAYER

Jewish tradition helps to connect to God through actions and thought, and learning and Prayer is obviously another way of connecting to God. Yet for many prayer is the least God oriented experience in Judaism. In this session we will learn how to transform prayer from the recitation of texts to a way to connect to God.

STARBUCKS AND SPIRITUALITYWhat does Madonna, Donna Karen and Rabbi Kalb all have in common? They all study Jewish Mysticism. Join us at Starbucks and Spirituality. That’s right we will be studying Jewish Spirituality at Starbucks with Rabbi David Kalb. Come by for some coffee and Kabala, some latte and learning some espresso and ecstasy.

CREATING AMERICAN JUDAISMS:We are the wealthiest, freest, most powerful generation of Jews ever. Now we can ask ourselves what that really means, what we truly hope to accomplish, and how we hope to get there. In this class we will talk about what American Judaism might look like as we go further into the 21 Century and beyond.

RELIGION AND PUBLIC LIFE:
In America today there is a national debate on the mixing of religion and politics. The American Jewish community is challenged on two fronts: How do we both preserve the separation of Church and State that protects minority rights and infuse American political life with an ethical spirit that flows from our particular, religious vision? Is there a shared Jewish political agenda?

ISRAEL THE DREAM VS THE REALITY:
Israel is both a dream and a reality. In this two part class we will look at the dream of Israel and the reality of Israeli life today.

Part 1 The Dream of Israel: To many Jews through out the World Israel is the greatest miracle of the 20th Century. In part 1 of this class we will talk about the miracles that are associated with the establishment of the State of Israel and the miracles that resulted from the establishment of the State of Israel.

Part 2 The Reality of Israel:
Many Jews in the diaspora have a nostalgic view of Israel that is not in synch with the reality of Israel today. In part 2 of this session we look at the reality of Israeli life today.