Course Descriptions Spring 5783 – 2023

BIB 101 Introduction to Bible
Dr. Ora Horn Prouser

This course will introduce the student to modern critical studies of the Bible. Selected texts of the Bible will be studied in-depth while broader thematic issues will be surveyed. Various methodologies used by biblical scholars will be introduced to the students. The many meanings of the text and the centrality of the Bible in the Jewish world will be emphasized through careful study. This course is a prerequisite for all Bible study at AJR. Students in this course must be at the level of Hebrew IA or above.
2 credits

BIB 345 The Book of Genesis: An Exploration of the Human Condition
Dr. Job Jindo

This course is a close critical reading of Genesis, revolving around the themes of free will and the human condition. By the conclusion of this course, the student will: (1) learn the structure, purposes, and theological outlook of Genesis; (2) gain insight into the complexity of being human as well as the enduring dilemmas of soulcraft as reflected in Genesis; and (3) develop the skills to teach the book of Genesis to contemporaries with AJR values (i.e., critical rigor, inclusivity, commitment to the pluralistic, contemporary Jewish and broader communities).
Prerequisite: Introduction to Bible
2 credits

CAN 311 Cantillation – Festival and Esther
Cantor Robin Joseph

This course is part three of the three-course cantillation program. It is an in-depth study of Eastern European cantillation for Festivals and Esther. In addition to reviewing the history, function, and art of cantillation, participants will work to demonstrate proficiency in recognizing and chanting the various cantillation phrases for these two tropes. This course is open to both rabbinical and cantorial students.
2 credits

CAN 426 Advanced Nusah Shabbat II
Cantors Sol Zim and Lisa Klinger-Kantor

This course provides an in-depth and extensive study of the vast liturgy of the Shabbat Shaharit and Musaf services. Students will develop a deep understanding and mastery of the nushaot special motifs, and participatory melodies involved in both services. They will also demonstrate strong competence in these areas so as to proficiently lead a Shabbat service.
Prerequisite: CAN 425 or permission of Instructor
4 credits

HAL 373  Critical Issues Halakhah
Dr. Tzemah Yoreh
Halakhah, or Jewish law, is often viewed through the prism of those who feel most bound by it, but the reality is that is a part of the discourse no matter what Jewish community you affiliate with. In this course we will explore the significance of halakhah for modern Judaism through the lens of contemporary issues, such as the modern abortion debate, intermarriage, and food ethics. In the course of our studies we ponder the irony of why halakhah is relevant to even the most secular of communities, and speak about how halakhah may develop in the future.
2 credits

HAL 401 Introduction to Codes 1
Rabbi Jeff Hoffman

This course will introduce students to the literature of the halakhic codes, with a focus on Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. We will explore several facets of the text: its internal dynamics and unique features; the way in which it sets the standard for Jewish legal codification, and the ways in which it is faithful to its earlier sources and how it reshapes them. Emphasis will be placed on precise and accurate reading of the text, with commentaries consulted as necessary.
Prerequisite: Introduction to Mishnah and Hebrew IIA or the equivalent
2 credits

HAL 460 Intermediate Codes
Rabbi Matthew Goldstone, PhD

This course will focus on Joseph Karo’s Shulhan Arukh, the major medieval code of Jewish law that continues to inform contemporary practice. We will study many of the most important laws related to the observance of Shabbat and holidays with secondary readings that offer more diverse perspectives for modern forms of observance and celebration.
Prerequisite: two trimesters of Introduction to Codes
2 credits

HEB 351 Hebrew IIB
Yifat Avner

Students will finish the book Hebrew from Scratch Part II. They will continue to increase their Hebrew vocabulary and grammar. They will learn the binyanim Piel and Hif’il and their passive forms, and will continue to apply their Hebrew knowledge by reading articles and poems and learning how to analyze the text based on everything they have learned.
Prerequisite: Hebrew IIA or the equivalent
4 credits

HEB 400 Hebrew IIIA
Ilana Davidov

The purpose of this course is to transition students from intermediate into the advanced level of Hebrew. The course will focus on vocabulary expansion and reading comprehension and will provide training in speaking and listening. Students will develop their productive language skills via class discussions, presentations and listening practice, and via reading and writing assignments.
Prerequisite: Hebrew IIB or the equivalent
4 credits

HIS 355 Israeli History and Culture
Dr. Yakir Englander

This  course  is  being  developed  specifically for AJR  as  a  pilot  institution  by IAC  Gvanim ( and Ofek (

This course will bring to life the diversity of Israeli society through exploration of Jewish and      Zionist values, and texts that inspire its culture, calendar, and law.
In each class, we will meet with an Israeli guest speaker who is dedicated to research as well as to  activism that impacts the lives of people in Israel.

We will explore the Israeli declaration of independence and the basic law of human dignity and liberty. We will delve into the poetry of Abraham Shlonsky and its insight on being secular in Israel. We will also read women and orthodox poets and authors, and deal with the poetry of bereavement and the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) and will meet with Israeli ex-Hasidim and Druze.
2 credits

LIT 101 Introduction to Liturgy
Rabbi Rob Scheinberg, PhD

What are the words associated with Jewish prayer, and how and why have they changed over time? In this course we will closely examine the Jewish liturgy for weekdays, addressing the structure, history, and theological implications of texts of the Siddur including the Shema, Amidah, Torah service, Kaddish, Berakhot associated with food, and more. We will also explore questions of prayer’s personal meaning and spiritual significance in contemporary Jewish life, as well as the role of a religious leader in thoughtfully designing worship experiences.
Prerequisite: Students in this course must be at the level of Hebrew IA or above.
2 credits

MEC 145 Mechina II
Michal Nachmany

This course is a continuation of Mechina Hebrew (MEC 140) taught in the fall. It will cover a good part of Hebrew From Scratch Part I beginning around unit four.
No credit

PHI 311 Medieval Philosophy
Rabbi Len Levin, PhD

The classics of medieval Jewish philosophy will be considered as efforts in the ongoing project to articulate a coherent Jewish world-outlook. How did they seek to integrate the value-orientation of the Bible with the best (Greek) “science” of their age? How might their attempts at integration serve  as  models  for  us?  Texts to  be studied will include: Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Philo, Saadia, Halevi, and Maimonides (with intensive attention devoted to the Guide for the Perplexed).
2 credits

PHI 301 Bioethics
Rabbi Jill Hackell, MD

Technological advancements in medicine have brought with them bioethical issues of increasing complexity. This course will examine issues pertinent to today’s bioethical dialogue from a Jewish point of view, including issues such as organ donation, end-of-life, assisted reproduction, genetic screening and gene therapy, disease prevention, physician-assisted death, and the many issues raised by COVID. How does the Jewish way of looking at these issues compare and contrast with the general societal discussion? What are the governing principles of bioethical argument in each of these across the spectrum of Jewish thought? How are ancient Jewish sources reconciled with modern technology in guiding thinking about these issues?
This course will run for the first six weeks of the term.
1 credit

PRO 315 Counseling I
Cantor Michael Kasper

This course is an introduction to the practice of pastoral counseling, offering the philosophical / religious / psychological underpinnings as well as developing actual practical skills. Emphasis is on acquiring the ability to actively listen and assess situations, and then respond appropriately, knowing when to offer various kinds of help, and when to recommend appropriate referrals.

Specific issues in this course involve counseling for life cycle events, pre-marital meetings, helping people cope with illness, losses and grief/bereavement, as well as crisis situations and the stresses of life. We explore ways to use Jewish texts, song, prayer and ritual for healing. Classes often have an experiential component.
2 credits

PRO 342 Life Cycle II
Rabbi Jef Segelman

This course will focus on life cycle issues and rituals beginning after the marriage ceremony and continuing through death and mourning. Topics will include: innovative rituals addressing transitions in individual adult life, milestones in marriage and parenting, and concerns regarding the end of a marriage and divorce. Also included will be the topic of bikkur holim and issues of caregiving to elderly parents, end of life concerns, and a practical and philosophical study of the laws of death and mourning. Students in this course will be able to: create innovative rituals surrounding adult life cycle events, articulate issues and guide families with regard to end of life decisions, explain and facilitate the process and ritual of the Jewish divorce. Students will also learn how to officiate at funerals, burials, and other rituals associated with Jewish practices of death and mourning. Life Cycle I is not a perquisite for this course.
2 credits

PRO 350 Conversion
Rabbi Leana Moritt

What prompts someone to convert to Judaism? How do they go about doing it? How do the different movements approach conversion? How has conversion changed throughout history? Who gets to decide “Who is Jewish?” and what are the implications? How are Judaism and the Jewish community changing in the 21st century? And what is the role of the rabbi in preparing someone for conversion? These are some of the questions we will explore in our course on conversion, exploring the historical, theological, sociological and practical elements of conversion to Judaism.
This course will run for the last six weeks of the term.
1 credit

PRO 352 Spiritual Flourishing: T’fillah with Kids and Families Intersession Course – Online only
Eliana Light

How can our prayer gatherings with tots, kids, and families be an opportunity for connection, joy, magic, and spiritual flourishing? In this course, we’ll explore the what, how, and why for t’fillah with kids and families, from preschool Shabbat, to family service, to Hebrew school, and beyond. Topics will include the science of spiritual development, repertoire and teaching techniques (with and without instruments!) tools for accessibility and meaning, g?d language, and more. There will also be opportunities to reflect on your own relationship to and leadership of t’fillah. Through experience, discussion, experiment, and reflection, let’s unlock the potential for t’fillah transformation!
2 credits

PRO 422 Leading Through Innovation (LTI)
Rabbis Julia Appel, Elan Babchuck, Cyd Weissman (through Clal)

This cross-seminary course is for rabbinical, cantorial, and educational students who are preparing to take leadership roles in the rapidly changing landscape of Jewish life. The course pulls from design thinking, innovation, social entrepreneurship, and change making leadership. Students will learn how to develop a new offering based on community members’ real needs under the guidance of course facilitators. The course progresses through three stages of leading through innovation: The Reflect module invites students to individually reflect on their spiritual leadership journey, the shifts going on around us, and how we might adapt to the changing reality in which we lead. The Reframe module presents a human-centered methodology through which to better serve your people based on empathy interviewing. And finally, the Reimagine module engages participants in the process of innovation by design, applying the tools of design thinking to create an innovative project,  initiative,  ritual,  or  organization  and  to  bring  it  to  fruition  in  the  world.  For more information about course content or structure, feel free to contact Rabbi Julia Appel at [email protected]. This course counts toward the Entrepreneurship requirement, and is only open to matriculated rabbinical and cantorial students.
Please note: This course is on a different schedule as it is an inter-seminary course. It will meet from January 30 – May 8 at 4:00 – 6:00 pm.
2 credits

PRO 470 Chaplaincy
Rabbi Julie Schwartz

This course seeks to integrate the theoretical knowledge about the science of spiritual care with the practical application of the art of spiritual care. Students must secure an internship of at least 27 hours in a chaplaincy setting (hospital, senior housing, etc.) during which they are expected to intentionally practice the skills and approaches presented during the course. Class sessions will include regular opportunities for students to discuss and process their practical experiences in the field and to learn from the experiences of their peers. Students will continue the development of their pastoral care skills while also identifying the multiple roles that a chaplain may serve during the provision of pastoral care. Students will be introduced to methods of spiritual assessment, theological reflection, and the use of self during the pastoral encounter.
This course will meet six times over the course of the trimester, dates to be announced.
1 credit

PRO 490 Difficult Conversations
Fran Mendelowitz

This course will provide students with a social-emotional understanding of how to negotiate difficult conversations. Students will explore what can make social interactions uncomfortable and how to approach communication in effective and compassionate ways. The course includes opportunities for developing the skills and confidence to handle these difficult situations more comfortably. Students will learn how to manage anxiety about and avoidance of difficult dialogue, how to explore what makes these conversations personally problematic for them, and how to structure conversations that can promote shared understanding. Classes will include discussion of ideas as well as experiential practice and role-playing of real-life situations.
This course will meet the first six weeks of the term.
1 credit

PRO 700 Field Work Support Seminar
Rabbi Beth Kramer-Mazer

This seminar group focuses upon issues that arise in the course of rabbinical and cantorial work. Students will explore the challenges that they face in their work and in their developing rabbinate/cantorate through the presentation of a case study. Participation is required of all students whose work is counting as a required internship experience. All Fieldwork must be approved prior to the beginning of the trimester by Rabbi Jef Segelman.
No credit

RAB 230 Introduction to Talmud
Rabbi Jeff Hoffman, DHL

Students will acquire the skills to identify the component parts of the talmudic sugya and the relationships between them. This includes the ability to recognize the elements and functions of the talmudic argument, especially the kushia (objection) and the terutz (resolution). This also includes the ability to distinguish between tannaitic, amoraic, and stam (anonymous) passages. Students will also learn the basics of talmudic terminology as well as basic Aramaic vocabularyand grammar. Students are expected to prepare texts with the help of dictionaries, Hebrew commentaries and vocabulary lists, with the limited use of English translations. The supervised Havruta session is required of all students.
Prerequisite: Introduction to Mishnah
2 credits

RAB 430 Intermediate/Advanced Talmud
Matthew Goldstone, PhD

This course will hone students’ abilities to critically read, parse, and understand Talmudic material that is relevant for understanding Judaism. This trimester will focus on material from Seder Nashim (the part of the Talmud that deals with laws related to marriage, divorce, etc.), specifically an extended series of sugyot in Tractate Kiddushin (29a-36a). The sources covered in this course will hopefully complement similar rabbinic material covered in other courses and provide students with a broad view of issues related to marital and interpersonal relationships in the Talmud. This course will also focus on thinking about and teaching traditional texts that are difficult insofar as they are inconsistent with contemporary values and modes of thinking.
Unsupervised Havruta preparation is required of all students
Prerequisite: One trimester of Intermediate Talmud or the equivalent
2 credits

SPI 355 Be Still and Know: Mindfulness and Self-Transformation in Judaism and Buddhism
Dr. Job Jindo

This course offers a comparative study of Judaism and Buddhism, revolving around the themes of mindfulness and the cultivation of humanness. We will focus on distinct qualities of awareness that each tradition cultivates in its practitioners. Although historically unrelated, the two traditions share features and concerns that prove fruitful for a trans-cultural dialogue. The nature of discussions is both theoretical and practical (e.g., we will also consider if and how you can practice some of the mindfulness exercises with your family/shul members). No prior knowledge of Judaism, Hebrew, or Buddhism is required.
This intersession course is taught on-site only in Yonkers.
2 credits

SPI 400 Contemporary Midrash
Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD

In this course, we will explore contemporary poems and stories on biblical characters in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish, and discuss how the modern era has brought new forms of Midrash. We’ll consider the biblical texts and rabbinic legends that have informed modern authors, and interpret the messages these new writings convey. We will end the course by creating and sharing our own modern midrashim. This course can count as the Midrash II requirement.
2 credits