// Discussion Guides


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Discussion Guide - Multidimensional Judaism

1. Questions are integral to Jewish life, belief, and practice. What are the questions you ask yourself? What questions do you ask your children and family? What questions do you ask your rabbis and teachers?

2. How do we educate for a multidimensional Jewish experience? How might an education for the “whole person,” not just the “Jewish” part of who we are, change the educational experience and our understanding of Judaism?

3. How does the question “Whom do I face?” inform your own Judaism? How do each of the six questions inform your sense of self as a Jew? How do the individual questions play off of and interface with one another?

4. How are the essential Jewish sensibilities, ethics, ethos, practices, and beliefs that inform our lives connected to one another?

Discussion Guide - Works in Progress

1. Are we each works in progress? If so, explain yourself through this frame.

2. How do we know when we have arrived at an ending? How does Judaism help us to create closure?

3. How do communities reinvent themselves as priorities and resources change?

4. The Torah is codified and stable, and yet it continues to emerge as a text and a guide. How does this tension manifest itself in study and practice?

5. Organizations — such as synagogues, schools, and start-ups — go through stages of development and, sometimes, of decline. How does the leadership distinguish between productive and unproductive chaos? What are some best practices for adaptation?

Discussion Guide - Social Movements

1. What role have social movements — Jewish or not — played historically in Jewish collective identity?
2. Can Zionism, as a movement, regain a place in raising questions about the meaning of Jewish identity and collectivity at a moment of great political and cultural transformations?
3. How have music, photography, film, and other genres of art influenced social transformation?
4. Have today’s “change movements” relied on earlier models or has the paradigm for change shifted fundamentally?
How so?
5. Do movements need to last, or can they make a brief appearance and still have some lasting impact?

Discussion Guide - The Jewish Workplace

1. Do Jewish values inform workplace policies in Jewish communal institutions? How so?

2. Does the Jewish workplace — from day schools to federations to synagogues — provide working conditions that support young families? Are professionals appropriately compensated? Are lay leaders appropriately acknowledged?

3. Is the Jewish communal infrastructure creating avenues for the best Jewish talent and creativity?

4. Have difficult conversations about Israel been stifled in the Jewish community? How are we attempting to create an environment of trust and openness that is conducive to civil conversations of difference?

5. Jews talk about bringing passion to the workplace. How do we keep it ignited?

Discussion Guide: Communities and Synagogues

1. Have independent minyanim and communities had an impact on the expectations of what mainstream synagogues are supposed to be and do? And if so, how? Or, have these communities become part of the synagogue scene without the name?

2. How does a synagogue develop an identity — a sense of itself as an institution?

3. Is the synagogue an institution that is largely middle class or upper middle class — and, if so, does that impact the services a synagogue provides?

4. There seems to be less drive today to “belong”; how has this changed the ways in which synagogues reach out to potential new members?

5. What role does “program” play in a synagogue’s mission?
Are synagogues able to blur the boundaries between what happens within and outside its walls? Are synagogues responding to the trend that Jews today operate with multiple identities?

Discussion Guide: Lessons from the book of Yonah

1. We read the book of Yonah each year during minchah on Yom Kippur. What do we learn anew in that yearly accounting of the story?
2. How might we construct a personal practice of gratitude?
How is gratitude connected to the recitation of blessings?
3. What do we learn about the complex role of the prophet from reading Yonah?
4. The story is mythic in proportion and fabulous in imagination. How do we understand it in terms of rational thought, free will, and the capacity to make choices?
5. Is there a cost to withholding forgiveness? And if so, what is it?

Discussion Guide - Place and Art

1. How are we, as individuals and Jews, influenced by the places in
which we live?
2. How is our culture transformed by experiences of migration, or by a sense of rootedness or homelessness?
3. How are our communities shaped by where they are situated? And how has history influenced the meanings and patterns embedded in place?
4. How has Jewish culture — for example, our art, food, and literature — been influenced by our neighbors’ religious practices?

Discussion Guide – Changing Notions of Torah

1. What do we need to understand about revelation in order to understand God? And how does our understanding of revelation inform our daily lives? Do you think that revelation is ongoing and that divine truth is accessible to us today? 
2. If you think of Torah as (“just”) a myth, but a powerful one, what impact does that have on your life, your Judaism, your choices? 
3. What, if any, are the missing pieces in your understanding of revelation — and how do the missing pieces impact the task of building Judaism?
4. Must the laws of the Torah be intrinsically moral to be holy? What do we do with laws that seem completely disconnected from our morality?

Discussion Guide - Certainty, Hatred, and Polarization

1. How might we change the discourse on challenging and charged Jewish
conversations to reflect that complex issues cannot be defined simply in
dichotomous, “win-lose” ways? How might we approach a discussion of how
Israel can recognize such complexity?

2. Is passionate devotion the province only of the devoutly religious? What price
do liberal Jews pay for their lack of religious certainty? Is our tolerance for
others grounded in our inability to be certain of our own beliefs?

3. Is there a relationship between uncertainty and tolerance? If so, what is it?
What would be the dangers of that relationship?

4. What is the basis for your understanding of pluralism, and what are its limits?

Discussion Guide - The Jewish Table

1. Is alcohol consumption at Jewish programs and simchas too pervasive? Should Jewish communities curtail the use of alcohol — especially when trying to attract 20-something Jews to programs?

2. What are the qualities of leadership that are essential to creating community? What qualities are harmful? Does establishing and maintaining community require charismatic leadership?

3. How might we invite more people to the Jewish table? How does the table welcome people and what happens to hamper that welcome?

Multidimensional Judaism

Upcoming: March 2013 Taxes

  • David Brodsky on traditional Jewish sources
  • Moses Pava on obligation & dina de’malchuta dina
  • Doug Hauer on immigration issues
  • Josh Kornbluth on love
  • Steven Wernick on dues
  • Kim Carter on tax reform
  • William Daroff on tax deductions and charitable giving
  • Emma Kippley- Ogman on parsonage
  • Julian Levinson on tax collectors in Yiddish literature
  • Shaul Magid on tzedakah and chari- table donations
  • Andrés Spokoiny on estate taxes
  • Leonard Hausman on lowering taxes