Category Archives: Discussion Guide


February 10, 2015

If Jews are the chosen people, what have we been chosen for? What does choseness demand of us? If we alone were chosen to be brought into the covenant with God, what happens to everyone else? What do you know about other faiths’ ideas of “chosenness”? A key concept in Judaism is that all of humanity is made More »

Silence and Rupture

December 27, 2014

1. How would a discussion change if we changed the way we phrased a question? Consider the difference between these two questions: A) “How do you decide whom to vote for?” and B) “Whom should we vote for in the next election”? What makes a question “big” rather than “hard”? 2. Silence during a conversation More »

Privacy & Transparency

November 1, 2014

1. What needs to be private? Who needs to know what? What is the appropriate balance between the sharing of information for reasons of security and our right to privacy as citizens? Is surveillance incompatible with a democratic and free society? 2. Does God keep secrets? What does God reveal to all and what to some? 3. Have we become More »

Be Fruitful and Multiply

October 1, 2014

1. What resources (organizational, philanthropic, educational) might the Jewish community harness to support Jewish family formation when people face fertility challenges? 2. How might we, as communities and individuals, address the suffering and sense of isolation, stigma, and uncertainty experienced by people challenged with infertility? 3. What issues arise for the families of adult adopted daughters when those daughters More »

First Encounters

September 1, 2014

Bringing together a myriad of voices and experiences provides Sh’ma readerswith an opportunity in a few very full pages to explore a topic of Jewish interest from a variety of perspectives. To facilitate a fuller discussion of these ideas, we offer the following questions:  How do you understand the opening words of the Torah, Bereishit More »

Jewish Neighborhoods: local & global living

June 1, 2014

What makes a neighborhood Jewish? What makes a place a neighborhood? Many people are more mobile today, moving from job to job, town to town. What roots them in a place? Can we develop shared histories and connectionsthat transcend place — that transcend a specific and shared geography? Is being rooted in a Jewish community More »

Self at the Center

May 2, 2014

In interpreting text, how much of the interpreter’s voice should be woven into the analysis? Why do you think so many memoirs are being published today? What is so appealing about reading about another person’s life? The Millennial generation has been understood as one that is both self-absorbed and deeply caring about fixing the ills More »

Cultivating a Spiritual Intensity

April 1, 2014

1. Do spiritual questions change along the lifecycle? As you grow older, have your questions about God changed and, if so, how? 2. Where and when do you find your most intense spiritual moments? 3. Are we a nation of seekers? What role does technology play in your spiritual life? Can a spiritual core be nurtured More »

Noble Ideals

March 1, 2014

1. Are some ideals too fundamental to be tarnished? If so, which?
2. What about values such as tzedakah, obligations such as observing Shabbat, or beliefs such as a faith in God? Are these considered to be Jewish ideals? Can you compare these beliefs to America’s noble ideals?
3. What are the dangers of venerating our political and religious heroes?
4. How does American popular culture give life to a cynicism about politics?
5. What do we learn from the Arab Spring about the potential for and perils of cultivating democracy in the Middle East?
6. Is it possible to hold, simultaneously, an attraction to a system of thinking or beliefs and also a recognition of that system’s limitations?

More »