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A Changed Person

For those of you who have been lucky enough to awkwardly sit in on a class, you know there is constant argument and discussion coalescing into challenges to one’s thoughts and sometimes values. It’s usually respectful, and this discourse is what I believe has prepared us for people who will challenge our Judaism, our beliefs on Israel and our values in general.

When I say "challenges," I mean literally the exact types of challenges we might receive at an Israel rally (with its yelling, signs and direct affronts to what might be your values). But my talking, and everyone's talking – it all comes from a love of Judaism that was sparked when we walked into Shoresh five years ago. Even when we were out of turn we were on point.

Shmuel, Sarna’s American Judaism, Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea, everything from Rabbi Feld’s class (from Derech Hashem to Lévi-Strauss), Jew vs. Jew and Real Jews have all changed my Judaism.

Every time I left a classroom I was a changed person. For the past eighteen years that hasn’t happened anywhere else. I doubt it will ever happen again. Shoresh has contextualized where I am as a Jew in America and the world, and instead of blandly prescribing a particular Jewish worldview, Shoresh has charged and challenged me with discovering my own.
(Class of 2009)

A Shoresh Skeptic

I was a Shoresh skeptic. Sometime in mid 9th grade, however, I started to make connections between my Shoresh classes and what I was studying at my private secular school.


Shoresh includes students like me who graduated from or previously attended Jewish day schools as well as others who had very little prior Judaic background. The diversity of experiences and beliefs enriched our class discussions. I loved that our teachers encouraged us to think critically and to reach our own conclusions about the texts we studied.

The promise of interesting debate lured me back every Sunday night. We considered what it means to be Jewish; the differences between kavanah and avodah; and how--and more importantly why--we practice our Judaism. Our teachers engaged us with meaningful topics, such as why we should remain Jewish and how our Jewish identity shapes our lives.

With the help of my Shoresh teachers, I now approach my secular studies from a different perspective. I compare all protagonists to Saul, whether I follow Holden Caulfield or Yossarian. I used Kohelet to inform my reading of Grendel. My comments in Government class frequently included something I learned in Israeli history class, such as our exploration of global anti-Semitism. Thanks for helping me integrate my secular and Jewish studies. What I learned at Shoresh will stick with me and my classmates for years to come.
(Class of 2009)

Shoresh Prepares Us For The Challenges of Jewish Leadership


Shoresh prepares us for the challenges of Jewish leadership. Leadership means having the conscience to know the right decision and the courage to follow through on that decision — even when others do not want to, or when others do not like it, or when it is hard.  King David had such courage and sometimes had such conscience.  King Saul rarely had either.  Shoresh teaches us to have both.  

(Class of 2007)

My Jewish Outlet

 

In my high school IB [International Baccalaureate] class discussion about language and its contributions to culture, I wanted to talk about the revitalization of the Hebrew language as a modern language, and its religious connotations. 


In the IB ethics in government dialogue about the way the fundamental rules of a society are formed, I wanted to talk about Israel and the role of religion in the formation of the Jewish State, and the political and ethical implications of a secular Jewish State.

In our IB discussion about the importance of a collective history for a country and for a group of people, I wanted to talk about the Jews and how our collective history is vast and different and yet Jews have come from all over the world to be Jews together in Israel.

I wanted to talk about these issues, but Judaism and Israel were simply not part of the collective knowledge and cultural literacy of the students in my IB classes.

It is important for every Jew to have an outlet for conversation about Judaism in a Jewish context, and that is what Shoresh provides.  Shoresh has been my Jewish outlet, my time to talk about Israel, Judaism and politics without having to explain my terms.  Shoresh gave me the opportunity once a week to talk about Judaism.
(Class of 2007)  

Discovering What It Is That Makes Me Want to Stay Jewish
 


Is it the challah, rugaluch, matzah ball soup, and schnitzel which keep us Jewish? Is it our favorite Hebrew and oy vey? Why is it that when we meet Jews, we feel more comfortable around them and easily connect to them?

Many nations have fascinating cultures and a sense of community. Why do we choose to be a part of Judaism when we could find those two things in other cultures?

Shoresh has given me the means of discovering what it is about Judaism that makes me want to stay Jewish. I now  constantly think about and question Judaism in ways I never did before.  

(Class of 2007)

My Relationship to Israel

During the 2009 conflict in Gaza, a group of people I know went to pro-Palestinian rallies on the weekends, had Palestinian flags as their Facebook profile pictures, and liked to discuss whether the humanitarian situation in Gaza was genocide. The way they spoke about Israel made me uncomfortable and angry. Still, I did not support the Israeli operation in Gaza and felt that the damage done to Hamas was not worth the humanitarian toll. But I did not want my opposition to Israel’s actions to be misread as opposition to Israel. I could not stand by Israel, but I did not want to stand against her.

The question I have continued to ask myself and explain to anyone who will listen is: "How do I reconcile my support for Israel with my opposition to some of its actions?" Shoresh has helped me begin to answer this question.

The discussions in Shoresh have always been, above all else, constructive. Teachers at Shoresh are smart and open-minded.

At some point a few years into Shoresh, I began to value the time I spent here. I enjoyed reading Tanach, learning Jewish law, and discussing current Jewish events. I find Jewish theology so fascinating that I’ve been keeping Jewish Thought Today on my nightstand. It got to the point this year that I would want to stay at Shoresh longer, standing at the parking lot exit and talking with my teachers.

(Class of 2009)

A Very Different Kind of Hebrew School


For the last five years I have attended a very different kind of Hebrew school. Every class gave me a reason to want to attend each week.

(Class of 2007)