2017-2018 JCHS First Semester Course Descriptions


5:00 p.m.        Better Together (Meets 2nd Sunday of the month)

                        The Jewish tradition teaches that old age is a virtue and a blessing.  Better Together is now beginning its third year as an intergenerational educational program for Senior Citizens and Teens of the Greater Reading community. Our JCHS school is committed to remaining connected to our Jewish values, affirming the importance of local senior citizens. Students will meet with seniors monthly, studying together and facilitating deep conversation and creating meaningful connections. This course may satisfy local school or youth group goals for community service and involvement. It is also an important item to include on college applications. Open to all grades. Second Sunday monthly, 5:00 -6:15 PM on a regular basis as part of the JCHS.


5:30 p.m.        Current Events—Taught by Shira Simon

                        A variety of news events, domestic and international do have an effect on us - the local Jewish community and the world. What do Judaism and Jewish values contribute to US and world events and decisions.



                        REEL Israel—Taught by Rabbi Dov Lerner

                        In response to student requests for more information and discussion about the development of the current Israeli cultural, especially as it is reflected in films, music, television, language, books, and politics. From what sources did the existing cultural patterns evolve – or devolve? Using media, we will consider what makes the modern Israeli unique – and just released: “Israel is the 11th-happiest country in the world, ranking behind such happiness superpowers as Norway, Switzerland and Canada, but above the United States, which placed 14th, Germany(16th) and the UK (19th), according to the UN’s 2017 World Happiness Report. What attracts so many immigrants to Israel?



6:15 p.m.        American Jewish Experience—Taught by Shira Simon

                        This  course will cover the sociological – historical saga of American Jewry from the early establishment of Jewish communities in colonial America through the rise of the multiple Jewish denominations – Sefardi and Ashkenazi, Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist, reactions to the World Wars, the consequences of the Shoah on American Jewry, establishment of the modern State of Israel, the Save Soviet Jewry movement and deal with the contemporary problems facing American Jewry – today and their origins in American and world Jewry.



                        Comparative Judaism: Who is a Jew?—Taught by Rabbi Dov Lerner

                        In response to JCHS student requests, we will be surveying the usual “major movements” of American Judaism for their similarities and differences – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. However, there are many new and still evolving denominations and “ritual titles” being created as “movements” asking for the support of each individual Jew and Jewish family, including the Yiddish Folk School Network,  Jewish Renewal Movement, Aleph, National Havurah Committee, Humanist Judaism, Ultra-Orthodoxy and more. We will create a “chart” outlining each movement’s basic history, outstanding persons and decisions, essential beliefs, values, symbols, rituals, locations, numbers, leadership, education of clergy, etc., while we also answer questions and discuss the reasons for these innovations.



7:00 p.m.        BREAK


7:15 p.m.        Civil Rights and Jewish Values—Taught by Shira Simon

                         Nowhere did Jews identify themselves more forth­rightly with the liberal avant-garde than in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. But, it was an uneven identification. For Jews living in the South, the issue of racial integration posed unsettling questions. They constituted barely one percent of the region’s total population. Among their white neighbors, they had long been accepted as “honorary white Protestants.”    More than any other factor, it was the participation of Northern Jews in the Civil Rights movement who were the earliest supporters of the fledgling National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Jews also were the earliest supporters of the Urban League, founded in New York in 1911 to help newly arrived black migrants from the rural South. What in Judaism and the American Jewish community accounts for such unusual numbers of Jews participating then and even today in civil rights for all Americans? 


                        Jewish Bioethics: Moral Choices for Modern Jews—Taught by Rabbi Dov Lerner

            We live in a secular and a Jewish world of “Tradition and Change,” and just when we think there are no more changes on the horizon – we are often pleasantly surprised. We will discuss and debate new choices confronting us in a variety of new decisions based on technological innovations. We will survey not only what is new but what is the significance of these innovations in our lives. What, for instance? New technological discoveries and research in medicine, agriculture, human surgery and health, defense, environment, energy discoveries in Israel and renewable alternatives, diagnostics, culture, travel, social action, hospitals, nursing homes and aging, and even fashion with new materials.  Will we live longer, and will it be a better life? What will “better” mean and to whom? Not just for science geeks, but for all of us and our immediate future.