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What Have We Been Up To On the J Line?

Posted by Carolyn Gerecht on January 22, 2016

At J Line, we often recognize a reflection of our own lives, and most pressing questions, in the stories we encounter – in the text, in film, in humor, and even in Hebrew. (And we even enjoy ourselves while doing so!)

Under the guidance of Ronit Pasternak, our Hebrew students learn Hebrew as a modern language. In early January, advanced students began discussing the concepts of freedom, human rights, and liberties in preparation for MLK Day on January 18, in Hebrew. Other classes continued to look at Hebrew sports, to draw out dream Hebrew houses, and to struggle with new structures of grammar.

Students taking a dynamic class this term called “The Dark Side: Bible Stories the Rabbi Never Told You”, with Steve Kroser, recently looked at the unsettling story of David and Bathsheba. In the story, David (a beloved King well-known for his leadership and righteousness) sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba. Upon learning that she’s married, David sends her husband, a soldier to the front lines of battle so that he will die – so that he can be with her.

Is a leader different than a hero?

After class, J Liners were welcomed back from Winter Break on a particularly cold, wet morning with bagels and a delicious hot chocolate bar (including fun mixes, whipped cream, flavored syrup, sprinkles, and cookies), during Breakfast B’yachad. Students hung out together before the second hour of classes began, sipping fun hot chocolate creations, and relaxing. The Second Floor on Sunday morning at J Line always has a strong “college campus” vibe in this way.

Students in another popular class last week, Current Events with Barak Naveh, vigorously debated two very controversial topics in our own culture, with strong opinions abound: race relations in America, and the brutality of football in the recent playoff games (also referenced here in Rabbi Symons’ weekly blog).

What are my personal values – are those Jewish values? What does Judaism say about fairness?

(Sitting in the class, I remembered a response from a recent student survey of our teens and their experience at J Line so far. This student wrote, “I am beginning to think of my views as Jewish views, not just my personal views.”)

At the same time, next door to the debate in Current Events, Rabbi Ron Symons aggressively shook a soda can at the front of the room in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Jewish Teens.”

“Do you know what will happen when I open the can?” asked Rabbi Symons.

“It will explode!” came the cheer.

Their excitement was followed by a discussion of actions and consequences, being proactive, and the “soda can” moments in our own lives. The class even invited the great sage Hillel to join the conversation, famous for his questions, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

How can we be proactive during our own most challenging moments?

The coffee, content and questions at J Line are designed not only with the goal of “Teaching Hebrew and Jewish text,” because we think we should. Instead, through Hebrew and Jewish text, we are engaging confident, knowledgeable and compassionate thinkers and leaders. And we are continuing a 2,000-year-old conversation into our lives.

In the busy world we live in, it’s hard to find time for Torah lishma, learning for its own sake. But this Torah lishma is never learning “for the sake of learning”. It’s for the sake of becoming our best selves.

For more information about J Line, please contact Carolyn Gerecht at [email protected] , visit www.jccpgh.org/jline or check us out on Facebook.

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