Pro­duc­ing con­tent on the Web since 1995.


some say­ings of ר‘משבצונה“ל

For many years I have worked hard, and strug­gled with mas­ter­ing virtuous. Now, in addi­tion, I’m work­ing on becom­ing more virtual.
This is an expres­sion of that effort.
* * * * * * *

השיבנו ה‘ אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו
כעוד לא היו
* * * * * * *
ומביא גאלה…
לצאצאיהם

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All pho­tographs are by Mark Hurvitz unless they are obvi­ously not (or credit oth­er­wise is given).

The pho­tos in the ban­ner at the top (only a shal­low sliver of a much larger photo) are either from our home or our trav­els and are offered for their beauty alone (though a brain-teaser for me: “Where was that?”).

be jewish

for intro­duc­tion or conversion?

I began teach­ing “Intro­duc­tion to Judaism” courses for the (then) Union of Amer­i­can Hebrew Con­gre­ga­tions our first year after ordi­na­tion shortly after we moved to New York City. Deb­bie was Assis­tant Rabbi at Cen­tral Syn­a­gogue and I was on the staff of the Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment Divi­sion of the UJA-Federation Cam­paign. My job entailed orga­niz­ing events around the city that would bring out young Jew­ish pro­fes­sion­als (Jew­ish “Yup­pies“) and involve them in Jew­ish life. It was mostly a “group-work” and man­age­r­ial job. Teach­ing the Intro course offered me a chance to do some­thing of a clas­si­cally more rab­binic nature. The classes were billed as an “Intro­duc­tion” not for “Con­ver­sion”. How­ever, many of the peo­ple tak­ing the class were there as the first step in their con­ver­sion to Judaism. I con­tin­ued to teach this or a sim­i­lar class, at least once a year (except for one year hia­tus in the early 1990s), until the year we left San Diego, 2006. While I con­tin­ued to main­tain that it was an intro­duc­tion to Judaism, I cer­tainly pre­sented that Judaism in a way that I would find pos­i­tive and appeal­ing to myself. In a sense, it was as Deb­bie had me teach a course for her high school stu­dents “Judaism through Rabbi Mark’s Eyes”.

Begin­ning in 1997 I posted the syl­labus on my Web site and updated it yearly.

intro­duc­ing the introduction

I also pre­pared a num­ber of ques­tions and other mate­ri­als that I thought would help the stu­dents begin the process of explor­ing their approach to Judaism. In addi­tion, before the days of Ask Moses and Ask A Rabbi I posted ques­tions I received along with responses.

Early on I noticed that those begin­ning the process of explor­ing Judaism felt an ini­tial dis­com­fort. The first ses­sion of class we always needed a few extra chairs, because nobody wanted to sit next to some­one they did not know. As though to say: “I know why I’m here, but I don’t know about you, and whether it is safe to sit beside you.” I devel­oped a “Get Acquainted Grid” (sim­i­lar to the “I’ve done that too” grid for prepar­ing for Rosh haShan­nah) to help those attend­ing meet each other and show that they were all much more sim­i­lar than they feared.

get acquainted grid

the ‘get acquainted grid’; click to down­load a full PDF file

I also wanted to know more about my stu­dents. What knowl­edge of Jew­ish life did they bring to the class? To facil­i­tate that I pre­pared a num­ber of ques­tions for them to answer after the first session.

  • First Ques­tions
    • If I could learn only one thing in this class, it would be:
    • That aspect of the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence that makes me most uncom­fort­able is:
    • The most excit­ing aspect of the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence is:
    • The most mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ence I’ve had with reli­gion was:
    • From my point of view, the great­est prob­lem fac­ing the Jew­ish peo­ple is:
    • The best advice an elder once gave me is:
    • A Jew­ish book or per­son­al­ity that has strongly influ­enced me is:
    • The most impor­tant aspect of reli­gion is:
    • My favorite Jew­ish rit­ual is:
  • Sec­ond Ques­tions… Please List:
    • Five major per­sonal ques­tions about Judaism:
    • Three most prob­lem­atic aspects of Judaism:
    • Three most pos­i­tive aspects of Judaism:
    • Five impor­tant things about Judaism you already know:

After a num­ber of years of doing hun­dreds of demon­stra­tions of Nisus Writer at Mac­world and other venues I real­ized that “teach­ing” and “sell­ing” are com­pa­ra­ble activ­i­ties. I have a “prod­uct” the fine qual­i­ties of which I want to show oth­ers. As a teacher, how­ever, I under­stand that I don’t have to “close” the deal. In fact, as a teacher I do not ever want to close the deal. I want to keep “sell­ing” continuously.

I hope oth­ers will con­tinue to find this mate­r­ial worthwhile.

Last updated: Mon­day, Octo­ber 18, 2010