Midreshet Fall 2020

Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

F1. Issues in American Jewish Society

  1. Why are so many people fascinated with the Netflix series’ "Unorthodox" and "Shtisel"? Do these series give an accurate portrayal of Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) life? How are the different characters portrayed in these productions?
  2. What are the origins of the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement? What does it mean to boycott Israel? What is in the BDS bill in Congress?
  3. Are American Jews still strong supporters of Israel? What issues could diminish their support for the Jewish State?
  4. Why is Anti-Semitism on the rise in the United States?
  5. This course will explore these issues and hopefully find answers to your questions, and questions to your answers.

12 sessions $210
Instructor: Leslie Goldress

Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

F2. The Borders of Israel: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Our biblical tradition gives us the borders of the Promised Land. But even in the Torah, there are discrepancies. Throughout the ages, religion, politics, and foreign rule have given us a history in the Land, but even here with different borders.

We will examine the historical borders of the Promised Land, and then those that are current since the establishment of the State of Israel. Finally, we will look at the future of those borders.

10 sessions $180
Instructor: Rabbi Joshua Finkelstein

Wednesdays, 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

F3. From Egypt to the Promised Land: An Archeological Perspective

How do archaeology and science illuminate the Biblical narrative from the time of bondage in Egypt until our conquest of, and settlement in, the Promised Land? The class will study the ancient Middle East of that period and the different societies that the Israelites encountered.

12 sessions $210
Instructor: Dr. Martin Cohen

Wednesdays, 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

F4. Star, Cross, and Crescent: History of the Jews in the Middle Ages

After the destruction of the Temple in 70CE, the Jewish people were dispersed throughout the world and lived, during the medieval period under the rule of other religions. In this ten-part course, we will see how Judaism and the Jewish people fared during the rise and reigns of Christianity and Islam. Did the Jews really have it better in Muslim lands? How did the conflicts between Christianity and Islam affect the Jews? From Constantine to the Crusades to the Inquisition, discover how a people consigned to live without a land survived and even thrived.

10 sessions $180
Instructor: Rabbi Daniel Graber

Thursdays, 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

F5. Black-Jewish Relations: A Historical Course

Blacks and Jews have shared a long and varied history, particularly in the American context. Strong forces have pulled the two groups simultaneously together and apart. Through an examination of historical and literary texts, as well as visual images, this course will explore that shared history, focusing on the period of its greatest intensity, the 1950’s and 1960’s. In exploring this history, the course will show examples of Black-Jewish relations, ranging from the heights of co-operation to the depths of conflict, with many halfway points in between.

12 sessions $210
Instructor: Rabbi Brian Leiken

Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

F6. The Wisdom of our Sages: A Modern Exploration

The Wisdom of our Sages (Pirke Avot) is one of the great works of Jewish literature. In it can be found such pearls as Hillel's famous statement: "If I am not for me, who will be? If I am only for me, what am I? And if not now, when?".

Inspired by a recently published commentary by two exciting and creative modern rabbis (Gordon Tucker and Tamar Elad-Applebaum), we will explore the sayings and new commentary in this collection together, reflect on our own experience as Jews in the 21st century. All are welcome - no previous knowledge required. No book purchase is necessary.

12 sessions $210
Instructor: Rabbi Jill Hackell

Thursdays, 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

F7. What's the Deal With ..?

From lovers not touching to boiling our wine… From swinging chickens over our heads to eating ice cream before chicken (but not afterwards)… From wearing a shtreimel to kissing a dropped yarmulke…

During our history, we Jews have amassed a long list of unusual customs and ceremonies. They are such a part of our culture that we often pay them no mind, while non-Jews look upon them with a combination of amusement and horror. "What's the Deal With . . ." will look at a long list of these customs and ceremonies and explain the rationale behind them in an entertaining, yet grounded manner.

Participants will be encouraged to suggest some of their own customs, since over the course of nearly four thousand years, no one list could be complete. Join us for learning, laughing, and lifting (chairs and spirits).

10 sessions $180
Instructor: Rabbi Daniel Pernick

Thursdays, 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

F8.The Second Temple Period: Who was Who, What Did They Do (and Why it Matters)

Babylon (was it good for the Jews?) … Alexander the Great (was he really great?) … The Samaritans (Jewish or not and why?) … The Maccabees (weren’t really) … Jewish Sects (we did that?) … The Romans (to be or not to be) … Understanding the schism and the rise of Christianity …
Explore the world of the Second Temple Period, its origins and how its impact reverberates in our time.

12 sessions $210
Instructor: Sharon Halper


Federation Midreshet Fall 2020 Registration (September 21 Deadline)

Financial need scholarships and spouse discounts are available.

To register via mail, complete the following information and send with payment to
Jewish Federation & Foundation,
450 W Nyack Rd, West Nyack 10994


For more information, contact Barry Kanarek at bkanarek@jewishrockland.org  

or (845)362-4200 ext 170.

Instructor Bios

Dr. Martin O. Cohen has lectured once a month for the past two decades on Jewish history and bible at the Orangetown Jewish Center, and has taught at other synagogues and Jewish culture clubs. He taught Jewish history for three semesters at the Reuben Gittleman Hebrew Day School. Dr. Cohen is a mainstay instructor with the Learning Collaborative at New City Jewish Center and with the Road Scholar (nee Elderhostel) summer program. Dr. Cohen has been a faculty member at Midreshet Rockland for many years.

Rabbi Joshua Finkelstein joined Montebello Jewish Center with over twenty years of pulpit experience within the Conservative Movement serving congregations in New York and New Jersey. He received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York. Rabbi Finkelstein was a Visiting Lecturer at JTS, where he taught the first-year seminar required of all rabbinical students guiding them to recognize and communicate the meaning and vitality of Jewish rituals and texts.

Leslie Goldress has taught Melton and Midreshet since their inception in Rockland. A Jewish educator for over 40 years, she has a graduate degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Leslie served as Educational Director of the NCJC for over 20 years. She has taught Dramas of Jewish Living, a Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning core class, Melton graduate courses on American Jewish Experience, Contemporary Jewish Issues, Israel, and the Development of the Jewish Denominations.

Rabbi Daniel Graber is in his second year as Assistant Rabbi of the New City Jewish Center, where he fosters a caring community and engages adults in meaningful study. He received ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as a Masters of Arts in Jewish education from JTS’s William Davidson School. Rabbi Graber has a passion for Jewish texts and finding relevance in them for modern readers.

Dr. Rabbi Jill Hackell received her M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and practiced pediatrics for several years. She worked for over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, where she did clinical research on new vaccines for children. She was ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion, a pluralistic rabbinical school. Rabbi Hackell is the rabbi at the West Clarkstown Jewish Center and has been a faculty member at AJR.

Sharon Halper has been in the field of Jewish education for three decades, first in the field of informal youth education and as a Reform congregational educator and then as a Melton Adult Mini-School Teacher and Director. Sharon has also served as regional educator for the Union for Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Brian Leiken has been the Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since June 2012. He is passionate about social justice, Jewish history, and the study of modern American Judaism. As the religious leader of Temple Beth Sholom, Rabbi Leiken has transitioned the temple into a relational synagogue, one that is built upon inter and intra-relationships between the clergy and its members. He attended the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion where he was ordained in May 2007.

Rabbi Daniel Pernick was ordained at the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1982. He has served as Rabbi of Beth Am Temple in Pearl River since 1985. Rabbi Pernick has made adult education and community outreach central features of his rabbinate. A past president of the Rockland Board of Rabbis and a two-time past president of the Pearl River Interfaith Council, Rabbi Pernick has been a campus minister and an adjunct faculty member at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill since 2002. He is very happy to return to the Midreshet faculty.