In the "Jewish Media" elective, we've been exploring some big ideas in Judaism using popular media as a starting point for the conversation. We began the year watching an episode of "Parks and Rec," in which the citizens of he town of Pawnee struggle to decide what to place I'm a time capsule to best represent all the people of the town. This led to an interesting discussion about our own identities, what we would choose to represent ourselves, and what would represent American Judaism as we experience it. Throughout the class I focused on student requests; the class chose what they wanted to watch scenes from each week, and my challenge each week was to find those connections in current movies and TV that raised relevant issues to explore with a Jewish lens. What a fun challenge it was! Phil sending his daughter off to college in an episode of "Modern Family" opened up a conversation about the relationship between parents and children as we contrasted his "Phil"-osophies with texts from Pirkei Avot. Similarly an episode from "Dr. Who" called Blink started a discussion about being present in our lives, while "Battle Star Galatica" opened us up to our own personal journeys, as well as some overtly Jewish themes- Captain Adamah (meaning Earth in Hebrew) is the leader trying to lead this mission to find Earth!
While we had many great discussions, strengthened by the diverse experiences and interests of the teens in the class, one of my favorite nights was a discussion following an episode of "House." In the show, an Orthodox Hassidic woman visits Dr. Hours after falling ill at her wedding. As the episode progresses we learn that this woman underwent a radical spiritual transformation; she was not born into the Hassidic community but found it after a long career in the music industry full of parties and drugs. Dr. House believes this change must be a symptom of her disease as in his view "people don't change," but not everyone on his team believes this. This began an exciting discussion in class where students shared big changes in their own life, including experiences at a new school, new hobbies, Bar/bat mitzvah and more. We ended with an activity where each teen mapped out his her own feeling of connection with Judaism throughout their lives so far and made predictions far into the future. What was amazing throughout this was that while every teen had a different map of highs and lows, everyone had such clear reasons and expectations, and all felt or believed there would be moments in their lives of extreme spiritual connection. So far it's been such an interesting experience and I'm looking forward to our last couple classes.
Contact Midrasha Co-Directors Mark Deutsch and Debra Marx at (510)501-6692