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Course Descriptions

 

FIRST HOUR CLASSES

WELCOME TO MERCAZ: AN INTRODUCTION TO EXPLORING YOUR OWN CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM

Sam Schauvaney (Grade 8) 6:30 – 7:25

Conservative Judaism

Your bar and bat mitzvah are behind you and in five years you will be in college. Mercaz is the perfect place to start asking questions about what you have already learned and explore new subjects you were not old enough to study before. Jumpstart your Jewish adulthood and join Sam Schauvaney as she takes you on a tour of the possibilities. This class will include guest speakers and interesting topics you choose to explore. At the end of the semester, we will write personal statements that will be revisited upon your graduation from Mercaz in 2023.


STEP INTO THE “JEW-TURE"”

Austin Zoot 6:30-7:30 (Grades 9-11)

Ethics, Jewish History

Use design thinking to create program – venture aware – Welcome, Rosh (leader)! Be the hero of your very own Jewish adventure as you design a Jewish experience. Every decision is yours as you explore Jewish wisdom and text to create your Jewish experience. Utilize the elements of Design Thinking to create a prototype of a Jewish experience that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and a model for success.

This class is offered through the Teen Collective and is based on elements of Design Thinking. It is experimental and student- centered. The semester will conclude with a prototype and the opportunity to bring their experience to life.


ISRAEL IS REAL: HOT TOPICS 2019: LETTERS TO MY PALESTINIAN NEIGHBOR

Deborah Netanel (Grades 10 - 12) 6:30-7:25

Israel, Ethics, Jewish History

Come explore and debate contemporary issues in Israeli society. With the idea of “Zionism then, now and tomorrow” as our theme, we will focus on crucial issues such as religious pluralism, diversity and inclusivity, identity and democracy, the BDS movement, and many more challenging topics. Be ready to take a position on Women of the Wall, Eurovision and Israel, Soccer and sports around the world, Conversion and the Law of Return, and even what makes food Israeli. Bring your own questions about Israeli politics today! Opinions and attitudes welcome!


MOOT COURT BEIT DIN: MAKING THE CASE IN JEWISH LAW –

Lowell Lustig (Grades 9 - 12) 6:30-7:25

Ethics or Torah & Text

Have you ever wondered what Jewish law says about contemporary issues? This is a year-long course where a selected team of students will be assigned a case in Jewish law, study Jewish sources (in English) as a team, write a group opinion and make an oral argument as a Beit Din – a Rabbinical Court. This is our fourth year participating in this national competition sponsored by Prizmah: The National Association for Jewish Day Schools. (Last year we argued a case regarding a potential bone marrow donor who decides not to be a donor jeopardizing the life of another person.) Are you an aspiring lawyer? Would you like to learn how to make a legal argument? No previous experience in studying Jewish law is required. A maximum of five students will be selected to participate in this national competition following an interview with Lowell Lustig.


JEWISH ENVIRONMENTALISM AND SOCIAL ACTION

Jonathan Jackson (Grades 9-12) 6:30-7:25

Ethics, Jewish History

Class Overview: We live in this world, and we know it is suffering environmentally. We live as Jews in this world, which means that we have our own histories and traditions of ways we live in this world ethically and religiously.

So, we will explore with this idea in mind--that we live in a broken world as Jews. What are our traditions' understandings of being stewards--caretakers--for the environment? What do you think about your role both in your life today and as someone who has been born into and inherited our tradition? How can you "live as though the world were created for your sake," and at the same time be humble enough to out our world and our environment first.

This is a course about exploring our tradition and working to develop not only our own understandings, but to consider, practice, and to reflect on real ways to make a difference and be good stewards of this world in our daily conduct. We take special care to look at the history of "tikkun olam" as a Jewish value and as our own value today.


SECOND HOUR CLASSES

SENIOR SEMINAR

Rabbi Ben Chaidell (Grade 12) 7:35-8:30

Conservative Judaism, Ethics

Senior year is special, exciting, and can be a bit scary. This is when you transition from a high school student to a young adult in the world. The goals of senior seminar are to help you with this transition in three ways: first, to have a safe and supportive group to journey through the year with; second, to develop and share your views on pressing issues in our world; and third, to unpack your own Jewish identity and how Judaism can guide us and offer us wisdom during this time. Last year we discussed hot button issues such as abortion, marijuana legalization, and gender/sexual identity; you will decide which issues we will discuss this year. Our final project is to summarize your Jewish identity in the “This I Believe” essay. I look forward to a wonderful year with you!


“JUSTICE, JUSTICE, YOU SHALL PURSUE”: GENDER, RACE, AND CLASS IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

Zak Lempert (Grades 9-11) 7:35-8:30

Ethics, Torah & Texts, Jewish History

What does “justice” mean to you? In this class, we’ll look at the Jewish concept of Tzedek (Justice) and how Jewish values, texts, and history can guide today’s understanding of gender, class, and race. Together, we’ll take an intersectional approach, looking at the intricacies of identity in our Jewish community in Cincinnati, in ancient Israel, and everything in between. In our exploration of “Jewish justice,” we will engage with issues connected to poverty, race and colorism, and LGBTQ issues. People of all viewpoints and identities are welcome to join this class, and we’ll get to hear from many fantastic guest speakers from the community. At the end of the class, you will complete a social impact project to reflect on the issues we learned about together, as well as illustrating your own conception of “Jewish justice.”


CHAVERIM AND CURRENT ISRAELI CULTURE

Darya Solomon and May From (Chaverim M'Israel) (Grades 8-10) 7:35-8:30

Israel

What do the following this have in common: robotics, biology, surfing, and music? They are all interests of Cincinnati's new Chaverim M'Israel! The Chaverim bring a wide range of talents and experience to our city, and bring unique perspectives on Israeli culture and current events. Join them for a class focused on Israeli pop culture that will add texture to your understanding of what it's like to be a teenager in Israel today!


MADRICHIM WORKSHOP: LEADERSHIP THROUGH A JEWISH LENS

Stephanie Kogan (Grades 8 and 9) 7:35-8:30

Torah and Text, Ethics

Madrichim are leaders, and this exciting, interactive course is your opportunity to explore what it means to be an effective teaching assistant or to take a leadership role in a youth group. Madrichim learn to see education from a teacher’s or leader’s perspective. In this workshop, you will gain a clear understanding of the role, responsibilities, and satisfactions that come with being a madrich. You will use your knowledge about Judaism, the Jewish holidays, Torah, and Israel as the basis for discovering how content material can be informally and indirectly learned and reinforced through regular activities. You can look forward to engaging in various hands-on projects, including playing “quickie” games, making file folder games for learning centers, and creating book follow-up experiences. Collecting copies of our class activities, my lesson plans, your peers’ book projects, and everyone’s active games will get you started on building a resource file that you will be able to use for years to come. Working as a teaching assistant or holding a leadership position in a youth group will provide you with an excellent first-job experience and reference while you make an important contribution to the Jewish community.


JEWISH AND PLURAL: BEING JEWISH IN A MULTI-RELIGIOUS AND MULTI-ETHNIC WORLD

Jonathan Jackson (Grades 9 -11) 7:35 -8:30

Ethics, Prayer, Theology

Pluralism means that different religions are on equal footing in terms of value and place in the community. Traditionally, some understandings of Judaism ask that we look inward, to our own community and our own people. We see ourselves as unique and as "chosen." Yet, other voices in the Jewish tradition speak of "welcoming the stranger." How do we balance these demands both as an individual and as a community?

As Americans or as people residing in this particular society, we are asked to turn outward, to deal with and make welcome all variations of immigrants, strangers, down-trodden people, and people who have ways of being, thinking, and acting that are very different than ours. How do we embody this unique American challenge as Jews?

In this course, we will explore our own beliefs deeply and wrestle with these two contradictory streams of voices from our tradition. We will build our own system of ethics for learning about other cultures, especially those that are difficult for us because they contradict our own ways of being or our beliefs. We will each work to develop our own outlook, theology, and figure out how to live this out in ways that make a difference and to which we can hold ourselves accountable.