Talmud Torah of St. Paul

Where critical thinking
and Jewish values intersect


Download our Midrasha electives brochure HERE.

Monday Electives

God 101.   6:00 - 7:00 PM

Do you believe in God? Yes. No. I don't know. Sometimes. Here's a joke: Jews pray to Adonai. Agnostics pray to I-don't-know. And atheists pray to I-deny.

In this class we will look directly at the question of belief in God and disbelief in God. Why are so many scientists and scholars atheists? Why are so many other scientists and scholars believers? Does one group know something the other group doesn't? Why doesn't one group tell it to the other group? Is all faith based on emotions, or are there reasons to believe? And to disbelieve?  We will read some amazing ideas from old and new thinkers, and all opinions, agreements and disagreements are welcome!  Taught by Rabbi Yosi Gordon.


- The Israeli-Arab Conflict: From the Balfour Declaration to the Present Day. 6:00 - 7:00 PM

Will there ever be peace in Israel?  What are the obstacles? Digging deeper into the Middle East Conflict, the "Sandstorm of the Century", and its hot-button issues.

Brace yourself for a fully immersive and incredibly controversial discourse on the Middle East Conflict!  This course will focus on the complex and nuanced ways that Israeli Jews, Arab-Israelis, Palestinian writers and poets, as well as scholars outside the region, have addressed the Middle East Conflict.  The compelling writings of Arab and Israeli literary and political figures will expose the students to multiple perspectives of the conflict.  In order to better understand the political controversies of the different communities, we will also read polemical essays on the topics at the center of the public debate addressed by Israeli, Arab and American scholars.  Taught by Dr. Arie Zmora.


- Jewish Pop Culture and Jews in Comics. 7:00-8:00 PM (grades 8 & 9 only)

Using a variety of approaches (including viewing video clips), students will learn about Jews in the media and how they affect society and their influence on the Jewish people. For the second semester, we plan to offer a class on Jews in Comics.  Taught by Barry Golob, Marketing, Electronic Communications & Social Media Specialist at Beth Jacob Synagogue.


Wednesday Electives

- The Jewish Lens. 6:00 - 7:00 PM (grades 8 & 9 only)

Photography, values, text, community… through the eyes of the artist.

A picture is worth a thousand words… What stories do your pictures tell?  How do you "read" a photo?  How do we portray Judaism in our photographs?  How can text and image complement each other in communicating ideas?  In what ways can photographs get us to look at and think about our world in new ways?  How do images link our diverse Jewish communities and how do they reflect our values?  These are just a few of the questions you will explore in this elective, using the media of photography and classic Jewish text.  You have begun to learn to read text critically; this course will grow that skill and add to it a dimension of visual literacy. You will create your own visual documents reflecting your own Jewish life and community.  Toward the end of the year, you will help to create an exhibit of your work.  Taught by Sara Lynn Newberger.


- Torah:  The Book of Esther.  7:00 - 8:30 PM

What is the wildest story in the Bible? Come and learn why! The Scroll of Esther, M’gillat Ester, is certainly the wildest story in the Bible. If it were a movie, you couldn’t attend without both parents, grandparents, the PTA and lots of bleeps. It’s about substance abuse, violence, sexism, hate crimes, deceit, espionage, corruption, godlessness, oppression and other wonderful values. It is the antithesis of all  Jewish values in the Torah.  We will study the entire book of Esther, based on an understanding of the culture and history of ancient Persia, and consider the values, overt and covert, in light of Jewish tradition and contemporary issues. Taught by Rabbi Yosi Gordon.


- Jewish History:  Between the Cross & the Crescent - The History of the Jewish People during the Middle Ages in Christian Europe & in the Lands of Islam (70 CE –1492 CE). 7:00 - 8:30 PM

How did Jews adapt to new and difficult circumstances, while keeping their traditions and identity intact?  The course will follow the story of Jews beginning after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE and ending with the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 CE.  Students will learn how Jews, after losing their independence in the land of Israel and being banished from it, survived and developed community life revolving around the synagogue, the leadership of Rabbis, and lay leaders (shtadlanim). We will learn how Jews were viewed, as well as how and why they were excluded by law from participation in a broad range of occupations in Christian Europe and in Muslim lands.  We will learn how Jews were discriminated against and persecuted in the Christian Kingdoms and under Islamic rulers.  We will learn how Jews skillfully adapted to new and difficult circumstances and kept their traditions and identity intact in spite of the challenges they confronted.  The class will learn of Jewish communities in Babylon, Persia, Egypt, the Maghreb, Spain, England, France, Italy, Germany, and Poland. Students will become familiar with terminology and of leaders and literary figures.  Taught by Dr. Arie Zmora.