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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Kohelet Yeshiva High School’

Former UK Chief Rabbi’s Future: ‘Working With Students’

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Last night Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks spoke at Eastern University, a Christian non-denominational school in suburban Philadelphia, to a packed audience of students which also included a large segment from a local modern Orthodox school, Kohelet Yeshiva High School.

The subject of the rabbi’s talk was: “Religion and the Common Good.”  It was presented by the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good, the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, along with the Tikvah Program and the Beit Midrash program at Kohelet Yeshiva High School.

Rabbi Sacks forcefully delivered his take not only on religion and the common good, but his view that religion is for the common good.  He compared his views with that of philosophers such as John Rawls, who believed that there could be a language of public reason which all could share, “so long as religious conviction was left out.”  Sacks also mentioned the anti-religionists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, both of whom view “religion not just as irrelevant, but also harmful.”

But for Sacks, once the public discussion begins to lose its mooring in religion, the strong sense of the common – as opposed to individual – good is lost.  The focus then becomes, eventually, “what is in it for me, instead of what is in it for the common good.”

It is in such a society, Sacks said, that Hobbes’s realization of life as being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” is inevitable.  For that is what becomes of a society based on a social contract, rather than on a societal covenant.

Rabbi Sacks explained that the first example of the social contract appears in First Samuel, when the people of Israel demanded a king. In the book, God told Samuel to explain to the people what kinds of liberties and rights they would have to give up in order to have a king, a centralized power, Sacks explained.  The people, to their later regret, demanded one anyway.

On the other hand, Rabbi Sacks explained that the first example of a social covenant is also found in the Hebrew Bible.  This was a pledge of mutual responsibility between the Jewish people and God.  A covenant, as opposed to a contract, is an exchange, a pledge to do together what neither can do alone.

Rabbi Sacks described the United States as a covenantal society, and pointed out that virtually every U.S. president renews that covenant during their inauguration.  A social contract creates what Rabbi Sacks called a “state,” in contrast to a true “society” which is created by a covenant.

“We the people,” are covenantal words, they are not ones expressed in a country such as England, or certainly any other monarchy.

Rabbi Sacks delighted the audience, delivering many “Jewish” jokes and Talmudic stories.

But the rabbi’s declaration that he hopes to be like the Lubbevitcher Rebbe: rather than have many followers, create many leaders, warmed the hearts of many.  This announcement came in response to the last questioner of the evening.

Harris Finkelstein, of Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, mentioned that he has read many of Rabbi Sacks’ more than 25 books, and that he looks forward to receiving the weekly email from Rabbi Sacks with his take on the weekly Torah portion.  But what, after having been chief rabbi of the United Kingdom for 22 years, “what could possibly be next?”

“I intend to spend the rest of my life with students, encouraging them to lead,” the rabbi said. “I want to support and encourage these students to do great things for others.”

RABBI SACKS TO BEGIN AFFILIATION WITH YESHIVA UNIVERSITY

His declaration last night was followed up by an announcement today that Rabbi Sacks has accepted a teaching position at Yeshiva University. The announcement was made to a small group of students, but YU said it will be releasing a statement next week in conjunction with the former chief rabbi’s office.

 

Modern Orthodox Students Meet to ‘Slam’ in Poetry Combat

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

It wasn’t exactly the Jets and the Sharks meeting for a rumble, but the competing schools had distinctive styles and there were some elements of scrappy street fighting vs. a more refined approach to battle.

On Tuesday, February 19, seven Modern Orthodox high schools from New York, New Jersey and as far south as Philadelphia, met at SAR High School in Riverdale, New York for a Slam Poetry Competition.

Slam Poetry, or “Spoken Word,” is a form of oral expression that combines elements of traditional poetry and the urban music style of rap. The subject matter of Spoken Word is very often personal, dealing with emotional conflict, the generational divides or one’s role in the larger world. It began in the mid-1980′s and took hold in particular in Chicago, New York City and San Francisco.  It has since spread all over the world, but remains an art form that appeals to and draws from a largely young, urban population.

As an experimentalist art form there are few rules: no props, costumes or music, and each piece can be only three minutes long.  Spoken Word is performance driven – while the writing is an essential part of the finished product, the delivery – that is, the visual aspect – is critical.  Spoken Word competitions – known as slams – take place in rounds with poets competing against each other, and experienced poets as judges.

The Yeshiva University Poetry Slam League had its roots in a poetry journal Mima’amakim, created by several Yeshiva University students including Aaron Roller, a former Rambam Mesivta student, and Hillel Broder, a current SAR teacher.

After Roller and Broder graduated, they decided to create a slam poetry league for the Modern Orthodox schools in the greater New York City environs. It combined elements of traditional slam poetry, but with a decidedly Jewish – not comedic shtick Jewish – bent. Roller and Broder joined up with Hillel Goodman, assistant principal of Rambam Mesivta, who was the first coordinator of the Yeshiva League.

Broder, who coordinates the SAR team, told The Jewish Press they view the YU Slam Poetry League as a continuation of the Jewish tradition of religious poetry.

“We look to Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, the great Spanish poet of the medieval age, and his schools of poets and poetry,” Broder explained to The Jewish Press.  “We see David HaMelech, the great psalmist, as the progenitor of this project, writing with the knowledge that our religion’s essential language of Tehillim is structured in the deep and condensed language of poetic expression.”

Broder says he and the SAR administration see this form of artistic expression as “an opportunity for d’veykut, cleaving to God, developing awareness of the divine.”

The League officially began a year and a half ago, with three competitions in the 2010-2011 school year; this year there will be four.  Roller, the driving force behind the mima’amakin movement, is now the league coordinator and is always one of the judges.

At the February 19 Poetry Slam, 45 students participated in the first round, with fourteen moving on to the second round.

Roller explained to The Jewish Press between rounds that his vision was to create an opportunity for students to have an outlet for artistic expression, as well as a format for non-athletes to interact with students in the other Modern Orthodox schools, similar to what the athletic league provides for athletes.

Because of his own background – Roller is a published poet – he is interested in encouraging the Spoken Word students to learn about different forms of poetry.  For each competition the students are required to create both a free verse poem and one that conforms to a particular verse format.  Last year, the students had to write a ghazal, a Persian poetry form that Ibn Ezra and others adopted for various slichot.  In another competition they had to use the haiku format.

At SAR on Feb. 19, the students competed in two formats, a free verse poem and a “pantoum,” a poetic form comprised of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza, and the last line of the poem is often the same as the first line.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/modern-orthodox-students-meet-to-slam-in-poetry-combat/2013/02/22/

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