Exercises in Integration - Essays From our "Tikvah" Class

As many of you might know, one of the outstanding opportunities available to Kohelet students is our junior year AP Integrated Course in Jewish Thought, Philosophy, and the Humanities, which I am privileged to co-teach with my colleague, Dr. Eileen Watts. The course is built on a philosophy of Torah Umada that sees significant value in conducting a "dialogue" between the Jewish and general sources, all while granting primacy to the Torah weltanschauung. The course is conducted on a very sophisticated level, and often serves as the talk of our students and their families over their dinner tables. Most important, though, students often describe the class as having "changed their lives."

This year, we distributed at our Gala Dinner a spiral-bound collection of student essays. We couldn't be prouder of their outstanding work. Below I am reproducing the introduction to the journal, followed by a link to the publication.

With thanks to Hashem, we are proud to present a series of student essays written under the rubric of our 11th grade Integrated Course in Jewish Thought, Philosophy, and the Humanities, better known as our “Tikvah” class.

The course incorporates eleven units, each of which revolves around a classic work of American literature, including novels, plays, and short stories, as well as a wide range of relevant Jewish and general philosophical texts. Unit themes consider the origins of humanity, theories of punishment, slavery and social contract/natural law, the individual and community, filial responsibility, gratitude and affluence, the American dream, fate and free will, the Chosen People, the Jewish encounter with the other, and tradition, modernity, and rabbinic authority.

As capstones to most units, students compose essays. While the specific questions vary, the larger goal of all the essays is the same: to analyze the general literature in light of the Jewish sources and vice versa. This exercise requires students to master the unit and consider a variety of perspectives on a particular subject. Over the course of the year, students hone their writing and analytical skills, and by the end are capable of examining a wide variety of sophisticated texts in an integrated, interdisciplinary fashion. This collection collates a range of outstanding samples of student writing from over the course of the year.

None of the work we do with the Tikvah students would be possible without the support of Rabbi Dr. Gil Perl, Head of School; Dr. Leslie Rogers, Director of General Studies; Mrs. Melissa Perl, Director of Judaic Studies; and all our colleagues. We owe an additional debt of gratitude to the Tikvah Fund, which gave the original seed money for the project, as well as to Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Seif, who developed and previously co-taught the course. Our students’ outstanding work is ultimately a tribute to all of them.

We are incredibly proud of our students, and we are confident you will enjoy their writing as much as we did.

Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky, Rosh Beit Midrash

Dr. Eileen Watts, English Department Chair

Here is the link.

To learn more about the course, feel free to read this article.