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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chani Rotenberg (left) and Shalvi Isseroff (right).

Toward goals of encouraging critical thinking, engagement with the world community and an integration of Judaic and General Studies, Ma’ayanot suspends regular classes for a few days each year to provide opportunities to learn and think about important societal issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. The first of these days, organized for seniors, took place on December 3 on the class-chosen topic of Human Rights.

The day included three sessions, with three presentation options in each, and a viewing of the film “Escaping ISIS.” Sessions were given by guest speakers and Ma’ayanot faculty. In summing up their goals for the day, Interdisciplinary Program coordinators Chani Rotenberg and Shalvi Isseroff explained that the program was designed to provide students with opportunities to think about human rights in a nuanced and multifaceted way.

Guest speakers for the day included Ms. Naomi Mark, Director of The Orthodox Mental Health Project, who spoke on “Dilemmas Facing the Modern Orthodox Community”; Mr. James Seplowitz, a top rated criminal defense attorney, who spoke on “U.S. Courts and Prisons: Do We Really Live in a Free Country”; and Mr. Reuven Fenton, a reporter and author of “Stolen Years: Stories of the Wrongfully Imprisoned,” who presented on “Decades Behind Bars: Inside the Lives of the Wrongfully Imprisoned.”

Faculty members presented on a wide array of topics that tapped into their diverse areas of interest and expertise, including presentations by: Mrs. Shoshana Samuels, a Yoetzet Halacha, on “Whose Right is it Anyway? Termination of Pregnancy in Jewish Law”; Ms. Sara Gordon on “Would a Religious Jewish State Violate Human Rights? Resolving Messianic Hopes with Democratic Values”; Mrs. Rivka Kahan, Ma’ayanot’s principal, on “Human Rights of Enemy Civilians in Wartime”; Dr. Oshra Cohen on “The Ethics of Human Research Subjects”; Mrs. Pam Ennis, a former attorney, on “Edward Snowden: Hero or Traitor?”; and Mrs. Samantha Kur on “Freedom Writers: The History of Apartheid through Poetry.”

The day ended with the screening of the film “Escaping ISIS,” followed by a debriefing aimed at helping students understand and unpack the important yet difficult subject matter portrayed in the film.

After processing with the students, Principal Rivka Kahan noted “it was incredibly gratifying to see students’ intellectual energy and adrenaline after participating in all of the sessions, and their reflections on the ways that the day broadened their perspectives and awareness of complex issues. It was truly a transformative educational program for them.”

In a follow-up email with the Interdisciplinary Day coordinators, Mr. Fenton, one of the guest speakers, commented: “The students’ questions came from such an informed, genuinely curious place. The questions were the most rewarding part of all. You have some very special kids.”