Federation Midreshet Fall 2022-23 Session

Classes begin on Wednesday 9/28 and Thursday 9/29. Registration deadline: 9/20.

  • Full vaccination required to attend in person.
  • All courses are 12 sessions,
  • Cost $210/course
  • Can be attended online or in person (please specify preference when registering)

F1. Ashkenazim and Sephardim-what are the differences?

Wednesdays, 9:30-10:45

  • Instructor: Leslie Goldress



Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews represent two distinct subcultures of Judaism. We are all Jews and share the same basic beliefs, but there are some variations in culture and practice. This course will explore the origins of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, and look at the differences in customs and liturgy. We will also explore the lives of famous Ashkenazic (Rashi, Rabbenu Gershom, Moses Isserles, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein) and Sephardic luminaries (The Rambam, Isaac Abravanel, Baruch Spinoza, Ovadia Yosef).

F2. Jewish Poetry: Study and Workshop

Wednesdays, 11:00-12:15

  • Instructor: Rabbi Daniel Graber


The awe, joy, challenges, hopes, and prayers of the Jewish people have long been expressed powerfully in the form of poetry. The poetic voice unites Jews in the Golden Age of Spain with those in modern Israel, and the author of Ashrei to those composing now.


In this course we will examine Jewish poetry from its origins to today by analyzing poems and songs throughout history in their contexts. We will take the opportunity to write, share and workshop our own poetry inspired by the subjects and styles we explore.

F3. Jewish Responses to Modernity

Thursdays, 9:30-10:45

  • Instructor: Rabbi Brian Leiken


Modernism is a movement that arose from broad changes taking place in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With a newly emerged industrial world and an urbanization of city centers bringing diverse populations together, new movements of both art and philosophy were born. During this time, Judaism underwent a fascinating period of evolution. From denominationalism to Zionism to humanist secularism to social justice to feminism, the modern period witnessed the birth of entirely new schools of thought and new approaches to Jewish living.


This course will offer a historical overview of this period utilizing David Ellenson’s After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity and will ask what the long-term effects of this period have on the future of the Jewish people. Join us for this exciting dive into one of the most important periods for understanding the Jewish people today.

F4. The Bible Through a Two-Way Mirror

Thursdays, 11:00-12:15

  • Instructor: Rabbi Jill Hackell


Jews and Christians share the same Bible, but we see its stories very differently, since we view them through the mirror of each of our own religious traditions. With assistance from Amy-Jill Levine’s latest book, “The Bible with and without Jesus”, we will look at our common stories through both lenses and come away with a deeper understanding of their, and especially our own tradition.


Purchase of the Levine book is optional; I will incorporate it into my teaching, but I won’t expect that you will be reading it. However, you should bring your Tanach (Hebrew bible) to class. If you do not have a Tanach and don’t wish to buy one, you can access all the biblical texts at Sefaria.org.

Instructor Bios

Leslie Goldress has taught Melton and Midreshet since their inception in Rockland. A Jewish educator for over 40 years, she has a graduate degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Leslie served as Educational Director of the NCJC for over 20 years. She has taught Dramas of Jewish Living, a Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning core class, Melton graduate courses on American Jewish Experience, Contemporary Jewish Issues, Israel, and the Development of the Jewish Denominations. 

Rabbi Daniel Graber received ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as a Masters of Arts in Jewish education from JTS’s William Davidson School. Rabbi Graber has a passion for Jewish texts and finding relevance in them for modern readers.

Dr. Rabbi Jill Hackell received her M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and practiced pediatrics for several years. She worked for over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, where she did clinical research on new vaccines for children. She was ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR), a pluralistic rabbinical school. Rabbi Hackell is the rabbi at the West Clarkstown Jewish Center.  She also teaches Jewish Bioethics at AJR, secular Bioethics at Dominican College in the Graduate Nursing program, and has taught a wide range of subjects at the Federation Midreshet since 2012.

Rabbi Brian Leiken has been the Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since June of 2012.  He is passionate about social justice, Jewish history, and the study of modern American Judaism.  As the religious leader of Temple Beth Sholom, Rabbi Leiken has transitioned the temple into a relational synagogue, one that is built upon the inter and intra-relationships between the clergy and its members. He attended the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion where he was ordained in May of 2007.   

Financial need scholarships are available.
For more information, contact Barry Kanarek at bkanarek@jewishrockland.org or (845)362-4200 ext 170.