Federation Midreshet Spring 2021-22 Session

Classes begin on Wednesday 2/02 and Thursday 2/03.

Registration Deadline: January 26

Full vaccination required to attend in person

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

S1. Jewish Nobel Prize Winners

Wednesdays, 9:30-10:45

  • 12 sessions in person or online (instructor in person). Please specify preference when registering.
  • Cost: $210
  • Instructor: Leslie Goldress
Nobel prizes have been awarded to over 900 individuals of whom at least 20% were Jewish, although the Jewish population comprises less than 0.2% of the world’s population. Jews have been recipients in all 6 award categories: Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Physics, Literature, Economics and Peace. We will meet some of these winners and see if we can discover why Jews win so many Nobel prizes.

S2. Saviors of Israel

Wednesdays, 11:00-12:00

  • 10 sessions in person or online (instructor online). Please specify preference when registering.
  • Cost: $140
  • Instructor: Dr. Martin Cohen

One of the most amazing things about the Jewish people is its very survival for more than three millennia. Despite hard times and bitter persecutions – am yisrael chai – the Jewish people still lives! In this course, we will examine the lives and careers of many individuals who, in their times, arose to save Israel. Among the personalities we will study, and the periods they represent, are Moses (Egyptian), David (Philistine), Jeremiah (Babylonian), Ezra and Nehemiah (Persian), the Maccabees (Greek), Yochanan ben Zakai (Roman), Saadia Gaon and Maimonides (Islamic), Manasseh ben Israel (Dutch), and Theodore Herzl (modern times.)

S3. Early Christianity through a Jewish Lens

Thursdays, 9:30-10:45

  • 12 sessions in person or online (instructor in person). Please specify preference when registering.
  • Cost: $210
  • Instructor: Rabbi Brian Leiken
How was early Christianity a product of its time? This class will examine the political and social movements of that era through the eyes of early (pre-rabbinic) Judaism.  We will discuss the early Jewish sects, the Babylonian exile, the reign of Herod the Great, the Hasmonean revolt and the development of apocalyptic works.  By examining archeological evidence and Hebrew and Greek texts, we will understand how early Christianity was a product of a time in which Judaism itself was going through monumental change.

S4. The Adventures of Israel’s Kings

Thursdays, 11:00-12:15

  • 12 sessions in person or online (instructor online). Please specify preference when registering.
  • Cost: $210
  • Instructor: Rabbi Jill Hackell

This class will examine the lives, loves, characters, and exploits of the first three kings of Israel’s monarchy – Saul, David, and Solomon, along with the prophets who advised them and tried to keep them out of trouble.  Some of the issues we’ll look at include: How did Israel come to be ruled by a king?  What qualities should a political leader possess?  How do we reconcile the flawed nature of a human leader with our expectations for wise and fair leadership? How is power transferred?


Our source will be the books of the Hebrew Bible that recount these stories – I & II Samuel, and I Kings.  Please have a Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) with English translation with you for class (available in print, or free on-line at Sefaria.com)

Instructor Bios

Dr. Martin O. Cohen has lectured once a month for the past two decades on Jewish history and bible at the Orangetown Jewish Center, and has taught at other synagogues and Jewish culture clubs. He taught Jewish history for three semesters at the Reuben Gittleman Hebrew Day School. Dr. Cohen is a mainstay instructor with the Learning Collaborative at New City Jewish Center and with the Road Scholar (nee Elderhostel) summer program. Dr. Cohen has been a faculty member at Midreshet Rockland for many years.

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.

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, 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.