A question we frequently get at Darshan Yeshiva is, why do we use a pluralistic, post-denominational conversion curriculum?
Jewish identity is diverse and this diversity is an important part of the Jewish experience. Our curriculum exposes students to a wide range of Jewish thought, observance, and opinion.
From our perspective, Judaism is moving towards a post-denominational world. We want our students to have access to Jewish learning across the denominational spectrum. And we want to help new Jews feel comfortable in many different kinds of Jewish environments.
In rabbinical teaching tradition, rabbis and educators often draw upon a myriad of Jewish commentary and traditions. So we created a conversion curriculum that does the same. For our rabbis and mentors, the curriculum’s diverse materials ensure that they never feel stuck teaching someone else’s material because the breadth of content is easy to use as a foundation for their own teaching style and denominational perspective.
Below are excerpts from our expansive conversion curriculum so you can get a sense of what our pluralistic curriculum entails.
Excerpts from the Conversion Course Curriculum
Shabbat and Havdalah Module
Shabbat is the holiest day of the year — and it happens every week! Havdalah is the end of Shabbat and marks the new week. We’ve included videos to help you with attending a Shabbat dinner, hosting one yourself, and making havdalah. Jew FAQ also has some good notes for you.
Judaism is guided by a large body of codified laws. At the heart of the body of laws are the 613 mitzvot that God gave to the Jewish people in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). The word “mitzvah” means “commandment.” In its strictest sense, it refers only to commandments instituted in the Torah; however, the word is commonly used in a more generic sense to include all of the laws, practices, and customs of halakha or Jewish law. Mitzvot (the plural of mitzvah) is often used in an even more loose way to refer to any good deed.
Why 613? 365 negative commands, corresponding to the number of solar days [in a year], and 248 positive commands, corresponding to the number of the members [bones covered with flesh] of a human’s body, or at least how many bones that doctors at the time thought were in the human body.
Here’s a playlist that gives you an overview of the concept of mitzvot (commandments) as well as a selection of ideas of various approaches to mitzvot and the mitzvot themselves.
Jewish Prayer Practice and Synagogue Modules
Going to synagogue is a mostly universal experience with local and regional variations to consider. For the most part, attendees will meet the professionals who work at a synagogue: rabbi, cantor, educators. And there will most likely be a place for the congregation to sit, while a teacher of some kind stands before them- perhaps on a small stage with a podium. And for the most part, the prayers will be contained in prayerbooks called siddurim, with the prayers sung in Hebrew. Most likely the most central object will be the Torah scroll house in an ornate cabinet.
However, this doesn’t mean that every synagogue maintains the same kashrut or shabbat observance policies. Nor does it mean that the tunes used or the amount of Hebrew v English is the same across congregations. Some congregations pray only in Hebrew. Some congregations use a mixture of Hebrew and English. Some use tunes that are more modern, others are more classical. Some communities will use musical instruments while others will not.
Going to a synagogue for the first time can feel intimidating. We hope this unit will help calm any potential nerves.
We encourage you to seek out a local synagogue and attend a Shabbat morning service. If possible, attend services at different types of synagogues (Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, etc.) to get a feel for different service
Jewish Life Cycle Module
Jewish lifecycle covers many different moments from birth until death. You will learn about all the popular rituals in this next section. However, it is important to remember that there are opportunities to sanctify and process life transition between these major moments. Consider when someone graduates high school or college, or gets their driver’s license, obtains an advanced degree, loses a job, or adopts a child. All these moments are opportunities to sanctify life.
We begin by understanding the Jewish lifecycle as a whole, then move on to the first part of a person’s life. We conclude this unit with Best of the Web from BimBam. You can find a few additional notes as well as a link to RitualWell which covers the diversity of life cycle ceremonies.