Workshops & Seminars on American Jewish Culture
Looking for a fun workshop to engage your teens (or young adult population)? Consider one of the IMJ's exciting, fully-customizable seminars on American Jewish culture! Please note that each of these topics - and more - is available as a single session, as a set of three, or as a recurring class:
Jewish Humor in Film and Television
Explore the history of Jewish comedy, and its contributions to the American Jewish experience. Look at our colorful representation in popular media, in the last fifty years:
- Seinfeld's dentist converting to Judaism, "just so he could tell the jokes"
- Mel Brooks as a travelling rabbi in History of the World, Part I: "Circumcisions: Special offer - HALF OFF!"
- Ben Stiller the rabbi and Edward Norton the priest re-invigorating the community while competing for the same girl in Keeping the Faith
- Monty Python's classic re-interpretation of Jesus, in Life of Brian, as a reluctant thirtysomething Jewish messiah who still lives with his mother
Jewish humor has a rich heritage in America's popular media, and it has always represented our unique situation in society. When SouthPark's Cartman sings his melancholy "Lonely Jew on Christmas," every Jew in America can identify with his outsider's perspective, and watching these clips can help us understand our own experience a little more clearly.
From Klezmer to Hip-Hop, and Folk-Rock to Punk: the American Jewish Music Experience
Bob Dylan, Benny Goodman, the Beastie Boys, Joey Ramone and Matisyahu are all Jewish. Why have Jews had such a huge influence on the music industry? What's Jewish about Punk and Reggae? How did Hip-Hop's origins parallel the evolution of American Judaism?
The fun and interactive workshop traces the history of American music, learning along the way about the evolution of American Jewish thought. Become familiar with many of the prominent Jews in the music industry, including writers, producers, and the musicians themselves. Meanwhile, discuss the Jewish content of many popular songs, written both by Jews and non-Jews, from the earlier Klezmer, Swing and Rock and Roll, through the most contemporary Punk, Hip-Hop, and Reggae. Ultimately, this workshop provides a framework through which participants can understand, and connect to, their own identity as American Jews.
Who Am I? The Jewish Roots of Identity
This workshop combines circle-based discussion with interactive, get-out-of-your-seat learning. Participants begin by examining and sharing their own personal identity, using a questionnaire specially designed to help them understand their life experiences in a Jewish frame. They then compare the "Jewishness" of various icons of Jewish American culture, like matzah balls, Seinfeld, tattoos, and teachers, in an adaptation of the JRC's Most Jewish game. Finally, depending on the setting, the session ends by exploring participants' connection to each of the three pillars of Judaism, or using art to explore personal identity.
Ultimately, this workshop empowers teens and young adults to think critically about their heritage, Jewish and otherwise. It includes elements of personal identity, group-wide identity, and Jewish communal identity, and it will help participants understand the widely varied types of "Jewishness" in their lives. It will also forge connections between the group members, as they understand more deeply their shared histories and culture.
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or with booking requests!