Life’s Big Questions: Or how to get more out of college through Judaism

A Freshman and Sophomore Seminar

Wednesday nights, 6:15pm - 7:45pm

College is often the first time that we get to decide who we want to be in a lot of our identities. For the first time, we’re on own… so who do we want to be? What communities am I a part of? What do I want to do with my life? Is everyone actually having sex with everyone? What is my religion? Do I need one? Is perfection a real thing? What do I really want to learn and why? Who do I want to hang out with?While these are universal questions, we believe they can be illuminated through the unique light of Jewish traditions.  In this seminar, we will explore what it means to be a twenty-something Jewish individual in Lower Manhattan.  We will try to explore the often complex questions with which we are faced upon our arrival at college in a way that enables us to find our own answers, but also to ask even more big questions.


Rebekah Thornhill


Week 1 - How Big is Your Story? September 14

In what way does personal history become collective history? Can history “make a claim” on us? What is your story?

Week 2 - Community of Memory or Lifestyle Enclave? September 21

What is the difference between a community, a group of friends and a social network? What makes a community a community?

Week 3 - #FOMO September 28

The Sabbath, as a time of rest, is inherently counter-cultural. We will explore various ways that we might interact with the idea of a Sabbath.

Week 4 - Friendship, Honest, and Betrayal October 5

What are the challenges and opportunities of a deep friendship? What are necessary qualities in a good friend? What are the disqualifying qualities in a good friend? What role does honesty play in friendship?

Week 5 - How Do We Disagree? October 19

How do we disagree? How do we engage conflict? Can we imagine disagreement as a critical part of uncovering truth?

Week 6 - Collaboration October 26

How can relationships change us? What are the ingredients of a good partnership or collaboration? How does one cultivate this type of relationship?

Week 7 - Intimacy November 2

Can we imagine a post-modern sexual ethic that is at once deeply rooted in Jewish law and tradition, but innovative and capacious enough to encompass the different configurations of sexuality in our lives?

Week 8 - Where is Home? November 9

What is the difference between being at home and having a home in the world? Where is your home? Does a person have one home? Is it important to have a home?

Week 9 - God November 16

Is God a "thing" in our lives? If so, how does that change how we see the world?

Week 10 - Living the Questions November 30

How can we encounter big questions, serious internal ambiguity, or wrestle with fundamental ideas and concepts, and still continue to learn and grow?