Join the community!

The Hebrew term “beit midrash” refers to a communal setting in which learners discover and co-construct meaning through conversation with one another about texts that address significant ideas and raise essential questions. At Colby, these texts include classic and contemporary sources from the Jewish tradition and beyond. Participants of all backgrounds and perspectives learn to assess competing ideas critically, to read closely, and to present their ideas effectively within the context of a supportive community. They become sophisticated thinkers and empowered partners in the collaborative creation of knowledge.

The Jewish Ideas Lab meets over dinner roughly every other Tuesday evening from 7-9 pm. Each session features a different topic and facilitator. Colby seniors curate the series.

All students are welcome to enroll in JS123, a 1-credit, nongraded course. Unenrolled students and other members of the Colby community are warmly encouraged to attend beit midrash sessions as well, and are free to leave at 8 pm if they wish.

May 16, 2023 Sticky

About JS123

Interested in earning credit for participating in the beit midrash? Here’s all you need to do as a student enrolled in JS123:

  1. Participate actively in at least five of the six Jewish Ideas Lab sessions during the semester, submitting a brief reflection after each (see below for details).
  2. Attend at least one related event during the semester and submit a brief reflection afterwards.
  3. Meet with the faculty convener (David Freidenreich) at least twice during the semester to discuss your experiences.

Reflections can take any form you’d like! Past reflections include informal writing, original music lyrics, cartoons, and selfie video monologues. The point is to demonstrate that you’re continuing to think about the ideas we discussed together.

JS123 (“Beit Midrash: Jewish Ideas Lab”) is a one-credit, nongraded course that may be taken repeatedly.

A typical session

Every beit midrash session is different, but here’s the general formula:

7:00 Settle in with food from a local restaurant (Indian, pizza, Thai, etc.) for a quick round of introductions

7:03 Stage-setting in the full group. This may involve framing remarks by the facilitator, discussion of a brief text, or engaging with a short pop culture video.

7:10 First round of havruta study — three-way conversations between two people and a text. (The word havruta relates to the Hebrew word for “friend.”) Participants partner with someone they haven’t learned with previously. The first set of texts typically comes from classic Jewish sources such as the Bible or Talmud. Each text is only a few sentences long, and all of the texts for the first two rounds typically fit on 2-3 sides of a page.

7:25 Regroup and share learnings from havruta study.

7:35 Second round of havruta study, with the same pairs discussing another set of texts. This set often contains contemporary texts and/or those from non-Jewish traditions.

7:50 Regroup and share learnings.

8:00 Break. Participants who aren’t enrolled in JS123 are free to leave at this time if they wish.

8:05 Stage-setting for the second hour. This hour typically, but not always, includes at least one additional round of havruta study (with different partners than the first hour). It may also include small group discussions facilitated by student members of the design team, creative activities, a community-building circle, or other forms of engagement with the evening’s texts and with one another.