Since studying in Israel for a year, I hadn’t engaged in text study in a significant way and I missed it, albeit hesitantly. At different moments, text study has felt foreign or less related to my life. Topics for the Spring Eser sessions, “10 Social Issues You Can’t Ignore,” sounded so relevant and interesting however, that I was excited to have the opportunity to explore them through a Jewish lens while also hearing voices of my peers on the topics.
I think when engaging in text study with another person or group there is an element of trust-building that must occur before you can truly delve into the depth of certain ideas – especially given the nature of the 10 topics we were tackling, which could be deeply personal. Fortunately, the Eser folks thought of this and my amazing group leader and facilitators, Elisha Gechter, Andrew Oberstein and Robin Cohen created such a great learning environment that it quickly became easy to open up.
Our Eser sessions were a great balance of learning about one another through sharing our Jewish Journeys or “JJs” as we called them, delving into texts both biblical and more contemporary on each week’s topic and bringing our own ideas, thoughts and life experiences into truly engaging and deep conversations. We were able to push one another through our own interpretations and world views, and grow our thoughts and perspectives as a group. Eser also gave me the opportunity to learn about topics that I was interested in but didn’t initially know as much as I wanted to nor would necessarily have taken the time to research on my own such as assisted suicide, immigration, and reproductive rights.
Beyond studying the text, our group had a great dynamic that continued beyond our sessions from sharing articles and ideas to upcoming events and making future plans with one another. Because Eser is offered all over Boston, it gave me the opportunity to engage in a Jewish activity in my own neighborhood – which can be fairly rare in Somerville. It was nice to meet like-minded people who live in the area, and I will keep seeing now that this season of Eser is over. I am excited to hear what the next Eser season holds and continue my Jewish journey through text study with local peers and amazing leaders.
Dara Freedman-Weiss is from Rochester, NY and Philadelphia originally and has lived in California, Israel and now Boston where she earned an MBA and MA in Jewish Professional Leadership from Brandeis University. She works at Combined Jewish Philanthropies where she is currently a Project Manager in the Planning department. Dara loves spending as much time outdoors and active as possible, seeking out different types of learning opportunities, and seeing all the live local music that fits in her schedule.