Academic Courses

The Center for Small Town Jewish Life offers several courses each year through the Jewish Studies program. Here is a sampling of recent classes.

The Good Life (Jan Plan 2022)

What does the good life look like? What does it mean to live life well? In the desire to achieve good grades, to get a good job, and to succeed, we often fail to take a step back. This course is a chance to take a breath and think about how we are using the time that we have. We will explore questions of what makes life “good” through engagement with a number of diverse traditions including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism. We will also examine intellectual traditions and modern imaginings. This class will include visits from contemporary individuals who will share their conceptions of a good life. The hope is that you will leave this class with a better idea of what it means for you to live life well, and with tools to enact your vision at Colby and beyond.

Co-taught by Rabbi Erica Asch, Assistant Director of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, and Kate Smanik, Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life.

Faith, Class, and Community (Fall 2019)

This humanities lab course explores the various intersections between religious traditions, socioeconomic structures, and faith-based communities/organizations (among others), with particular attention to dynamics in Waterville. Students gain a deeper understanding of religious and other ethical approaches to issues related to wealth, poverty, and inequality. Students develop skills associated with community organizing and non-profit leadership through meaningful engagement with organizational partners and produce recommendations for addressing local challenges that draw heavily on field and library-based research.

Community Organizing and Social Justice (Jan Plan 2019)

For decades, ordinary citizens have exercised their power on a local and state level using the principles of congregation-based community organizing (CBCO). In this hands-on introduction to the principles of CBCO, students will learn how to organize to build power and create political change. With special attention to the Jewish texts that underlie this work, we will focus on the history of Jewish involvement in social justice movements as a case study for making change. Guest speakers from across the country will share their experiences.

Public Speaking for Social Change (Spring 2019)

Designed as an introduction to the art of public speaking. Its goals are twofold: 1) to analyze the stylistic and structural elements of great religious sermons and speeches 2) to develop the skills required to write effective speeches and deliver them in a professional context. The course will include two sessions a week dedicated to examining text, and a weekly lab to focus writing and delivering speeches. The final project for the course will include the delivery of a public address on a social justice topic at a local community organization in the Waterville area.