Kavannah is a Jewish concept meaning intention or motivation, perhaps most associated with Hasidism. Hassidism teaches that prayer and the fulfillment of mitzvot connects one more with the Holy One if the right state of mind is cultivated before participating in said activity. While going through the motions (prayer, mitzvot, etc.) is important and still technically fulfills the mitzvot, it is not as spiritually beneficial to the individual as is doing those tasks with kavannah. Praying and fulfilling mitzvot within a certain mental space more fully connects you to the divine. Judaism is not alone regarding this religious insight. Clearly there is something to it.
Hasidic teachers often inspire and encourage their adherents to find a way to enter into the right mood before starting prayers or performing mitzvot. What works for you may not work for me and vice versa. The same is often not the case within community. Continue reading “On Our Beit Midrash: Kavannah, Writing and Study by Ivy Helman”
When studying the Shoah, it is extremely important for teachers to introduce students to the 1800s concept of race “science,” which is what I have been doing in my classes over the past few weeks. An American and European development, this “science” was deeply connected to the development of racism. Through a “scientific” method, humans were classified based on certain characteristics (i.e. head size, posture, gait, etc.) and traits (i.e. aggression, passivity, even temperament, etc.). Physicality was linked to personalities that were “typical” as well as desirable or undesirable.
Race “science” supported the slave trade, colonialism and the exhibition and exotification of non-European peoples. In the case of the Shoah, race “science” was heavily relied upon by the Nazi Regime in their propaganda, law and ideology. For the Nazis and all nations under their purview, “Jewish” was a racial identity, “scientifically-proven” through measurements and observations and set out by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, previous and subsequent anti-Semitic decrees and the systematically-planned extermination of 6 million of us.
Continue reading “Thoughts on Race and Being Jewish by Ivy Helman”