Students participate in a J-Talk discussion session.
Students participate in a J-Talk discussion session.

Weekly J-Talk sessions bring topics into focus.

Nisim Nesimov } jewish@edu writer

They say there are three things you should never talk about at the dinner table: money, religion and politics. At J-Talk, a weekly meeting of young Jewish college students from Metro Detroit, this adage is thrown out the door.

Led by Rabbi Michele Faudem, the 22 students come together for 10 weeks to discuss a diverse range of topics centered around Judaism, all while enjoying a meal. Oh, and the students are also given $500 upon completion of the program, an enticing proposition for any college student.

The program is funded by the Irwin and Bethea Green College Life Fund through the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

At the onset of the program, Rabbi Faudem asked each one of us, “Why are you here?” After throwing in “besides the $500,” she had each of us explain what made us take time out of our busy college schedules to talk about ancient scripture and related commentary.

This question, simple as it was, made me think. I attended Jewish day school for 13 years at Hillel Day School and the Frankel Jewish Academy, so religious education is nothing new to me. Yet, regardless of how much I know about particular Jewish ideals or topics, I always find a discussion inevitably leads me to learn more. My answer was that I wanted to learn more about Judaism through a productive dialogue with others. So far, that is exactly what has happened.

On the first day of discussion, I was immediately intrigued by our topic at hand, the stories of creation. Analyzing creation with questions such as why there are two stories, what the stories symbolize, and whether the stories conflict or are in harmony with one another made for an exciting discussion.

Aside from the biblical text, Rabbi Faudem brings in supporting texts from various Jewish sources to shed new light and perspective on the discussion. Inevitably, the discourse leads to disagreement, yet the disagreement is consistently thoughtful and respectful, with everyone contributing something.

Beyond the content of the discussions, J-Talk represents to me a break from everyday life. For 90 minutes on Wednesday nights, all I think about are the fascinating stories we are discussing, analyzing and grappling with. However, my thoughts on the topics do not end as soon as I leave. They carry with me the rest of the week, as I try to find ways to apply my new-found knowledge in my everyday life.

In this sense, I have discovered a utilitarian purpose to reflection. It’s less about studying to abide by any religious requirement, but more about studying to find a piece of tranquility which, while brief, is something we could all use.  @

Nisim Nesimov of West Bloomfield is a sophomore at Wayne State University studying finance.