REALITY PROGRAMS FOR JEWS WHO THINK

 
 

Jewish Crossroads is an award-winning program that has successfully impacted thousands of adults and teens throughout the USA, Canada, England and Israel since 1993, guiding them to explore and discover the beauty of Judaism. Shlomo Horwitz, Crossroads' founder, has personally delivered each of the presentations in a variety of venues including synagogues, college campuses, school assemblies, overnight camps and Shabbatonim.

The premise of Crossroads is really quite simple: Everybody loves reality-based drama, whether it be on TV, cable or at the movies. Not only that, people remember movies or shows they've seen decades ago.

Well, why not harness the entrancing quality of a dramatic performance to teach people about Torah and Judaism in a way they may never forget? Isn't our history and experience as a people far more riveting than a car chase or people eating worms for cash? (as interesting as that might be...)

Bio: Shlomo Horwitz has over 25 years of experience in Jewish education and outreach for both adults and children, getting his start by working with street kids in a Tel Aviv slum during the '82 war in Lebanon. A product of Yeshivat Sha'alvim in Israel and a musmach of Yeshivat Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, Shlomo is a CPA and works full-time as a director at a research firm which consults to the US and foreign governments. He also conducts a daily Talmud class in Baltimore which features a prominent group of sassy and opinionated adults that he loves (click here for article on the Talmud class and here for an article about the shiur's siyum on Masechet Avodah Zara.) On weekends Shlomo can be found playing lead guitar in a band with some of his best friends. He is an avid urban kayaker, in season. Send him an e-mail by clicking here. (shlomo@jewishcrossroads.org).

Most people ask us the following questions - please see detailed answers below, as well as links to news items about Jewish Crossroads:

What is the program?
What is the goal?
Who is the audience?
What is the venue?
Where would you perform?
How long does it take?
The drama thing sounds weird. Is this just fluff?
Does it work?
Why does it work?
How can you offer the same programs for adults and teens?
Are there creative ways an organization can utilize these programs?
Do you share your sources?
They say you're a guitar player. Is that part of the program?
 

What is the program?

The heart of every Jewish Crossroads seminar is a live performance by Shlomo Horwitz, portraying multiple characters from different places and times who interact with the audience. Each character’s point of view is then thoroughly dissected and analyzed in a lively discussion with the participants. This is no dry lecture series – each program is dramatic, powerful and unique, since it literally incorporates each audience’s own live contribution together with massive research into classical Jewish and historical source material. The result is a program of sophisticated and high-level Jewish learning, rendered accessible through cutting-edge educational theater techniques along the lines of Pitzele and Moreno. Shlomo Horwitz is an ordained student of some of the great Masters of Torah in the US and Israel, and he shares with others the excitement of advanced Torah knowledge and strong Jewish identity using this creative medium.

What is the goal?

That depends on which of the 20+ programs you pick from our Programs page. Most are geared to one of the following themes:

Israel: The goal in programs like “Jihad” and “Paratrooper in Jerusalem” is to foster an intense bond with our Land, as well as an understanding of its history and the current debate about Israel’s legitimacy. Characters include a Palestinian campus activist and the poet Rabbi Yehuda Halevi.

Ethics and Philosophy: “Hold the Burgers” explores Judaism’s attitude toward animal rights. Characters in this program include an extreme PETA animal rights activist, Rabbi Yosef Albo of 14th-century Spain and Rabbi Avraham Kook, the celebrated Chief Rabbi before Israel became a state. “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” takes us to a deeper understanding of G-d’s Ways, and shows how free choice has real meaning and true repercussions. Characters include a 17th century Dutch rabbi and a Holocaust survivor.

Jewish Belief: There are major religions out there with billions of adherents. We have only 15 million Jews and yet we think we're right. What chutzpah! “Do We Have a Leg to Stand On” attempts to answer why we don't follow the religions with the greatest numbers.  Dramatis personae include a mixed-up high-school senior and the founder of a major world religion. “Holy Ghost” deals with the challenge of Jewish Messianic missionaries and the challenge they pose on campus and in your living room. Can you survive the “rabbi’s” compelling logic? After this program, you’ll understand these missionaries’ deceptive tactics.

Jewish History: “Convert or Die!“ aims to convey the lonely tragic lives of Marranos, or Crypto-Jews, the descendants of forced converts from 15th century Spain and Portugal. This presentation brings to life those players who caused these conversions as well as those who fought tooth and nail to stick with their Jewish heritage. Meet Tomás de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain in the 1480's and hear how he explains why torture was a 'favor' for wayward heretical souls. Learn of the enormous pressure which caused hundreds of thousands to publicly renounce their faith and accept the cross.     

Social Issues: “Pressure Cooker” gives students and their parents some leading-edge tools to combat peer pressure. These techniques were developed for the Dallas Police Department and have tremendous application to Jewish youth. Surprisingly, adult audiences were very receptive to these techniques for use in their own lives to combat adult peer pressure.  We have a seminar to assist students with handling stress with parents and teachers as well, using techniques contributed by consultants in the mental health profession. Still another seminar deals with how to cope with internet addiction utilizing sophisticated techniques. 

Who is the audience?
We are gratified that our programs have reached Jews of every age and stripe. We have done performances for adults and Holocaust survivors, for young parents, college students, high school and elementary school students.
 
What is the venue?
We have performed at synagogues, retreats, hotels, college campuses, school assemblies, overnight and day camps, and Shabbatonim, all over the US, Canada, England and Israel. Often we plan visits to a city and do programming in the schools as well as for the shuls, and address adult and/or youth audiences during the course of the weekend.
 
Where do you perform?
We have been privileged to bring this program to cities such as Boca Raton, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Seattle, Toronto, London and Yerushalayim. We are open to any location (particularly if it's Maui.)
 
How long does it take?
Each program lasts around 45-60 minutes, including Q&A. This is not carved in stone; we can tailor a program that requires a longer or shorter period.
 
The drama thing sounds weird. Is this just fluff?
We know this theatrical approach is unconventional. However, the key to any Jewish Crossroads program is painstaking research of Biblical, Talmudic and historical sources. For example, our program “Raid on the Sun”, based on Israel’s attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, took four months of research to prepare. Besides the modern historical research involving IDF pilot testimony, the writings of Jewish philosophers like Rabbenu Bachya ben Asher of 13th century Spain and Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto of 18th century Italy were extensively consulted to present a cohesive view on Judaism’s view on integrating trust in G-d with serious engagement in human effort. Maimonides and the Shulchan Aruch are often incorporated into our programming. Many of our seminars utilize modern Jewish sources, such as Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler and Rabbi Chaim Friedlander (20th century England/Israel). Jewish Crossroads’ educational philosophy was encouraged and guided by one of the greatest rabbinical authorities in the US.
 
Does it work?
We think so, based on feedback from over one hundred educators and participants on our Reviews page.
 
Why does it work?
People love to be entertained. They also love stimulating mental challenge. Our programming melds both to tap into the excitement of the Jewish Experience in a way that can enhance and transform an audience’s perception of Torah concepts and Jewish Identity.
 
How can you offer the same programs for adults and teens? Isn't there a huge difference in sophistication?
Excellent question. It's true, most of our programs have been presented to varying age groups. The reason this works is twofold:

a) We present the same material differently for an older group than we do for a younger group, in terms of vocabulary and style.

b) Because the program is dynamic and develops differently based on every live audience's own participation, a more mature and knowledgeable audience can take things in different directions than a less mature and sophisticated audience. That being said, we find that the 'edutainment' approach brings out the best in every audience. We have been floored by the level of insight that has been evinced from students of every level using these techniques.
 
Are there creative ways an organization can utilize these programs? Do you share your sources with the organizations that bring you in?
Absolutely. While many have utilized Jewish Crossroads as a Scholar-in-Residence program, it is also ideal to kick off a themed course of study or to accompany Israel-related programming. Example: say your organization is beginning a course in Faith and Trust. We could come in and perform "Raid on the Sun" which captures the many important sources on this topic. We can provide all source material for further study for the students or congregants. In fact, we'd love to!

They say you're a guitar player. Is that part of the program?
It's true; I've played guitar professionally for many years and am in love with the instrument, and other instruments, too. I love playing kumzitzes; let's figure out a way to incorporate a kumzitz with our program.

 

Jewish Crossroads in the News:

Britain's Jewish Tribune

Radio Interview with Shalom USA - 2013

Baltimore Jewish Times - 2013

Baltimore Jewish Times - 2007    

Jewish Educational Leadership Magazine

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Photo credits: Justin Tsucalas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                     shlomo horowitz