July 16, 2024
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‘The Power of Questioning:’ Ma’ayanot’s Book Day

As Jews, asking questions and searching for answers is part of our DNA. So “The Power of Questioning” was a natural choice for Shalvi Isseroff and Chani Rotenberg, co-directors of interdisciplinary programming, as the theme for the school’s annual Book Day. The day included a wide array of interdisciplinary sessions, a film festival and a book fair all centered on the power of questioning.

“We want students to understand that asking questions and the process of discovery are just as, if not more, important than the answer. The questions are what drive learning,” said Rotenberg, who is chair of the history department.

“Every part of our Book Day also empowers students to make their own choices, which adds to their experience,” said Isseroff, who teaches English.

Students selected from more than a dozen sessions covering a wide array of disciplines, including the humanities, science, current events and Judaic studies. Freshman Yonina Marder, who attended a session about “Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa Cell: Rights of Patients and Responsibilities of Medical Researchers,” was fascinated by the ethical quandaries relating to the story Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge and became one of the most important cell lines in medical research.

Guest speaker Hannah Dreyfus, an investigative staff reporter at the Jewish Week, spoke about her experiences as an investigative journalist in the Jewish community. “She discussed whether you can have empathy while reporting a story and what the consequences might be,” said junior Ariella Rosencrantz.

At the film festival, students watched one of three films that hinge on the importance and challenges of questioning: “‘Spotlight’ is is about investigative journalism and asking hard questions, ‘The Truman Show’ is about questioning reality, and ‘Hidden Figures’ addresses questioning authority and breaking barriers,” said Rotenberg.

At the book fair, students presented pre-read books to their peers and each student had an opportunity to start reading “Fireside.” A keynote address by Rabbi Dr. Eddie Reichman, professor in the departments of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, capped off a great day. Citing the novel “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult, Reichman addressed the medical ethics and halachic implications of organ donation among family members. “It was really cool how he tied in a novel with halacha,” said Meira Cohen, a junior. “Even though it’s a fictional story, those events could happen and there are a lot of big decisions connected to it.”

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