If the answers to any of the above are “YES” then this guide will help you to develop and implement any of the programs in the “Hearing Men’s Voices” series.
Here are just some of the Hearing Men’s Voices programs that easily fit into various formats. For detailed implementation instructions see the specific programs as they appear in the books in the series. Your strategy for planning the program will vary with the type of program chosen.
This format is the best for a more intimate type of sharing experience. The men who attend will, in essence form a “havurah” who will explore several issues in depth. It is important that for this type of program to work that everyone who attends understands the sensitive nature of the discussions and agrees to keep issues discussed private. Some groups have invited a facilitator (again the Rabbi would be ideal) to attend as an ongoing member of the group. Others have simply used the programs as a guide to discussion.
These are short programs designed to be inserted into the regular agenda of the meeting to add a “study” component to the day. Usually under 15 minutes.
(FROM “HEARING MEN’S VOICES: WHAT DO WE WANT FROM OUR FATHERS? WHAT DO OUR SONS WANT FROM US?”
Format: Group Discussion (Ideal size 15-30 men)
Materials Needed: Handout of Biblical Text (Included in Hearing Men’s Voices Book)
Leader: Anyone familiar with the text and able to facilitate a group discussion.
Time: 60-90 Minutes
When is the first time in the Bible that two human beings kiss each other?
So Jacob served his father food and drink. When Isaac finished, he turned to his son, “Come close and kiss me my son”. So Jacob went to Isaac's side and kissed him.
I am sure that you are all familiar with this story that appears in the Parasha of Toldot. Yet behind this touching climax is a story of high drama and unresolved conflict. A story of conspiracy, of deception, and perhaps of disappointment.
Let me read you the entire story:
And it came to pass when Isaac was old and his eyesight had dimmed, he called Esau to him, his older son, and he said, “My son.”
And Esau answered, “Here I am.”
Isaac said: “Now here I have grown old, and do not know the day of my death. So now…. go out into the field and hunt me some game, make me a dish such as I love… that I may give you my blessing before I die.
You all know what happens next. Overhearing this conversation, Rebecca moves into action. She carefully instructs Jacob in what to say or do, and dresses him in goatskins to give him the feel and odor of his brother the hunter. She quickly prepares a feast for Jacob to serve his father.
Jacob went to his father and said, “Father”.
And he said, “Yes, which of my sons are you?”
Jacob said, “I am Esau, your firstborn; I have done as you have told me. Pray sit and eat of my game, that you may give me your innermost blessing”
Isaac said, “Come closer that I may feel you, my son—whether you are really my son Esau or not.”
So Jacob drew close to his father Isaac who felt him and wondered, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau”. So he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau. He asked him: “Are you really my son Esau?”
“Serve me and let me eat of my son’s game that I may give you my innermost blessing” So he served him, and he ate, and he brought him wine and he drank.
Then Isaac said to him, “Come close and kiss me my son”. Jacob went up and kissed him. And he smelled his clothes and blessed him.
Let’s stop right here.
Jacob is probably leaning over or kneeling next to his father who is in bed. Their faces touch. Jacob kisses Isaac; presumably, Isaac kisses his son in return. If you are Jacob how do you feel at this moment?
And the story concludes:
And he smelled his clothes and he blessed him saying: “Ah the smell of my son Esau….the smell of the fields that the LORD has blessed.
Program F: Midlife Job Loss
Purpose: To Explore How job loss affects our lives
Facilitator: Anyone comfortable in leading and facilitating a discussion.
Setting: Comfortable roundtable setting. Dinner meeting in shul, a private home or over a casual meal at a restaurant. Allow 60 to 90 minutes for discussion.
This program part of a series of discussions about the place of work in our lives. Facilitator should start the session with:
”Welcome to this Hearing Men's Voices series. Tonight we continue our exploration of how our "work lives" and “non-work" lives interact and affect each other. There just a few ground rules. First and foremost is that we respect each others privacy. What is said in this room stays in this room. I hope that each of us will feel comfortable speaking freely. I also ask that your comments reflect your personal experience rather than your opinion about the topic generally or about what others have said." [Note to facilitator: it may be important to redirect speakers who offer opinions rather than personal stories].
Facilitator should introduce the topic as follows:
"We are here today to talk about how job loss affects the rest of our lives. This will be a rather open ended discussion and so I invite you to tell us about your personal experience".
Potential questions to encourage discussion:
How did you feel about re-entering the job market? Has rejection gotten easier or harder?
Note: This is an excerpt from the newsletter of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Your or your Rabbi might want to include something like this in notifying your congregation about your plans for programming about Men’s Issues. This material may be used as a “sermon” from the pulpit or (as it appeared) as a bulletin article.
I began to think about fathers and sons when I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine on the weekend of Father’s Day this year. Written by William Ecenbarger, it was entitled “Fathers and Other Strangers”.
In the article, he quotes Dr. Samuel Osherson, author of a volume entitled “Finding Our Fathers, who said,” Fathers are important figures in everyone’s lives, but fathers are often mysterious and silent, particularly to their sons. What happens to men in their lives is often linked to unfinished business with their fathers.”
As I read the words, I began to reflect on my own relationship with my father, and, as the father of sons, with my children. What is, I wondered, the unfinished business with my own father, and how has it affected my life? What unfinished business will my sons have with me, and how will it affect them?
I have been doing some reading on the subject over the summer and I want to share some thoughts with you about fathers and their sons before Yizkor on Yom Kippur afternoon.
Much has been written about the Jewish mother. And, truth to tell, women’s issues have dominated the Jewish agenda for the last fifteen years.
But little has been written about the Jewish father, and, belatedly, I have come to the conclusion that we need to talk about men’s roles in the synagogue in the aftermath of the radical changes leading to female empowerment in the last fifteen years.
While I will introduce the topic on Yom Kippur, I am looking forward to a study group which I will be conducting on Sunday mornings in the winter and spring which will be “For Men Only” in which we use biblical stories as a take-off point for discussing our own feelings as men, as fathers and as sons.
I look forward to your reactions to this pre-Yizkor talk, and I hope that it will open for us a new avenue for dialogue on an important issue that faces us as individuals.
“We believe that the time has come for men to assess how they view themselves, their families and how they understand synagogue life. The challenge today is to gain insights that will enable men to find new comfort and meaning within an ever-changing religious and secular environment”, stated Joe Schwartz President of the Men’s Club of Temple Beth Tsouris.
The Men’s Club, an affiliate of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, the male volunteer arm of the Conservative/Masorti Movement, will sponsor a series of activities and programs on the following dates (fill in) based on the theme “Our Fathers, Ourselves: What Do We Want From Our Fathers, What Do Our Children Want From Us?” Noted (fill in name and credentials) will “kickoff” the event with an address titled (fill in).
The purpose of these programs is to provide men with new insights about these important issues. It is also hoped that they will have a better awareness and understanding about their roles as fathers, sons and husbands.