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Game Changers with Sarah Hurwitz

In this video find out why Sarah Hurwitz, a high-level White House speechwriter who crafted messages for President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Michell Obama, pivoted from national politics into a deeper search for her Jewish identity. The book connects deeply with Jewish concepts such as how we use speech and how we care for others, and became a reality after Hurwitz, a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law, reconnected with her Jewish identity 20 years after leaving Hebrew school. After watching the video, use the prompts below to learn more and get your students thinking.

  • Discussion
  • Activities
  • Further Learning
  1. What does Sarah Hurwitz mean when she says “Shabbat is a protest against the excesses of our modern society”?
  2. The message from the Rabbis concerning Sarah Hurwitz’s favorite Talmud story is that “the prisoner can’t get himself out of prison.” What does she mean by this? Is this something that resonates with you?
  3. What is your interpretation of the story about the feathers and the pillow? What practical lesson can we learn from this story?
  4. What is Sarah Hurwitz’s issue with Jewish people who think “we should be Jewish because people hate us” (as a response to antisemitism)?
  5. Sarah Hurwitz argues that Jewish ethics have a higher moral standard than typical American ethics of “you do you.” Why does she believe this? What do you think?
  1. Bring your students together for a “three corners” activity on Jewish perspectives on God presented by Sarah Hurwitz: Label three different walls of the room as “Jewish Mystics,” “Martin Buber,” and “Mordechai Kaplan,” and ask students to walk to the wall of the room that they think best represents their view of God. When there, students should discuss why they chose that corner with the other students in that corner, and then open the conversation to the whole group to explain their stances. Students may change corners based on the conversation. Below find the perspectives on God presented by Sarah Hurwitz:
    • Jewish Mystics: God is everything
    • Martin Buber: God is what arises between two people in deep relation
    • Mordechai Kaplan: God is the process by which we become our highest, truest selves
  1. Amanpour & Co. “What Judaism Can Teach Us in Divisive Times” http://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/sarah-hurwitz-what-judaism-can-teach-us-in-divisive-times/
  2. Alix Wall, “In new book, Barack Obama speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz goes on a Jewish journey” https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/In-new-book-Obama-speechwriter-Sarah-Hurwitz-goes-on-a-Jewish-journey-601417
  3. Amazon, “Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life–in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There)” https://www.amazon.com/Here-All-Along-Spirituality-Life/dp/0525510710
  4. WGBH News, “Sarah Hurwitz Has Been Here All Along” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FIeOBXSkCs

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