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Focus on Moshe Fisch (Cohort 7)

Written by Caitlin Fisch

When I met Moshe he was finishing a degree in fine arts, and talking about moving to Vancouver to teach art at the National Geographic museum.  An exploratory trip to B.C. yielded little hope for employment, but a seed had been planted by the principal of a school where he had interviewed.  While there were no job opportunities, the principal had told Moshe that he should investigate a program in Israel at a school called Pardes.  Six months later, we were both living in Jerusalem and Moshe was delving into sacred texts, exploring Israel, and studying with inspiring teachers. 
Growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey, Moshe was well versed in the practices associated with "Orthodox" Judaism but had found them lacking in the spiritual substance he craved.  He sought out mysticism in Eastern religions, studying Taoism and Tai Chi and traveling to places such as Indonesia to experience them first hand. When Moshe started studying at Pardes he began to realize that there were layers within his own religion that he had previously never imagined. This beginning has led to his job teaching high-schoolers, at the Westchester Solomon Schechter High School in New York, who have certainly never imagined the depths of their own religion.
 "Mr. Fisch" has become known as a resource for all things esoteric and has had the opportunity to develop curriculum for unique classes such as "The Rebel and The Rebbe," "Environmentalism and Torah," and "Wisdom of the Kabbalah."  In addition to these courses he also teaches 9th-12th grade Tanach and Rabbinics and takes part in the 10th Grade Advisory Program, Senior W.I.S.E. task force, the Long Term Educational Planning Committee, and the Schechter Westchester Green Initiative.  This fall he will be mentoring an aspiring Judaic Studies teacher from J.T.S.
Some students and colleagues consider Chassidut and Kabbalah "out there," but Moshe grounds his courses in text and history, and students are warned that they should only take his classes if they are ready to work. His deft classroom management may not reveal to his students the depth of his preparation and care for each of them, but I know more than anyone else the true amount of work and dedication that is behind every day of his classes. 

Teaching is not always easy, and Moshe finds great satisfaction and fulfillment in the "Aha!" moments that every teacher savors.  He recently received an email from a student who is on a summer program in Israel. The student said that while on a tour in Tsfat, he knew the answer to every question posed by the tour guide and felt for the first time like an expert in something Jewish. Having such a simple but profound impact makes any amount of work worthwhile.