On a Wednesday morning under the warm sun, 35 North Shore Hebrew Academy High School students cast their fishing lines into the Manhasset Bay, waiting patiently for a tug. Every now and then, they’d reel one in and find that it was usually a porgy, and sometimes a flounder or bass. This wasn’t simply a recreational adventure — it was the culmination of their kashrut curriculum focused on fish.
During the past few weeks, students delved into the laws of kosher fish as part of their Halacha course. Through deep Mishnaic and Talmudic text study, students got to know the ins and outs of identifying the fins and scales of kosher fish. Then, it was time to put their knowledge into action — from sea to pan.
“At NSHAHS, we embrace Torat Chaim, bringing Torah to life for our students,” said NSHAHS Chair of the Halacha Department Rabbi Yehuda Chinskey. “It’s one thing to know that kosher fish have fins and scales because they studied that, and then it’s another thing to go fishing and actually identify the scales and fins of a kosher fish. It’s an unforgettable experiential learning opportunity.”
This fishing expedition was part of NSHAHS’ new integrated learning program that fosters hands-on collaboration between academic departments, especially bridging Jewish and secular subjects. Earlier this year, students explored the mitzvah of hearing the shofar, diving into the physics of sound and hearing with science teachers Dr. Chandhok and Dr. Okoko. In a recent Halacha Lab, students brought the Jewish prohibition of eating bugs to life by using magnifying glasses to check fruits and vegetables for bugs and applying the scientific method to predict and discover where and how often they showed up.
To enrich this fishing experience, NSHAHS invited Orthodox Union Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, a global expert on kosher fish. As the boat set out in Port Washington, the students huddled together inside the boat for a Halachic lesson on kosher fish from Rabbi Goldberg. Then, Mr. Jordan Gould, who teaches European History at NSHAHS, and happens to be a pro fisherman guided the students in the strategy and tactics of fishing, instructing them on how to set up their fishing rods and effectively fish. For many of the students, it was their first time fishing.
Over the course of three hours, many of the students caught one fish, if not two or three, learning how to identify kosher fish in real time. One rule that students learned was that once they identified a fish as kosher, they no longer needed to check for scales and fins each time. That day, the students got very familiar with porgies.
“Core to being a religious Jew is knowing how to apply Torah in the world properly and with the skills required,” said Rabbi Chinskey.
Using brand new cutting boards and knives, the crew filleted the fish while Rabbi Goldberg regaled the students with stories of supervising fish kashrut across the world. Once the students returned to school, they grilled the fish and enjoyed their very own kosher catch, alongside delicious sushi.
In the near future, Rabbi Chinskey looks forward to providing more experiential learning opportunities for students, including shadowing a Mashgiach, a kosher supervisor, for a day.
“By making it possible for students to connect their Judaic studies to the real world, we can ensure that their relationship with Hashem is an integrated one,” said Rabbi Chinskey.
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