As a modern-day researcher of Jewish thought, I especially love the personal descriptions that Jewish philosophers insert parenthetically into their Jewish philosophical text. These descriptions allow us to learn about central customs in Jewish community life, as well as the educational values and philosophical insights that were etched into the Jewish consciousness of the philosopher in question.
Memory or heroism? Victims or heroes? What should a museum commemorate? Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, shares insights into how Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum, was established. He focuses on the Hall of Remembrance, a less frequented site in the Yad Vashem complex, and its meaning to him and to his students.
What makes a great leader? Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of The Schechter Institutes, discusses Parshat Beha’alotcha and the six qualities that made Moses successful as head of the Israelites. Everyone from Biblical rulers to politicians today can find value in characteristics ranging from humility to a willingness to ask for help.
On April 30, 2018, The Schechter Institute and the Jewish Theological Seminary co-sponsored a very successful academic conference at The Schechter Institute in Jerusalem on the subject listed above. Speakers included Chancellor Arnold Eisen of JTS, Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency and winner of this year’s Israel Prize, MK Rachel Azaria, and many professors from Schechter and JTS. The following is a translation of my Hebrew lecture delivered at the conference.
How Jewish should the Jewish State be? As Israel continues celebrating its 70th birthday Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, asks whether Israelis can decide what kind of Judaism they want to support in both the private sphere and in the public one. Should legislators be weighing in on what kind of Judaism to practice?
Sunday, the 28th of Iyyar, marks the 51st anniversary of Jerusalem’s unification. Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and a 7th generation Jerusalemite, tells the story of Jerusalem’s changing population through the lens of his family history. How has Israel’s largest city evolved from a a small group living within the Old City walls to an expansive metropolis?
The two great proponents of political Zionism – Herzl and Jabotinsky, were both classical liberals, who championed free markets and private property as critical to economic development of the future Jewish State, while underscoring the critical importance of social solidarity. Neither was religious, yet both of them in their Zionist visions called for the implementation of the Biblical Jubilee year as ethical and moral bulwarks in a Jewish State.
For some years now conventional wisdom has it that Israel’s policies toward liberal streams and Palestinians are to blame for the rift between us and American Jews. I would not deny that the treatment of liberal Jews at the hands of Israel’s religious establishment, with the tacit complicity of Israeli government’s, is a disgrace; every Israeli should be ashamed of it. This demeaning, offensive attitude plays a very real role in the growing alienation from Israel felt by Jews in North America. Yet I believe it is worthwhile reflecting to the diaspora what it is about their own behavior that is causing the two communities to move even further apart.
Neve Schechter’s Gallery in Tel Aviv is currently exhibiting “Sphere”. Several beautiful spherical paintings around the theme of the Omer Season (Leviticus Ch. 23) by two talented Israeli artists are on display, but what evokes a powerful response are four large screens on which women count to 49 in eerily male voices, each time turning around. Secular Israeli women, grappling with the tradition of counting the Omer, are providing a poignant commentary on the exclusion of women’s voices in Jewish tradition. What does this commentary reflect? Zionism was a revolutionary response to the crisis of Jewish identity in 19th century Europe. The framework of Jewish life that had assured survival for 1,800 years; a semi-autonomous faith community, regulated by Jewish Law and strong familial connections, could no longer swim against the powerful currents of liberal enlightenment, secular nationalism and socialism.
Are we aware of the miracles surrounding us? Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of The Schechter Institutes, shares excerpts of a letter written 70 years ago by the late Binyamin Brenzel. It describes the excitement in Israel following the UN partition vote. Brenzel, who later worked at Schechter until age 100, gives a window into the miraculous nature of the creation of the State of Israel.