When leaders of the Reform movement decided to honor Rabbi Dr. Eugene Borowitz on his 85th birthday, they asked several of his current students to challenge the legendary philosopher and theologian. Among those they asked was Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Director of the Hartman Institute’s Center for Lay Leadership Education.
Rachel was honored to be asked but was also in the late stages of pregnancy, and so could not travel to New York from Jerusalem. So, she recorded a video tribute to Dr. Borowitz. The video tribute was duly noted in the coverage of the event by The Jewish Week of New York:
…aside from a warm welcome and introduction by Rabbi Shirley Idelson, the dean of HUC-JIR’s New York rabbinical school, and its president, Rabbi David Ellenson, the presenters, other than Rabbi Borowitz, were three young doctoral candidates – two of whom studied under him – who were given a surprising task: to challenge him to explain, in his words, “some murky aspect of my teaching.”
And challenge him they did.
Each presented an aspect of Rabbi Borowitz’s thought followed by a question posed directly to him. Thus, Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, a faculty member and director of the Center for Lay Leadership Education of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, who made her presentation by DVD since she had given birth the day before, tried to pin Rabbi Borowitz down on “the kind of rabbis, scholars and theologians” that his students must “work to develop in order to be able to respond to the next crisis in Jewish theology.”
Indeed, Rachel mentioned in her video tribute that it was Borowitz’s idea to engage in a video presentation that allowed her to give her talk even as she remained in Jerusalem.