Summer at the Shalom Hartman Institute is always a new adventure: suddenly the peaceful campus in the heart of Jerusalem is flooded with hundreds of visitors from overseas. Rabbis, lay leaders, Christian leaders, and scholars from around the world join some of the finest minds in the Jewish world for a few weeks of intensive study. This summer our guests learned with David Hartman, Donniel Hartman, Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Micah Goodman, Melila Helner-Eshed, Moshe Halbertal, Israel Knohl, and the list goes on.
The theme around which this summer’s programming revolved was “Engaging Israel.” This new project at the Shalom Hartman Institute is designed to re-conceptualize the enduring significance of Israel for contemporary Jewry around the world. “Engaging Israel” aims to equip Jews with an internal, quintessentially Jewish values vocabulary to define and articulate why Israel and Zionism can be fundamental to their Judaism.
The summer kicked off with the International Philosophy Conference in late June, which draws world-renowned philosophers to the Institute each summer. The lecture of internationally acclaimed social scientist Michael Walzer, entitled “The State of Israel: What it Means to Be Sovereign” was open to the public and ended the conference with a bang.
One of the high points of the summer was the July 6th graduation of the third Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI) cohort. A three-year program for North American community rabbis of all denominations, RLI provides participants with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the richness and depth of Jewish learning, while honing the skills required to enrich their communities with what they have discovered. Through the leadership of its graduates, RLI has impacted an estimated half-million Jews in North America so far. The graduation keynote address was delivered by Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency.
The barrage of Hartman programming continued throughout July:
The Lay Leadership Summer Retreat brought together nearly 80 lay leaders from across North America, while the annual Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar (RTS) brought some 150 rabbis of all denominations together to study side by side. The Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI), which introduces Christian leaders from North America to the richness of contemporary Judaism, was the last group of visitors to arrive at the Institute.
While the summer was in full swing, participants in the IDF “Lev Aharon” program and principals and teachers from the Be’eri pluralistic Israeli-Jewish identity program continued to crowd the lecture halls, filling the air with their unique conversation.
Now that the summer has ended, our visitors are taking the Hartman message home with them to their communities. Some will use Volume II of the Hartman Institute DVD lecture series to continue their studies. This volume, entitled “The ‘Other’ in Jewish Tradition: Challenges and Opportunities” enables study groups led by community rabbis and/or lay leaders to delve into important questions with leading Hartman scholars regarding how we should and so treat the “other” in our midst.
But just because it’s quieter on campus now doesn’t mean that we at the Hartman Institute are resting. On the contrary—we have just gotten started planning for next year. Watch this space for an inside view of the action.