Archive for the ‘North America’ Category

Shalom Hartman Institute President Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, and SHI-North America President Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer recently taught at the launch of the third cohort of The Berrie Fellowship, a two-year intensive Jewish learning and leadership education program for a select cadre of leaders in Northern New Jersey.

The Hartman Institute is working closely to help develop the curriculum for this two-year program, which is funded by the Russell Berrie Foundation, and will include a week-long seminar in Jerusalem in July 2012 that will be taught by a faculty of SHI fellows.

To read more, click here.

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Rabbi Lauren Berkun, Shalom Hartman Institute Southeast Director of Educational Initiatives, has been invited to join President Barack Obama and a select group of Jewish politicians, business leaders, artists, athletes, veterans, and rabbis at a reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, which will be held at the White House on Tuesday May 17, 2011.

President Obama inaugurated this event last year and is this year continuing the tradition to “highlight and celebrate the history and unique identity of Jewish Americans and their profound and ennobling contributions to the American story,” according to the White House.

“I am looking forward to this interesting and exciting experience, which I believe will lend itself to reflection on the American Jewish experience,” commented Rabbi Berkun. The Shalom Hartman Institute congratulates Rabbi Berkun on this well deserved honor and looks forward to hearing her impressions.

Rabbi Lauren Berkun, Southeast Director of Educational Initiatives at theShalom Hartman Institute – North America, graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2001.

Rabbi Berkun was a Wexner Graduate Fellow, a CLAL Rabbinic intern, and a Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. She has served as the JTS Midwest KOLLOT Rabbinic Scholar, Director of Lifelong Learning at Congregation ShaareyZedek in Southfield, Michigan, and Scholar-in-Residence for the Women’s Department of Federation.

Rabbi Berkun has written and taught extensively on the topics of mikveh, sexual ethics, and body image. She is also a certified Sivananda yoga instructor and teaches seminars on Jewish meditation and Jewish mysticism.

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Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer

The Shalom Hartman Institute of  North America (SHI-NA) is proud to announce that the North American Scholars Circle (NASC) is beginning a new program cycle. This year’s theme will be the elusive meaning of Jewish “peoplehood,” a much-debated concept that has rarely been the focus of the kind of rigorous scholarly debate which NASC will apply to it this year.

The North American Scholars Circle, comprising outstanding Judaic Studies scholars from the academy and the Jewish community, was launched in 2009. Working together to shape a new Jewish conversation in North America, NASC is tasked with formulating meaningful approaches to making Judaism relevant to contemporary life, and with using scholarship to elevate the discourse of contemporary Judaism.

In its inaugural year, NASC studied the theme of Ikkarim, defining the essential foundations of Judaism for a new generation of North American Jewry. The cohort produced a series of articles, but more importantly grounded its work in the big questions and values of contemporary Jewish life.

Now led by Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, President of SHI-NA, who has joined forces with Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi and scholars from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, NASC aims to route new ideas from the academy into the community, and to bring critical communal questions into the work of the academy.

Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer says: “NASC conforms with the methodology of the Hartman Institute: to identify the core challenges facing the Jewish people, to marshal the intellectual resources, in the form of great minds and classic texts, that can speak to these challenges, to engage in deep research on how we translate the best in classical and contemporary Jewish thinking to the present situation, and to then channel this new thinking into programs and curricula that we teach to change-agents in the community. We believe that the significant challenges in Jewish life require a process of deep thinking and learning. This methodology enables us to develop and then propagate profound ideas, rooted in Jewish values, which can be translated much more richly into a diverse array of initiatives and programs.”


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Donniel Hartman’s commentary on the “Rotem Conversion Bill” controversy, “Relationship of Israel and World Jewry Depends on Meaning, Not Claims of Necessity,” is receiving widespread attention in Israel and North America, including citations and reprints by The New York Times, Forward, and Ynet, among others:

Israel Puts Off Crisis Over Conversion Law (The New York Times, 23/07/2010)

Donniel was quoted in an article by The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner on the subject:

“There is increasing discomfort among American Jews with Israel,” commented Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, which is devoted to exploring Jewish issues. “This issue is a place where they can express the displeasure that they might not be willing to state on the flotilla and other political matters.”

For that reason, some here, even among those sympathetic to the Reform and Conservative movements, like Rabbi Hartman, feel that the American reaction to the Rotem bill was overly aggressive.

“They overstated this one,” he said.

Jewish Legitimacy (Forward, 21/07/2010)

In an editorial taking a contrarian view of the conversion bill uproar, the Forward excerpted Donniel’s most recent commentary: “Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute, one of the saner voices during this emotional dispute, put it best: ‘It requires a commitment to Israel not as it is, but as it ought to be, and a willingness to invest in creating such an Israel.’ And, he wrote recently, ‘it requires a deep caring.’”

The Forward then went on to say: “To care deeply doesn’t obligate us to swear blind loyalty and suppress disagreement. But it doesn’t allow us to turn our backs, either. With all the worried talk about the demise of “liberal Zionism,” here is a chance for Jews in Israel and the Diaspora to resurrect its future.”

The Forward’s editorial was also reprinted on the influential blog, EJewishPhilanthropy.com

United or divided? (Jerusalem Post, 24/07/10)

The Jerusalem Post reprinted the original commentary by Donniel Hartman, which ran first on the Institute’s website.

A version in Hebrew was published on Ynet, the leading news website in Israel, on 25/07/2010. Click here for the Hebrew version.

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Israel’s image continues to take a beating. Just Wednesday, July 7, 2010, there was a report – widely repeated in the media and Twittersphere that Dustin Hoffman and Meg Ryan, two Hollywood A-list actors (well, maybe Meg is A- or B+ these days) had backed out of advanced negotiations designed to bring them to Israel for the upcoming Jerusalem Film Festival. The festival opens July 8, 2010. (Update: According to gojerusalem.com, French actor Jean Reno, star of the festival’s opening film, is planning to attend.)

The JTA offered a good analysis of the anti-Israel feeling and the delegitimization campaign(?) and cited a recent report by Tel Aviv’s Reut Institute that offered suggestions on how to combat it. The article also notes that the government hasn’t done anything like what the report calls for, and says other efforts, from “re-branding” Israel to quicker responses to breaking news, haven’t done much to combat the phenomenon, either.

That’s where the Hartman Institute’s Engaging Israel Project is looking to enter and change the debate. Engaging Israel is focused on bringing Jewish values to the dilemmas of nationhood. Panelists such as Donniel Hartman, Gil Troy, Yossi Klein Halevi, and others have already been writing about the project, even before it comes out with a final report or conclusions.

Hundreds have already signed up for emails updating the Panel’s progress. Sign up today and get on board and participate in the discussion.

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Update, March 16, 2010: The meme continues. Here’s another piece (this one by Irwin J. Mansdorf) on engaging new forms of conversation between Israel and the world: The Hasbara challenge: We can’t counter Arab PR by telling people Israel invented cell phone

A new Israeli government effort to bring the average “Yossi Israeli” into the ongoing effort at getting Israel’s position across to average individuals and the media to combat negative perceptions, stereotypes, and anti-Israel sentiment is getting a significant amount of attention in the media, Jewish and otherwise.

The website Masbirim will attempt to begin training Israelis to speak on behalf of Israel when the opportunity arises. It also contains satirical videos poking fun at how poorly Israel is understood or known beyond stereotypes of violence and backwardness. As with much satire, the quality of the work has been widely debated, as well. (more…)

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Noam Zion is in a “historic one-month scholar-in-residence program” at Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas, Texas: “The Bernard “Beanie” Siegel Scholar-in-Residence Program – “GPS Judaism: Finding Your Place in the Jewish Tradition.” Click here to see the entire month-long program. More details here and here.

Alick Isaacs spoke on the subject, “The Meaning of Israel in Contemporary Jewish Life,” at University of California, Irvine, on January 27, 2010.

Menachem Lorberbaum spoke on the subject, “Religion and Politics in a Post-Secular Age,” on January 25, 2010, at Taube Center on Jewish Studies, and Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages, Stanford University.

Moshe Halbertal is scheduled to speak at the upcoming AIPAC Policy Conference, March 21-23, in Washington, DC, on a panel titled, “Israel Today – Ethical Defense: Israel’s Unparalleled Moral Battle Code.” For more information, click here.

Halbertal is also scheduled to speak at the University of Chicago, on the subject, “The Moral Challenges of Asymmetrical War: The Case of Israel,” on February 18, 2010. Click here for details.

Halbertal will also speak at the University of Chicago Divinity School as part of a three-lecture series titled, Political Theory. Legal Theory. Classical Jewish Texts: Three interdisciplinary presentations engaging the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Literature.” His February 17, 2010, lecture is titled, “At the Threshold of Forgiveness: Law and Narrative in the Talmud.” Details here.

Halbertal led a discussion at Queens College in New York City on February 16, 2010, on the subject:  “’War Crimes’” and “’Just Peace’”: Ethical Battles in the Arab-Israeli Conflict” at the University’s Center for Ethnic, racial and Religious Understanding.

Bill Berk is scheduled to give a Passover teaching at Congregation Beit Shalom, Visalia, California, on the topics, “What Was the Real Pesach Miracle?,” and “How to Prepare for a Transformational Seder?” on March 28, 2010. Click here for details.

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