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The MetroWest New Jersey community is the site of a unique adult education opportunity. Three local rabbis, all of whom have participated in a Shalom Hartman Institute rabbinic leadership program have teamed up to bring Hartman ideas to their congregations in the form of an eight session course based on the first volume of the Hartman DVD Lecture Study Series. The big news is that in true Hartman spirit, this initiative was spearheaded by three rabbis representing different denominations in the MetroWest community–Rabbis Menashe East of the Mount Freedom Jewish Center (Modern Orthodox), David Nesson of the Morristown Jewish Center (Conservative), and Amy Small of Congregation Beth Hatikvah (Reconstructionist)–that decided to bring a powerful learning experience to the entire MetroWest community .  

Volume I of the Hartman DVD Lecture Series entitled: “Leadership and Crisis: Jewish Resources and Responses” draws upon centuries of Jewish scholarship—from biblical sources to Holocaust literature—to shape a uniquely Jewish response to the significant challenges posed by current geopolitical and economic realities. Lecturers in the series include Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi , Dr. Micah Goodman, and Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed.

Rabbi Amy Small comments, “The MetroWest community learning program is based on the collaboration of three colleagues of different ideological perspectives. Our goal is to model pluralism for our entire community, while offering an opportunity for people of different backgrounds to learn from and with each other and with us.  We hope the initiative sets the stage for further opportunities of this nature.”

Rabbi Menashe East agrees that the course is an opportunity for a “community-wide Beit Midrash,” and adds that it is also a chance for bridge-building with Israel. “We so often focus on standing alongside Israel for its security and political stability, and don’t usually take enough time to speak about how brilliant and creative the learning and scholarship going on there is. For the American Jewish community, exposure to the incredible luminaries of Jewish thought at Hartman is a real gift.”

Click here for background information on the Engaging Israel: Foundations for a New Relationship lecture series.

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Shalom Hartman Institute will host an emergency conference on Thursday, January 20, to address the increasing prejudice against Arab citizens of Israel, promoted in the guise of Jewish tradition. This has become one of the most pressing challenges facing Israeli society today.

In his recent article, “What No Rabbi in the World Outside Israel Would Ever Say,” Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, said, that as distinct from the past, “the vast majority of Israelis from a wide spectrum of religious and political beliefs…have not been silent; a continuous flow of headlines, editorials, and petitions have given expression to the revulsion that most Israelis feel towards these recent outbursts of prejudice.”

Faculty and staff at the Shalom Hartman Institute were pivotal in creating many of these headlines, editorials, and petitions. However, the common sentiment at Hartman was that words were not enough – it was time to move into action.  The goal of this inaugural conference, Planting Tolerance, Uprooting Prejudice in Israel, is to establish Tu B’shvat – the date of the founding of the Israeli Parliament – as Israel’s national day of tolerance.

This inaugural  event, which will be held at the Hartman Institute campus in Jerusalem, will feature lectures and panel discussions by a wide range of politicians, social activists, academics, and representatives of the media, all of whom who have at least one thing in common: the understanding that we cannot remain silent on this issue.

Distinguished speakers will include Knesset members, SHI scholars, rabbis representing a range of denominations, and prominent media figures including:

 Adi Arbel, Adina Bar-Shalom,  Shraga Baron, MK Zeev Bielski, Dr. Meir Buzaglo, Dr. Arik Carmon, Shaul David, Former MK Zehava Galon, Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, Dr. Micah Goodman, Yisrael Harel, Dr. Noah Hayut, Advocate Ali Heidar, Dr. Muhammed Hourani, Dr. Dror Idar, Rabbi Advocate Gilad Kariv, Brigadier General (ret) Ron Kitri, Vadim Klebayev, Prof. Menachem Lorberbaum, Rami Lustig, Prof. Ron Margolin, Rabbi Dr. Ariel Picard, Channa Pinchasi, Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Advocate Oded Ravivi, Sophia Ron-Moriah, MK Nachman Shai, Yair Sheleg, Roni Yavin, Ben-Dror Yemini

See the full conference program (in Hebrew) for details, and register now to participate.  The conference will take place from 3:00 pm-8:30 pm at the Shalom Hartman Institute, 11 Gedalyahu Alon Street, Jerusalem. For further information, call +972-2-567-5322.

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For the first time in its history, Shalom Hartman Institute Rabbinic Leadership alumni will gather for an Alumni Study Retreat. The inaugural Rabbinic Leadership Institute Alumni Study Retreat will be held from January 23-26, 2011, at the Steven Breuer Conference Center in Malibu, California. Rabbinic Alumni of the first three RLI cohorts, representing nearly a decade of our intensive rabbinic leadership program, will gather to study the topic of Covenant and its contemporary challenges and applications with SHI faculty members Prof. Israel Knohl and Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi.

Text study will focus on Biblical, Rabbinic and Modern interpretations of covenant and covenant theology. One day of the retreat will be open to all rabbinic colleagues in the area of Southern California. Highlights will be a learning session with Prof. Knohl; a session on the Hartman Institute’s newest project, Engaging Israel: Foundations for a New Relationship; and a preview of a learning program for rabbis and their communities which seeks to lift and shift the discourse on Israel and the relationship of North American Jews to Israel.

Rabbis will also enjoy a visit to a local winery and a viewing of a new Israeli film portraying Israeli society.

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On Tuesday night, November 23, 2010, the Hartman Institute Beit Midrash was packed from wall to wall with an eager audience of listeners tuned in to a topic no less vital than that of Creation itself. The speaker was Professor Arthur Green, Rector of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Newton, Massachusetts, on the theme of his new book, “Radical Judaism: Re-Thinking Basics for the 21st Century.”

By “basics” Professor Green means the foundations of religion and all existence—Creation, evolution and their ultimate purpose in the world. His talk touched upon matters as diverse as Hasidism, environmentalism, science and philosophy.

As he wrote in Tikkun earlier this year:

“As a religious person I believe that the evolution of species is the greatest sacred drama of all time. It dwarfs all the other narratives, memories, and images that so preoccupy the mind of religious traditions, including our own. We Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all over-involved with proclaiming — or questioning — the truth of our own particular stories. Did Moses really receive the Torah from God at Mount Sinai? Did Jesus truly rise from the tomb? Was Muhammad indeed God’s chosen messenger? We refine our debates about these forever, each group certain as to its own narrative’s place as the center of universal history. In the modern world, where all these tales are challenged, we work out sophisticated and non-literalist ways of proclaiming our faith in them. But there is a bigger story, infinitely bigger, and one that we all share. How did we get here, we humans, and where are we going? For more than a century and a half, educated Westerners have understood that this is the tale of evolution. But we religious folk, the great tale-tellers of our respective traditions, have been guarded and cool toward this story and have hesitated to make it our own. The time has come to embrace it and to uncover its sacred dimensions.”

In the course of his lecture, Professor Green would occasionally recognize Hartman scholars in the audience and call out a greeting.  The stately Beit Midrash became an intimate setting wherein Professor Green recounted his own spiritual transformation through the years—experiences which helped form the basis for the ideas which are put forth in “Radical Judaism.”

Among his many previous writings, Professor Green is author of the definitive biography of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav.

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Every month, we open the doors of our campus to the world—at least online— via the Reflections newsletter and share with you some of the ideas that have been percolating in the Kogod Research Center for Contemporary Jewish Thought think tank.

In Reflections #10 , SHI scholars bring into focus ideas, traditions, and texts that are centuries old, while highlighting their relevance to Judaism today.

  • What do adultery and Messianism have in common? SHI fellow Dr. Yair Eldan introduces a new way of interpreting the Mishnah in “The Larger Reading,” showing how seemingly unrelated Mishnahs in each tractate are connected by important overarching, themes. In Tractate Sotah, the adulterous woman is depicted in parallel with the metaphorical “adultery” of the Jewish people whose zealous pursuit of the Messianic idea leads them to forget about God.
  • A dragon, a warrior, a king, three thieves, and a simple cook are just some of the characters who populate the pages of “Self-Denial and Temptation” by Prof. Rella Kushelevsky, a collection of Hebrew stories from 13th century France. Now in print for the first time, these stories defy expectations of Jewish literature of the period, and show that medieval Jewish texts are not limited to rabbinic writings but also included fairy tales—with a uniquely Jewish twist. Check these out in the sneak peek that SHI fellow Avital Davidovich presents in her book review
  • From relaxing river jaunt to religious ritual, the unlikely entry of Tashlich into Jewish practice turns out to be much more about enjoyment than about sin. Dr. Eli Freiman reveals the surprising origins of the ritual of Tashlich in “Tashlich: A Leisure Pastime that Became a Mitzvah

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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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