Montgomery County Community Slichot Services to Feature JTS Chancellor

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

August 20, 2008, Rockville, MD

An extraordinary opportunity to prepare for the Jewish New Year through study with Professor Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, will take place during a community-wide Slichot program beginning at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 20. Sponsored by JTS and Montgomery County Conservative congregations, the event will be held at B’nai Israel Congregation, 6301 Montrose Road, Rockville.

Chancellor Eisen will be joined by Rabbi Robert Harris, associate professor of Bible and chair of the Bible Department at JTS. The program will begin with a dessert reception followed by a community Havdalah service. At 9:45 p.m., Rabbi Harris will discuss “What’s in a Blessing? A Close Reading of Genesis 24:1,” examining what constitutes a life of blessing.

Chancellor Eisen will deliver the keynote address, “Returning to the Path of Mitzvah” during Slichot services at 10:45 p.m.

Arnold M. Eisen is the seventh chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary. One of the world's foremost experts on American Judaism, Chancellor Eisen has worked closely for the past twenty years with synagogue and federation leadership around the country to analyze and address the issues of Jewish identity, the revitalization of Jewish tradition, the redefinition of the American Jewish community, and the strengthening of the connection between American Jews and Israel.

Chancellor Eisen received a PhD in the History of Jewish Thought from Hebrew University; a BPhil in the Sociology of Religion at Oxford University; and a BA in Religious Thought from the University of Pennsylvania. He served as the Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford University, senior lecturer in the Department of Jewish Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, and assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. Chancellor Eisen's publications include four scholarly works about Judaism in the modern world as well as a personal essay, Taking Hold of Torah: Jewish Commitment and Community in America.

Rabbi Harris teaches courses in biblical literature and commentary, particularly medieval Jewish biblical exegesis. A popular lecturer at congregations and in the Meah Program of Hebrew College in Boston, he earned a MA, rabbinic ordination, an MPhil, and PhD in Bible from JTS. Dr. Harris has served as a rabbi in several congregations in the United States and Israel. He and his garage band, Shake Rabbis and Roll, recently completed a second rock and roll album, Keep Your Day Job. He has also appeared several times as a standup comic at New York’s Stand Up, New York! Club, where he was once voted “New York’s Funniest Rabbi.”

Participating congregations include B’nai Israel Congregation, Rockville; Congregation Beth El, Bethesda; B’nai Shalom of Olney; Shaare Tefila, Silver Spring; Shaare Torah, Gaithersburg; Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim, Silver Spring; Kol Shalom, Rockville; Ohr Kodesh, Chevy Chase; and Kehillat Shalom, Gaithersburg. Rabbi Harris’ visit is being made possible by the Marian and Harry Hinkes Scholar in Residence Fund of B’nai Shalom of Olney.

For more information, contact Rabbi Michael Safra at B’nai Israel Congregation or Barbara Rosenau, JTS Mid-Atlantic Region, at (215) 376-0474.