Bridging the Growing Gap between Israeli and North American Jews

Adapted from the text prepared for delivery at a consultation on this subject sponsored by Shaharit, an Israeli think tank, at Beit Avichai in Jerusalem on January 25, 2018

Let me say at the outset that I will address you today not only as a scholar of modern Judaism whose research has long focused on Jewish thought in North America and Israel, and as the chancellor of JTS, a major institution of Jewish learning and the center of Conservative Judaism for over a century. I will also speak personally, one Jew to others, one member of what President Rivlin has recently called the “fifth tribe” of Israel to members of the other four. I will speak out of personal experiences and longings far more than books or surveys—an approach that I trust will lead to the sort of frank and fruitful conversation that must take place more regularly between our two Jewries, and within them both, if we are to draw closer together and bridge the divides that seem to grow deeper with each passing year.

Yom Kippur 2017: Atoning Before God, Together

The subject of my remarks this evening is the passage in the mahzor—especially meaningful to me, and in some ways quite problematic—that we will recite no fewer than ten times on this tenth day of Tishrei, five times individually and five times as a group. I refer of course to the vidui, or confessional. Ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu, we will say, all the way through the Hebrew alphabet to shihatnu, and—for good measure—three sins beginning with the letter tav.  

In Appreciation of Torah—and the Rabbis Who Teach It

The following is adapted from the address I delivered on April 29, 2015, at the JTS Convocation honoring members of the Rabbinical Assembly who have served the Jewish community with distinction for 25 years or more.

A Talk on Religion, God, and the Internet

Delivered by Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen, National Library of Israel Conference, Jerusalem, October 20, 2014. As I sat in shul during the Yamim Nora’im a few weeks ago, I wondered—with this talk in mind—how I should feel about being inscribed and sealed for life in an eBook. “Remember us for life, Sovereign who delights in life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life, for Your sake, God of life.”

Chancellor Eisen and Dr. David Golinkin on Judaism’s Vital Religious Center

Having just celebrated Yom Ha’atzma’aut (State of Israel Independence Day), the importance of a vital religious center in Jewish life—both in Israel and the Diaspora—comes to the forefront. I would like to share a talk I gave a few months ago at The Schocken Institute for Jewish Research in Jerusalem, along with a response by Dr. David Golinkin, president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies.

The Magic of Jewish Summer Camp

I spoke last week at the Leaders Assembly of the Foundation for Jewish Camp on a panel, hosted by the Jim Joseph Foundation, with President Richard Joel of Yeshiva University and President David Ellenson of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. We were there to celebrate the enormous achievements of serious Jewish camping in North America in recent decades, to thank donors such as the Jim Joseph Foundation who have greatly assisted in that achievement, and to reflect upon the still-greater possibilities to be tapped in years to come. I share the gist of my presentation to the Foundation for Jewish Camp here.

Teaching the Torah of Conservative Judaism

The following address was given at the 2016 Rabbinical Assembly convention: Let me begin by saying that for me it is an honor beyond words to address my colleagues in the RA once more as chancellor of JTS.