“It is the music that makes us the Abayudaya:” The Cantors Assembly in Uganda

“It is the music that makes us the Abayudaya:” The Cantors Assembly in Uganda

Apr 29, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

In winter 2019, members and affiliates of the Cantors Assembly traveled to Uganda on a mission of solidarity, learning, and peoplehood with the Abayudaya Jewish community. Trip participants Dr. Amanda Ruppenthal Stein and Hazzan Jeremy Stein discuss the experiences by the CA mission’s participants. Part of Musical Journeys with The Library of JTS.

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The Palace of Torah Expanded: 15 Years Later

The Palace of Torah Expanded: 15 Years Later

Apr 23, 2021 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

For many modern readers, engaging with Torah presents a paradox. Biblical and rabbinic voices reaching us from the distant past are like starlight emitted millennia ago—brilliant and often shockingly current, but also artifacts from light sources that may have dimmed or even expired. This paradox can be constructive, drawing modern readers out of our own cultural assumptions, challenging us to notice wonders that we might otherwise miss. The Torah’s poetry, its stirring demands for justice, and its vast system of devotional rites prime us for faith and sanctity. And when we encounter a Torah text that rings false or hurtful, we may use that encounter to clarify our own understanding, to articulate our community’s sacred values. 

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The Jewish Music of Leonard Bernstein

The Jewish Music of Leonard Bernstein

Apr 22, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Hazzan David F. Tilman examines the works of Leonard Bernstein using a rich variety of musical recordings and archival photographs.

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Dangerous Religious Ideas: The Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Dangerous Religious Ideas: The Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Apr 20, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

In Dangerous Religious Ideas, Rabbi Mikva argues all religious ideas are dangerous—not only those we might consider extremist, but even those that stand at the heart of faith. Because most religious traditions have always understood this peril, they have transmitted tools of self-critique as essential to their teachings.

 

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The Values of a Jewish Home

The Values of a Jewish Home

Apr 16, 2021 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria | Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha'atzma'ut

In the precious days “Before the Coronavirus Era” (B.C.E.), the parshiyot of Tazria-Metzora seemed wholly disconnected from our lives, presenting the perennial challenge of relevance (or irrelevance) to even the most talented darshan (sermonizer). How are we to connect leprous plagues attacking both body and abode to our daily lives? And to what extent does the experience of quarantine resonate with our modern reality? These are only two of the many questions that we would have posed in a pre-Covid world.

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Cantors, Controversy, & Compassion: Searching for God in Musical Complexity

Cantors, Controversy, & Compassion: Searching for God in Musical Complexity

Apr 15, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

What are the spiritual possibilities of music? Five-hundred years ago, rabbis, cantors and Jewish musicians began to explore this question in dramatic new ways. Extended niggunim, orchestras to welcome the Sabbath bride, meshorerim (musical assistants to the cantor), new Hebrew treatises on music, and the borrowing of European musical technique and style contributed to this experimental climate in the synagogues of early modern Europe. But these changes also incited concern and anger from traditionalists, who worried that musical complexity would compromise the halachic and spiritual integrity of authentic prayer.

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JTS Changemakers: What’s Next for Jewish Life?

JTS Changemakers: What’s Next for Jewish Life?

Apr 15, 2021 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

A year of pandemic has upended almost every aspect of Jewish life. But it has also opened our eyes to new ways of learning, praying, gathering, and celebrating. JTS’s Rabbi Danny Nevins asks four JTS alumni, each a leading Jewish thinker and innovator: what comes next for Jewish life? How can the lessons of Covid strengthen the way we build community going forward?

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The Seed of the Rabbinic Revolution

The Seed of the Rabbinic Revolution

Apr 9, 2021 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Shemini

How important is intention in Jewish law? Do I need to be mentally present when performing commandments, or is it enough to go through the motions and get it done? How often does the Torah care about what I’m thinking? For many of us the answers to these questions would seem obvious: Of course, God demands active engagement with the commandments! Why are mitzvot worth doing if I’m not going to be mindful in their performance? In reality, these answers are a product of the revolutionary interpretations of the Torah by the early rabbinic sages.

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Playing for Our Lives: Terezin as a Composer’s Inspiration

Playing for Our Lives: Terezin as a Composer’s Inspiration

Apr 8, 2021 By Gerald Cohen | Public Event video

Cantor Gerald Cohen, composer and assistant professor in the H. L. Miller Cantorial School, will speaks about his composition, Playing for Our Lives, written as a tribute to the music and musicians of the Terezin, perform the composition.

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All the Horrors of War

All the Horrors of War

Apr 6, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

All the Horrors of War follows Hugh Llewelyn Glyn Hughes, a high-ranking British officer, and Rachel Genuth, a Jewish teenager from the Hungarian provinces, as they navigate the final, brutal year of World War II. Their stories converge before the war’s end, in Bergen-Belsen, where Hughes finds himself responsible for an unprecedented situation: thousands of war-ravaged inmates are in need of immediate hospitalization, including Genuth.

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Learning from God to Anticipate the Reactions of Others

Learning from God to Anticipate the Reactions of Others

Apr 2, 2021 By Walter Herzberg | Commentary | Pesah

Why do we eat matzah on Passover? According to the instructions that God conveyed to Israel prior to the Exodus we eat matzah because we are commanded: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread (matzot)” (Exod. 12:15). However, according to Exod. 12:39, where the narrative of the events is related, we eat matzah because the Israelites, having been driven out of Egypt, were unable to linger to allow time for the dough to rise: “And they baked unleavened cakes (matzot) . . . because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not tarry.” If so, why does the Torah present the mitzvah (the command) before the Exodus has actually taken place? 

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Passover Resources

Passover Resources

Mar 28, 2021 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Collected Resources | Pesah

A curated collection of commentaries, videos, and more on JTS Torah Online.

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A Holiday of Contradictory Emotions

A Holiday of Contradictory Emotions

Mar 26, 2021 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

Preparing to celebrate our second Pesah under the grip of a global pandemic, our hearts are filled with both sadness and hope. No one has been untouched by COVID-19. We’re grieving a loved one, friend, or neighbor whose life was cut short. We’re experiencing its social and economic toll—overtaxed first responders, teachers, and food providers; overwhelming social isolation; devastating financial insecurity—all exacerbated by underlying inequities. Thankfully, millions have received the vaccine, though many have yet to receive it, and new variants temper our expectations.

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Standing at the Gates

Standing at the Gates

Mar 19, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayikra

In Kafka’s cryptic parable “Before the Law,” a man stands before a gate seeking entry into the Law. The gate is open, but at its side is a gatekeeper who refuses his request to enter. The man uses every stratagem that he can think of to gain the gatekeeper’s permission, but every attempt fails. This stalemate continues until the moment of death arrives. 

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The Future of the Seminary in a Dogmatic Age

The Future of the Seminary in a Dogmatic Age

Mar 18, 2021 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Public Event video

A conversation between Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz and NYU President Emeritus John Sexton. Moderated by Krista Tippett.

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Conversion, Circumcision, and Ritual Murder in Medieval Europe

Conversion, Circumcision, and Ritual Murder in Medieval Europe

Mar 17, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Author and professor Paola Tartakoff of Rutgers University discusses her new book, Conversion, Circumcision, and Ritual Murder in Medieval Europe, which explores the “Norwich Circumcision Case” from multiple perspectives.

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Holy Bling

Holy Bling

Mar 12, 2021 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

I loved rummaging through my grandmother’s jewelry. To my child’s eye, her jewelry box was a treasure chest filled with sparkling gems, pearls, and gold. All “paste,” I learned, but to me they were the crown jewels.

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The Path to Justice

The Path to Justice

Mar 5, 2021 By Rachel Kahn-Troster | Commentary | Ki Tissa

I’ve been a human rights activist for more than a decade, beginning my work by organizing the Jewish community to speak out against torture. One of the first things I learned—a theme that resurfaces across many of the campaigns for human rights that I have been part of—is that when people act out of fear, when their sense of safety and security is challenged, they make unfortunate choices. 

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The Masks that We Wear

The Masks that We Wear

Feb 26, 2021 By Ofra Backenroth | Tetzavveh | Purim

Growing up in Israel, Purim was a wonderful experience, full of fun and games. Dressing up, putting on masks, going to parties, and attending the Purim Parade in Tel Aviv—the Adloyada. This name is derived from a rabbinic saying in the Talmud that one should revel on Purim by drinking “until one no longer knows [how to distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordecai’]” (BT Megillah 7b). Attending the parade was great fun, but also had a mysterious aspect. Who are the people hiding behind the masks? What are they concealing and what are they trying to reveal? It was all very colorful and happy but, in equal measure, scary and confusing.

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Journey with JTS

Journey with JTS

Feb 25, 2021 By The Jewish Theological Seminary

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