The Book Smugglers of the Vilna Ghetto: Choosing a Life of Meaning Under the Specter of Death

The Book Smugglers of the Vilna Ghetto: Choosing a Life of Meaning Under the Specter of Death

Dec 21, 2020 By David Fishman | Public Event video

In Vilna, “the Jerusalem of Lithuania,” a group of Jewish writers and intellectuals risked their lives to rescue Jewish books, manuscripts, and art from the Nazis. While working as slave laborers for a Nazi looting agency, they “stole” Jewish cultural treasures from their masters, smuggled them into the ghetto, and hid them in underground cellars and bunkers. The few members of this group who survived the war returned to Vilna after its liberation, and led an operation to retrieve the treasures.

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Mitzvot and the Path to Human Flourishing

Mitzvot and the Path to Human Flourishing

Dec 14, 2020 By Yonatan Y. Brafman | Public Event video

The medieval decisor and philosopher Moses Maimonides claimed that the mitzvot (commandments) are a divine law. By this, he meant not only that the mitzvot originate with God, but that they were a medium by which people could flourish both politically and personally—which for Maimonides meant the attainment of intellectual comprehension. This session explores the significance of Maimonides’ view and how two modern Jewish thinkers, Mordecai Kaplan and Eliezer Berkovits, built on Maimonides’ ideas to develop their own understandings of how observance of the mitzvot can advance human growth and the attainment of perfection.  

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Trauma and Testimony in an Oversharing Society

Trauma and Testimony in an Oversharing Society

Dec 7, 2020 By Edna Friedberg | Public Event video

The pandemic has forced us to live much of our lives online. But what happens when experiences that used to be private and intimate are exposed to the glare of public scrutiny? How is the impact of experience changed by retelling it, and does sharing our experiences make them more meaningful? This is a discussion of how refugees from war-torn Europe were recast as “Holocaust survivors” and how trauma morphs when repackaged for broader consumption. The session will include pioneering early audio and film recordings of survivors as young people in the 1940s and 50s. 

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The Certainty of Uncertainty

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Nov 30, 2020 By Alan Cooper | Public Event video

Psalm 84, quoted in the Havdalah service, assures us that human felicity arises out of trust in God. But trust is hard to come by, and felicity seems remote in times of duress. In this session we will examine biblical texts that acknowledge the challenges of doubt and uncertainty and offer ways of meeting those trials with hope, faith, and trust. 

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The Wholeness of a Broken Heart

The Wholeness of a Broken Heart

Nov 23, 2020 By Mychal Springer | Public Event video

Life’s challenges raise up the reality of human vulnerability. Too often, people experience the heartbreak of suffering. In this session we will explore the paradoxical teaching of the Kotzker Rebbe that “there is nothing more whole than a broken heart.”   

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Nurturing Character, Community, and Meaning-Making Through Jewish Education

Nurturing Character, Community, and Meaning-Making Through Jewish Education

Nov 9, 2020 By Jeffrey Kress | Public Event video

Even as we are zooming forward into a new, Covid-altered educational landscape, there are goals of Jewish education—whether in schools, camps, home, or other settings—that are enduring. In this session we will look at Jewish education through the lenses of character, community, and meaning-making to provide context for current discussions of online and hybrid learning, and to expand our thinking about the goals and processes of Jewish learning.

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The Torah’s Take on Happiness

The Torah’s Take on Happiness

Nov 2, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video

Moses’ final speech concludes with a declaration of the happiness of being a Jew: “Happy are you, O Israel!” But does the Torah describe any individual as happy? While the pursuit of happiness, as expressed in the Torah and its interpretations? Is the American ideal of happiness a Jewish concept at all? 

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Spiritual Meaning and Inspiration in Hasidic Teaching

Spiritual Meaning and Inspiration in Hasidic Teaching

Oct 26, 2020 By Eitan Fishbane | Public Event video

In this session we explore several powerful examples in which hasidic spiritual masters read the Hebrew Bible figuratively in order to often playfully and brilliantly convey deep spiritual insights about the nature of life, of the world, and of God‘s immanent presence in our lives. 

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