Stories and Storytelling

Stories and Storytelling

Join JTS scholars to explore a selection of stories drawn from across ancient, rabbinic, medieval, and modern Jewish literature. We will consider the power of shared stories, the unique ways in which they transmit values, norms, culture, and information, and how they can bring Jews together across time and space.

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Watering the Soul in Times of Faith and Doubt

Watering the Soul in Times of Faith and Doubt

May 16, 2022 By Mychal Springer | Public Event video

together—is central to a life of faith and often plunges people into doubt. We will make space for the “watering of the soul,” both metaphorically and through exploration of the connection between resurrection and water—in the form of rain and dew. 

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Because You Hear the Prayers of Your People Israel in Mercy

Because You Hear the Prayers of Your People Israel in Mercy

Apr 25, 2022 By Rachel Rosenthal | Public Event video

We often think of God’s choice to respond to our prayers as an act of mercy, but the rabbis in the Babylonian Talmud believed that God was powerless to ignore certain prayers. We look at five models of people whose prayers God answers and consider how they act as messengers on behalf of their communities.

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Does Faith Matter? The Ancient Jewish Debate About Faith and Mitzvot

Does Faith Matter? The Ancient Jewish Debate About Faith and Mitzvot

May 9, 2022 By David C. Kraemer | Public Event video

One often hears it said that “Judaism cares what one does, not what one believes.” But this is a distortion, an oversimplification. When one looks at sources from the period of the birth of Rabbinic Judaism (including early “Christian” writings), one finds that there was an active debate about this matter. In this session, we will begin by considering the arguments of those ancient Jews—Paul and James—who raised the important question of faith vs. mitzvot. We will then examine echoes of the same debate in early rabbinic sources.

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The Gender of God in Ancient Israel

The Gender of God in Ancient Israel

May 2, 2022 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Public Event video

How did the biblical authors, and other Israelites, view the gender of God? Did they perceive God to be male? Did any of them perceive God as female? To answer this question, we examine both several biblical texts as well as archaeological evidence.

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Jewish Theology in America, Today and Tomorrow

Jewish Theology in America, Today and Tomorrow

May 23, 2022 By Arnold M. Eisen | Public Event video

Professor Eisen explores recent developments in Jewish thought about God and what God requires of us as Jews and human beings against the background of past Jewish thought, recent work by non-Jewish thinkers, and Professor Eisen’s own theological reflections in the age of COVID.

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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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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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