Searching for the Sacred: Why Jewish Theology Still Matters

Date: Jan 25, 2023

Time: 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Sponsor: Online Learning | Public Lectures and Events

Location: Online

Category: Online Learning Public Lectures & Events

Searching for the Sacred: 
Why Jewish Theology Still Matters

Inspired by the legacy of Rabbi Neil Gillman (z”l), in the year of his fifth yahrzeit 

The Henry N. and Selma S. Rapaport Memorial Lecture

Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 7:30–9:00 p.m. ET

Can Jewish thought help us understand our role in confronting climate change? Can it guide us when facing the loss of a loved one? In our modern, technology-saturated society, are there ways to feel close to God, to sense and appreciate sacred moments? Can Jewish theology speak to issues we care about and bring greater meaning to our lives? 

Rabbi Neil Gillman (z”l)—who taught theology at JTS and at countless synagogues during his long and distinguished career—believed that Jewish theology should be the province of all Jews and that it should honestly address the challenges of the day. Inspired by his legacy, our panelists will explore new directions in Jewish theology and what they have to say to contemporary Jews.

Admission is free. The Zoom link for this program will be in the confirmation email that you will receive after you register.


Professor Mara Benjamin is chair of Religion and Irene Kaplan Leiwant Professor and chair of Jewish Studies at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She is a scholar of modern Jewish thought and theology, and teaches a wide variety of topics in academic and community settings. Her most recent book, The Obligated Self: Maternal Subjectivity and Jewish Thought, investigates the religious dimensions of caring for young children in the context of Jewish thought and tradition. Her first book, Rosenzweig’s Bible: Reinventing Scripture for Jewish Modernity, examined the theological and political stakes of the endeavor to reinvigorate the Jewish Bible in a historicist age. It focused on the work of Franz Rosenzweig, one of the key Jewish religious philosophers of the modern period.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer has served Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, Massachusetts, since she was ordained in 1997 at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She recently published God Is Here: Reimagining the Divine, a book of popular theology that is already transforming hearts, minds, and lives. She is a teacher of courses on Judaism and economic justice, Reconstructionist Judaism, new approaches to thinking about God, and the practice of integrating Jewish spiritual and ethical teachings into daily life. She served as the president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association from 2007–2009 and was the first LGBTQ rabbi to head a national rabbinic organization. She is the immediate past president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Mychal B. Springer is manager of clinical pastoral education at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and adjunct instructor of pastoral care and counseling at JTS. She founded the Center for Pastoral Education at JTS in 2009. Over a 10-year period she oversaw an intensive hospice chaplaincy training program in collaboration with Metropolitan Jewish Health System’s Hospice. She served The Rabbinical School at JTS as associate dean and director of field education. She co-edited Sisters in Mourning: Daughters Reflecting on Care, Loss, and Meaning and published “Presence in a Time of Distancing: Spiritual Care in an Acute Care Setting” in Jewish End-of-Life Care in a Virtual Age: Our Traditions Reimagined. She is a certified Jewish chaplain in Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains.


Professor Arnold M. Eisen, one of the world’s foremost authorities on American Judaism, is chancellor emeritus of JTS and professor of Jewish thought. He became chancellor in 2007 and stepped down in spring 2020 to return to teaching and scholarship as a full-time member of the JTS faculty. During his tenure as chancellor, he transformed the education of religious, pedagogical, professional, and lay leaders for North American Jewry, with a focus on graduating highly skilled, innovative leaders who bring Judaism alive in ways that speak authentically to Jews at a time of rapid and far-reaching change. He is the author of Galut: Modern Jewish Reflection on Homelessness and Homecoming and Rethinking Modern Judaism: Ritual, Commandment, Community, among other works, and co-author of The Jew Within.

About the Rapaport Memorial Lecture

The annual Henry N. and Selma S. Rapaport Memorial Lecture was established in 1982 by Selma S. Rapaport (1916–2010), who served as president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and as a longtime JTS board member, in memory of her late husband. A distinguished attorney and committed Jew, Henry N. Rapaport (1905–1980) served as president of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York, and as president of United Synagogue. He was an active member of the JTS board, and a generous benefactor of JTS’s scholarly programs.