Evergreen Lessons from the Haggadah

Evergreen Lessons from the Haggadah

Apr 8, 2022 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

The Passover seder—the most celebrated Jewish ritual—serves as a symbolic reenactment of the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. The Haggadah commands us to experience it annually as a way of developing historical empathy for all who are oppressed, enslaved, displaced, and hoping for liberation; we have ritualized the recounting of our people’s enslavement and deliverance in part to cultivate a sense of moral responsibility toward those suffering in our own day.

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Jewish Community Voices from Ukraine

Jewish Community Voices from Ukraine

Apr 7, 2022 By David Fishman

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, millions of people have been forced to make impossible decisions. Jewish community organizations responded to the needs of these communities. Dr. David Fishman will moderate a discussion between Tania Batanova, Sasha Nazar, and Reuven Stamov, three leaders from the Ukrainian Jewish Community. They will share their reflections on life before the […]

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The Still, Small Voice: A Journalist and Her Rabbi on Regaining Intimate, Authentic Conversation

The Still, Small Voice: A Journalist and Her Rabbi on Regaining Intimate, Authentic Conversation

Apr 6, 2022 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Two years ago, when the pandemic first hit, good friends Dahlia Lithwick and Rabbi Jan Uhrbach decided it was time to begin the weekly Jewish study session they’d been talking about for a while.

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Mandatory Fun: The Commandment of Joy

Mandatory Fun: The Commandment of Joy

Apr 4, 2022 By Sarah Wolf | Public Event video

Usually we think of the mitzvot, the commandments of Jewish law, as involving specific actions. Yet the Torah also commands us to feel certain emotions, including love for God and joy on the festivals. Dr. Sarah Wolf to explores rabbinic texts that grapple with questions about what fulfillment of such a commandment should look like.

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Here I Am, <em>Tzara’at</em> and All

Here I Am, Tzara’at and All

Apr 1, 2022 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Tazria | Shabbat Hahodesh

When I was 12, a few weeks before my bat mitzvah I went in to meet with one of the rabbis of my synagogue. At the time, the synagogue newsletter included a “pasuk of the week,” a verse from that week’s Torah portion that was particularly interesting or thought provoking. However, as the rabbi confessed to […]

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Hate on Trial: The Charlottesville Case

Hate on Trial: The Charlottesville Case

Mar 30, 2022

In August 2017, white nationalists orchestrated a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia—with torch-carrying marchers chanting, “Jews will not replace us.“ The result was intimidation, violence, and death. In November 2021, at a landmark trial in Charlottesville, a jury found the rally organizers liable and awarded more than $25 million in damages.

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Divine Rage

Divine Rage

Mar 28, 2022 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Public Event video

God’s anger has been a problem for generations of theologians. Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky explores the power and purpose of divine rage and the different ways the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel use God’s anger.   

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The Deathly Power of the Holy

The Deathly Power of the Holy

Mar 25, 2022 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Shemini | Shabbat Parah

Finding the right words after loss is hard, but Moses’s comments to Aaron in this week’s parashah are unusually difficult. At the moment that God fills Aaron’s hands with abundance, appointing him as high-priest and his descendants as an eternal priesthood, his two eldest die when they attempt to offer incense with a flame brought from outside the newly dedicated sanctuary—a strange, uncommanded offering. “And fire came forth from the LORD and consumed them . . .”

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Loneliness as a Spiritual Crisis

Loneliness as a Spiritual Crisis

Mar 21, 2022 By Mychal Springer | Public Event video

Rabbi Mychal Springer explores the existential issues related to belonging and abandonment, drawing on Jewish spiritual resources that help foster a loving embrace, divine and human, even when we must carefully balance distance and proximity in the face of contagion. 

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Lessons From the Ashes

Lessons From the Ashes

Mar 18, 2022 By Naomi Kalish | Commentary | Tzav

Many of us choose our careers and life roles carefully and spend our days engaged in pursuits about which we feel passionate. However, sometimes even a vocation can feel like drudgery. Whether a profession, family role, or volunteer position, roles that once came with a sense of calling or purpose can become hard to face and starting the day can require exceptional energy. This can happen as part of the ups and downs of ordinary life but is especially true when we experience multiple simultaneous crises.

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Purim Eve On (and Off) Broadway!

Purim Eve On (and Off) Broadway!

Mar 16, 2022 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video | Purim

Watch the parody songs: View the whole service: For Ma’ariv (Evening Service) and Megillat Esther (Book of Esther), we will be using the Rabbinical Assembly’s newly published volume featuring a new translation of Esther by Dr. Pamela Barmash, an alumna of JTS’s Rabbinical School, and the translation of the evening service from Siddur Lev Shalem. […]

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Compassion and Love in Jewish Mystical Sources

Compassion and Love in Jewish Mystical Sources

Mar 14, 2022 By Eitan Fishbane | Public Event video

Through study of Kabbalistic texts ranging from 13th-century Spain to 16th-century Tzfat, Dr. Eitan Fishbane, associate professor of Jewish Thought, JTS, explored how the related themes of love and compassion were central to the spiritual and ethical thinking of key Kabbalists. For these mystics, compassion and love were simultaneously ideals in relation to other people and in relation to God; what is more, many understood interpersonal compassion and love as actual manifestations of Divinity in the earthly realm. Our createdness in the image of God brings the ideals of emotion and virtue to life in the physical world.

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Space, Place, and Communities of Faith

Space, Place, and Communities of Faith

Mar 13, 2022

Renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien say that the foundation of architecture “lies in believing that it is possible to make places on earth that can give a sense of grace to life.” Join Williams, Tsien, and their partner Paul Schulhof when they speak with Professor Barbara Mann about their philosophy and how it is reflected in their design for the JTS campus.

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“Tis the Gift to Be Simple”

“Tis the Gift to Be Simple”

Mar 11, 2022 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Vayikra | Shabbat Zakhor

Parashat Vayikra inaugurates the book of Leviticus, the center(piece) of the Torah. Following immediately on the completion of the meticulously constructed Tabernacle (Mishkan) and its sumptuous appurtenances, it launches a set of instructions for how that sacred space was to function, and under whose authority. No wonder it was called in Rabbinic times “Torat Kohanim”—“the priests’ manual.” This week thus presents an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between that Mishkan—and all its successor institutions in Jewish life—and spiritual quests.

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The “Burning Heart”: <br>From the Book of Jeremiah to the Metropolitan Opera

The “Burning Heart”:
From the Book of Jeremiah to the Metropolitan Opera

Mar 7, 2022 By Alan Cooper | Public Event video

In Jeremiah 20:9, the prophet compares the divine word to “a burning fire in my heart, shut up in my bones.” This powerful image of irresistible passion constrained has long been interpreted in both positive and negative ways.  Dr. Alan Cooper examined how the image has been used by Jewish authors and also glance at the way it has come to prominence as the title of both Charles M. Blow’s memoir and Terence Blanchard’s pioneering opera based on the memoir. Dr. Alan Cooper examined how the image has been used by Jewish authors and also glance at the way it has come to prominence as the title of both Charles M. Blow’s memoir and Terence Blanchard’s pioneering opera based on the memoir. 

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Can You Rival and Respect Your Teacher?

Can You Rival and Respect Your Teacher?

Mar 4, 2022 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Pekudei

Parashat Pekudei brings the Book of Exodus to a close. Strikingly, Exodus opens with the loss of one home as the Israelites descend into Egyptian enslavement, and that same book closes with the festive completion of another home, the Mishkan or Tabernacle that is the dwelling place of God’s presence. As Pekudei opens we are reminded that the Tabernacle project, far from being the work of one person, involves the entire Israelite “village”—God, Moses, Israelite craftsmen, and Israelite donors. Still, most significantly, we are reintroduced in this Torah reading to the master artisan of the Tabernacle and its appurtenances, Bezalel.

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Can American Judaism Change Jewish Identity in Israel?

Can American Judaism Change Jewish Identity in Israel?

Mar 3, 2022

THE HENRY N. AND SELMA S. RAPAPORT MEMORIAL LECTURE “The New Jew”—a recent Israeli TV documentary series exploring the diverse and creative ways in which American Jews express their Jewishness—was immensely popular in Israel. What accounts for Israelis’ positive response to several distinctively American models of Jewish identity and practice? How can religious expression in […]

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The Jewish Community of Ukraine and the Current Crisis

The Jewish Community of Ukraine and the Current Crisis

Mar 2, 2022 By David Fishman | Public Event video

There are between 50,000 to 100,000 Jews in Ukraine today. This talk, featuring Dr. David Fishman and senior JTS rabbinical student Alisa Tzipi Zilbershtein, analyzed the state of the community, and its reactions to the unfolding events.

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Jealousy and Gender in Rabbinic Literature

Jealousy and Gender in Rabbinic Literature

Feb 28, 2022 By Sarah Wolf | Public Event video

“Men are more likely to have anger issues.” “Women are more sensitive than men are.” We are all familiar with gendered beliefs and stereotypes about emotion in today’s world. Presumptions about gender and emotion also existed in the time of the rabbis, though not necessarily the ones we’d expect. Join Dr. Sarah Wolf to look at rabbinic texts about jealousy and other emotions that are portrayed as negative or dangerous, noticing how gender roles function in these texts, and to reflect on how rabbinic ideas about gender and emotions can help us shed light on our own.

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The Sanctity of the Schoolroom

The Sanctity of the Schoolroom

Feb 25, 2022 By Ofra Backenroth | Commentary | Vayak-hel | Shabbat Shekalim

In the Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) highlights the importance of the home for each of us: “The house, even more than the landscape, is a “psychic state,” and even when reproduced as it appears from the outside, it bespeaks intimacy” (72). This week’s parashah speaks about building a home—a home for God. Reading the description of this process underscores for me, an educator and a scholar of the arts, the importance of aesthetics and beauty in what we study, the manner in which we study, and above all, the spaces where we study.

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