Anticipating Death and Finding Satisfaction in Life: The Profound Wisdom of Kohelet

Anticipating Death and Finding Satisfaction in Life: The Profound Wisdom of Kohelet

Oct 5, 2020 By David C. Kraemer | Public Event video

Wise people will have different views about what constitutes a “Life of Meaning.” But no one researched this question more completely than the biblical author, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). In this session we review his report in Ecclesiastes ch. 2 and evaluate his conclusions concerning what truly makes a life “well-lived.” 

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First Failures: Falling Apart and Starting Over in the Book of Genesis

First Failures: Falling Apart and Starting Over in the Book of Genesis

Aug 10, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video

The first book of the Torah is filled with stories of crisis, brokenness, disappointments, and failure, both human and Divine. What religious meaning can we derive from the Torah’s focus on failure rather than success? Through a close look at some of its key narratives, we will mine the Book of Genesis for strategies for living through difficult times, and as the grounding of a hopeful and resilient theology. 

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Halakhic Responses to Past Pandemics

Halakhic Responses to Past Pandemics

Aug 3, 2020 By Daniel Nevins | Public Event video

Our ancestors have contended with outbreaks of disease over the centuries, and rabbis have often responded with daring halakhic activism. We will focus in particular on the case of Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azulai, who served at as the rabbinic leader of Leghorn (Livorno) in Italy, the home of a quarantine facility. 

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Israel’s Prophets as Innovators During Crisis

Israel’s Prophets as Innovators During Crisis

Jul 27, 2020 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Public Event video

Prophets were social and political change-makers and theological mavericks. They offered bold responses to grave challenges that enabled their communities to survive crisis and that paved the way for Judaism. This session explores how prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah offered innovation in the face of destruction. 

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The End of Days in Isaiah: Coming Soon (and Still Waiting)

The End of Days in Isaiah: Coming Soon (and Still Waiting)

Jul 20, 2020 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Public Event video

The prophet Isaiah is famous for his descriptions of the aftertimes, a period of world peace that will follow a cataclysmic crisis. Several of these passages are well-known, whether from haftarot, from Handel’s Messiah, or from the inscription across the street from the United Nations. The details and the fascinating synthesis of universalism and particularism in his vision of the future, however, are less widely understood. We explore a few of these sections to discover precisely what Isaiah had in mind, and why his vision, so long delayed, remains compelling and influential.

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The Promise and Perils of Revolution: Jewish Life in the Soviet Union After 1917

The Promise and Perils of Revolution: Jewish Life in the Soviet Union After 1917

Jul 13, 2020 By David Fishman | Public Event video

The 1917 Russian revolution and its aftermath were a time of both promise and crisis for the Jews of Russia, who constituted the largest Jewish community in the world at the time. The Soviet Union was the first state to outlaw antisemitism, and more than half of the first Soviet cabinet consisted of Jews. Yet the new regime mercilessly persecuted organized religion and outlawed all non-Communist political movements, including Zionism. Focusing on the years between the revolution and the Second World War, this session explores the diversity of Jewish responses to sweeping political and social change.

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In the Wake of the Golden Calf: Is God Punishing Us?

In the Wake of the Golden Calf: Is God Punishing Us?

Jul 6, 2020 By Yedida Eisenstat | Public Event video

Israel’s fashioning of the Golden Calf–an immediate and direct violation of the first commandment they had just heard directly from God—led God to threaten to destroy all of Israel. Responding to this crisis, Moses protected Israel from God’s temper and renegotiated the terms of the people’s relationship with God. In this session, we revisit this episode and closely read a number of fascinating interpretations. In particular, we focus on the questions of divine justice and mercy raised in Rashi’s comment that in every generation God will exact a little bit of punishment from Israel for fashioning the Golden Calf.

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Remembering the Pandemic: Learning from Yehuda Amichai

Remembering the Pandemic: Learning from Yehuda Amichai

Jun 29, 2020 By Barbara Mann | Public Event video

What will we remember from this pandemic? And how will we preserve and pass down the memory of those we’ve lost to future generations? Through a close reading of Yehuda Amichai’s “And Who Will Remember the Rememberers?”, a poem sequence exploring Israel’s memorialization of 1948, we reflect on the elusiveness of memory, the limits of public forms of memorializing and mourning, and the paradoxical relationship between memory and forgetting.

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