Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? A Talmudic Teaching

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? A Talmudic Teaching

Nov 20, 2023 By Aaron Koller | Public Event video | Video Lecture

What do we owe our neighbors? How much are we obligated to contribute to our cities, our neighborhoods, our streets, and how much can we just take of ourselves and let everyone else take care of themselves? These are modern questions, but they are ancient Jewish questions, too. The Talmud speaks in a different language than we do, so it probes these issues through law and narrative. We read a short passage from the Talmud about what it means to be a good neighbor, and unpack it to see how these questions are broached and what insight the text has to share. 

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Friendship and Interfaith Engagement 

Friendship and Interfaith Engagement 

Nov 13, 2023 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

In a world where religious differences have often been a source of division, the concept of friendship emerges as a powerful tool for forging connections, fostering receptiveness to others, and nurturing understanding. Beginning with a discussion of Aristotle’s friendship, followed by several case studies, we investigate how friendship has been actualized and experienced throughout history within the context of interfaith dialogue. We will also consider to what extent an ambivalence about friendship exists in Jewish-Christian relations from the Middle Ages up to the present day.

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Be My Galentine? Female Friendship in the Hebrew Bible

Be My Galentine? Female Friendship in the Hebrew Bible

Nov 6, 2023 By Yael Landman | Public Event video | Video Lecture

From Lucy and Ethel to Thelma and Louise, female friendships have captivated consumers of modern media. Yet if we look to the Hebrew Bible, examples of female friends seem few and far between. This session explores female friendship in the Hebrew Bible by examining relationships (or lack thereof) between biblical women such as Ruth and Naomi, the anonymous daughter of Jephthah and her friends, and Deborah and Yael. 

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Across the Atlantic: Lifesaving Friendships during the Holocaust

Across the Atlantic: Lifesaving Friendships during the Holocaust

Oct 23, 2023 By Edna Friedberg | Public Event video | Video Lecture

During the 1930s and 40s, friendship ties could mean the difference between life and death, refuge and danger. In this session we learn about Americans who went to great lengths to help European Jews in need of escape–whether penpals, exchange students, or total strangers. 

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A Friendship in the Ghetto, the Forest and Beyond: The Story of Two Yiddish Poets During the Holocaust

A Friendship in the Ghetto, the Forest and Beyond: The Story of Two Yiddish Poets During the Holocaust

Oct 23, 2023 By David Fishman | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Imagine two friends surrounded by German soldiers in the forest, with a single pistol in their possession, and one of them hands the pistol to the other, saying: “Abrasha, you should live, you are the greater poet”. This was the depth of friendship between Yiddish poets Abraham Sutzkever and Shmerke Kaczerginski.  They inspired each other to creativity and acts of heroism. We explore their lives together, as fellow inmates of the Vilna ghetto, living in the same room and working in the same slave labor site, and ultimately how their friendship ended in separation after the war. 

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“Two Are Better Than One:” Friendship in Jewish Text and Tradition  

“Two Are Better Than One:” Friendship in Jewish Text and Tradition  

Oct 23, 2023 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Friendship is a critical component of our daily lives, our mental health, and our Jewish communal experiences. Ecclesiastes (4:9) posits, “Two are better than one,” underscoring the significance of companionship and partnership in Jewish tradition and the role they play in a life well-lived. Join JTS faculty to explore the concept of friendship through Jewish texts, history, and thought. They will consider friendship in times of joy and times of crisis, both with those in our inner circles and with our neighbors and fellow citizens more broadly. We will also consider some important paradigms for friendship and discuss the values we can distill from these models of friendship

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How Shall It End?

How Shall It End?

Sep 26, 2023 By Gordon Tucker | Public Event video | Video Lecture | Shemini Atzeret

The Torah presents Shemini Atzeret—the “Eighth Day of Assembly”—as an add-on to the seven days of the Sukkot pilgrimage festival. The lulav is set aside, and the sukkah vacated. So, is it a “holiday about nothing”?  Or can we see in it a most meaningful coda to the Days of Awe, in which we learn profound lessons about endings? Through a close reading of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), the Yizkor prayer, and other significant texts, we explore answers to these questions.   

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The Yom Kippur Avodah as a Template for Spiritual Practice 

The Yom Kippur Avodah as a Template for Spiritual Practice 

Sep 19, 2023 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video | Video Lecture | Yom Kippur

It is generally thought that the Yom Kippur Haftarah taken from Isaiah is supposed to be read as being in tension with the Torah reading from Aharei Mot (Leviticus 16).  While the Torah reading focuses almost exclusively on the rites performed by the High Priest in the Temple on Yom Kippur, Isaiah declaims that the ritual piety without social justice and Shabbat observance is nothing more than worthless hypocrisy. 

While this observation has merit, it can encourage the view that ritual has no ethical or spiritual content. In this session we see that the Avodah, the Temple rites, can indeed serve as a model for a life of spiritual discipline.

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