“It is not up to you to finish the work” (Pirkei Avot 2:21): On Striving for the Unattainable

“It is not up to you to finish the work” (Pirkei Avot 2:21): On Striving for the Unattainable

Dec 13, 2021 By Alan Cooper | Public Event video

Some of the most dramatic moments in the Tanakh describe the completion of work—the creation of the world (Genesis); the fabrication of the Tabernacle (Exodus); and the construction of the Temple (Chronicles).  In contrast, at the end of chapter 2 of Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Tarfon admonishes us that while we are under pressure with much work, a tight deadline, a penchant for laziness, and a demanding boss, nevertheless “it is not up to [us] to finish the work.”

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When Matzoh Bakers and Tallis Weavers Went on Strike: The Jewish Workers’ Movement in Eastern Europe

When Matzoh Bakers and Tallis Weavers Went on Strike: The Jewish Workers’ Movement in Eastern Europe

Dec 6, 2021 By David Fishman | Public Event video

The grandparents or great grandparents of most American Jews were poor wage-earning workers from Eastern Europe. This session will explore the world of Jewish workers in Tsarist Russia, in particular the Jewish labor movement that arose at the end of the 19th century. The movement organized strikes, underground trade unions, classes, and cultural activity for workers in Yiddish, and a Jewish socialist party known as the “Bund.” Its ideas and practices migrated to the United States and left a powerful imprint on American Jewish life.

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Maimonides at Work: A Rabbi’s Workday in Medieval Egypt

Maimonides at Work: A Rabbi’s Workday in Medieval Egypt

Nov 29, 2021 By Tamar Marvin | Public Event video

Toward the end of his life, Maimonides received a request from his translator and admirer in France: to come and visit the great rabbi and discuss with him the important matter of translating his most sensitive work, The Guide of the Perplexed. In response, Maimonides waves off Samuel Ibn Tibbon, the translator, recounting how busy he is. The correspondence between Maimonides and his translator is rich in detail, providing insight into Maimonides’ life.

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How to Make Work Meaningful for Us: Exploring the Value of Work in Biblical and Rabbinic Sources

How to Make Work Meaningful for Us: Exploring the Value of Work in Biblical and Rabbinic Sources

Nov 22, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

Work can be uplifting; it can also be draining and demoralizing. This depends not only on what we do but on how we do it. We’ll look at Jewish sources that offer us different ways of thinking about work and some wisdom about how to make the work we do work for us.

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If There Is No Bread, There Is No Torah: The Other Careers of the Talmudic Rabbis

If There Is No Bread, There Is No Torah: The Other Careers of the Talmudic Rabbis

Nov 15, 2021 By Rachel Rosenthal | Public Event video

We often think of the rabbis in the Talmud as having careers as full-time rabbis. However, numerous narrative traditions tell us about their other jobs and their financial struggles. If one cannot make a living learning Torah, how should we balance Torah with more mundane concerns? We’ll study some of these stories together and look at some models for lives that are enriched both by Torah and by work.

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A Nice, Jewish Teacher: How American Elementary Education Became “Women’s Work”

A Nice, Jewish Teacher: How American Elementary Education Became “Women’s Work”

Nov 1, 2021 By Shira D. Epstein

Early 20th century elementary school teaching became synonymous with being female, and particularly in NYC, with being the right kind of Jewish young woman.

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The Jewish Middle Class in an Age of Social Justice

The Jewish Middle Class in an Age of Social Justice

Oct 25, 2021 By Nancy Sinkoff | Public Event video

his session will explore the historian Lucy S. Dawidowicz’s challenging essay, “The Business of American Jews: Notes on a Work in Progress” (1992), which called for a reassessment of Jewish economic social mobility as a positive value in Jewish life.

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Even God Makes Time for Leisure: Rabbinic Narratives About God’s Work, Play, and Rest Schedule

Even God Makes Time for Leisure: Rabbinic Narratives About God’s Work, Play, and Rest Schedule

Oct 11, 2021 By Sarit Kattan Gribetz | Public Event video

Genesis 2:2-3 announces that, after working hard to create the world and humanity over the course of six days, God took a day off to celebrate the Sabbath. Other passages in the Bible build upon God’s day of rest to mandate that all created beings rest, and that heads of households ensure that everyone under their control be allowed to rest on the seventh day. Divine time, we learn, alternates between periods of creative work and deliberate rest.  But what does God’s work entail, how does God manage divine time, does God make time for leisure, and does God have a schedule?

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