“A Time to Weep”: The Power of Lament in Times of Crisis
Jun 22, 2020 By Alan Cooper | Video Lecture
More than a century ago, William James asserted that prayer was “the very soul and essence of religion.” At the same time that James was writing, biblical scholars were identifying and analyzing the forms and genres of biblical prayer. One of the most prominent of them is the lament, in which worshippers (individual or communal) cry out to God in times of duress. The effusion of pain and grief is a way of reaching out for the knowledge and comfort of God’s Presence—for reassurance that the suffering has been noticed and that God may be moved to provide relief. In this class, we consider selected prayers of lament in order to discern the continuing power of the genre as form of prayerful expression.Read More
Literature as Lifeline: What were Jews Reading and Writing in the Ghettos?
Jun 15, 2020 By Edna Friedberg | Video Lecture
During the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands of Jews were imprisoned in urban prison zones known as ghettos. Reading and writing offered a form of spiritual sustenance to these communities under siege. This is an exploration of the literature that Jews passed around the ghettos–novels, poetry, religious commentary, and even dark humor.Read More
Is There a Jewish Continuity Crisis?
Jun 8, 2020 By Michal Raucher | Video Lecture
Dr. Michal Raucher, JTS fellow and assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, examines the phenomenon of Jewish leaders Invoking the threat of a demographic crisis to implore young Jews to procreate at higher rates. Using biblical, rabbinic, and contemporary texts, she’ll consider what it would mean to think about Jewish continuity not solely in terms of creating more Jews but also cultivating and supporting the values central to our tradition.Read More
The Immigration Crises Then and Now: What Are the 21st Century Possibilities?
Jun 1, 2020 By Ruth Messinger | Video Lecture
We look at our Jewish history as immigrants in ancient and modern times and then consider the status and treatment of immigrants today in the U.S. and elsewhere. We will briefly review U.S. law and practice on immigration and discuss what the options are for making change and consider what the Jewish position should be on these issues.Read More
Fake News and the Resurgence of Antisemitism
May 18, 2020 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Video Lecture
How can we make sense of the resurgence of antisemitism from both right and left a mere 70 years after the Holocaust? Together we’ll examine foundational texts that gave rise to hatred of Jews and Judaism and reflect on what we can learn from them about how best to respond to today’s manifestations.Read More
Life Under Siege: The Talmud’s Take on Trying Times
May 4, 2020 By Sarah Wolf | Video Lecture
How do we understand the relationship between the multiple complicating factors that arise in moments of communal hardship, such as questions of political leadership, unreliable news sources, physical privation, and economic disparity? The interplay of these challenges is at the core of a Talmudic story about the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. Through an exploration of the values and priorities portrayed in this story, this class will help shed new light on the tensions of our present moment.Read More
Beyond the Flag: The Religious Dimensions of Yom Ha’atzma’ut
Apr 27, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Video Lecture
Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel Independence Day, commemorates a historical event – the declaration of the new State of Israel. From the beginning, however, it was also framed as a religious holiday. We will look at how, drawing on the liturgy of Hannukah, Purim, Shabbat and Passover, a holiday ritual was created, one that provides the religious language with which to speak of a fundamentally political event.Read More
Imagining a New World When Your Old One Collapses: The Rabbinic Response to the Destruction of the Temple
Apr 20, 2020 By David C. Kraemer | Video Lecture
In 70 CE, the Jewish world changed catastrophically. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Judaism prescribed by the Torah became impossible. Into this gap, the rabbis emerged to create a new, vibrant Judaism that required no particular center in any place. What is the system they created and how does it fill the gap left by the destruction?Read More