Like It—Or Not? The Existential Tension of Similarity and Difference

Rabbi Jan Uhrbach
By :  Jan Uhrbach Director of the Block / Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts Posted On Apr 26, 2021 / 5781 | Monday Webinar The Other in Jewish Text and Tradition

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Part of the series “The ‘Other’ in Jewish Text and Tradition”

This session is generously sponsored by Mimi Alperin in honor of JTS faculty who have generously provided exciting learning opportunities for the Jewish community during the pandemic.

Foundational Jewish texts point to a series of irresolvable dilemmas or polarities at the heart of the human condition, among them the way in which each of us is both like, and unlike, all others. How does this fundamental tension manifest in our personal relationships, our collective challenges, and our religious expressions, and what wisdom does our tradition offer to help us manage, and even grow from, our differences?


We live in a time of such polarization—political, racial, economic, religious—that the gaps between us sometimes feel insurmountable. But this is not a new condition for Jews, either within or outside of the Jewish community. This webinar series will explore those gaps between “us” and “the other”: Israelites and other ancient peoples; men and women in the Bible and Talmud; Jews by birth and Jews by choice; the founders of Hasidim and their opponents; Israelis and Palestinians; and more. 

From the ancient Near East to the American civil rights movement; from medieval philosophers to contemporary Jewish educators: how have Jews related to those we define as “other,” and how have we marginalized sub-groups within the Jewish community? What is our obligation to those we perceive as different? How have Jews challenged communal norms from within? JTS scholars guide us in an intellectual journey through Jewish history and text to understand how these gaps have been understood and, at times, bridged.

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