JBuzz News May 20, 2013: Jonathan Marc Gribetz: Telling Jerusalem’s story through its many conquests




Telling Jerusalem’s story through its many conquests

Source: NJ Jewish News, 5-20-13

Professor Jonathan Marc Gribetz questioned whether permanently holding the city of Jerusalem is an attainable goal. 

	Photo by Debra Rubin+ enlarge image

Professor Jonathan Marc Gribetz questioned whether permanently holding the city of Jerusalem is an attainable goal. 

Photo by Debra Rubin

“The history of Jerusalem is the history of conquest,” said Jonathan Marc Gribetz, “and that past has demonstrated that it is a place where religion and politics are almost inextricable.”

Gribetz, assistant professor of Jewish studies and history at Rutgers University, spoke May 6 about the conflicting identities of Jerusalem during a program at Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 7, 2013: Ted Merwin: Judaic studies speaker examines ‘non-Jews’ involvement in Jewish life




Judaic studies speaker examines ‘non-Jews’ involvement in Jewish life

Source: Scranton Times-Tribune, 5-7-13

The University of Scranton Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute hosted a lecture by Ted Merwin, Ph. D., entitled “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish: Non-Jews’ Growing Investment in Jewish Life” in Brennan Hall’s Pearn Auditorium….READ MORE

JBuzz News December 6, 2012: Rabbi Elijah Schochet: Humility vs. humiliation




Humility vs. humiliation

Source: The Jewish Journal of Greater L.A., 12-6-12

“Humility is a quality that Judaism emphasizes to an extraordinary degree,” said Schochet, a professor of Talmud at the Academy of Jewish Religion, California (AJRCA), speaking during the panel discussion “Humility and Humiliation,” at AJRCA on Nov. 26….READ MORE

JBuzz News June 29, 2012: Robert Wistrich: Jews in Contemporary Britain




Jews in Contemporary Britain

Source: Jewish Times of Southern New Jersey, 6-29-12

Professor Robert Wistrich is Neuburger Professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the head of the University’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. Wistrich began by stating that hatred against Jews and Israel is a controversial, passionate subject. While not wanting to be labeled a panic- monger, he noted that events in Britain during the last decade are a real cause for anxiety. Anti-Semitic incidents have risen to new peaks, calling for acute concern, but not hysteria, he said…..READ MORE

JBuzz News April 23, 2012: Todd Endelman: Holocaust victims remembered through music, reflection




ANN ARBOR: Holocaust victims remembered through music, reflection

Source: Ann Arbor Journal, 4-23-12

Holocaust survivor Henry Brysk shares a photo of his family and the story of an aunt who was killed during World War II. Photo by Chris Nelson.

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Victims of the Holocaust were remembered through prayer, reflection and music on April 19 at the Jewish Community Center in Ann Arbor.

The memorial service, the first of its kind in the Ann Arbor area, was created by a group of Holocaust survivors as a way to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

University of Michigan Professor of Judaic Studies, Todd Endelman, gave a keynote address about how the Holocaust is remembered and its effects, so far, on Jewish culture.

Endelman said there are two factions of thought behind Holocaust remembrance. The first is that it is not talked about enough and the second is that it’s talked about too much and has morphed Jewish identity and definition into one of suffering.

The effect of the Holocaust, Endelman said, might be unknown still.

“We don’t know the impact of the Holocaust,” he said. “Maybe because not enough time has passed. Sometimes things are so large, are so horrific, are so transcendent of existing categories of thinking, are so out of the ordinary that it takes a long time for the whole impact to be made.”

Regardless, Endelman said, the important thing for people to do is to be aware.

“I want us to remain, particularly those of my generation and younger, attentive, listening to whatever new themes or emphasis arise,” he said. “Because we want to hear them clearly when they make their appearance and we want to absorb what they have to say to us.”…READ MORE

JBuzz News February 23, 2012: Senator Carl Levin praises Eastern Michigan University for new Jewish Studies Minor program, speaks about Jewish-American experience




Senator Carl Levin praises EMU for new program, speaks about Jewish- American experience

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich) spoke at the kick-off for Eastern Michigan University’s new Jewish Studies minor program and discussed various aspects of the Jewish-American experience.

“The Jewish experience very much begins with the immigrant experience,” Levin explained to a crowd of about 175 individuals from the EMU and local communities. “There are plenty of examples of anti-semitism, but for the most part, Jewish immigrants were able to overcome that and leave hatred behind.”


Anmar Alnimar / THE EASTERN ECHO

Levin shared his own family history, telling stories of his grandparents who came to America poor and built successful businesses.

Levin also talked about other important issues within the Jewish community; among these were a sense of community, support for Israel and a commitment to education. He put particular emphasis on the pursuit of social justice and patriotism.

“People should be treated fairly, particularly as it relates to people who are poor and people who have been left behind,” Levin said….READ MORE

Rabbi John Rosove: Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War




Rabbi John Rosove: Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War

Source: Jewish Journal, 12-11-11

Last week I was privileged to hear a presentation on Hanukkah by Noam Zion, a fellow of and the senior educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, who led 40 Rabbis of the Southern California Board of Rabbis in a superb 2-hour conversation entitled:

“Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War between Zionists, Liberal American Judaism and Habad –  Who Are the Children of Light and Who of Darkness?”

Noam offered us a comprehensive view of Hanukkah from its beginnings (© 165 B.C.E.) through history and how it is understood and celebrated today by Israelis, American liberal non-Hareidim Jews and Habad. Based on Hanukkah’s tendentious history and the vast corpus of sermons written by rabbis through the centuries, Noam noted three questions that are consistently asked: ‘Who are the children of light and darkness?’ ‘Who are our people’s earliest heroes and what made them heroic?’ ‘What relevance can we find in Hanukkah today?’

Though religiously a “minor holyday” (Hanukkah is not biblically based, nor do the restrictions apply that are associated with Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Succot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur), Hanukkah occupies a place in each of the ideologies of the State of Israel, American liberal Judaism and Habad.

For example, before and after the establishment of the State of Israel the Maccabees served as a potent symbol for “Political Zionism” for those laboring to create a modern Jewish state. The early Zionists rejected God’s role in bringing about the miracle of Jewish victory during Hasmonean times. Rather, such leaders as Max Nordau, Theodor Herzl, David Ben Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Jacob Klatzkin, and A.D. Gordon emphasized that Jews themselves are the central actors in our people’s restoration of Jewish sovereignty on the ancient land, not God.

For 20th century liberal American Jews Hanukkah came to represent Judaism’s aspirations for religious freedom consistent with the American value of religious freedom as affirmed by the first Amendment of the US Constitution. Even as the holiday of Hanukkah reflects universal aspirations, the Hanukkiah remains a particular symbol of Jewish pride and identity for American Jews and their children living in a dominant Christian culture.

For Habad, Hanukkah embodies the essence of religious identity on the one hand, and symbolizes the mission of Jews on the other. Each Hassid is to be “a streetlamp lighter” who goes out into the public square and kindles the nearly extinguished flame of individual Jewish souls, one soul at a time (per Rebbe Sholom Dov-Ber). This is why Habad strives to place a Hanukkiah in public places and why Hassidim offer to help Jews don t’filin. Every fulfilled mitzvah kindles the flame of a soul and restores it to God.

Noam concluded his shiur (lesson) by noting that the cultural war being played out in contemporary Jewish life is based in the different responses to the central and historic question that has always given context to Hanukkah – ‘Which Jews are destroying Jewish life and threatening Judaism itself?’…READ MORE

Joshua S. Parens: Scholar explores Talmudic law, Jewish tradition




Joshua S. Parens: Scholar explores Talmudic law, Jewish tradition

Joshua S. ParensDr. Joshua S. Parens, professor at the University of Dallas presented “ and Philosophy: ’ Revolution” on Wednesday in the Memorial Drawing Room.
Ambika Kashi Singh | Lariat Photographer

The brought a Jewish scholar to campus Wednesday to give a lecture on how the 12th-century philosopher Maimonides helped incorporate philosophy into the Jewish theological tradition.

The speaker, Dr. , professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas, highlighted how Maimonides codified an enormous body of Talmudic law and introduced 13 principles of Jewish faith that were controversial at the time but have become foundational for the Jewish tradition in the centuries since.

Among the most significant of these principles, Maimonides wrote that God was a spiritual being, rather than one with a body, a belief that was not universally accepted before his time.

“This, in the end, is the moment where we start to see what is truly revolutionary about Maimonides: that he affirmed the Jews must believe that God is incorporeal,” Parens said. “Now, this will strike most of you, as Christians, as a little bit strange. After all, you have been raised with the notion that there is another life, and that other life is wholly incorporeal and spiritual.”

Before Maimonides, Parens said, the Jewish community had little interest in engaging in religious philosophy.

Maimonides, however, changed that by introducing the 13 principles and stressing the incorporeality of God and his existence as an eternal being, which Parens argued opened the door for philosophy in the Jewish life.

“In short, then, in Maimonides’ time, theology was nothing but defense of the faith against philosophy,” Parens said. “Consequently, what Maimonides then does by making a kind of home for philosophy within Judaism is incredibly radical and shocking.”

Parens also contrasted Maimonides’ contribution to Jewish theology with that of the 17th century Dutch philosopher , whose religious philosophy was far less particular to the Jewish scriptures than that of Maimonides and the orthodox Jewish community.

Dr. , professor of philosophy and faculty master of the Honors Residential College, said he thought the event was well-attended and the subject discussed was relevant for Christians, as well as the Jewish community.

“The importance that a talk like this has for Christianity,” Buras said, “is to be able to compare the way [the Jewish community] put it all together — philosophy and the Bible — with the way other traditions have.”

Several Jewish Baylor faculty members and other members of the Waco Jewish community were in attendance for the lecture including Stanley Hersh, president of the of Waco, and Rabbi of the in Waco.

They said they were pleased that Baylor, as a Christian institution, offered this forum and were also pleased at the turnout, which was standing-room-only by the time the lecture began in Memorial Hall Drawing Room and consisted mostly of students.

Hasia Diner: NYU professor discusses Maine’s Jewish history

Source: Maine Morning Sentinel, 4-4-11

Jews in late 19th Century Maine would have been very much in favor of the mural which Gov. Paul LePage removed from the state Department of Labor walls.

Hasia Diner, a professor at New York University, was keynote speaker during the Jewish History Conference at Colby College on Sunday. Diner’s address was titled “Maine’s Jews in Modern Jewish History.”

That was the assessment Sunday from Dr. Hasia Diner, an expert on Jewish American history who spoke at Colby College during the Second Maine Jewish History Conference.

A New York University professor and winner of the 2010 National Jewish Book Award, Diner was discussing how and why Jews immigrated to the United States and to Maine, where they at first sought anonymity and did not want to stand out.

Later, she said, they began to feel comfortable and empowered and started putting symbols on the outside of synagogues where before they did not. And they began to speak out.

They moved away from quietly and nicely asking for privileges in a largely Christian society to pushed America to change and alter some of its fundamental institutions, according to Diner, who spoke to about 70 students, professors and others who gathered in Roberts Union.

“They went from that, ultimately, to boldly and assertively putting their mark on the American landscape,” she said…READ MORE

Professor Jonathan Sarna on the impact of the recession on Jewish communities

Source: JPR News Release, 7-7-09

Jonathan D Sarna*, Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, Mass, USA, delivered the JPR William Frankel Memorial Lecture in July in the auditorium of Berwin Leighton Paisner, in association with the Jewish Chronicle. The lecture was chaired by Harold Paisner, Chairman of JPR.

Professor Sarna gave a stark warning that over the coming year, the Jewish community would have to make difficult decisions concerning ‘who will live and who will die’ in Jewish communal life. He predicted that organizations that were weak or undercapitalized before the recession were the least likely to survive.

He highlighted five trends to watch out for:

1. He observed that some Jewish organizations in the United States either have, or are close to being merged into non-Jewish organizations. He said that today Jews seemed confident — maybe too confident — that deals could be made with secular non-Jewish or even avowedly Christian organizations, without Jewish identity being lost.

2. Efforts to re-engage small donors. Historically, large, wealthy donors have always dominated Jewish philanthropy. Today they are cutting back, but new technologies have made it easier to re-engage small donors cheaply.

3. Calls for higher standards of ethics and greater transparency in Jewish philanthropy. Madoff losses, investment losses and nationwide dissatisfaction with high executive salaries and perks are affecting the nonprofit world. Donors, and in some cases governments are demanding more financial openness, greater disclosure of conflicts of interest, and less reliance on the wisdom of a small, wealthy clique. He predicted that Jewish non-profit organizations would be stronger in the years ahead, if these reforms were instituted.

4. A new focus on ‘sweat equity’. Young, creative, technologically savvy Jews will give time to causes that inspire them. The goal is for them to make a difference and, also, as a side benefit, to socialize.

5. Both demographic decline and greater aliyah as jobs disappear in the diaspora. Demographic decline frequently accompanies prolonged downturns: people simply do not feel secure enough to have children.  Professor Sarna warned that this will have a ripple effect on Jewish education and communal life. And with unemployment for young people at the highest levels in decades, it was no surprise that Jews were turning to aliyah, especially the Orthodox.

He explained that these changes underscore one of the great demographic transformations in contemporary Jewish life:  Israel is overtaking the United States as the largest Jewish community in the world. Indeed, while Israel’s demographic rise marks the ultimate triumph of Zionism, for the rest of the world, however, this development will demand adjustments in communal thinking and the flow of money and power.

Professor Sarna predicted that when the economy recovers, we will know much more about the changes that the ‘Great Recession’ has wrought, but it was still far too early to take their full measure now.

In the meantime, he posed two crucial questions about the future:

First, will the years ahead be marked by assimilation or revitalization? It was easy to make the case both ways. For example, one week we hear that intermarriage is going through the roof, and the next that, in some communities new Jewish day schools are bursting at the seams. So which will predominate – assimilation or revitalization?  The truth is, he said, that nobody knows the answer.  It would be determined day by day, community by community, Jew by Jew.

The second question is whether the Jewish community will be able to identify a mission compelling enough for young Jews to become passionate about and rally around? The great causes that once energized contemporary Jewry – immigrant absorption, saving European, Soviet, Arab and Ethiopian Jewry, creating and sustaining a Jewish state–have now been successfully completed. Today, for the first time in memory, no large community of persecuted Jews exists anywhere in the diaspora.   Nor will 21st century young western Jews gain the kind of meaning from helping Israel, keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and fighting antisemitism that their parents did.

In the meantime there is no shortage of secular and universal causes that attract young Jews, as well as social justice organizations directed at Jews. Jews are also embracing programmes to promote conservation, environmentalism, and the like.  These are significant causes, with a sound basis in our tradition, Professor Sarna said, but they are not, ultimately, Jewish causes, in the way that Zionism and the Soviet Jewry movement were. He concluded that Diaspora Jews are the poorer for not having a well-defined, elevating mission to inspire us.  Once the economic downturn is behind us, he called for the goal of formulating a new and compelling mission for our Jewish community to be high on our collective agenda.

*Professor Sarna is a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life, and the author of many books, including the acclaimed American Judaism: A History. He is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Director of its Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program.

Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s fifty most influential American Jews, he was Chief Historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life.