June 26, 2019

Calendar: March 3-9, 2017

Maya Avraham. Photo courtesy of YouTube.



Join Reboot and Open Temple for an “Unplugged Party” in celebration of Reboot’s National Day of Unplugging. Your phone will be checked at the door. Step off the grid to listen to live music, play board games, visit the analog photo booth, and more. Event dedicated to the late Levi Felix, founder of Digital Detox and Camp Grounded; $3 of each ticket will be donated to Camp Grounded in his memory. 21 and older. 7 p.m. $18; tickets available at eventbrite.com. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. nationaldayofunplugging.com.


Honor a group of 10 young Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers visiting Los Angeles who have been wounded in combat. Food, drinks and an open-bar after-party with a DJ spinning until midnight. All proceeds go to Lev Chayal’s program for wounded IDF soldiers. Black-tie attire. 8 p.m. VIP reception; 9 p.m. cocktails and buffet. $180 for individual reservations; $100 for young professionals ages 21 to 35. Tickets available at eventbrite.com. Venue TBA. levchayal.com.



A chartered bus will take riders alongside the Metro Gold Line into the San Gabriel Valley on a tour that will focus on the area’s unique Jewish heritage and its contemporary community life. Wear comfortable walking shoes — the tour includes two miles on foot. Instructors include Stephen Sass, president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California since 1989, and Jeremy Sunderland, who is on the board of directors for the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California. Space is limited. Lunch on your own. 9 a.m. $58. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. wcce.aju.edu.


The ninth annual Nefesh B’Nefesh Israel Aliyah Fair offers the opportunity to gather aliyah information under one roof. Professionals will discuss financial planning and budgeting, choosing a community, building a strategic job search plan, navigating the health care system, buying or renting a home in Israel, and more. 10 a.m. for retirees and empty nesters; noon for students and young professionals. Free. Shalhevet High School, 910 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. nbn.org.


cal-hign-noon“High Noon” is more than a Western; it is also a story about the Hollywood blacklist. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel will discuss his book about  screenwriter Carl Foreman, producer Stanley Kramer, director Fred Zinnemann and actor Gary Cooper, and how their creative partnership was influenced — and crushed — by political repression and agendas. Book signing to follow presentation. 2 p.m. $14; $10 for students and seniors; $6 for children; free for members. Autry Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles.


The Los Angeles Balalaika Orchestra presents its 22nd annual concert, featuring the voice of Mark Goldenberg, cantor at Young Israel of Century City. 3 p.m. $35-$45. Herbert Zipper Hall, 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (626) 483-2731. balalaikala.com.


Elana Stein Hain, director of leadership education at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, will discuss the core values of some of the “tribes” that compose Israel today, and how a divided people build a shared society. Part of the Synagogue Collaborative Lecture Series. 4 p.m. $20. (Post-lecture dinner and discussion extra; RSVP only.) Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. shalomhartman.org/LAcollaborative.


“Labscapes” presents vivid images from the mysterious and usually unseen wonders that exist under the powerful lenses of the microscopes of some of the world’s most renowned researchers at Technion — Israel Institute of Technology. A special presentation by students will be followed by the grand opening. RSVP requested: jose@ats.org or (310) 254-9899. 5 p.m. presentation; 6 p.m. reception and exhibit. Through March 27. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. ats.org/labscapes.


Before joining The Idan Raichel Project, Maya Avraham was a widely sought-after backup singer for Israeli superstars such as Eyal Golan, Sarit Hadad and Shlomi Shabat. She will sing some of The Idan Raichel Project’s greatest hits as well as her own songs. 7 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Gindi Auditorium at American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. wcce.aju.edu.


This panel discussion features Vince Brook of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; David Isaacs, TV scriptwriter, producer and Emmy winner; Shaina Hammerman, Jewish film, literature, religion and cultural historian; Josh Moss, visiting assistant professor of film and media studies at UC Santa Barbara; and Ross Melnick, associate professor of film and media studies at UCSB. 6:15 p.m. dessert reception; 7 p.m. panel. Free. RSVP by March 3 at wbtla.org/shtetl or (424) 208-8932. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-2401.



Learn how to use Google Earth and Google Maps to gather information about where your ancestors lived, and how to educate yourself and meet other like-minded individuals (and perhaps relatives) using Google’s social media. Mary Kathryn Kozy, who has been researching her family history for more than 35 years, will speak at this meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County. 7 p.m. Free. Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest, Thousand Oaks. (818) 889-6616. jgscv.org.



cal-elon-goldComedian, writer and actor Elon Gold kicks off the Purim weekend with a night of comedy, drinks and a DJ. Also featuring Alex Edelman. 8 p.m. $40. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (888) 645-5006. sabanconcerts.com.


Explore the ethical and religious implications of the Holocaust at this event. Wine and cheese reception will be followed by a multimedia program and discussion about the Polish underground’s mission that sent officer Witold Polecki into Auschwitz to gain intelligence and build resistance among the prisoners. 7:30 p.m. $8. Burton Sperber Jewish Community Library at American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1572. wcce.aju.edu.

Moving and shaking: Purim celebrations, TEBH honors and more

The ninth annual Beverly Hills Purim Ball, a benefit for Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) held March 10 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, honored Bunni and Murray Fischer with the Humanitarian Award, Steve Ghysels with the Community Spirit Award, and Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel and Myra Clark-Siegel with the Leadership Award.

Television personality Jerry Springer served as master of ceremonies.

Murray Fischer, a prominent Beverly Hills attorney, and his wife, Bunni, a travel consultant, are lifelong Temple Emanuel members.

Ghysels is senior vice president and regional managing director for Wells Fargo Wealth Management of Beverly Hills and sits on the board of Cedars Sinai-Medical Center.

Siegel, for his part, has represented Israel as a diplomat in Los Angeles since 2011. His wife, Myra, is director of communications and senior strategic counsel for American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

The approximately 300 attendees included TEBH Senior Rabbis Laura Geller and Jonathan Aaron; TEBH Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin; TEBH Cantor Lizzie Weiss; businessman and philanthropist Stanley Black; evening working committee members Michelle Kaye and Lisa Kay Schwartz; and others.

A March 20 discussion featuring Rabbis Sharon Brous of IKAR, Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Ari Schwarzberg of Shalhevet High School and Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin explored “How to Live as Jews in the World: Particularism vs. Universalism.”

From left: Rabbis Sharon Brous of IKAR, Ari Schwarzberg of Shalhevet High School, Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel participated in a panel at Academy for Jewish Religion, California. Photo courtesy of Academy for Jewish Religion, California. 

“I believe there is one God but there are many spiritual paths to that God. That is universalism,” Geller said during the Sunday night panel, which was organized by the Academy for Jewish Religion, California (AJRCA) and took place at the school’s Koreatown campus. “And at the same time, I want to claim and own that for me the particular Jewish path is mine.”

The moderator, AJRCA President Emeritus Rabbi Mel Gott-lieb, prompted the speakers to weigh in on the positives and negatives of universalism and particularism.

“What does it mean to be both universalist and particularist?” Brous asked. “What does it mean to be a human being and part of a family?”

“ ‘Here I am, just another Jew, just another rabbi, living in a modernized Jewish shtetl,’ ” Schwarzberg said, summarizing his  occasional ambivalence about living in the predominantly Jewish Pico-Robertson.

The event, which perhaps raised more questions than offered answers, was part of AJRCA’s effort to raise its visibility in the community.

AJRCA differs from the two other Los Angeles seminaries (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and American Jewish University) in its pluralistic approach, coupled with the fact that it serves many “second-career students,” Gottlieb said in an interview at the conclusion of the well-attended event.

Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park’s Rabbi Robin Podolsky, one of approximately 100 attendees, said the speakers “asked the right questions, went to the right places and provoked the necessary thought.”

Additional attendees included AJRCA interim President Lisa Owens, AJRCA provost Tamar Frankiel and others.

Owens described the event as “particularly and universally wonderful.”

Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) North America has hired Rabbi Philip Graubart as West Coast vice president and Rabbi Joshua Ladon as Bay City manager, according to a March 10 announcement.

Shalom Hartman Institute North America Bay City manager Rabbi Joshua Ladon. Photo courtesy of Shalom Hartman Institute

The hirings mark the continued expansion of the organization’s West Coast operations. The two join Michelle Stone, SHI North America’s Los Angeles city manager, and Rachel Allen, SHI West Coast program coordinator, to complete the SHI West Coast presence, according to a press release.

Launched in 2010, SHI North America is a self-described “leader in sophisticated dialogue and study on major Jewish questions,” according to a press release. 

With the addition of these two professionals, the broad expansion of SHI programs and initiatives on the West Coast will continue to flourish,” the release said. 

About 100 Sephardic Jewish community members, leaders and others attended the March 6 installation of Rabbi Raif Melhado at Kahal Joseph Congregation.

Rabbi Raif Melhado of Kahal Joseph Congregation. Photo courtesy of Melhado

“It is a very special community. It’s my honor and pleasure to be able to be working with them,” the 33-year-old Modern Orthodox rabbi, who began last August, said in a phone interview. 

Melhado was ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) in 2015. Prior to coming to Kahal Joseph Congregation, he served as a rabbinic intern at Hebrew Institute of White Plains in New York. 

The evening program featured remarks by Melhado; Kahal Joseph Rebbetzin Jessica Melhado; de Toledo High School Jewish studies department chair Rabbi Devin Villarreal; Hebrew Institute of White Plains Rabbi Chaim Marder; YCT President Rabbi Asher Lopatin; and Kahal President Ronald Einy.

A dinner reception followed the installation, featuring a concert by Sephardic band Bazaar Ensemble’s Asher Levy (vocals, oud), Yoni Arbel (guitar) and Sean Thump (saxophone).

Among attendees were Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, director of the Sephardic Educational Center, and Kahal Joseph Congregation Senior Chazzan Sassoon Ezra.

Kahal Joseph Congregation is a Sephardic Orthodox community with Iraqi and Syrian founders serving approximately 300 member families. The synagogue is located in Century City.

As usual, this year’s Purim festivities brought out the creativity and light-heartedness of the local Jewish community, evidenced by a host of carnivals, costumes and more. 

At B’nai David-Judea on March 23, young people dressed up as characters from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and battled each other with toy light sabers in the lobby of the modern Orthodox Pico-Robertson synagogue. This followed a Megillah reading that was brought to life by a theatrical play in which Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky performed the role of Haman.

One attendee, however, stood out as a little more old school than those who were inspired by last year’s blockbuster movie. Israel Gootin, 12, a student at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, dressed as the classic video game “Tetris,” with a costume that involved a foam-like sandwich board with a graphic from “Tetris” imprinted on it. Nearby, a teenager dressed as the villainous Joker wore a royal-purple suit and thick red paint on his face to enlarge his smile. 

Israel Gootin, 12, a student at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, attended a Megillah reading at B’nai David-Judea dressed as one of the iconic video games, “Tetris.” Photo by Ryan Torok

Across town, college-age community members dressed up as cowboys and cowgirls to celebrate at Chabad Jewish Student Center at USC’s “Purim in the Wild West.” They roasted s’mores on a campfire, took turns riding a mechanical bull and posed for snapshots in a photo booth … when they weren’t being told by the rabbi running the party, Rabbi Dov Wagner, to separate by gender on the dance floor. Wagner and his wife, Runya, oversee the center, which is located downtown. 

The Chabad event was not the only themed party to celebrate Purim. “Purim in the Stadium,” a March 23 concert with Moshav band, was held at Chabad SOLA (South La Cienega) and was co-organized by Israel education network AMIT. The event featured an hourly Megillah reading, kosher food and more. Attendees included AMIT Western Region Director Michal Taviv-Margolese, Moshav band vocalist Yehuda Solomon and others.  

“Hot Jazz and Cool Cats,” a New Orleans-style party, took place at Rabbi Yonah Bookstein’s Pico Shul, in Pico-Robertson, on March 24. Pico Shul served up margaritas as well as gumbo and jambalaya for the adults, while children enjoyed swinging at Haman piñatas, according to the rabbi, who dressed as Zionist icon Theodor Herzl.

 “You know, we are the originators of the Hamañata,” Bookstein said in a phone interview. “Haman got totally crushed and destroyed. It was brutal. Haman met a brutal end at the hands of children. Yeah, he went down fast.”

Rabbi Joshua M. Aaronson in the dunk tank. Photo courtesy of Temple Judea

In the San Fernando Valley, Temple Judea put on the spiel “Shmaltz,” a spoof on the musical “Grease,” before a celebratory Purim carnival on March 20. There were rides and carnival games, not to mention kosher barbecue and a vendor marketplace. As part of the fun, Rabbi Joshua M. Aaronson was among those who took part in a dunk tank. There was even some Shushan royalty on scene, as Cantor Yonah Kligman dressed up as King Ahasuerus and Rabbi Cantor Alison Wissot appeared as Queen Esther.

The American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem honored local businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz on March 24 at Sinai Temple during “A Shushan Purim Costume Gala.” 

American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem honorees Marvin Markowitz and Barak Raviv. Photo by Robert Lurie

Comedian Elon Gold emceed the evening that raised over $200,000 and drew more than 350 attendees, according to Paul Jeser, director of the organization’s Western region.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presented Markowitz with the award, saying, “Shaare Zedek and you have something in common. You have committed your life to repairing the world.” Upon receiving the honor, Markowtiz, who has been in a wheelchair due to declining health brought on by West Nile virus, managed to stand up with the aid of an assistant and a walker.

“I feel like I am standing taller than ever,” he told the Journal later. The evening featured live music courtesy of Mike Burstyn, who sang “My Yiddishe Momme” to Markowitz’s mother, Lili, a Holocaust survivor who recently turned 90. It also recognized Barak Raviv of the Barak Raviv Foundation with the NextGen Award.

Special guest Monty Hall, former host of the TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” was seated alongside Markowitz, whose business ventures include The Mark for Events, a popular venue for parties and fundraisers, and Factor’s Famous Deli.

“When I walked in and saw the costumes, I thought I was doing the show all over again,” Hall said. 

Others who were seen included Markowitz’s family members, including his wife, Libby, three daughters and two sisters; StandWithUs founder Roz Rothstein; Journal president David Suissa; philanthropist Daphna Ziman; prosecutor Elan Carr; and Sam Yebri, co-founder of 30 Years After.

The progressive spiritual community known as IKAR held a Purim Justice Bonanza consisting of a Megillah service, a spiel featuring filmed and live sketches, and an after-party co-sponsored by JQ International at Café Club Fais Do-Do on March 23. The event drew nearly 400 people to hear the Megillah reading and 200 for the after-party, which featured a drag performance. Some revelers went outside to visit food trucks and to schmooze in a quieter outdoor seating area. Another room featured a silent disco, where participants could dance along to music played directly into their earphones.

From left: IKAR Executive Director Melissa Balaban and IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous attend IKAR’s Purim Justice Bonanza. Photo by Steve Sherman 

Rabbi Sharon Brous, who wore a “Snow White Privilege” costume, appeared with her husband, David Light, who dressed as the character Mugatu from the “Zoolander” movies. Associate Rabbi Ronit Tsadok came as the late singer Amy Winehouse.

This year’s spiel highlights included “Clergy in Cars Getting Coffee,” a filmed parody of the Jerry Seinfeld web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” IKAR’s version featured Brous going for a drive, getting a cup of coffee and singing “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen” with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The video (and others from the spiel) can be viewed on IKAR’s YouTube channel.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

“Moving and Shaking” highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

We cannot call you “Minister”


“When our country behaves badly, it is still ours, and we are, perhaps, especially obligated to criticize its policies.”

– Michael Walzer

​We write this from Israel where for the eighth summer in a row, we are studying together –b’chavruta, in Torah fellowship – at the Shalom Hartman Institute with 180 other rabbis from North America from all of the major streams of Judaism. The learning community we create each summer here in the heart of Jerusalem represents the best of our People and our wisdom, and is characterized by a deep love of Torah, an abiding commitment to the Land, State and People of Israel, and a genuine desire to come to know each other and share our Torah with one another.

​This sense of chevruta – fellowship – was deeply shaken this week when we heard the Israeli Minister of Religious Affairs, David Azoulay, say publicly that, regarding a Reform Jew, “I cannot permit myself to say that he is a Jew.”

​While we have, sadly, come to expect our approach to teaching and living Judaism to be maligned by some Orthodox religious figures in Israel, never before has someone of Mr. Azoulay’s stature – a Minister in the Knesset no less – made the claim that we and the more than 1.5 million Reform Jews around the world are, in fact, not Jews at all.

Mr. ​Azoulay insults not just our movement, for in the continuation of his remarks, he makes it clear that all Jews who fail to observe our tradition as he understands it fall into the same category.  This would include our Conservative and Reconstructionist brothers and sisters, as well as the many, many Jews around the world who align with other Jewish religious denominations, and also those who do not consider themselves to be observant or religious at all. In one exceptionally misguided and small statement, Mr. Azoulay weakens and lessens the very People he has been charged to lead.

​As rabbis of Los Angeles-based Reform congregations, we enjoy the honor of helping the families we serve raise their children as proud Jews. We teach them our tradition's wisdom about our duties as members of the human family.  We teach them the rituals and practices that help them to build lives of Jewish meaning.  And we teach them that they are part of a People that has a special connection to this place and a special responsibility to the welfare of all Jews everywhere. As the Talmud expresses it: kol Yisrael areivin zeh la-zeh (“all Israel is connected one to the other”).

When these children reach young-adulthood, the great majority of them go off to our college campuses, where they are on the front lines in combating an ever-intensifying anti-Jewish activism growing out of the BDS movement. These young men and women are struggling to maintain and defend their attachments to the Jewish People and the Jewish Land in an increasingly hostile environment.  Are we to tell them that, in the eyes of the Minister of Religious Affairs of the very State of Israel that we have tried so hard to attach them to, they are not even Jewish? What would Mr. Azoulay have us say to these children and their parents?

​While we are appreciative of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement condemning Mr. Azoulay’s comments, we call for a stronger response: David Azoulay has demonstrated that he is not fit to serve as a Minister in the Israeli government, certainly not as Minister of Religious Affairs.

Today, our teacher, Dr. Micah Goodman, shared with us a close reading of the seventh chapter of the Book of Jeremiah. Dr. Goodman taught us that for Jeremiah, it was not ritual (Jewish observance) or politics (Jewish power) that would strengthen our People. Instead, argues Jeremiah, it is through our righteousness, our justice, and our empathy, that we will find our true strength and prove ourselves worthy of redemption.

To be sure, we consider David Azoulay to be a Jew. We do not, however, consider him to be worthy of the great honor of serving the State of Israel as Minister of Religious Affairs.

To be areivin zeh la-zeh is to be willing to speak the truth to each other: Mr. Azoulay, your words are a betrayal of our People and our Torah. We can no longer permit ourselves to call you “Minister.”

Rabbi Ken Chasen and Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback are the spiritual leaders, respectively,  of  Leo Baeck Temple and Stephen Wise Temple, in Los Angeles.

Israel’s Arab Spring

What made this election different from all other elections? The Arab vote.

As the polls closed Tuesday on Israel’s national election, one of the most striking stories was how Israeli Arabs broke a pattern of disengagement from the electoral process and voted en masse.

The result, according to the first exit polls, was that a new joint Arab list received 13 mandates, the third-largest number after Likud and the Zionist Union.

Their success was partially due to the decision to merge by four smaller Arab parties representing communist, Arab nationalist, Islamic and civil-rights-oriented Arabs. As their chair they selected Ayman Oudeh, a 41-year-old charismatic and moderate leader.

“Like every Arab citizen today, I’m excited to vote and be a part of history at a turning point that will fundamentally change the reality of life, specifically for Arab citizens, but for all citizens in the country as well,” Oudeh told reporters as he cast his ballot. “I call on everyone to go out and vote this morning, and to believe that it can be better here. That we, Arabs and Jews, can create a better future for our children.”

Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel’s population. While Israel’s Declaration of Independence guarantees equal rights for all its citizens, the reality in the Jewish state is that Arabs suffer from discrimination, lack of opportunity and unequal resource allotment.  

That has been a significant roadblock to growth and development for all Israelis. Think of it in American terms. Latinos make up 17.1 percent of the U.S. population, and African-Americans 13.2 percent. No rational person would assert that America could thrive if either of these minority communities, which make up a smaller percentage of the population than Israeli Arabs, just stagnates.

But crucial to real success for Israeli Arabs will be gaining a foothold in the democratic process, something Jews and Arabs both have resisted over the years.

Members of the Arab List in Nazareth on March 17. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

Now, in this election cycle, although some analysts predicted a slightly better result, the Arab vote has made an impact.

“Israelis have to start seeing the fact that we have 20 percent minority in this country, and you have to see the minority and give them a place in this country,” Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute said during a live post-election analysis Tuesday on jewishjournal.com.

The reaction to a stronger Arab electorate from some quarters was desperate, but not surprising.

In a last ditch, pre-election attempt to motivate his base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a YouTube video appealing directly to voters by raising the specter of  “the left” bringing busloads of Arab voters to the polls.

“The Arabs are voting in droves!” he said, staring straight into the camera. “The right is in danger.”

Commentator Ori Nir pointed out the hypocrisy of these fears.

“For years, [Israel’s] establishment (justifiably) boasted high Arab turnout,” Nir tweeted. “Today, [Israel’s] leader refers to it as negative. How sad!”

Regardless, Arabs now see that with the right leadership and strategy, their parties can have a significant impact. If the two major parties form a unity coalition, for instance, that would make the Joint Arab List the main opposition party — and give it a far greater national and international platform.

In a pre-election interview with the web site Mondoweiss, Oudeh laid out an agenda that is far from radical or frightening. He does not reject Israel, as many Arabs have since the shock of 1948. He does not just resist and protest — the strategy Arabs adopted after the infamous 1976 Land Day riots. In his soft-spoken, serious way, he is reaching out to all of those feeling ethnic and economic discrimination in Israel — not with anger, but with hope.

“We have a specific focus,” he said. “We aim to strengthen our partnership with the democratic Jewish camp, to the extent that there is a true democratic camp. The coming year or two will be the years for strengthening the relationship between the Arab and Jewish democratic camps.”

The result may be a truly integrationist Arab party, allied with Jewish and Arab Israelis who see the full inclusion of all Israel’s citizens as crucial to its future.   

This has been an active focus of nongovernmental organizations like New Israel Fund and others for some time now, a pet project of politicians on the left (Yitzhak Rabin) and the right (Moshe Ahrens), and the not-so-subtle subtext of the best television show Israel ever produced, “Arab Labor.” 

And although some Jews find it convenient to give up on Arabs, the remarkable fact is that Arabs have not given up on the promise of Israel.

Recent polls show that fully 65 percent of Arabs in Israel say they are proud to be Israeli. That number has been trending up for some time. It should be a source of satisfaction, not worry.     

While there is virtually no chance the Arab and Jewish parties will join in a coalition this time around, this election points to the possibility of that in the not-so-distant future.  

That’s a good thing. All over the Middle East, Arabs face murderous, unstable and  repressive regimes that stifle opportunity and dole out political rights with an eyedropper. Meanwhile, in Israel, Arabs are beginning to help the Jewish state live up to its democratic promise — or, in a word, its hope.

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Israeli election coverage with Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi

Read about the election results here:
Winners, losers and Israel’s next coalition

Live Blog 2015 Israeli Elections Results Live Stream

We encourage you to post advance questions for Donniel and Yossi at Hartman@jewishjournal.com or by visiting hartman.org.il.

During the program, send direct messages to the Hartman Institute Twitter account (@hartman_inst) or visit the Institute Facebook page.

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and the Director of the Institute's iEngage Project. He has a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a Master of Arts in political philosophy from New York University, a Master of Arts in religion from Temple University, and Rabbinic ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute.

His new book, Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself, is scheduled for publication by Beacon Press in February 2016. He is currently working on his next book, which is entitled, Who Are The Jews: Healing A Divided People.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a member of the Institute's iEngage Project, co-director of the Institute's Muslim Leadership Initiative, and a prizewinning author. His most recent book, Like Dreamers: The Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, won the Jewish Book Council's Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award for 2013.

Yossi is a frequent contributor to the op-ed pages of leading North American newspapers. He is active in reconciliation efforts between Muslims and Jews and serves as Chairman of Open House, an Arab-Jewish coexistence center in the town of Ramle, near Tel Aviv.

LIVE Israeli election night coverage with Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi

Powered by Go-Live

JewishJournal.com will present Shalom Hartman Institute President Donniel Hartman and iEngage Project Fellow and prizewinning author Yossi Klein Halevi in a live Election Day webinar program from Jerusalem on March 17. 

The program will begin one-half hour before the Israeli polls close at 9:30 pm Israel time (12:30 pm Pacific, 1:30 pm Mountain, 2:30 pm Central, 3:30 pm Eastern). Donniel and Yossi will report the election results one-half-hour into the show, shortly after the polls close, analyze the outcome, discuss what the results may mean for Israel and world Jewry, and field audience questions.

Viewers can register and post advance questions for Donniel and Yossi at Hartman@jewishjournal.com or by visiting hartman.org.il. During the program, send direct messages to the Hartman Institute Twitter account (@hartman_inst) or visit the Institute Facebook page. Preference will be given to viewers from communities that embed the program on their website.

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and the Director of the Institute's iEngage Project. He has a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a Master of Arts in political philosophy from New York University, a Master of Arts in religion from Temple University, and Rabbinic ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute.

His new book, Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself, is scheduled for publication by Beacon Press in February 2016. He is currently working on his next book, which is entitled, Who Are The Jews: Healing A Divided People.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a member of the Institute's iEngage Project, co-director of the Institute's Muslim Leadership Initiative, and a prizewinning author. His most recent book, Like Dreamers: The Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, won the Jewish Book Council's Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award for 2013.

Yossi is a frequent contributor to the op-ed pages of leading North American newspapers. He is active in reconciliation efforts between Muslims and Jews and serves as Chairman of Open House, an Arab-Jewish coexistence center in the town of Ramle, near Tel Aviv.

Fred Lafer, longtime Jewish leader, dies

Fred Lafer, a longtime leader of several Jewish institutions, has died.

Lafer died Tuesday in New Jersey. He had suffered from leukemia.

Lafer served as president and chairman of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy beginning in 2000. He also was chairman of the executive committee of the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem's board of directors.

He served as president of American Friends of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He and his wife, Barbara, established the Lafer Center for Women’s Studies at the university. He also was president of the Taub Foundation.

“Fred was a gentle, generous and insightful man with a genuine appreciation for the power of ideas,” said Robert Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute. “He took special interest in the lives and careers of our youngest researchers, which he viewed as our greatest asset and most precious investment.”

Lafer was an engineer and an attorney, and was the first general counsel of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. He held honorary doctorates from Hebrew University and William Paterson University in New Jersey.

He was the son of immigrants from Visokoe-Litovsk, Russia, and lived in New Jersey, where he served on the Wayne Board of Education as well as the William Paterson University board.

David Hartman remembered: A voice that was freed – and now is silence

Rabbi David Hartman has gone to his eternal rest, but not before he made a monumental contribution to Jewish life and a significant contribution to Jewish thought.

Best known for his pioneering work as founder of  the Shalom Hartman Institute, which is a innovative and original think tank and teaching center of pluralistic religious Zionist thought and perhaps Israel’s leading institution for  teaching Torah to Diaspora leadership, both Rabbinic and lay. It all its program, and especially within teacher training programs, it conveys the majesty of tradition and its many texts to students often alienated  from those traditions and put off by the parochialism of Israel’s religious establishment and by the extremism of some of the most vocal religious voices. It engages modern thought and contemporary thinkers, offering them the insights of traditional learning and engaging traditional scholars with the finest of contemporary thought. For that alone David Hartman must be revered.

Yet Hartman never aspired to be an institution builder. He wanted to most of all to be known as a Jewish philosopher.

For most of his career he paid homage to his masters. His work on Maimonides was less a pristine work of scholarship than a work of dialogue between a 20th century thinker wrestling with 20th century problems and grappling with the ethos and the thought of the preeminent of Jewish 12th century Jewish philosopher. His treatment of Yehuda Halevi was an extended essay on the Jewish encounter with history; Hartman in dialogue with Yehuda Halevi. His work on his own teacher conveyed the brilliance of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, mediated through the inquisitive mind of one of his most gifted pupils. A protector of his teacher’s honor, he defended his thought against all critics until… until he could no longer defend it.

As he approached 80 and as illness forced him to confront his own mortality, he began to speak in his own voice that accepted some basic categories of modernity, including the transformed role of women, the empowerment of the Jewish people in Israel, an acceptance of the dignity and decency of no-Jews whom he encountered and knew well and an overwhelming desire for a synthetic religious world view. Unlike Haredi world of his youth, he would not withdraw from the modern world, unlike Modern Orthodoxy that seems to want a faith untainted by modernity and a modernity untouched by faith, Hartman looked for integration between life and faith,  and unlike Conservative Judaism did not make history paramount and push the halakhic world view to the side.  A generation ago, he would have been heralded within his own community for that attempt at synthesis and harmonization. Not so today.

He continued to grow to the very end. One can only celebrate his achievements yet deeply regret his untimely passing for there was much that he left unsaid, one he was free to speak out.

Hartman’s personal journey is significant, a product of Brownsville, Brooklyn when it was the second largest Jewish community in New York and also in the United States, he began his studies in the Haredi world, learning in Lakewood, New Jersey, which was then a small but growing Yeshiva. He then moved to Yeshiva University when he encountered the Rav and his marvelous example of religious studies and secular thought. The Rav was immersed in the world of Jewish texts, at home in the spiritual struggle with the religious experience that gave rise to these texts and their understanding of God, religious law and humanity and he was masterfully knowledgeable of the major philosophical traditions – classical and modern – that underscored religious thought.

It was he who advised Hartman to study philosophy with the Jesuits at Fordham University and thus to encounter classical philosophy, Roman Catholic theology – and secular thought – through the eyes of believing Catholics who engaged these text and their own faith. He went to Israel in the euphoria of the post 1967 excitement and could not quite fit in to Israeli institution. Religious institutions were narrow, the secular university was often equally parochial in a rather different way. A believing Zionist, he founded his own institution that gave voice to the issues on the top of his agenda and became a meeting place for secular Jews wanting to encounter Jewish texts and for religious scholars willing and able to engage secular thought.

In his last two books, Hartman has come clean. As he approached 80 and in failing health, with his achievements there is little reason to hold back. He spoke in his own voice and in his own name, struggling to make sense of the world in which he lived.  He was emotionally bound to the world of his youth, the Orthodoxy that reared him to a love of Torah and a passion for halakhah and yet he was a denizen of two worlds not one. He has engaged and accepted the categories of modernity, its engagement with ideas of equality, empowerment and engagement and its moral understanding of freedom. Unlike contemporary his master, the Rav, who was fortified and insulated in his encounter with modernity by an unchanging halakhah that was a historical and who could thus encounter modernity and its value system believing in the unchanging categories that established the framework of the world he encountered and unlike some in contemporary Orthodoxy who reject the modern world in its entirely and build a religious tradition that is oppositional and unlike some in contemporary so called modern Orthodoxy who want to live in a bifurcated world, a modernity untouched by their religious faith and a religious tradition untainted by modernity, Hartman was seeking a synthetic religious life; not a patchwork of dissident notions but an integrated religious tradition, embracing halakah and also engaging and being influenced by modernitry.

He knew and readily admits in the introduction to his work that others might then call him a Conservative Jew, but that was not who he was or where he wanted to go even though he wrestles with the poetic neo-Orthodoxy of Abraham Joshua Heschel and the religious sociology of Mordecai Kaplan, Yet the more he wrestles with these contemporary issues, the more he takes seriously the need to change in response, the more his situation resembles the religious circumstances of those who gave rise to Conservative Judaism passionately loving the tradition,   yet finding that the more they engaged the modern ethos the greater the tension with their faith of origin and their own sense that halakhah could actually accommodate modernity without an openness to change and a willingness to change.

Others will have to carry out that task. They could not do better than to use Hartman as their guide.

Dr. David Hartman’s essay in “I am Jewish”

Dr. David Hartman was one of the most respected Jewish theologians in the world. He was the founder and director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, a frequent lecturer in the United States, and author of several widely acclaimed books, including two winners of the National Jewish Book Award.

“God has burdened human beings with the task of being the carriers of God’s vision for human history. The law and the commandments express not only God’s legislative authority but also, and above all, God’s need for human beings.”

Despite the varieties of lifestyles and outlooks among Jews today, there are certain organizing principles that cut across many of these differences and underlie the sense of common destiny and interdependence that so many Jews feel. From my own experience, the concepts of relationship and memory are two such fundamental categories. The Jewish concepts of God and of mitzvah (commandment) and the biblical narratives of creation and of history are interwoven into Jewish practice, producing a distinctive outlook that shapes Jewish identity.

[Remembering Rabbi David Hartman: Community voices]


In contrast to the self-sufficient God of Aristotle, the biblical God was considered philosophically “scandalous” because of the notion of a God who was vulnerable and affected by human history. Aristotle’s God was totally unmoved and oblivious to human beings, whereas the biblical God was, as A. J. Heschel wrote, “in search of man” or, as Professor Lieberman remarked, “the most tragic figure in the Bible.”

The idea that divine perfection is a relational category involving interdependence begins in the biblical story of creation. The idyllic description of an omnipotent God, whose unbounded will is automatically realized in the material world (“Let there be … and there was …”), abruptly changes with the creation of human beings, who challenge and oppose the divine will. In the Bible, the development of the notion of covenantal history is related to the transition in the character of God from an independent, unilateral actor to a God who recognizes that only through human cooperation can the divine plan for history be realized.

Abraham is the first covenantal figure because of the presence of mutuality in his relationship with God. Abraham’s appeal to principles of morality—“Far be it from You … to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty.… Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen. 18:23–25)—reflects his unqualified belief in his intuitive sense of justice and love. His ability to judge God’s intended actions without having to “quote Scripture” reflects the dignity and self-assurance of being in a covenantal relationship with God.

The covenants with Abraham and later with the people of Israel at Sinai express the principle of divine self-limitation that makes room for human involvement in determining history.


The God I meet in history is not an omnipotent, perfect, overwhelming presence that crushes my sense of worth and empowerment. Covenantal consciousness begins with the awareness that God has burdened human beings with the task of being the carriers of God’s vision for human history. The law and the commandments express not only God’s legislative authority but also, and above all, God’s need for human beings. In addition to the normative moral content of religious life—the pursuit of justice, love, and compassion in our personal and collective lives—the covenant at Sinai expresses the interpersonal intimacy of God’s relationship with Israel.


The notions of relationship and interdependence expressed in the Jew’s theological universe of discourse play an important role in defining the meaning of being a Jew and living a Jewish way of life. Being a Jew is first and foremost being part of the collective history of the Jewish people. In Judaism, you meet God within the framework of the collective history and practices of the Jewish people.

The individual’s journey of discovering the meaning of being a Jew begins with the collective memories of the foundational events of the Jewish people. By appropriating these memories, the individual becomes part of a Jewish “we” that precedes and shapes the emergence of his or her Jewish “I.” How you understand these foundational events determines the meaning of your individual Jewish identity within the collective life of the community. The Pilgrimage Festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, filter how a Jew understands the everyday meaning of being Jewish.

Pesach (Passover) negates the idea that the ultimate purpose of being Jewish can be realized by an individual’s “leap of faith” or by fulfilling the commandments at Sinai. The conventional notion of religion as private faith and good works is incompatible with the message of Passover, which reminds me that I must first identify with my people’s struggle for freedom and security before I can pledge covenantal allegiance to God at Sinai. We begin the annual pilgrimage of Jewish self-understanding by recollecting and identifying with the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt. We begin by retelling the story of our struggle for liberation: “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt”—with the emphasis on the fact that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Empathy and solidarity with the political, social, and economic conditions of the Jewish people are necessary conditions for any “leap of faith” or spiritual journey within Judaism. We do not  approach the sacred moment of the Sinai revelation as individuals. We hear the word of God and receive the Ten Commandments as “we.” Heresy in Judaism is separating oneself from the collective experience of the Jewish people. The “wicked son” of the Passover Haggadah is he who addresses other Jews as “you” (“you and not him”). Jewish heresy is an existential state of excluding oneself from the destiny of the Jewish people.

Passover thus begins the yearly celebration of our collective memory by situating the individual within the historic drama of the Jewish people. Passover leads into Shavuot, the time of receiving the Ten Commandments, the normative way of life known as Torah and mitzvot. This festival is essentially a holiday of freedom, the freedom of living a disciplined, normative way of life.

While identification with the suffering in Egypt is necessary for developing a collective consciousness, the memory of suffering is not in itself constitutive of Jewish identity. Although our oppression in Egypt could have become the predominant motif of our collective identity, the tradition took the experience of victimization and transformed it into a moral impulse. At Sinai, the memory of Egypt becomes a compelling reason for aspiring to the collective ideals of justice and love and becoming a holy people. “And you shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19; see Exod. 23:9, Lev. 19:34, Lev. 24:17). At Sinai, we are challenged by God to take responsibility for our daily lives and to aspire to the freedom of being claimed by a normative vision of life.

Freedom involves the capacity for self-transcendence, for being claimed by what is other than myself. For Jews, the law is not a source of guilt, as the Christian apostle Paul claimed. We are not paralyzed by the elaborate structure of Halakhah and mitzvot. On the contrary, the Law (our Torah) gave us a sense of personal dignity—the dignity of beings accountable before God. At Sinai, we heard a God address us as responsible moral agents in spite of our human vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It is for this reason that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is so central to Jewish life. Yom Kippur provides us with hope and renewed conviction to begin anew and not to revel in the failures of the past.

After Shavuot, the next Pilgrimage Festival, Sukkot, evokes the desert experience and the yearning to reach the Promised Land. The land adds the dimension of the realization of our values and ideals within the total life of community. God desires that the material conditions of history, the social, economic, and political realities in which we live, mediate the divine presence. God’s command to pursue justice and compassion cannot be fulfilled unless the public frameworks of communal life reflect these normative ideals. The land takes holiness, k’dushah, beyond the private realm of the individual, or even of the enclave, into the public marketplace, the factories, the hospitals, the welfare system, the military—the vast array of living frameworks that make up human society. Without the land, we are a family. With the land, we are a people in the fullest sense of the term. Our family circle of values, ideals, and responsibilities expands to embrace the total Jewish people.

By appropriating the memory of Passover, I learn that I can never forget Auschwitz or be indifferent to any manifestation of anti-Semitism in the world. Yet, no matter how powerful and compelling the experience of the Holocaust is for Jews today, we must not define ourselves as victims but must move from Auschwitz to Jerusalem. Like the movement from Egypt to Sinai, we must learn to celebrate our people’s yearning to build a new future by taking responsibility for our lives as individuals, as a people, and as a country.

Our return to Israel as a sovereign nation can be understood figuratively as a reenactment of the drama of Sinai, where we learned not to define ourselves as victims but to take responsibility for how we lived. In the Land of Israel, the voice of Sinai speaks to Jews, holding them accountable for all aspects of their lives.


While the festivals indicate the importance of the historical narrative in organizing Jewish identity, there is another type of narrative, the narrative of creation, that informs Jewish consciousness every week through the observance of the Sabbath. The Jew’s perspective on life is nurtured not only by the collective memories of the Jewish people but also by awareness of the shared condition of all human beings.

The creation story is about the common source and condition of all humankind. The biblical description of the first human being as a creature is a graphic representation of the normative rabbinic principle “beloved is every human being who has been created in the image of God.”

The historical narrative develops a sense of intimacy with the Jewish people. Through it we become a family and embrace our particular identity with joy and love. But the family narrative is not our only living framework. Every seventh day we interrupt the flow of our tasks and ambitions and stand quietly before God the creator.

The dialectic between our particular and universal identities, between the God of Israel and the God of creation, is the fate and challenge of being a Jew.

The above excerpt by Dr. David Hartman is from I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl. © 2004 Dr. Judea and Ruth Pearl. Permission granted by Jewish Lights Publishing, P.O. Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091 www.jewishlights.com.

Rabbi David Hartman, Jewish philosopher, dies at 81

Rabbi David Hartman, one of the great Jewish philosophers of his generation and the founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute, died on Feb. 10, 2013, at 81. Hartman is considered one of the leaders of liberal Orthodoxy, and his philosophy influenced Jews both in Israel and around the world.

In 1976, Hartman founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in memory of his father. The Institute has since become a center for a pluralistic Jewish worldview, responding to the challenges facing contemporary Judaism. Over the course of four decades, Hartman taught and mentored generations of students, many of whom are today at the forefront of Jewish education and thought in Israel and around the world, including many in Los Angeles.   

Born in Brooklyn in 1931 to an ultra-Orthodox family, Hartman was raised and educated at the Lithuanian Lakewood yeshiva, considered the most important and prestigious yeshiva for North American Jews. In his adolescence, he was one of the most prominent students of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who ordained him as a rabbi. Hartman completed his doctorate in philosophy at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

After serving as a pulpit rabbi at several important congregations in North America, including Congregation Tiferet Beit David Jerusalem in Montreal, Hartman, inspired by the Six Day War, made aliyah with his wife and children. For more than two decades, he served as a professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From 1977-1984 he was an advisor to Minister of Education Zevulun Hammer and acted as an advisor to many prime ministers on the issues of religious pluralism in Israel and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.

Hartman published dozens of articles and books, among them “Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest,” “A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism,” “A Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices Within Judaism,” “Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: An Ancient People Debating Its Future,” and “The God Who Hates Lies.”

Hartman’s writings explore the intersection of the traditions of the past and the challenges of the present. At its foundation stands a request for dialogue with the tradition on one hand, and with modern streams of thought on the other.

His philosophy was concisely tied up in Hartman’s contribution to the book of essays, “I am Jewish,” (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2003). He ended his essay: “The historical narrative develops a sense of intimacy with the Jewish people. Through it we become a family and embrace our particular identity with joy and love. But the family narrative is not our only living framework. Every seventh day we interrupt the flow of our tasks and ambitions and stand quietly before God the Creator. The dialectic between our particular and universal identities, between the God of Israel and the God of Creation, is the fate and challenge of being a Jew.”

Hartman earned many awards, including the Avi Chai Prize (2000), Guardian of Jerusalem Prize (2001), Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2004), Marc and Henia z”l Liebhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance (2012), and honorary doctorates from Yale University, Hebrew Union College, and the Weizmann Institute.

Source: Shalom Hartman Institute.


Don’t abandon old in pursuit of ‘Next’

Over the last few years, I have spent considerable time on the inside of what is called the “innovation sector” in Jewish life, even spending two terrific and unexpected years as a professor of Jewish communal innovation at Brandeis University. Most recently, the new organization that I am leading, the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, was named in its first year of existence to the prestigious Slingshot list, which catalogs and profiles the most innovative organizations working in the Jewish community.

Throughout this time, I have heard — and sometimes shared! — a lot of skepticism and antagonism about this terminology about “innovation.” And with good reason. The Jewish community in North America is in dramatic flux, as its defining institutions are vulnerable to cultural changes, leadership crises, dramatically different financial realities, and totally different models of affiliation and membership that threaten their membership rolls and the power that they have wielded for so long. Or we might paint the situation more drastically: Judaism, in general, is still an old religion seeking to make sense of seemingly incompatible modern values and ideas, and struggling in so many of its diverse incarnations just to survive in the marketplace of the present.

With all of this fear and trepidation, all of this talk of the new, the innovative — read: the different, the better — generates predictable fear and anxiety. This innovation sector tends to emphasize the work of outsiders, of young people and of those willing to challenge the status quo. What does this portend for the austere and august institutions that have served the Jewish community for so long? If so many of these young leaders are products of “the establishment,” why does their attention seem so focused on the marginal? Ultimately, what is going to be the relationship between the mainstream (which needs so much help) and the margins (where there seems to be so much enthusiasm and energy)?

And on the flip side, there is considerable anxiety as well on the innovation side of things. For all the attention flowing to the young Turks, the money has flowed more slowly — and usually in the form of start-up grants that dry up, ironically, as the organization moves into its critical and stabilizing second phase. If the innovation sector is being treated, even by its supporters, as faddish, what is the long-term success proposition for the legitimately good and important ideas that are swept up in this fervor?

But after all this, I think innovation in Jewish life is actually quite a simple proposition: To be cutting-edge or innovative in today’s Jewish community is to see systemic failures in Jewish life — whether organizational, cultural, methodological, or ideological — and to build a bridge from bad practices to good ones. The best Jewish innovators need not be young or iconoclastic; in fact, I would suggest that we will be best equipped to envision the present if we are well rooted in our past, emboldened and empowered by those who have come before us to have both confidence in the present and an optimistic eye toward the future.

The language of innovation is suffering badly from its blending meaninglessly with “newness.” Perhaps it is just Ecclesiastes ringing in my ears from hearing it read last week in shul, but I am not convinced that what we will come up with as “new” will really be new, or, for that matter, that what is new will necessarily be better. Jewish tradition actually embeds the role of innovation into its own integral ecosystem; for all its trivialities and minutiae, rabbinic traditions are driven by the centrality of the hiddush — the innovative idea or interpretation — which takes a stalled understanding or an outdated mode and gives it new meaning. The classical rabbis, I think, were less constrained by failed methodologies than they were by the ways in which those methodologies were understood. Their own surprising self-reflection about the beit midrash — the traditional study house, in so many ways the picture of staid and stodgy old Judaism — is very telling: “There is no study house without innovation.” Put differently, if the work of the past and the present does not involve a constant renewing and refreshing, then the old becomes stale while the new remains uninspired.

In our current work with the Hartman Institute — as one of the older institutions represented on Slingshot, but now one of the newer innovators on the block — we are trying to carry out a very plain but hopefully novel experiment. Our methodology is pleasantly “old school.” We believe in the interpersonal encounter with a text and a scholar, around a table in a classroom (or, more often, in a conference room of a strong Jewish institution). We also continue to rely heavily on the classical canon of Jewish thought and ideas, even as we work both to refresh the ideas and to find new delivery systems for the best of what Jewish tradition has to offer. Sure, we are growing our Web and social media presence, and we use all sorts of technologies both to run our internal operation and to broadcast the messages coming out of the work of our world-class research teams. But at the end of the day, we basically believe that the fundamentals of the educational encounter need not change. What does need to change — constantly and furiously — is the content of our conversations and the roster of the participants around the table.

This then might be one mechanism by which we as a community more effectively blend the old with the new, the fresh with the seasoned, the venerable institutions with the vervy start-ups: By focusing on the seriousness of the content of Jewish life, investing in the major ideas that characterize Judaism and have been its principal legacy, and then massively diversifying the base of participants who can take ownership of this hybrid between new and old. What are the big ideas for the Jewish future? It may just be the stuff of the Jewish past.

Yehuda Kurtzer is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He was visiting assistant professor and the inaugural Chair of Jewish Communal Innovation at Brandeis University.

Learning With the Learned; Virtual Hartman Institute; Jewish Law Course Offers CLE Credit

Learning With the Learned

Five of Los Angeles’ learned rabbis and teachers will share their wisdom in “Master Class,” an advanced Judaic continuing education class open to all at the University of Judaism (UJ), beginning Nov. 9. Each thematic section will meet for three sessions on Thursday evenings over the course of the fall and spring.

Moral questions define the first three elements: Rabbi Mordechai Finley of Ohr Ha Torah Congregation will speak on “Soul and Virtue: Inner Work from the Sources of Mussa and the Kabbalah” and will discuss both moral and spiritual growth; Robert Wexler, president of the University of Judaism, will explore the book of Leviticus, including “priests, sacrifices and the triumph of morality”; and Elliot Dorff, rector and distinguished professor of philosophy at the UJ, who also teaches law at UCLA School of Law, will tackle Jewish medical ethics and moral values.

A more historical approach will define the final two sections, with Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson teaching the medieval masters Saadia, Rambam and Ha-Levi, and Reb Mimi Feigelson discussing Chasidic views from Purim to Pesach.

The class curriculum, said Gady Levy, vice president for continuing education at the UJ, was designed around great teachers and their expertise.

“Great passion is infectious and relating to students makes it possible for enthusiasm to spread,” he said.

“The goal,” Levy said, “like Judaism itself — is simple, yet complex. The expert teachers guide students through the deep philosophies of ancient texts. The knowledge that is the result of this journey is then applied to contemporary experience, making it useful in daily life. This jibes with the overall goal of helping our community live richer, fuller lives through Judaism.”

This is the second year of the Master Class series; about 140 students participated last year, and approximately the same number are expected this year. Space is still open for registration, which costs $250 for the 15 sessions. Classes are held on Thursday evenings, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Call (310) 476-9777 ext. 473 for registration information.

— Susan Freudenheim, Managing Editor

Virtual Hartman Institute

Members of Temple Israel of Hollywood have an opportunity to study with some of the top teachers in Israel through a video class with the Shalom Hartman Institute, a pluralistic program of education, scholarship and leadership training in Jerusalem.

Beginning Nov. 12, Rabbis John Rosove and Michelle Missaghieh will together lead eight sessions over the year with a one-hour chavruta (study partners) session on a text chosen by the Hartman Institute, followed by a video lecture and Q-and-A with a scholar.

The theme of “The Foundations of a Thoughtful Judaism: Eight Dilemmas of Faith” will explore the questions of who is God and what is faith.

Missaghieh is particularly excited about this program, because she is participating in the Center for Rabbinic Enrichment, a Hartman Institute program that selects 30 rabbis from across the country to partake in weekly satellite classes, and winter and summer institutes in Israel.

“It’s an amazing, amazing gift,” said Missaghieh, who is in the third year of the three-year program. “The learning is on such a high level, and the camaraderie and connection between the rabbis is really fantastic.”

The video classes being offered to the congregation are an outgrowth of the rabbinic program.”The congregation is supporting us in allowing us to go to Israel twice a year and do this class every Monday for three hours,” Missaghieh said. “So the institute developed this opportunity for the lay leadership in our synagogues to understand the high level of learning and to buy into the whole Hartman philosophy and mission of pluralism, of high level learning, of really examining the text from all different points of view.”

Along with Missaghieh, Rabbi Sheri Zwelling Hirsch of Sinai Temple in Westwood and Rabbi Don Goor of Temple Judea in West Hills are participating in the rabbinic program, and Temple Judea last year ran the video class.

The Hartman class complements an already full calendar of adult education at Temple Israel, including a documentary film series for women that includes discussion and text study on the topic; Torah through visual and performing arts; Hebrew classes; basic Judaism; adult bar and bat mitzvah programs; and adult education for parents in the temple’s nursery, religious and day schools.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Jewish Law Course Offers CLE Credit

More than 20 Southland Chabads, from Thousand Oaks to Huntington Beach, will lawyer up during the second week in November with the introduction of a new class, “You Be the Judge: Behind the Steering Wheel of Jewish Law,” a six-week course that explores how secular and religious law relate by examining actual cases brought before a beit din, or court of Jewish law.

The class is modeled after one taught by Jeremy Rabkin, a U.S. government professor at Cornell University, and is being offered for the first time by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), a worldwide Chabad adult education program. Local attorneys can earn continuing legal education credit for the course, which has been accredited by the National Board of License.

The six classes will examine such topics as the enforceability of immoral contracts, Holocaust-related claims and distinguishing between creative opportunity and crass opportunism through the lens of talmudic law. “You Be the Judge” will be taught concurrently each week at more than 200 locations throughout the United States and at sites around the world, although days and times will vary.

However, once a student is registered, he or she can take the class at any location.

“If you’re taking this class in Agoura Hills, and if you happen to be traveling to Las Vegas the next week, you can pick it up there,” said Rabbi Efraim Mintz, JLI director.