The individuals who have participated in this project teach at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. They live in different time zones and have different areas of expertise. They all responded to a call from the President of the College-Institute, Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., to bring their passion and learning to bear on aspects of this current moment.
From Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., President, HUC-JIR:
“What does Reform Judaism have to offer to us as we confront the current historic moment? I don’t mean 'what does our 'movement' have to offer?' rich as it is with individuals, congregations, and organizations mobilizing to meet the spiritual and material needs of our times. The question I mean to pose is a philosophical one: what can Reform Judaism as a philosophy offer to help us make sense of our current situation?
“I have invited the faculty of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion to reflect on that question. I have asked them to address their answers to an educated and thoughtful audience.
“Their answers in the aggregate demonstrate the usefulness of religiously progressive Judaism, Reform Judaism, to bring meaning and purpose to our current challenges: the uncertainty of the future; the seeming arbitrariness of death and disease; the persistence of injustice, bias, and hate; the role of the individual in a community when cooperation and self-sacrifice are required for the good of all; the need for religious and institutional innovation in the absence of physical gathering; and the social justice dimensions of a pandemic whose victims are once again the most socially and economically vulnerable.”
The essays have been divided into three sections:
DEscriptions, in which a historical or sociological prism is employed to describe responses to disaster in our day and in earlier times
Uncertainty, Action, and Faith: Talmudic Theological Musings for the Year(s) of COVID
Alyssa M. Gray, J.D., Ph.D.; Emily S. and Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman Chair in Rabbinics; Professor of Codes and Responsa Literature
In this exercise in Rabbinic Theology, noted scholar of the Talmud Alyssa M. Gray presents a portrait of God as known to the Sages of the Talmud. In this period of uncertainty, the ancient quest seems more germane and more urgent than ever.
INscriptions, where texts from Jewish tradition are read and interpreted in light of current realities
When God Closes a Door, a (Zoom) Window Opens
Rabbi Dalia Marx, Ph.D.; Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professor of Liturgy and Midrash
In liturgy, ancient formulae intersect with current yearnings. These months have seen an outpouring of Jewish liturgical creativity. An expert in both ancient and modern expressions of Jewish liturgy, Dalia Marx offers an initial reading of some prayers still hot off the press. Will these prayers and others created in this time find their way into the lexicon of Jewish devotion?
PREscriptions, theological and ideological responses to the COVID-19 situation from a Reform Jewish perspective
The Horns of a Dilemma
Rabbi Michael Marmur, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Jewish Theology
How to be passionate and moderate is a perennial challenge made more acute by the extreme circumstances of these days. Michael Marmur argues that in order to be equal to the enormity of the challenge, Reform Judaism will have to redouble its efforts to proceed with seriousness of purpose and resoluteness of spirit.