Rabbi Samuel Hirsch's story is key to understanding the transnational history of Reform Judaism and the struggle of Jews to secure a place in history and society. En route from Thalfang via Dessau and Luxembourg to Philadelphia, Hirsch strove to strengthen Judaism to meet the demands of modernity and enable its survival in the modern era, leaving his mark on societal, religious, and philosophical debates in increasingly radical stances. As a Hegelian and a Jew he claimed that the actualization of freedom - so central to Hegel’s philosophy - was enabled by Judaism, more than any other religion.
Awakenings: American Jewish Transformations in Identity, Leadership, and Belonging, by Rabbis Stanton and Spratt, has sparked important conversations about the revisioning Jewish practice and connection. Who are the Jews of the present and future? How can we co-create and adapt Reform Judaism? Who are our leaders and supporters? How might seminary education adapt to Jews of today and tomorrow?
Scholars of the Bible as literature since the heyday of literary criticism in the 1980s and 1990s have tended to focus on the Bible’s narratives; much less attention has been given to its significant collections of poetry. To what extent do our ideas about poetry shape our understanding of these texts? How do thinkers and poets in different eras approach the poetry of the Bible, and how do their contexts shape their expectations of what they find there? Steven Weitzman and Elaine James discuss the legacy of James Kugel’s history of ideas about biblical poetry (especially his The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and its History ). There is much to learn from how readers—ancient and modern—have read biblical poetry, related it to their own political contexts, and found in it models for new creative expressions.
Our understanding of Jewish values and history rests largely on the bedrock the Mishnah, the first post-biblical code of rabbinic law, but its technical style and cultural assumptions require skillful navigation if we want to make sense of it for contemporary Judaism. The Oxford Annotated Mishnah: A New Translation of the Mishnah With Introductions and Notes (Oxford University Press), edited by Shaye J.D. Cohen, Robert Goldenberg, and Hayim Lapin is the first annotated translation of this work, providing explanations of technical terms and making the text accessible to those without specialist knowledge. In honor of the fifth Yahrzeit of Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., z”l, join two HUC-JIR contributors and Panken Professors, Rabbi Dalia Marx, Ph.D. and Rabbi Dvora Weisberg, Ph.D., as they discuss the significance of this important work.
Dance is an important yet largely unrecognized motif in modern Jewish literature that helps us read and interpret these texts. This talk demonstrates how dance scenes in I. J. Singer’s Yiddish-language family epic Di brider Ashkenazi (The Brothers Ashkenazi)–a novel that chronicles Jewish life in Łódź–juxtapose late nineteenth-century dreams of embourgeoisement with the reality of early twentieth-century antisemitism. By examining seemingly disparate dance scenes, it is possible to gain a deeper perspective into the ways acculturation and antisemitism operate on the Polish-Jewish body.