Across the deep divides of our politics, one sentiment is shared: despair in our democracy and its capacity to respond to our most significant challenges. But what are the causes of that despair and what can we do about it? Why exactly is authoritarianism so popular among so many, both in the United States and throughout Europe? Given the challenges that our democracy faces, do we have the institutions that can respond to the threat or are our institutions part of the problem? And what exactly do we need: stronger protections for minorities, or greater capacity for people to make laws and enact them? HUC will host two of our most esteemed commentators and scholars on these matters, Anne Applebaum and Jedediah Purdy, to discuss and debate these essential questions.
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 [1981]). 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.
The recent election in Israel has provoked massive protests in Israel and a surge of commentary in the United States. But what does this moment represent for progressive Israeli Jewish and Palestinian activists? Is the current government a new and unprecedented threat to Israeli democracy, or the latest stage in a long story? And how should Israelis and Palestinians committed to justice and equality -- and their American allies -- respond? Join Mikhael Manekin and Rula Hardal to engage these urgent questions.
We generally consider the United States a liberal democracy, but just how democratic is it? Do we live in a country in which political equality is real and shared? What might be required to become the democracy we need? Join New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie for a conversation on these essential questions, as we seek to understand how not only to "protect" democracy but achieve it.
Join us for a conversation with Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization that will receive the 2023 Roger E. Joseph Prize. Dr. Northup and Dr. Rehfeld will discuss Judaism’s historical view on the major ideas surrounding reproductive rights. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s highest award, the Roger E. Joseph Prize, is presented annually to outstanding individuals, organizations, or institutions whose work fulfills the highest ethical and humanitarian values of our tradition. The Joseph Prize was established in 1978 by Burton Joseph and Betty Greenberg, of blessed memory, to honor the memory of their brother, Roger E. Joseph, a man of exceptional personal courage and passionate conviction to principle and justice.
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.
Do artists have a responsibility to address social issues? Should they advocate for democratic, inclusive values? What is their role in fighting against racism, antisemitism, and inequities in our society? Dorit Jordan Dotan and Lloyd Wolf, distinguished artists and activists, discuss their mandate as expressed through their creativity. 
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.