Speaker: Dr. David Ruderman, Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History and the Ella Darivoff Director of the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

Location: B'nai Israel Congregation; Rockville, MD

"The Book of the Covenant" (Sefer ha-Brit), first published by a relatively unknown Eastern European Jew named Phinehas Elijah Hurwitz, in Brunn, Moravia in 1797, was one of the most popular Hebrew books read by Jews in the Modern Era. In this massive volume - purported to be a commentary of a popular 16th century mystical work - Hurwitz presented his understanding of the sciences of the day - cosmology, astronomy, geography, botany, zoology, and medicine. In a commentary on the injunction to "Love thy neighbor as thyself," Hurwitz insisted that the commandment requires every Jew to love all human beings, not only their own co-religionists, and not merely as a political concession but as an inherent value of Judaism itself. The complex mixture of science, kabbalistic piety, and universal ethics mark the special quality of this work and underscore its uniqueness in an era of cultural debate and polarization. Hurwitz's attempt to balance the secular and Jewish worlds in which he lived offers insight into our own struggle to live as committed Jews in the modern world.

This program is made possible by the generosity of K. Peter & Yvonne Wagner

Direct download: 2011_12_11_Kabbalah_Science_Ethics.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 7:30 PM

Speaker: Rabbi Dr. Levi Cooper, professor at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and spiritual leader of Kehillat HaTzur VeHaTzohar in Tzur Hadassah

Location: Temple Shalom; Chevy Chase, MD

The Maharal is celebrated as a mystic, but he was also a legal authority. To be sure, only a few of his halakhic writings survived, and most of his decisions did not become accepted law. Nevertheless, we would be remiss to ignore that he was also a jurisprudent.

In addition to exhibiting this lesser-known aspect of his personality, this lecture discusses how he and other scholars of Prague reacted to the codification of Jewish law. It explores the intended goals of codification, why scholars were against it, and how that issue is reflected today in our complicated and diverse relationships with Halakhah.

Rabbi Cooper's three-part lecture series is supported by the generosity of Gerald and Dina Leener

This lecture was made possible by the generosity of Dr. Anita O. Solomon, in memory of her beloved husband, Frederic, and her father, Arthur Ostrin

Direct download: 2011_11_22_Maharal_Mystic_as_Legal_Scholar.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 7:30 PM

Speaker: Rabbi Dr. Levi Cooper, professor at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and spiritual leader of Kehillat HaTzur VeHaTzohar in Tzur Hadassah

Location: Ohr Kodesh Congregation; Chevy Chase, MD

Rabbi Akiva is generally seen as the central legal authority in the Mishna; much of Jewish law, both civiland ritual, can be traced to him and his students. Yet Rabbi Akiva's prayer indicates that he may have also been a mystic. Certainly the Hasidic masters saw Rabbi Akiva as the paradigm for mystical prayer.

This lecture also discusses different types of mystical experiences that are recognized in the Hasidic tradition.

Rabbi Cooper's three-part lecture series is supported by the generosity of Gerald and Dina Leener

Direct download: 2011_11_20_Rabbi_Akiva_Mystical_Prayer.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 7:30 PM

Speaker: Rabbi Dr. Levi Cooper, professor at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and spiritual leader of Kehillat HaTzur VeHaTzohar in Tzur Hadassah

Location: Washington DC JCC; Washington, DC

This lecture looks at the famous Hasidic tale and how it has been retold so that it conforms to the norms of Jewish Law. What is the price paid by such revisions? Is the story enhanced or does it lose some of its original flavor?

Rabbi Cooper's three-part lecture series is supported by the generosity of Gerald and Dina Leener

Direct download: 2011_11_17_The_Villager_and_the_Flute.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 7:30 PM

Speaker: Dr. Ziony Zevit, Distinguished Professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages at American Jewish University

Location: Agudas Achim Congregation; Alexandria, VA

The idea of  "the Fall" of humanity from divine grace as a result of original sin is deeply ingrained in both Jewish and Christian religious consciousness. Although the idea of the Fall is attested in Jewish writings of the first century BCE, the New Testament, and in Rabbinic texts, it is unknown in the Hebrew Bible.

This lecture looks in on Adam and Eve as they walk through the garden, eavesdrops on their reported conversations, and watches as God drives them out from Eden. Following in their footsteps, as portrayed in Genesis 2 - 4, and reading the biblical text very closely, it undertakes to respond to the following questions and discover why what we think we know is wrong: Why does the Hebrew Bible not consider what happened in the garden a Fall? Why did later thinkers come to think of what happened there as the Fall? And if not a Fall, what did happen there?

Also co-sponsored by Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Congregation Olam Tikvah, Congregation Etz Hayim, and Temple Rodef Shalom


Speaker: Dr. Judith Hauptman, The E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary

Location: Temple Shalom; Chevy Chase, MD

For years, scholars and laypeople alike have asserted that women in the talmudic period were relegated to housework and did not study Torah. New research about the study house (bet midrash) argues that it was not a free-standing building. Instead, a rabbi and a circle of students would discuss Torah in the rabbi’s home, courtyard, and at his table. It follows that women would overhear Torah talk. Small anecdotes appearing in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds show that occasionally women actually participated in Torah discussions, contributing comments that reflected deep knowledge of the subject at hand. Other anecdotes show that some rabbis taught Torah to their wives and daughters. In short, as patriarchal as ancient rabbinic society surely was, women were not excluded from Torah study. They learned far more than we have generally thought possible, although not as much as men.

Also co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization


Speaker: Dr. Hasia Diner, Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University

Location: JCC of Greater Washington; Rockville, MD

From the idea that the eighteenth century constituted a "sephardi era" in American Jewish history through the decades following World War II in which American Jews shunned talking about and memorializing the Holocaust, the history of the Jews of the United States has been laced throughout with myths which do not stand up to the test of historical evidence. This lecture examines a number of those ideas about the American Jewish past which have dominated popular memory. It juxtaposes them against the actual historical data and explores why such renditions of the past have held on so long and so tenaciously.

Also co-sponsored by Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington


Speaker: Dr. Michael Berenbaum, writer, lecturer, and teacher consulting in the conceptual development of museums and the development of historical films

Location: Ohr Kodesh Congregation; Chevy Chase, MD

Dr. Berenbaum speaks about the lives of Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Gershom Scholem. Their different but intersecting journeys back toward Judaism had an incredible impact on Jewish life and secured places for Buber, Rosenzweig, and Scholem as three of the most influential Jews of the 20th century.

This program is the annual Abraham S. Kay lecture, made possible by the generosity of Jack Kay.

Also co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization

Direct download: 2011_10_17_Three_German_Jews_Rediscover_Judaism.mp3
Category:German Jewish Heritage -- posted at: 6:30 PM

Speaker: Dr. Leora Batnitzky, Professor and Chair in the Department of Religion at Princeton University, where she also directs Princeton’s Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought.

Location: Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center; Reisterstown, MD

Revelation as Ethics: Emil Fackenheim, Emmanuel Levinas, and Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought.

The Dr. Harvey H. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat


Speaker: Dr. Leora Batnitzky, Professor and Chair in the Department of Religion at Princeton University, where she also directs Princeton’s Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought.

Location: Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center; Reisterstown, MD

Revelation as Reason: Hermann Cohen, Joseph Soloveitchik, and Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

The Dr. Harvey H. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat


Speaker: Dr. Leora Batnitzky, Professor and Chair in the Department of Religion at Princeton University, where she also directs Princeton’s Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought.

Location: Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center; Reisterstown, MD

Revelation as Law: Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and the Birth of the Jewish Religion.

The Dr. Harvey H. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat


Speaker: Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the Modern and Open Orthodox Rabbinical School in New York

Location: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue; Washington, DC

Rabbi Avi Weiss, one of Newsweek’s “50 Most Influential Rabbis in America,” discusses his philosophy on an Orthodoxy that is both open and inclusive.

Also co-sponsored by Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue and Beth Sholom Congregation & Talmud Torah

Direct download: 2011_06_27_Defining_Modern_Orthodoxy.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 6:00 PM

Speaker: Dr. Avivah Zornberg, is the author of Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, for which she won the National Jewish Book Award, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious.

Location: Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center; Reisterstown, MD

The Pit and the Rope: Joseph and Judah, Continued.

The Lenell G. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat

Direct download: 2011_05_30_Rereading_Jacob_and_Joseph_Part_4.mp3
Category:Holiday Weekend Study Retreats -- posted at: 12:00 PM

Speaker: Dr. Avivah Zornberg, is the author of Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, for which she won the National Jewish Book Award, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious.

Location: Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center; Reisterstown, MD

The Pit and the Rope: Joseph and Judah.

The Lenell G. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat


Speaker: Dr. Avivah Zornberg, is the author of Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, for which she won the National Jewish Book Award, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious.

Location: Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center; Reisterstown, MD

Letter From an Unknown Woman: Joseph's Dream, Continued.

The Lenell G. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat


Speaker: Dr. Avivah Zornberg, is the author of Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, for which she won the National Jewish Book Award, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious.

Location: Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center; Reisterstown, MD

Letter From an Unknown Woman: Joseph's Dream.

The Lenell G. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat


Speaker: Prof. Jenna Weissman Joselit, Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies & Professor of History at The George Washington University

Location: Beth Sholom Congregation & Talmud Torah; Potomac, MD

This age-old compilation of dos and don'ts has become an American article of faith and, in some quarters, even America's "rightful heritage." The most richly imagined of all Biblical texts, the Ten Commandments loom large in American culture, where they figure in art, literature, politics, and the law. The cultural and historical processes by which a covenant with the ancient Israelites became a covenant with America lies at the heart of this encounter in both American history and Jewish history.

In memory of Renee and Frank Schick – Endowed by the Schick Family

Also co-sponsored by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington

Direct download: 2011_05_17_Romancing_the_Stone.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 6:30 PM

Speaker: Dr. Eliezer Diamond, Rabbi Judah Nadich Associate Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary

Location: Congregation Beth El; Bethesda, MD

The traditional liturgy of the Siddur was composed in a time and place quite different from our own. Moreover, the theological assumptions that animate this liturgy are not necessarily shared by many of us. Given this ideological and experiential disparity, how can we not simply recite the words of the Siddur but actually turn them into a meaningful prayer experience? This issue was addressed both by drawing upon a number of rabbinic texts and by utilizing the midrashic methodologies that are central to rabbinic discourse.

In honor of Dorothy G. and Robert H. Rumizen - Endowed by Dr. Bruce and Joy Ammerman through the Ammerman Foundation

Direct download: 2011_05_10_Do_We_Mean_What_We_Pray.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 6:30 PM

Speaker: Douglas J. Feith, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he heads the Center for National Security Strategies

Location: B'nai Israel Congregation; Rockville, MD

There are few men or women who are remembered, let alone honored, 70 years after they’ve died. But we do remember Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky – and for good reason. Or, I should say, for good reasons. First, he played an instrumental role in the success of a great cause -- the reconstitution of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. Second, in addition to his remarkable accomplishments, he was a man of remarkable character and ideas. And third, Jabotinsky’s thoughts on the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine are not merely of historical interest; they contain insights applicable today.

Also cosponsored by Ohr Kodesh Congregation as part of its Pledge 30 program

Direct download: 2011_05_03_Jabotinsky.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 6:30 PM

Speaker: Prof. Faye Moskowtiz, Professor of English at The George Washington University in Washington, DC

Location: Washington Hebrew Congregation; Washington, DC

Professor Faye Moskowitz as discussed the state of contemporary Jewish American Literature. What is happening to the narrative now that the last of the Holocaust witnesses are dying and divisive opinions on the state of Israel rock Jewish and American societies? Why are so many Jewish writers reaching back to a history they never experienced personally? Should writers like Jonathan Franzen and Peter Manseau who appropriate the Jewish experience be called "Jewish writers," and conversely, why do so many Jewish American writers disdain the label? Can anyone replace the generation of giants that includes Bellow, Roth, Malamud, Ozick, and Salinger?

Direct download: 2011_04_12_Whats_Portnoy_Complaining_About.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 6:30 PM

Speaker: Prof. Fred Lazin, Professor of Local Government at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and the Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at American University

Location: B'nai Israel Congregation; Rockville, MD

This session began with an examination of the social vision for Israel as first laid out by David Ben Gurion and then compared it with what Israeli society looks like today. Dr. Lazin examined many identity forces, with special emphasis on the role of religion, religious political parties, and the quest for religious pluralism.

Also co-sponsored by American Associates Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


Speaker: Prof. Fred Lazin, Professor of Local Government at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and the Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at American University

Location: B'nai Israel Congregation; Rockville, MD

President Harry Truman famously became the first head of state to recognize the new State of Israel in 1948, but the attitude of subsequent administrations to Israel was far from clear cut. This session examined the causes of changes in the relationship over time, up to and including the elections of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. It also explored the impact of groups like AIPAC, both from the American and Israeli perspectives.

Also co-sponsored by American Associates Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


Speaker: Prof. Fred Lazin, Professor of Local Government at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and the Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at American University

Location: B'nai Israel Congregation; Rockville, MD

This session explored the major conflicts that ignite passions in the Middle East, only one of which is the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Others include the interests of the great powers for influence and hegemony, conflicts both within and between the major religions, and issues of national identity and pride.

Also co-sponsored by American Associates Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


Speaker: Dr. Samuel Heilman, Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Center and is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College of the City University of New York

Location: Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue; Washington, DC

This lecture discussed a worldwide movement of Jewish Outreach and the Rebbe who sent them on their mission. It is a story of personal change and an effort to make sense out of history, a story of transformation and how a sect of Hasidim could make themselves and their leader into a force that could make claims about their ability to control history and Jewish destiny.

Also cosponsored by the Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization

Direct download: 2011_03_15_Lubavitchers_What_They_Want.mp3
Category:Distinguished Scholar Series -- posted at: 6:30 PM

Speaker: Prof. Calvin Goldscheider, Ungerleider Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Location: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue; Washington, DC

The Mishnah is a third century set of Jewish texts consisting of 63 volumes organized around an imagined and constructed community. It is sub-divided into several themes that form the basis of understanding Rabbinic Judaism. Assuming that we have only the Mishnaic text as our source of evidence, we ask, what emerges inductively from the text that informs us about the Mishnaic notion of community? It is a social science question asked not of contemporary societies but of canonized texts in the Judaic tradition for a world that is past. By studying the Mishnah, we are able to clarify how society is conceptualized in the Mishnah and in the process gain some new insights into the Mishnah itself.

In this lecture Professor Goldscheider illustrated this approach by highlighting several critical social themes portrayed in the Mishnah: (1) Inequality and exclusion--Does the Mishnah have a utopian ideal of a classless Jewish society? How does the Mishnah characterize the relationship to Non-Jews? (2) Family and gender--What types of family relationships emerge in the Mishnah and how are family transitions described? How are the roles of men and women, boys and girls, differentiated in the Mishnah? (3) Holidays and rituals--How do holidays and religious rituals convey the meanings of Judaism in the Mishnah?

Also cosponsored by the Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization


Speaker: Dr. Daniel C. Matt, translator and annotator of the Pritzker edition of the Zohar

Location: Capital Camps and Retreat Center; Waynesboro, PA

God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science and Spirituality.

The Josephine F. and H. Max Ammerman Study Retreat

Direct download: 2011_02_21_Kabbalah_to_the_Big_Bang_Part_5.mp3
Category:Holiday Weekend Study Retreats -- posted at: 1:00 PM

Speaker: Dr. Daniel C. Matt, translator and annotator of the Pritzker edition of the Zohar

Location: Capital Camps and Retreat Center; Waynesboro, PA

Raising the Sparks: Finding God in the Material World.

The Josephine F. and H. Max Ammerman Study Retreat

Direct download: 2011_02_21_Kabbalah_to_the_Big_Bang_Part_4.mp3
Category:Holiday Weekend Study Retreats -- posted at: 10:00 AM

Speaker: Dr. Daniel C. Matt, translator and annotator of the Pritzker edition of the Zohar

Location: Capital Camps and Retreat Center; Waynesboro, PA

Shekhinah: The Feminine Half of God.

The Josephine F. and H. Max Ammerman Study Retreat

Direct download: 2011_02_20_Kabbalah_to_the_Big_Bang_Part_3.mp3
Category:Holiday Weekend Study Retreats -- posted at: 8:00 PM

Speaker: Dr. Daniel C. Matt, translator and annotator of the Pritzker edition of the Zohar

Location: Capital Camps and Retreat Center; Waynesboro, PA

Discussion on Dr. Matt's current project.

The Josephine F. and H. Max Ammerman Study Retreat

Direct download: 2011_02_20_Kabbalah_to_the_Big_Bang_Part_2.mp3
Category:Holiday Weekend Study Retreats -- posted at: 4:00 PM

Speaker: Dr. Daniel C. Matt, translator and annotator of the Pritzker edition of the Zohar

Location: Capital Camps and Retreat Center; Waynesboro, PA

The Zohar: Masterpiece of Kabbalah.

The Josephine F. and H. Max Ammerman Study Retreat

Direct download: 2011_02_20_Kabbalah_to_the_Big_Bang_Part_1.mp3
Category:Holiday Weekend Study Retreats -- posted at: 1:00 PM

Speaker: Dr. Michael Brenner, Chair of Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich in Germany

Location: JCC of Greater Washington; Rockville, MD

Contrary to common belief, Jewish life in Germany before the rise of the Nazis was culturally thriving. While one segment of the Jewish community was assimilated, there was a tendency, especially among the younger generation, to show renewed interest in Jewish matters. German Jewry in the 1920s was perhaps the first Jewish community that lived in a relatively open and democratic society and began at the same time to look for modern expressions of its Jewish identity. In many respects it serves as an example for modern American Jews, even though the circumstances of its existence were quite different. Dr. Brenner discussed everyday life among German Jews, their religious expressions, and some of their important intellectuals, like Franz Rosenzweig, Gershom Scholem, and Leo Baeck.

This program was made possible by the generosity of Gary and Bernice Lebbin as part of a series of programs on German-Jewish Cultural Heritage.

Direct download: 2011_02_08_Jewish_Life_in_Germany_before_Hitler.mp3
Category:German Jewish Heritage -- posted at: 7:30 PM



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