Judaism in Focus
Over the past two millennia, Judaism has developed and spread across the globe, taking shape as a vast and complex system. This brief series offers a glimpse into four distinct areas of the religion. Each session will be lead by a renowned local scholar. This unique educational opportunity is presented by Case Western Reserve University.
How Jews Read the Bible: A Literary Approach
Presented by Dr. Rabbi Moshe Berger
The Bible contains laws, moral lessons and theological truths. It also contains numerous dramatic moments. In this session, we shall focus exclusively on the drama, as we read and analyze two famous seduction scenes: Samson and Delilah; and Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar. We shall consider character motivation, stage directions implied in the text, theological issues and the Bible’s demand for reader participation.
Dr. Rabbi Moshe Berger has taught at Brandeis and Harvard Universities and has served as rabbi of the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel program. Professor Berger was on the faculty at Siegal College for 25 years, and is presently a rabbi at Cedar Sinai Synagogue. He received his B.A. from Yeshiva University and his M.A. and PhD from Harvard.
Thursday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Jewish Ethics in Rabbinic Literature
Presented by Dr. Peter Haas
Rabbinic Judaism is focused not so much on belief as on practice. It is about how to live a holy life in accord with the revelation. But translating divine revelation into human context is not easy. The bulk of rabbinic literature, from the Talmud forward, is dedicated to the intellectual task of determining how human beings ought to act in a way that makes the world a more holy place. Drawing on examples from Jewish ethical and legal discussions, such as abortion or euthanasia, Peter Haas will show how the rabbis’ centuries long conversations created a way of thinking about right and wrong in the midst of the complexities of everyday life.
Dr. Peter Haas serves at Case Western Reserve University as Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish Studies; Chair of the Department of Religious Studies; and Director or the Program in Judaic Studies. An ordained Reform rabbi, Haas has published several books and articles dealing with moral discourse and with Jewish and Christian thought after the Holocaust. He teaches courses on Western Religion and on the religious, historical and social context of the current Middle East crises. He has lectured in the United States, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Israel. His most recent book is on human rights in Judaism.
Thursday, March 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Judaism Confronts Modernity
Presented by Dr. Brian Amkraut
This session explores the ways that Jews adapted their religion to confront the challenges and changes of the modern world. In this brief, but rich, survey, we will discuss the development of a spectrum of approaches that emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Reform Judaism as it developed in Germany and the USA; the response from modern traditionalist forces that gave rise to Modern Orthodoxy; the reactionary approach that led to the formation of a specific ultra-Orthodox outlook; and a centrist approach, which gave rise to Conservative Judaism.
Dr. Brian Amkraut is the Executive Director of the Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University. He served on the faculty of Jewish history at Oberlin College and Siegal College prior to becoming Provost at Siegal College, a post he held for five years. His book Between Home and Homeland: Youth Aliyah from Nazi Germany, published in 2006, details the movement to bring Jewish teenagers from Germany to Palestine in the 1930s. He has published articles addressing the impact of changing technologies in contemporary Jewish life.
Thursday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Jewish Diversity: Weddings Across the Globe
Presented by Dr. Alanna Cooper
Over the course of their dispersed history, Jews across the globe have maintained similarities and connections to one another, while simultaneously adapting to the various cultural worlds in which they found themselves. In this session, join Alanna Cooper to attend Jewish weddings in North Africa, in Central Asia and in the United States. Through photographic images and ethnographic depictions, we will explore the ways in which this rich life-cycle ritual provides a window into the ties that bind and the divisions that separate Jews from one another.
Dr. Alanna E. Cooper, a cultural anthropologist, is Director of Jewish Studies at Case Western Reserve University’s Siegal Lifelong Learning Program. She is an educator, administrator and author. Her book, Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism, was published by Indiana University Press in 2012,
and her articles and essays have appeared in scholarly journals as well as the popular press, including Jewish Social Studies, AJS Review, Anthropology of East Europe Review, The Jewish Daily Forward, The Jerusalem Post and Jewish Review of Books. She has held research and teaching positions at Harvard University, University of Massachusetts, University of Michigan and Boston University.
Thursday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH