On February 2, 2014, nearly 500 people attended the fourth annual Hartman Conference for a Jewish Democratic Israel on the theme, "Winds of Change," marking the one-year anniversary of the passing of David Hartman z"l.
Hartman Institute President Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, Minister of Education Rabbi Shai Piron, and Hartman Institute Fellow Prof. Moshe Idel opened the conference by presenting the values that each feels propel the Jewish-Israeli spirit.
Donniel Hartman framed the conference by invoking the philosophy of his father and sharing that in the tension between Auschwitz and Sinai, David Hartman preferred Sinai. Piron then spoke about the need for a focus on spirit in Israeli society.
"Spirit cannot grow in a place that does not really love spirit," Piron said. "My experience is that the spirit in Israeli society is occupying a smaller and smaller space. For example, in the humanities – nobody talks about the value of the humanities in the context of the humanities, only in comparison to other things….When the heart opens we understand that Excel spreadsheets will never bring redemption – only something that touches the heart will. I believe that society sometimes needs strong gusts of wind, and David Hartman was this. What unites true people of spirit is courage and the connection between spirit and prophesy. This is a model that the education must adopt."
Following the plenary session, participants chose from among six breakout sessions. Gilad Goldschmidt, Rabbi Yair Dreyfus, and Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan, who are all involved in activity related to spiritual renewal in Israeli society, discussed the spiritual challenges that face Israeli society.
Senior SHI Fellow Prof. Avi Sagi, SHI Fellow Dr. Ruth Kara-Ivanov Kaniel, and Be’eri Director of Education Dr. Ariel Picard led a text study session examining Jewish heritage and the treatment of the "other".
Senior SHI Fellow Prof. Menachem Lorberbaum, Prof. Tova Hartman, and SHI Fellow Prof. Ishay Rosen-Zvi examined the role of the intellectual in society. "Involved intellectuals must expand the borders of their imagination; therefore, they must always critique society," Rosen-Zvi said.
The fourth breakout session was dedicated to a discussion of the central role that the body and sexuality have taken in Judaism in the past several decades. SHI Fellows Dr. Ronit Irshai and Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed, choreographer Amir Kolben, and Yaron Schwartz, director of the gender program at the Charles E. Smith High School for Boys, presented their views. Regarding the relationship between body and spirit, Schwartz said: "According to eastern tradition, physical movement can in fact change the spirit."
SHI Fellow Dov Elbaum, Israeli blogger Tomer Persico, the former head of Second Authority for Television and Radio Nurit Dabush, and author Irit Linur raised the question of culture in modern society in this popular session which questioned whether it is appropriate to draw distinctions between high culture and pop culture.
A session in English on cultivating a shared conversation between Israel and world Jewry for mutual transformation, was live-streamed to an international audience. SHI Fellow Yossi Klein Halevi, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies President Rabbi Daniel Landes, Shalem College Senior VP Dr. Daniel Gordis, and Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, founder of ZION: An Eretz Israeli Congregation in Jerusalem, offered their unique perspectives on what our different Jewish communities can learn from each other.
The event closed with a session dedicated to an exploration of David Hartman’s thought by four of his students — his son, Donniel Hartman, SHI Fellows Prof. Moshe Idel and Rani Jaeger, and Dr. Gili Zivan .