Shalom Hartman Institute’s annual Theology Conference February 22-26, 2009 focused on the question of “Living in the Shadow of Death.” More than 50 distinguished theologians, clergy, and scholars of Islam, Christianity and Judaism attended.
Some of the questions explored include how death influences our ethical choices, our bonds in community and our alienation from others, the imperative of our personal callings, and the shape of the fears that haunt us most deeply.
The conference examined how our religious traditions teach us to frame the presence of death and to respond to it in our lives, and also how the rituals that surround death teach the living to relate to its constant presence and threat.
In the heritage of the Hartman Institute’s theological work, the theology conference aims to enable participants to draw strength and insight from the similarities and differences among the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions.
The conference is organized around small-group study sessions involving participants from all three traditions. The groups will study key texts from each tradition, which will also serve as the raw materials for plenary seminar discussions. This year, rather than studying six topics, participants will focus more deeply on three topics and delve into the texts associated with each one.
The topic leaders this year are Paul Ballanfat for Muslim texts, Karen King for Christian texts and Israel Knohl for Jewish texts. This year a new element has been introduced to the conference, with one of the participants selecting and discussing those religious texts that are central to his or her work and perspective – those “texts that tick at the heart of it all.”
The public forum this year will be devoted to honoring the late mentor of many participants, Krister Stendahl, and his seminal insight into the “holy envy” that marks religious pluralism at its richest and best.
In the tradition of the theology conference, there will be one afternoon tour, devoted to burial rites and grounds, and touring some of the significant tombs of Jerusalem. This conference will also provide cultural opportunity, as participants attend the Israel Camerata’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s “Serenade” and Henry Purcell’s opera, Dido and Aeneas.