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Hartman Institute creating ‘North American Scholars Circle’

Shalom Hartman Institute is creating a new initiative - the Hartman North American Scholars Circle, as part of a select group of recommended scholars, aimed at creating a new think tank to provide sophisticated new responses and ideas to the particular moral and spiritual challenges facing contemporary North American Jewry
Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi s a Jewish institutional leader, author, and sought-after public speaker. Currently, Rachel serves Ohavay Zion Synagogue and is a senior scholar of the Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood. Most recently she served as Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought and Ethics at Hebrew Union College (HUC) and led a four-campus team to achieve strategic goals. Prior to her national role at HUC, Rachel served as Vice President of the Shalom Hartman


Shalom Hartman Institute is creating a new initiative – the Hartman North American Scholars Circle – a select group of scholars – who will create a new think tank to provide sophisticated new responses and ideas to the particular moral and spiritual challenges facing contemporary North American Jewry.
One of the central aspects of the Hartman Institute mission is to produce new thinking to meet the moral, intellectual and spiritual challenges facing the Jewish people. To this end, more than 30 years ago the Institute founded and today continues to house the Kogod Research Center for Contemporary Jewish Thought. The Research Center is a multidenominational and independent think tank that draws on 3,000 years of Jewish intellectual thought to develop new ideas that shape and enrich modern Jewish life. Housed in Jerusalem, the fellows of the Center are drawn from the faculties of Israel’s leading universities and come to the Center for intensive year-round work.
In the upcoming academic year the Institute plans to expand the parameters of its work to include the research of a group of leading Jewish North American academics and thinkers. The research in the Hartman North American Scholars Circle will be founded on the recognition that Jewish vitality and continuity rest to a great extent on Judaism’s ability to provide inspiring responses to the unique opportunities and challenges facing North American Jewry today.
Constantly changing, contemporary Jewish life in North America is characterized by shifting and expanding cultural and ethnic identities, an evolving family structure, eroding community boundaries, abundant spiritual possibilities, and a changing relationship to other faiths and North American society at large.
North American Jews are more resilient, intelligent, and sophisticated than ever before; at the same time, they are possibly more alienated from Judaism than ever before, said Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, director of Shalom Hartman Institute’s Center for Lay Leadership Education. North American Jewry seeks – and needs – new ideas to guide its navigation of a changing reality, she said.
"Only a Judaism that is highly nuanced, responsive and which speaks to Jews across denominational lines can guide the emerging contours and future directions of North American Jewish life," she said.
The mission of the Scholars Circle is to spearhead the development of ever-more relevant Jewish responses to the North American reality. Representing the broad spectrum of North American Jewish denominational life and independent of sectarian considerations, the Scholars Circle will produce and disseminate new ideas and approaches to inform North American Jewry’s responses to critical issues.
Taking the changing sociological patterns of North American Jewry as its cue, the Scholars Circle will seek to develop a new body of thought providing intellectual, moral and spiritual fuel for the renaissance of North American Jewish life.
In specific terms, the Scholars Circle will comprise approximately 15 individuals who meet the following criteria:
  • Distinguished publication record and academic achievement;
  • Proven commitment to addressing real-life challenges in the Jewish community;
  • Recognized Intellectual prominence;
  • Broad engagement with Jewish life in North America;
  • Gender and denominational diversity;
  • Diversity of academic fields.
Structure of the Scholars Circle
An annual theme critical to North American Jewish life will be picked by the Circle’s advisory committee. This central theme will be researched and addressed individually by each research fellow.
The Fellows will:
  • Study in biweekly sessions facilitated by videoconference;
  • Meet to share research at a week-long seminar in Jerusalem in June and a four-day seminar in North America (tentatively scheduled for Jan. 4-7, 2010);
  • Produce a publishable academic paper at the end of each academic year that will be published in an academic book in the Kogod series by Continuum Press, as well as in a special edition of the Havruta journal of the Hartman Institute and online;
  • Present his/her insights at an annual public conference in the United States.

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