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Havruta 6, ‘Ikkarim,’ To Be Available in Digital, ‘E-magazine’ Format

The sixth issue of Havruta: A Journal of Jewish Conversation, now available online, is dedicated to a search for ikkarim, core principles of Judaism
Stuart Schoffman is a research fellow at Shalom Hartman Institute. For more than 20 years, as a writer for the Jerusalem Report and Jewish newspapers in North America, he has combined Jewish scholarship with reportage and analysis of politics, religion and culture. His translations from Hebrew include books by the Israeli authors A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and Meir Shalev. Before making aliya in 1988, he worked as a journalist for Fortune and Time magazines in New York, and

The sixth issue of Havruta: A Journal of Jewish Conversation, available online soon, is dedicated to a search for ikkarim, core principles of Judaism. Most of this issue’s authors are members of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s North American Scholars Circle. This group of thinkers has been assembled in order to widen the Institute’s activity in the field of applied Jewish Studies, and to utilize the tools of innovative scholarship to address the needs and concerns of North American Jewry.

The first NASC cohort devoted a year of research and conversation to the subject of ikkarim. Their widely ranging interests and insights are featured in this issue of the magazine:

  • Yehuda Kurtzer, President of SHI-North America and leader of NASC, looks for ikkarim in first century Alexandria.
  • David Myers, chairman of the history department at UCLA, invokes theorists of Jewish nationalism to test conventional notions of Israel and Diaspora.
  • Joel Hecker, a professor of mysticism at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, juxtaposes Maimonides and the Zohar in a quest for a theology available to all Jews.
  • Charlotte Fonrobert, a professor and Talmud scholar at Stanford, argues that openness to converts is a unique ikkar of American Jewry.
  • Naomi Seidman, who teaches Jewish Studies in Berkeley, makes the case for and against the centrality of the Beit Midrash for secular Jews.
  • Jeremy Dauber and Wendy Zierler, professors of Jewish literature at Columbia and Hebrew Union College respectively, conduct a collegial conversation about defining literature as an ikkar: do only Jewish texts qualify, whatever “Jewish” may mean?  

Other Havruta 6 highlights offer commentary on such Jewish essentials as peoplehood, tikkun olam, money, and the culture of debate. 

  • Donniel Hartman, President of SHI, emphasizes the larger challenge of finding solid ikkarim that inspire Jews without imposing authoritarian boundaries.
  • Moshe Idel, longtime SHI fellow and preeminent scholar of Jewish mysticism, speaks about Radbaz, a leading 16th century sage who didn’t like the idea of ikkarim to begin with, and the father of Gershom Scholem, who flouted Jewish tradition in 19th century Berlin.

Finally, our Afikoman section presents a Jewish-Christian disputation in medieval Spain as a multifaceted episode of Applied Jewish Studies. 

And speaking of debate, readers are invited to join our conversation online, “talking back” to our authors in Israel and North America, and to one another.  This, after all, is what the tradition of havruta study is all about.

Stuart Schoffman is a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and Editor of Havruta.

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