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New ‘Havruta’ to Showcase Articles on Essential Foundations of Judaism from Institute’s North American Scholars Circle

In 2009-10, its inaugural year, NASC studied the theme of ikkarim, defining the essential foundations of Judaism for a new generation of North American Jewry. The new issue of ‘Havruta’ will be based upon this theme

In early 2011 the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) will launch the sixth issue of Havruta: A Journal of Jewish Conversation . As in previous issues of the magazine, Havruta No. 6 will showcase the diverse, creative and pluralistic Jewish scholarship conducted by scholars affiliated with SHI both within and outside of the Institute’s walls.
What makes this issue unique is that most of the contributors are members of the North American Scholars Circle (NASC), a SHI program in which outstanding scholars of Jewish Studies work together with their counterparts in Jerusalem to formulate new and meaningful approaches to Jewish life. In 2009-10, its inaugural year, NASC studied the theme of ikkarim, defining the essential foundations of Judaism for a new generation of North American Jewry. The new issue of Havruta will be based upon this theme.
"Havruta Issue 6 exemplifies the emphasis of the Institute on applied Jewish studies, in which the investigation of old and new Jewish texts – from antiquity to the present – bears practically upon the concerns of the Jewish community in North America as well as Israel," says Stuart Schoffman , editor of Havruta and an Institute fellow. Subjects addressed in this issue include the fluid nature of Jewish identity, the role of Israel in the Jewish world, and the economic cost of Jewish life.
Seeking to identify and formulate the foundations of Judaism can be a challenging enterprise, as SHI President Donniel Hartman’s article will discuss in depth. Stuart Schoffman elaborates on the complexity of the ikkarim as a theme: "Since antiquity there has been a tension in Jewish thought between the notion of distilling Judaism into fundamental principles, and the dangers in so doing. One of the dangers is that if you try to squeeze Judaism into a few essentials, what is lost in the process? And how does the search for basic principles square with the open-ended explorations of postmodern scholarship?"
 The idea that Judaism has, at heart, essential ikkarim or guiding principles, has been revisited many times by Jewish thinkers – most notably by Maimonides – but the conversation is still in progress. The scholars of NASC have taken up the challenge, approaching the ikkarim theme from a wide variety of angles and drawing upon their diverse backgrounds and expertise, on subjects ranging from Jewish literature to beit midrash study, Jewish peoplehood, theology and Kabbalah.
Earlier this fall, the fifth issue of Havruta, " Thinking About Women ," which explored the changing landscape for women in Judaism, was launched online, giving readers the opportunity to enjoy the magazine in an innovative page-turning format which preserves the graphic design of the original. Issue 6 will be made available online as well.
By working to define principles for Judaism that can be applied to future generations, the new issue of Havruta – like previous issues – is designed to be both timely and of enduring interest. "Even in this quicksilver Internet age we hope not to be ephemeral, and therefore the journal is built to last," remarks Stuart Schoffman. "We believe the articles will be of continuing relevance, and the physical presentation and artwork are designed to create a publication that belongs on the shelf of a personal library or the library of a synagogue or school.” We at SHI therefore encourage our friends not only to look at Havruta online, but also to subscribe . And when you visit us here at the Institute, you will of course receive a copy.

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