Sociologist Robert Putnam discusses two types of social capital in his book Bowling Alone
. Specifically he talks about bonding social capital and bridging social capital. Bonding social capital takes place amongst people of similar if not identical demographic background; for example, book clubs within a religious organization, or other clubs and activities within a religious group. Bridging social capital takes place amongst people of diverse demographic backgrounds, such as those attending sports games – the Olympics being the ultimate example of bridging social capital. Exclusively participating in bonding social capital activities can cause resentment from other demographic groups, and hence Putnam suggests that people participate in a balance of bonding and bridging social capital activities. At the pluralist Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, the importance of forming bridging social capital cannot be more strongly emphasized or actualized.
I had the privilege of attending my first Community Leadership Program (CLP)
at the Shalom Hartman Institute this summer and was impressed by the intellectual rigor of the program as well as how much fun I had meeting Jews from all over the world who are all interested in serious text study. President Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman
shared the lessons of his late father, Rabbi Dr. David Hartman z"l
, who grew up in Brooklyn playing basketball with the neighborhood kids — Latinos, African Americans, Greeks, Italians, Irish, Catholics and Protestants. These childhood interactions were the foundations of David Hartman’s understanding of pluralism, and the belief that everybody has value and must be listened to, regardless of demographic background, religious or not. The interreligious dialogue that the Shalom Hartman Institute facilitates with Christians and Muslims is one example of the value that founder David Hartman placed upon building social bridges across demographics. Outreach is accompanied by in-reach, where secular Israeli high schools and IDF commanders are being enriched by lessons in Jewish culture, thereby building the Jewish identity of secular Israelis.
During the CLP plenary lectures and breakout sessions, we had the opportunity to hear personal testimonials sharing interactions, reflections, and teachings of Rabbi David Hartman. An Orthodox Jew by training, Rabbi Hartman was a disciple of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and follower of the teachings of Moses Maimonides, as well as other prominent Jewish thinkers such as Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Abraham Kook, and Martin Buber. An imposing personality and a restless soul, Rabbi Hartman was acutely aware of the dissonance between his Orthodox training and his actual personal experiences in life. With much thought and respect to his teachers, Rabbi Hartman constructed what he coined a Covenantal Anthropology
which is described in his award winning book, A Living Covenant
. While maintaining respect for the tradition, Rabbi Hartman made room for the creativity of the individual, marking in particular the precedent that Talmudic scholars established by encouraging debate and including all responses and voices.
Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman spoke about the importance of the particularity of the Jewish people, that it is appropriate to call the Jewish people a tribal community. Each of our tribes, our communities — whether they be North American Jews, Secular Israelis, Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, or Ultra-Orthodox — we each have some truth, but none of us can claim the whole truth – in order to survive we must value each of our tribes and include the voices of each tribe as we work together to build our future together as a Jewish people. We cannot afford to exclude or vilify any one of our tribes – we need to work together. This is especially pertinent for the future of Israel as we deal with economic realities on the ground.
I wish that I had had the opportunity to meet Rabbi Dr. David Hartman in person. From all of the tributes and eulogies that I have read and heard, it is clear that Rabbi Hartman not only talked the talk but also walked the walk. He had a way of speaking to a crowd of people that made each individual feel valued, cherished and touched. He had a way of transmitting his deep reverence for intellectual integrity and for the creative value of each and every soul. While I shall never know Rabbi David Hartman personally, I have benefited from attending CLP and learning about him from his disciples. I hope to have the chance to return to the Shalom Hartman Institute in the near future to strengthen my intellect and learn new ways to apply his teaching to my life as I interact and work with my communities.
Linna Ettinger is a Jewish Educator from Lexington, Mass. She would like to dedicate this post to the SHI CLP Faculty and Staff, in appreciation of their hard work to lovingly create an intellectually invigorating program that helped us all to learn about the thought of Rabbi David Hartman.