Foundations for a Thoughtful Judaism
Foundations for a Thoughtful Judaism
An introduction to philosophical ideas in Jewish peoplehood, practice, faith, and ethics based on Hartman Torah from the past four decades.


Foundations for a Thoughtful Judaism is a curricular project which offers a sophisticated yet accessible introduction to philosophical ideas in Jewish peoplehood, practice, faith and ethics. Its content is based on Hartman teaching from the last four decades.

The curriculum grew out of an interest in sharing the ideas that have been taught at the Institute to rabbis for decades with people who are new to Jewish tradition, and is designed to allow even beginners to have access to deep Jewish thought. This includes people in interfaith relationships, people exploring their own Judaism for the first time, and those who are working towards conversion.  The curriculum is not a how-to Judaism 101 course, but instead serves as a complement for those who wish to grapple with philosophical questions at the heart of Jewish tradition.


The Foundations curriculum covers four areas of compelling contemporary interest to American Jews: community, faith, practice, and ethics. Classes about these topics can be deployed in linear fashion to think through, for example, Jewish attitudes to ethics, or in modular fashion to deal with issues that have an impact on our communities such as charity, climate change or democracy.

Hartman faculty bring these topics to partners and help prepare educators to work through insights, framing, and enduring questions with participants.

Community/Peoplehood: This volume explores questions related to the collective experience of Jewish life: What does it mean to be part of the Jewish community? To what extent can communities hold diverse and shared values at the same time? What does Jewish Peoplehood mean today, when the centers of Jewish life, North America and Israel, are so different and independent from one another? 

Faith: This volume explores questions related to what a relationship in God and a life of faith entails: Where does faith come from? What are the models in Jewish tradition for a complex relationship with God which includes reverence and joy, but also anger and argument? Where does doubt fit into a life of faith? Where do Jews who do not believe fit in? 

Practice: This volume explores questions that are fundamental to Jewish practice: What is the system of mitzvot trying to accomplish? Why the need for ritual action beyond belief? How have Jewish thinkers conceived of the meaning of mitzvot in an age of radical human autonomy?   

Ethics: This volume explores questions related to ethical obligation and decision-making: How has Jewish tradition conceived of what we owe other people? How might we approach ethical dilemmas which test our loyalties to values and to people?