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RLI IV Rabbis Mark Midpoint at Jerusalem Winter Seminar

Lectures, peer teaching, and havruta learning enriched insights

The 28 rabbis of the fourth Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI) cohort convened at the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) campus in Jerusalem for their second winter seminar, which took place January 26 – February 1, 2012. This winter seminar is the midway point for the three-year program. Delving into study with colleagues and Hartman Institute scholars, the cohort participated in lectures, peer teaching sessions, and havruta-style (peer group) learning in their quest to gain insights to enrich themselves and by extension their communities.
The theme of this year’s winter seminar was Foundations for a Thoughtful Judaism: Community, which focused on the ethical foundations of Judaism as they relate to community and specifically to issues of authority and power. Study sessions and lectures were given by senior Shalom Hartman Institute fellows and researchers including SHI president Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, SHI-NA president Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, Dr. Tal Becker, Dr. Micah Goodman, Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed, Yossi Klein Halevi, and Professor Israel Knohl. The group was also treated to a special shiur given by Rabbi Professor David Hartman focusing on the individual and community in rabbinic texts.
Special programming for the winter seminar included an address by US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, about a new era of US-Israel relations; an afternoon visit to the Bible Lands Museum; and an evening program featuring a performance of Shir Hashirim in sign language.Duringthe first few days of the seminar, including Shabbat, the RLI rabbis were joined by nearly 50 rabbinical students participating in an Engaging Israel conference for Rabbinic Students. This mutually enriching experience provided the rabbinical students with the opportunity to learn from and with leading, experienced rabbis while enabling the senior rabbis to refresh their thinking in dialogue with their younger peers and future colleagues.  
The highlight of the trip for many rabbis was an outing to Beit Shemesh, scene of recent clashes between Ultra-Orthodox Jews and their less stringent neighbors. This trip enabled participants to see the geography of the conflict for themselves and the context for the news reports and articles they had read in Jewish and mainstream media and to meet with representatives of both the Ultra-Orthodox and the National Religious English-speaking communities, including Rabbi Dov Lipman and Hadassah Margolese.
As the week of study concluded, participants reflected on how enriching the RLI winter seminar and program as whole is for them and how it is already influencing them and their work in the rabbinate.
“The winter seminar has given me great insights into the complexities of Israel today, helping me bring Israel to my community, in sermons, teaching, and especially in [our community’s] Engaging Israel program,” remarked Rabbi Lionel Moses of Shaare Zion Congregation in Montreal.
“It’s such a privilege to sit with the 28 other participants—with the diversity of careers, our paths never would have crossed," says Rabbi Laurie Phillips of Congregation HaBonim in New York. "Now it’s a bond forever that is so critical to the future of Jewish people and the rabbinate, that there is real relationship between rabbis m’dor l’dor and movement to movement. It is invaluable."

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