"Go West, young man," is an oft-quoted saying about Manifest Destiny, the 19th century American belief that the population was destined to expand across the North American continent, commonly attributed to author Horace Greeley in the mid-1800’s. Advocates of
Manifest Destiny believed that expansion was not only wise, but that it was readily apparent (manifest) and inexorable (destiny.) One observer summed up the meaning of the doctrine as follows: " A vast complex of ideas, policies, and actions is comprehended under the phrase "Manifest Destiny." They are not, as we should expect, all compatible, nor do they come from any one source."
Sound familiar? The Shalom Hartman Institute of North America has been created and tasked, under the able and creative leadership of Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, to expand the vision, mission, teaching and inspiration of the Hartman Institute to the West Coast of the United States and to broaden and intensify its Canadian presence. Dr. Kurtzer is joined and supported in this new initiative by SHI-NA Board Chair, Angelica Berrie, a respected community leader with dedication and creative energy and one of the few women heading up a major Jewish organization today. Jewish Peoplehood in the North American Diaspora are about to be enriched by this modern adaptation of Manifest Destiny with this new initiative of the Jerusalem-based Hartman Institute.
A wise and wonderful decision was made to hire Dr. Bernie Steinberg as VP of SHI-NA to lead the expansion of the Hartman program in North America. Not only is Dr. Steinberg a respected and inspiring teacher, he was a founding Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute nearly 40 years ago, and has been a disciple, colleague and close friend of Dr. Rabbi David Hartman since that time. Dr. Steinberg was formerly President and Director of Hillel at Harvard University, has taught at the Harvard Kennedy School and at numerous North American colleges. A recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award, Bernie is a bridge builder whose life work is devoted to dialogic interaction between diverse groups of people and between the scholastic academy and the community at large. He holds a doctorate in Jewish philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
A committed group of lay leaders has already been formed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto to assist the implementation of the innovative Hartman expansion program. As eloquently announced by Dr. Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of the Hartman Institute, "Precisely at this moment, one of the most important and challenging times in Jewish life, the Jewish community cannot afford to put it’s educational needs on hold. Our current obligation is to act in ways that meet the needs of the Jewish community to create a strong and vibrant future."
Expansion of the program in North America coincides with the wide distribution and enthusiastic reception of the Hartman Institute’s "Engaging Israel" project. The goal of the Engaging Israel project is to respond to growing feelings of disenchantment and disinterest toward Israel among an ever-increasing number of Jews worldwide by creating a new narrative regarding the significance of Israel for Jewish life. This narrative will serve as a foundation for a new covenant between Israel and world Jewry, elevating the existing discourse from one with a crisis-based focus to one rooted in Jewish values and ideas.
For those seeking to add a meaningful dimension to their lives, one based on innovative values and a tradition-based approach taught by leading scholars and thinkers in the Jewish world, each of us can make this opportunity part of our own destiny. Our rabbis and tradition teach us that we cannot afford to be indifferent, particularly in these turbulent and difficult times. The Hartman Institute of North America is making it possible for each of us to counter indifference and to participate in and contribute to the significant issues of our time.
Come join us. Create your own Manifest Destiny.
Marshall S. Zolla is a certified specialist in the field of family law in California and a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute Board of Directors . He played a leadership role in the creation of the Hartman Institute’s Los Angeles Study Forum.