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SHI and Tikvah Fund Launch Rabbinic Students Conference

Nearly 50 rabbinic students from six different seminaries studied Engaging Israel

At the end of January, nearly 50 rabbinic students from six different seminaries convened at the Shalom Hartman Institute campus in Jerusalem for three intensive days of interdenominational study on the topic of Jewish Values and the Challenges of Statehood.
Participants were introduced to the topic by Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman , SHI president and director of the iEngage Project , who framed the conference conversation by presenting the need for a new narrative for Galut (exile) and Geulah (redemption). IEngage team member Dr. Tal Becker presented dilemmas of power and occupation, while SHI-NA president Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer led a session on power and powerlessness. Students had the option of joining a discussion on a liberal theology of Israel with Rabbi Dr. Michael Marmur of HUC or a session about the centrality of Jerusalem with SHI fellow Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed . The formal study portion of the conference ended with a panel discussion during which Donniel Hartman and iEngage team member Yossi Klein Halevi discussed how to talk about “talking about Israel.”
Throughout the conference the students had the opportunity to break into smaller discussion groups in order to process what they had learned and to reflect on it with their peers. The students were joined in some of the sessions by members of the fourth cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI), who were in the midst of their annual winter seminar. Four RLI rabbis participated in a panel to discussion on real and ideal visions of relationships with Israel in North American Jewish communities. This topic naturally caused the rabbinical students to ponder the challenges that they will face and be required to confront as they assume pulpits throughout North America.
Along with the rabbis, the students were also treated to an evening presentation by US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro on a new era of US-Israel relations.
More relaxed activities – a student-led kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat meals, seudah shlishit, and a musical melaveh malkah – enabled the interdenominational group to get to know one another better. "The Inter-Seminary aspect was actually the reason why I joined the program," said one participant. "I loved all the talks and chats in between the different seminaries, from rabbis to student and vice versa. The group grew together during those few days and hours we had together and this is from my point of view Tikkun Olam."
Overall, the conference was a resounding success, with participants "walking away with a better understanding of how to approach the discussion about Israel in relation to World Jewry and [themselves]." One participant remarked that the conference provided "great insight into how to formulate my thoughts and opinions on Israel for myself, and how to articulate them to the greater community as well as ideas for how to implement productive Israel conversations in constructive ways in my community, plus an opportunity to spend time socially with my peers."

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