Temple Sinai of Bergen County is pleased to announce the establishment of an annual lecture series in memory of Fred Lafer (z”l). The first Annual Fred Lafer Memorial Lecture will take place on Sunday, April 26, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. at the synagogue (One Engle Street in Tenafly, NJ) and will feature Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman , president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem.
Fred Lafer, for whom the series is named, was a longtime supporter and board member of the Shalom Hartman Institute, serving as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Institute’s Board of Directors. Fred first met Shalom Hartman Institute founder, Rabbi Prof. David Hartman (z”l), more than 30 years ago, having heard him speak at an event in which Rabbi Hartman told the audience that they should come to Israel – not to sightsee, but to study. Fred took the elder Rabbi Hartman up on his offer, beginning a long and deep relationship of study and friendship. On July 1, 2010, the Shalom Hartman Institute honored Fred Lafer in Jerusalem by naming him an Honorary Fellow of the Institute.
“I could not be more pleased to have Rabbi Donniel Hartman, one of the leading voices in the Jewish world today, come to Temple Sinai,” said Rabbi Jordan Millstein, spiritual leader of Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly. “And to have Rabbi Hartman here to honor the memory of Fred Lafer, whose work as President of the Taub Foundation, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, President and Chairman of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Studies and President of the American Friends of Hebrew University, made him one of the great Jewish philanthropists of his generation. We at Temple Sinai are so grateful to Deborah Lafer Scher, Fred’s daughter, and member of Temple Sinai, for everything she has done to make the Fred Lafer Memorial Lecture a reality, including bringing Rabbi Hartman to us.”
Donniel Hartman worked with Fred Lafer in the early 2000’s as the Institute embarked on a process of dramatic growth in Israel and the development of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, which now delivers the same level of scholarship and inspiration that the Hartman Institute is known for in Jerusalem.
"Fred was a unique individual and a partner in shaping the Hartman Institute since its inception, and a close personal friend," Donniel Hartman said. "Fred was a runner, literally and figuratively. As a lay leader, he didn’t merely support, but also pushed the Institute to respond to the challenges facing modern Jewish life. He was a runner in the sense that he believed that his responsibility was to affect change and to move things forward."
Rabbi Hartman said Fred Lafer was a catalyst for change and a "long-distance" runner who understood that real change requires multigenerational work.
"He was a friend. With Fred, there was no separation between the professional and the personal. He cared as much about how you were as how the Institute was doing," Rabbi Hartman said. "To be with Fred was to be with a friend who loved you, cared for you, and was loyal to you, but at the same time pushed you to run with him to fulfill our responsibility to the Jewish people."
For the Lafer Memorial Lecture, Rabbi Hartman will speak on the topic of “Talking about Israel: The Need for a New Conversation.”
“Instead of uniting us, Israel often divides us,” Rabbi Hartman said. “How do we develop a new way of talking about Israel, and what should be the boundaries of this conversation? Unfortunately, too many Jews believe that to be a lover of Israel is not just to stand by Israel, but also to agree with Israel. That’s not possible. Many Jews, if that’s their choice, will simply walk away. We need to create a framework that opens the discussion for those of us invested in Israel’s success to also fight for the Israel we want. I say, ‘Welcome to the story. Welcome to the fight.’”
Rabbi Hartman has a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a Master of Arts in political philosophy from New York University, a Master of Arts in religion from Temple University, and Rabbinic ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute. Donniel is the founder of some of the most extensive education, training and enrichment programs for scholars, educators, rabbis, and religious and lay leaders in Israel and North America.
He is the director of the Hartman Institute’s iEngage Project, author of The Boundaries of Judaism, co-editor of Judaism and the Challenges of Modern Life, co-author of Spheres of Jewish Identity, and lead author of Speaking iEngage: Creating a New Narrative Regarding the Significance of Israel for Jewish Life. In addition, he is a prominent essayist, blogger, and lecturer on issues of Israeli politics, policy, Judaism, and the Jewish community.
His new book, Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself, is scheduled for publication by Beacon Press in February 2016. He is currently working on his next book, Who Are The Jews: Healing A Divided People.