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The ‘Other’ in Jewish Tradition: Challenges and Opportunities – Now Playing at a Synagogue Near You

Developed based on the invaluable experience gained from the highly successful Hartman Global Beit Midrash, the DVD series brings the excellence of Hartman Torah to lay leaders in synagogues and organizations

The ‘Other’ in Jewish Tradition: Challenges and Opportunities

Developed based on the invaluable experience gained from the highly successful Hartman Global Beit Midrash, the DVD series brings the excellence of Hartman Torah to lay leaders in synagogues and organizations, rabbinic students, teachers and principals in Jewish community day schools, Hillel leadership on university campuses, and private study groups.

Partnering with world-renowned Hartman Institute faculty, these local scholars and educators together with the study groups that they lead, enjoy an intensive study experience geared at enhancing their knowledge and equipping them with the resources required to confidently address and respond to key questions facing the Jewish people and contemporary society. 

Response from participants and rabbinic leaders was very clear: “WE WANT MORE” – so our team got to work.

Introducing the recently released volume II, entitled “The ‘Other’ in Jewish Tradition: Challenges and Opportunities,” Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, VP of the SHI North America Israel Department and director of the DVD lecture series volumes, shared a few comments with us.

Q: What makes the “Other” an especially relevant theme in North America today?

Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi: “One of the most important challenges facing the Jewish people today is the challenge of identity in a contemporary context. “Two major phenomena highlight the relevance and urgency of the themes studied in this volume necessitating a better understanding of the role of the ‘Other’ in the Jewish world. These are increased fundamentalism in the religious world on the one hand, and often diluted religious identity in the postmodern world on the other.

“The question of the Jewish ‘Other’ is a significant boundary issue in determining ‘Who is a Jew,’ which in turn determines the future of the Jewish people,” explains Rabbi Dr. Sabath Beit-Halachmi. “In a world where intermarriage at times allows for both the Jewish and non-Jewish partner to be a part of the Jewish community, these boundary lines are shifting, and thus the one who was once considered an outsider or ‘Other’ is now often not only a member of the community, but is sometimes even an exemplary leader.” 

“The increasingly wide arena of diverging Jewish opinion on a variety of key issues includes the changing roles that women play in many parts of the Jewish community as well as others that may have once been considered outsiders–homosexual people, children of intermarriage, and many others. The way that we understand the realities and the roles of those who were once understood to be outsiders in the Jewish community has brought enormous opportunity to the development and expansion of Jewish culture. How our communities deal with the changing status of these ‘Others’ will determine the future shape and strength of the Jewish people,” summarizes Rabbi Dr. Sabath Beit-Halachmi.

Response to the pilot volume of the DVD series was extremely enthusiastic and was a key factor in the release of volume two. A few of these excited testimonials are below:

“Imagine 50 people leaning towards each other as they discuss and debate Biblical and rabbinic texts, and then giving rapt attention to the outstanding lecture on DVD presented by one of the fine Hartman faculty. It was among the best adult education programs we have done and it created a huge desire for more serious study in the congregation.”  –  Rabbi Lavey Derby, Congregation Kol Shofar, San Rafael, CA

“We limited the class to 25 students and actually had to turn people away! We thought that the number of participants would decline over time, but in fact, participation remained high through the whole series of lectures and classes. What made the series exceptional for us was the high level of the lecturers. Without the Institute’s help, we would never be able to bring such top notch scholars week after week to the congregation.”  –  Rabbi George Gittleman, Congregation Shomrei Torah, Santa Rosa, CA

“I have rarely seen a group of congregants take to a learning opportunity as they did to the Shalom Hartman Institute’s DVD series, ‘Leadership and Crisis: Jewish Resources and Responses.’ The students quickly took to each week’s practice of hevruta study, eagerly engaging one another over text study. The lectures, by top SHI faculty were thought-provoking and illuminated the texts in new ways. The discussions following the video lectures were lively and afforded me the opportunity to engage my congregants in text study at a level that is often hard to reach. By the last few weeks they were chomping at the bit to get to their texts. I suppose the best measure of the success of the series is how many other members have asked if I will be offering it again (I will) because they heard how good the experience was; how many of the original students want to take the class again; and the many questions about “now what comes next?” I told them, “The next series from SHI.” We can’t wait! 
–  Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis, Temple Shalom of Newton, Newton, MA

“I used the DVD series ‘Leadership and Crisis’ with a small group of synagogue leadership. It was wonderful. It gave me an opportunity to learn text with a group that otherwise may not be engaged. It gave the leaders a chance to hear the wisdom and insight of Hartman scholars. And it gave us all a chance to engage in lively discussions about important issues and ideas.”  –  Rabbi David Steinhardt, B’nai Torah Congregation, Boca Raton, FL

“For me the greatest strength of the DVD series is that the Beit Midrash I have built around the series has played a key role in community building.”  –  Rabbi David Thomas, Congregation Beth-El of the Sudbury River Valley, Sudbury, MA

Is There a Covenant with the World: The Meaning & Consequences of “Chosenness”; Boundaries and the Other Within Our Society; The “Other” Gender in Judaism: Toward a Sociological and Theological Transformation; and Tikkun Olam: Judaism’s Responsibility for the Others of the World are just a few of the topics covered in this volume. The series comes complete with study texts, background readings, and a leader’s guide to support the DVD lectures. The leader’s guide provides suggested study questions or questions to guide havruta-style learning in advance of viewing the DVD.

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