Made possible through the
generous support of


Ariel Picard

Ariel Picard is the Educational Director of Shalom Hartman Institute's Be'eri program. He has a doctorate in philosophy from Bar-Ilan University and conducts research in contemporary Jewish law. He was ordained as a rabbi by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and formerly served as the rabbi of Kibbutz Shluchot. His book, "The Philosophy of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in an Age of Transition: Study of Halakha and Cultural Criticism," was published in 2007 by Bar-Ilan University Press.

A Jewish and Democratic State: Is It Really Possible?

Identity and Responsibility, Israel

The state of Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic state. What does that mean? What are the fundamental conflicts in Israel regarding this issue and how might they be resolved? What are the fundamental conflicts in Israel regarding conversion, marriage, and religious freedom? Why does Israel not separate state and religion? What might be the role of Jews in the Diaspora in making possible the dream of a Jewish Democratic state?

Religious Freedom in Israel: A Global Jewish Priority

Stanley Gold, Ariel Picard, Uri Regev

Global History and Culture, Israel

The overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews and world Jewry support religious freedom and pluralism in Israel. Lack of full religious freedom and equality adversely affects the lives of countless Israeli citizens from birth to death. Most known recent areas of concern include: Who is a Jew, the right to marry and divorce, gender segregation (such as public bus lines and the Kotel) and the threat to Israel’s economy and security emanating from the mass exemption of Yeshiva students from military service and their non-participation in the work force among others. In this session, we will outline the key challenges to religious freedom and pluralism in Israel and will discuss why this is a global Jewish priority and how we can make Israel’s promise for” freedom of religion and conscience” a reality.

Jewish Education in Secular Israel: Challenges and Achievements

Identity and Responsibility, Israel

What is Jewish-Israeli culture? What is the philosophy and pedagogy of secular Jewish education in Israel and how does it determine the Jewish cultural identity of non-Orthodox Israelis? This session will explore various approaches and model some exciting new possibilities.

A Rabbinic Theory of Education

Text and Thought

Rabbinic texts including the Talmud and the Midrash include many interesting ideas about education, teaching, and learning. These ideas reflect a theory of education that can serve us in our time. What values, tools, ideas and theories can we glean from them?

Who Is a Jew: An Urgent Need for a New Paradigm

Ariel Picard, Uri Regev

Identity and Responsibility, Teen Approved

The "Who is a Jew" debate has plagued and challenged Israel-Diaspora relations for decades. It is a complex halachic, philosophical, sociological and political challenge that goes to the heart of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. While for a long time it was dominated by the battle over conversion among the different denominations in Judaism, in recent years there is a growing realization of the internal Orthodox discord. We will discuss the urgent need for a new paradigm in this arena, demonstrate why "Who is a Jew" is too important a matter to be left to Orthodoxy, and outline and discuss the legal, halachic, and public aspects of this debate and the urgent need to develop new conversion options.