2012 Conference
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William Berkson

Jewish Institute for Youth & Family

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William Berkson is a philosopher and author of Pirke Avot: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Life (Jewish Publication Society, 2010). As director of the Jewish Institute for Youth & Family, he has been the lead developer of the 'Becoming a Mentsh' curriculum, teaching teens how Jewish wisdom can help them live better lives. He also is a type designer, having designed Williams Caslon Text (Font Bureau).

People of the Book, the Letter, and the Font

Arts & Performance, Sacred Text & Thought

According to the Mishnah, God created writing during the twilight before the first Shabbat. The great tradition of letters, carried on by scribes, was transformed by the invention of printing. The latest chapter in the saga of letters has been new styles of type for Israel, and the recent invention of digital type. Come hear about the romance of letters, both roman and Hebrew, from a type designer whose font was recently recognized by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

How Pirke Avot Can Save Judaism

Identity & Global Culture, Sacred Text & Thought

Pirke Avot, the sayings of the Jewish sages from 200 BCE – 200 CE, contains the founding ideas of rabbinic Judaism, and was the last before exile. Now that we are again free, the ideas in Avot are key to Judaism thriving. Come hear from its author how a new understanding of Avot led to his writing the new commentary for Jewish Publication Society, a commentary that compares the insights of the sages to modern rivals—Atheism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hedonism.

The Jewish Sages on Psychology: Understanding Avot

Sacred Text & Thought, Spiritual Practice

Today, spirituality, psychology of the emotions, and ethics are three different subjects. But for the Jewish sages whose sayings are recorded in "Pirke Avot" (Teachings, "Ethics of Our Fathers"), they were one subject: how to live the good life. We will explore texts from Avot on the emotions: how to deal with anger, ego, and sexual desire. We will also compare the Sages’ views to modern psychology. Do they agree or disagree? Who is right? Led by the author of the new commentary on Pirke Avot from the Jewish Publication Society.

Making Peace with Your Future

The Challenge of the Work-Life Balance

Identity & Global Culture, Spiritual Practice

Aside from love and family, our careers have the biggest impact on our emotions and happiness. Jewish tradition contains some healthy values to manage the stresses of school and work. We need new ideas to link them to today’s world. Come learn about how Jewish values can be combined with new insights to help us achieve both career success and peace of mind.


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