2011 Conference
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Chaim Seidler-Feller

Hillel at UCLA

Chaim Seidler-Feller has been working with students and faculty as UCLA’s Hillel Director for thirty-six years. He was ordained in 1971 at Yeshiva University where he completed a Masters in Rabbinic Literature. Chaim is a lecturer in the Departments of Sociology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and is a faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies.

Toward a Renewal of the Zionist Idea


The establishment of the State of Israel constitutes only a partial fulfillment of the goals of Zionism. Zionism also aimed at renewing the Jewish people and propelling them to constitute a model society. Yet, Zionist discourse has, over the past decades, been stuck in a political mode and has become largely irrelevant, even to those who are passionate supporters of Israel. This seminar proposes to reinvigorate the Zionist conversation and to awaken a vital ideology that can be a source of Jewish renewal while providing a meaningful focus to the Zionist project.

Sexual Repression and Obsession

The Case of Kitzur Shulhan Arukh

Chaim Seidler-Feller, Doreen Seidler-Feller

Identity & Responsibility, Text & Thought

Although the Jewish tradition is generally open-minded regarding sexual behavior within marriage, certain repressive ideas have gained currency over the centuries and have determined sexual attitudes within elements of the Orthodox community. The claim of this workshop is that the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh, a popular 19th century halakhic work read broadly by Yeshiva High School students, is largely responsible for the dissemination of these ideas, We will read the texts, explore the origins of these teachings and discuss the psychological impact of these prohibitions and inhibitions.

Searching for God in Judaism

A Rationalist’s Theory of a Spiritual Reality

Global Culture & History, Ritual, Prayer & Spirituality

Religion and God are currently confronting the unrelenting onslaught of the evangelical atheists. Yet, it is evident that the search for God is a primary feature of our generation. This session constitutes a personal effort at articulating a meaningful notion of God—one that is spiritually fulfilling and, at the same time, intellectually uncompromising. The search ranges across the Jewish tradition from the fundamentals of Biblical monotheism to Maimonides’ rationalism and on to Hasidic mysticism.

Zionism and Messianism: A Passion for Waiting

Global Culture & History, Identity & Responsibility

The Jewish community is currently experiencing an explosion of messianic fever, some of it orchestrated by a Brooklyn-based Hasidic sect while another manifestation of Jewish messianism bears on the religious significance of the state of Israel and on future peace with the Palestinians. What then is the Jewish messianic doctrine? How is it transformed and envisioned by Maimonides? Is there to be a personal messiah or a messianic era? Will only the Jews be redeemed, or all of humanity? How does the messianic idea inform and shape contemporary Zionism? Remember, an Israeli prime minister was assassinated by a Zionist/Messianist.

Isaac Encounters Ishmael

On the Relationship between Judaism and Islam

Global Culture & History, Identity & Responsibility

In a world riveted by a renascent Islam, this seminar offers a framework to better understand Islam’s contemporary confrontation with Judaism. Through an analysis of Islamic teachings the following issues will be addressed: the myth of a perpetual ‘Golden Age’; are anti-Judaism and violence essential to Islam?; the centrality of Jerusalem to both Islam and Judaism; commonalities and divergences between the two religious traditions and their respective openness to criticism.

Shaping a New Jewish Sexual Ethic

Chaim Seidler-Feller, Doreen Seidler-Feller

Identity & Responsibility

Classical Jewish teachings regarding sexuality (homosexuality, pre-marital sex …) generate increasing individual conflicts and social consequences that demand our attention. So long as these tensions are not addressed, community members are confronted with a choice between all of the restrictions of the tradition on the one hand and the permissive orientation of contemporary culture on the other. This seminar intends to step into that breach by proposing a contemporary sexual ethic.


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