2011 Conference
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Shai Held

Mechon Hadar

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Shai Held is a rabbi and Co-Founder, Rosh Yeshiva, and Chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar. Before that, he served for six years as Scholar-in-Residence at Kehilat Hadar in New York City. A renowned lecturer and educator, Shai has taught for institutions such as Drisha, Meah, and the Wexner Heritage Program. He recently completed a dissertation on the theology of R. Abraham Joshua Heschel.

On Judging Others (and Ourselves) Favorably

Rebbe Nachman on Loving the People You Lead

Identity & Responsibility, Text & Thought

Judaism teaches us to judge others favorably (lekhaf zekhut). But the question is: how do we do that? In this session, we'll explore a simple yet profound text by Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav about how to see others in the best possible light, and simultaneously, how to see ourselves in the same way. We'll discuss the ways in which seeing other people generously is what makes authentic religious leadership possible. Learn how a simple practice can have transformative effects on our lives.

"Just" Giving

A Panel Discussion

Sam "Bodi" Bodenheimer, Simon Greer, Shai Held, Elizabeth Richman

Identity & Responsibility, Interactive, Social Justice

This panel will address the question of priorities in giving, especially in relation to Jews and non-Jews. In the current economic climate, people are experiencing a greater strain on their resources and there is a more intense sense of need. Should Jews prioritize Jewish causes? What about the trend, especially among younger Jews, to direct much of their money and attention to non-sectarian causes? Does this trend reflect disintegrating bonds of peoplehood, or something else? Join us to consider how contemporary Jews should respond to these realities and what role Jewish texts should play in guiding our response.

What Kind of God Do We Believe In?

Heschel and Maimonides in Conversation

Text & Thought

In this session, we'll explore what just might be the biggest question of all: what do we mean when we say "God"? What is the relationship between the God of philosophy and the God of the Hebrew Bible? We'll consider two approaches to these questions-- that of Maimonides, for whom God is radically transcendent and unknowable, and that of Abraham Joshua Heschel, for whom God is thoroughly personal and concerned with human history. We'll bring these two thinkers into dynamic conversation.

What Does the Good Life Look Like?

Judaism and the Path of Hesed (Lovingkindness)

Identity & Responsibility, Text & Thought

In this session, we'll ask: what is Judaism's vision of the good life? What kind of human beings does Torah ask us to become? We'll explore the notion of "walking in God's ways" and the idea that a life of Hesed (lovingkindess) is the culmination of the spiritual life. Along the way, we'll consider the question: what is the relationship between emotions and actions according to Judaism?

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