Limmud Conference 2009

'God spoke once, I heard two (things)': Midrash and Other Radical Readings

Gilla Rosen

How do we relate to verses or mitzvot in the Torah which seem to contradict each other? Or multiple rabbinic interpretations? Is there one truth or one ideal halakhic answer? If so, can we find it? What is the inner coherence between the 'seventy faces of the Torah'? How does Midrash approach these problems? And can we even reconcile the different Midrashim that grapple with these questions? Texts in Hebrew and English translation.

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Aging in Jewish Texts 1: The Stages, Opportunities and Challenges of Growing Older

Daniel Goldfarb

Not only is the world getting older, but so are the people living in it. The increase in the number of people reaching 'the third age' raises opportunities and challenges, for these individuals, their families and society. We'll see the approaches of Jewish sources towards aging - idyllic and realistic, the advantages and disadvantages. Sources provided in Hebrew and English; no background necessary.

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An Impassioned Judaism

Jonathan Wittenberg

Looking for Values Justice and lovingkindness are among Judaism's supreme values. Are we failing them? What might living by them mean in the multi-faith Diaspora? Can Jews and Judaism really belong in the public square of other countries? What about justice and lovingkindness in Israel? Are they being swallowed up in the pressures of survival? Heartfelt struggles, and discussion.

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Ancient Limmud: tolerance of variety within Judaism in the ancient world

Martin Goodman

In the years just before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Jews such as Pharisees and Sadducees held more varied views about theology and practice than at any other time before the nineteenth century, but these Jews tolerated each other within the shared institution of the Temple. How exceptional in the history of Judaism was such tolerance?

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Bringing Religion Back to the Frontlines of Peace

Michael Melchior

Religion is very much on the frontline of every conflict of the 21st century. Is it possible to also bring religion to the frontline of the pursuit of peace? How can this best be achieved? For years, Michael Melchior has conducted open and secret talks with leading Muslims in Israel, the Palestinian territories and all over the Arab world. Come and find out if you share his conviction that inter-religious peace is the key to any regional political solution.

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Choosing Dayanim: An Insider's Experience

Sharon Shenhav

Having recently completed six years of serving as the only woman on the Israeli Commission to Appoint Dayanim, the speaker will describe some of the hilarious events as well as the more worrisome activities of this 10 member statutory commission, which is headed by the Minister of Justice and includes the two Chief Rabbis. During her tenure the commission was responsible for deciding on the fate of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi.

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Choosing Jews: Conversion in the 21st Century

Michael Melchior

Over the last year, the issue of conversion has rarely left the headlines both in Israel and in the UK. Michael Melchior, former Chairman of the Israeli Government's Ministerial Committee on Conversion, will provide a window into the halachic and political basis on which decisions regarding conversion have been made over the last forty years, and offer his ideas for the future.

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Cool Jew

Lisa Alcalay Klug

A fun romp across the contemporary Jewish cultural landscape. Includes musical samplings, slides, poignant personal anecdotes and humorous escapades fresh from the United States and the massive tour across North America that launched the best-selling humour book 'Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe' - a 250-page antidote for Jewish self-hatred!

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Don't bore us: Get to the chorus

Josh Nelson

Join multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Nelson and (re)discover the writer within you (or, improve the one that's already there). We'll explore what makes a song memorable and singable, and we'll examine the composing process from both Judaic and secular perspectives. Together, we will apply the principles we study and each leave the session with the beginnings of a new work!

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Exile as Redemption: The Secret of Jewish Survival

Chaim Seidler-Feller

Is exile a punishment or a gift? How do we explain Jewish survival when other, larger cultures faded from the historical scene. Through a variety of biblical, rabbinic, Hasidic and homiletic texts we will explore an alternative and innovative theological framework for understanding Jewish history. It will be argued that the experience of exile has had a determinative impact on the development of Judaism and that the concept of exile constitutes a distinctive Jewish contribution to civilization.

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God does not Exist -- God is Existence Itself

Jay Michaelson

Non-duality - the view that 'All is One' - is often thought of as an 'Eastern' religious idea. But it is also a Jewish one, though it does transform how we understand the nature of religion itself. Based on the new book 'Everything is God: The Radical Path of Non-dual Judaism', this session - including never-before-translated Hasidic texts - explores how non-duality transforms Jewish practice and what it means that God is reading this sentence.

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Is Your Self-Worth Defined By Your Net-Worth? Future Economics - A New Model

Simon Jacobson

From Aristotle to Calvin, Max Weber to Adam Smith and Karl Marx, philosophers and political scientists throughout history have tried to understand the meaning of money, its effects on a society, and how to build a co-existing community within the context of self-interest and financial competition. This session will analyze these conflicting systems and offer a third, revolutionary, economic model - based on Torah thought - which synthesizes the best of all approaches.

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Jews, Greeks & Romans: Why Chanukah?

Anthony Sheppard

Why should Jews today bother with 'Ancient History', especially about pagans? Why did King Antiochus of Syria launch a persecution of the Jews? Was this just the first anti-semitic pogrom, or something else? In this session I'll be looking at why Greek culture was an issue for Jews and how family conflicts among the Jewish aristocracy lead to Antiochus' persecution and the Maccabee revolt.

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Limmud Town Hall: 2020 Vision - What Next for the Jewish People?

Ariel Beery, Sharonah Fredrick, Robbie Gringras, Avraham Infeld, Richard Joel, Maureen Kendler, Clive Lawton, Arna Poupko Fisher, Gilla Rosen, David Saperstein, Bambi Sheleg and Yair Sheleg

In the last few generations the Jewish people have managed to establish a state, free Jews from oppression around the world, and even create Limmud! What's next? Come to the Limmud Town Hall to tell us what you think the Jews should be doing in the world over the next decade. Hear from some of your favourite Limmud presenters, Jewish leaders and thinkers from around the world and share your challenges, dreams and visions.

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Medieval Jewish Fascinations

Sharonah Fredrick

Geoffrey of Monmouth's medieval classic, History of the Kings of Britain, wove a fascinating and utterly fictional geneology of England that linked it to the kings of ancient Israel and of Troy. Rather than debate the historical veracity of such claims, we will focus on the purpose that such fictions served within the context of medieval English society.

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My East End

Bernard Kops

In this session Bernard Kops will reveal his East End heritage, where he was born into that endless fight against poverty, political struggle and prejudice. He will be reading from his books, recapturing those indelible days of hunger, soup kitchens and dreams.

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New Religious Roles for Women: Yoatzot Halacha

Chana Henkin and Yehuda Henkin

Yehuda and Chana Henkin have pioneered the new role of 'woman expert' in the laws of taharat hamishpacha. This session will examine the halachic underpinnings, need, and communal debate.

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Prayer and the Meditative Experience

Daniel Anderson

Prayer and meditation appear to be two quite distinct entities, with the former more associated with westernised religion and formalised rigidity, whilst the latter is seemingly more aligned with eastern practices, such as Buddhism, and perceived as looser and more spiritual by nature. In this session we will challenge this widely-held view by exploring the biblical origins of meditative practice to show that, in reality, it is deeply embedded within Jewish prayer.

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Predications of our demographic demise are somewhat premature: Discuss

David Graham

Jews in Britain are experiencing a period of unprecedented demographic change. In 2006 recorded Jewish births outnumbered deaths for the first time since records began. Whilst one part of the community is slowly contracting, another part is rapidly expanding. What are the figures? Can we expect these trends to continue, and if so for how long? And what are the implications for the future religious, social and economic makeup of the community?

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Shehechiyanu Ve'kiyamanu: Sustaining a Vibrant Jewish Future

Michael Melchior

Michael Melchior, former Minister for the Diaspora, has throughout his political career struggled with the most important global Jewish question: how to define the Jewishness of the State of Israel, and what its relationship should be to the rest of the Jewish People? For over a century, we have been preoccupied with survival and security; and quite rightly so. Michael now asks: What is the purpose of the Jewish nation?

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Taking Limmud Back Home - Don‘t Curb Their Enthusiasm: Motivation, From Theory to Practice

Limmud International Team and Raymond Simonson

There are over 3,000 highly motivated Limmud volunteers across the Limmud world, putting in many thousands of hours of effort into creating world-class Jewish learning events. How do we keep that motivation high when the going get's tough? What we can learn from the motivational theories of two Jews and a couple of Catholics - four of the 20th Century's leading social psychologists - as well as some Jewish sources? Come enthused, leave motivated!

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That Reminds Me of a Story - Together and Apart

Sharonah Fredrick, Robbie Gringras, Avraham Infeld, Richard Joel and Naomi Less

Healthier than chain smoking - chain storytelling! One story sets off the next in this unusual and creative session of storytelling for Jewish peoplehood. By the end of this session, will we feel more together or further apart?

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The Faith of a Heretic: The Tragedy of Elisha ben Abuyah

Daniel Reisel

What do we do when the reality we encounter doesn't match our theology? This was the predicament of the second century Rabbi Elisha ben Abuyah. Faced with the choice between living what he saw as a lie and rejecting everything he loved, Rabbi Elisha famously and irrevocably opted for the latter. A peculiarly modern-sounding Talmudic story of turmoil, passion and big ideas.

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The Fourth Revolution: An Historical Overview Of Spirituality

Simon Jacobson

With history as a backdrop, from the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution and the present computer and information revolution, this session will identify the fourth and final frontier: the spiritual revolution. Recognising this new era will help us discover forward-thinking measures that will not only stem the tide of resignation but introduce new vitality into our lives and institutions, carrying us through this new millennium and effecting global change.

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The Hardest Subject: Teaching about Evil and Suffering

Elliott Malamet

Why bad things happen to good people is a central preoccupation of many students and congregants. Everyone is touched by or knows of others who have suffered painful loss, but the drive to make sense of these events can unfortunately lead to simplified and distorted explanations. This session will examine how to teach theodicy from a variety of Jewish perspectives, and discuss why one should resist easy answers about this most complex subject.

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The Interface between Psychology and Religion

Leah Malamet

What is the nature of the interaction between religion and psychology? What is the line between piety and pathology? In what way can rituals become powerful vehicles for psychological expression? When does religious belief and behaviour represent deeper emotional conflict? A variety of clinical case materials will be examined. Theoretical understandings and therapeutic approaches to treatment will be discussed, including the use of religion to create resistance in the treatment itself.

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The Jewish Roots of Anglo-American Law and Politics

David Saperstein

Led by a rabbi/lawyer who works at the intersection of religion and politics and teaches both church-state and Jewish law, this session will draw on examples from 1066 to the present to examine those Jewish intellectual ideas, specific laws, and political ideologies that shaped Britain and America over the centuries. It will explore as well what the lasting impact of that influence has been.

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The Reduced Jewish Year Company

Clive Lawton

In this intensive, Clive will explore the rhythms of the Jewish year and its key contents. In the first of three sessions, we will look at the 'Three Foot festivals' as we all learnt to call them at cheder. In fact, the only one celebrated in a yard is Sukkot...

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The Seder: A Response to Crisis

Joshua Kulp

In 70 C.E. the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, and Jews faced the crisis of how to continue their celebration of Pesach without its central symbol. The Passover Seder was history's most successful response to this crisis. In this session we will explore the Seder's earliest texts and customs and their original meaning.

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The Tent, The Field, and the Battlefield: The Dynamic Face of Biblical Motherhood

Judy Klitsner

What do the infertile, tent-dwelling mothers of Genesis have in common with the military and spiritual leaders of the book of Judges? We will examine the stories of a range of biblical women, noting common themes as well as the striking literary inversions of matriarchal and patriarchal language and roles.

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The Whole of Creation in One Hour: the kabbalistic doctrine of Tzimtzum and its evolution

David Solomon

In this talk David Solomon outlines the most influential and original idea about the Creation in the past five hundred years of Jewish thought: Tzimtzum. He also demonstrates how the dynamic development of the revolutionary idea of Tzimtzum is reflected in the teachings of several major figures of kabbalistic thought.

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Three Akedot: Ishmael, Isaac, and Job's Children

Judy Klitsner

In three highly disturbing stories, God's servant is required to sacrifice his offspring. In this text-based session, we will explore such difficult issues as the suffering of the innocent and the acceptance of such injustices on the part of the 'God-fearing' servant.

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Who Are You: Id Or Yid? A New Psychological Model

Simon Jacobson

What is the driving force within each of us - selfishness or selflessness? Freud and Darwin are the primary authorities on the nature of modern man: 'Survival of the fittest' is the cardinal rule of all life, with superimposed rules to allow for coexistence. This session will reveal the surprising true father of modern psychology. Discover an alternative, upbeat view of the human psyche. Your expectations of yourself and others will never be the same.

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Your People Shall Be My People - What is the Big Theory of Jewish Peoplehood?

Yonatan Ariel and Jonathan Boyd

If much of the data is to be believed, the ties that bind Jews together are becoming increasingly unraveled and frayed. Links between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, between different denominations, between the political left and right, are all breaking down. Has the powerful idea of 'one people with one heart' become consigned to the dustbin of history? Can it be rebuilt and renewed? If so, what needs to be done?

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