The Scholars Series and Global Outreach

Valley Beth Shalom Honors Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis On the Occasion of his 80th Birthday

The HMS Institute Scholars Series A Conversation of the Learned: “How Have I Changed? — How Has Judaism Changed?”

The Inaugural Program of The Harold M. Schulweis Institute: A Center for Jewish Learning

To celebrate this special moment, Valley Beth Shalom invited four of the most important Jewish teachers of our generation, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, Rabbi David Hartman, and Rabbi David Ellenson, as visiting scholars to share in an extended public conversation with Rabbi Schulweis to discuss, in their own personal terms, “How Have I Changed? — How Has Judaism Changed?” This is now a unique opportunity for you to learn from each of these leaders.

The participants in this Symposium represented the scholars and leaders who are the agents of changes that are founded on the basis of Jewish tradition. They are among the dreamers and visionaries who move the world. Sharing these dreams at this Symposium made this inaugural celebratory program an extraordinary event not to be missed.

The public program consisted of a series of symposia, held at Valley Beth Shalom on three consecutive evenings. Each of the rabbis also engaged in an interactive Question and Answer session moderated by Rabbi Ed Feinstein.

March 30, 2005 – Rabbi Harold S. Kushner
March 31, 2005 – Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg and Rabbi David Hartman
April 1, 2005 – Rabbi David Ellenson

On March 31 Rabbi Edward Feinstein, senior rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom, hosted a Yom Iyun (A day of intense study) for all rabbis in the community, faculties and rabbinical students from the three rabbinical schools in Los Angeles: the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, University of Judaism, Rabbi Bradley Artson, Dean; the School of Rabbinic Studies, Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Richard N. Levy, Director; and The Academy for Jewish Religion/California, Rabbi Stephen Robbins, President. Conducted by Rabbi Feinstein, this was a unique experience of learning, conversation, and collegial celebration at Valley Beth Shalom.

The Proceedings of the Symposium will be transcribed in anticipation of its publication following the Symposium. This will be a unique opportunity to record the thoughts and interactions of five of the most influential teachers in Jewish life in this generation.

To compliment this great lecture series, please enjoy reading these excerpts from some of their books as selected by Rabbi Ed Feinstein and Rabbi Josh Hoffman. These writings represent the principal philosophies of these scholars. Reading references are also recommended and are now found at the end of each of their respective biographies.

Rabbi Harold Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in the Boston suburb of Natick, Massachusetts, after serving that congregation for twenty-four years. He is best known as the author of WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE, an international best seller first published in 1981. The book has been translated into fourteen languages and was recently selected by members of the Book of the Month Club as one of the ten most influential books of recent years.

He has also written WHEN ALL YOU’VE EVER WANTED ISN’T ENOUGH, which was awarded the Christopher Medal for its contribution to the exaltation of the human spirit. In 1995, Rabbi Kushner was honored by the Christophers, a Roman Catholic organization, as one of fifty people who have made the world a better place in the last fifty years. His other books include WHEN CHILDREN ASK ABOUT GOD, WHO NEEDS GOD, TO LIFE, and a 1996 best-seller HOW GOOD DO WE HAVE TO BE?. With novelist Chaim Potok (z”l), he is co-author of the new Conservative commentary on the Torah, ETZ HAYIM, which has been enthusiastically received by hundreds of congregations since its publication in the fall of 2001. His book, LIVING A LIFE THAT MATTERS was a best seller in the fall of 2001 as well. His most recent book, a 2003 publication, is THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, a meditation on the 23rd Psalm.

Rabbi Kushner was born in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from Columbia University. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1960 and awarded a doctoral degree in Bible by the Seminary in 1972. He has six honorary doctorates, has studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and taught at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, and at the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary. For fours years, he edited the magazine CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM. In 1999, the national organization, Religion in American Life honored him as their clergyman of the year.

Books by Rabbi Kushner:

When Children ask about God : A Guide for Parents Who Don’t Always Have All the Answers (Schocken, 1995)

When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Anchor, 2004)

The Lord is My Shepard (Anchor, 2004)

When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough – The Search for a Life That Matters (Fireside, 2002)

How Good Do We Have To Be? (Back Bay Books, 1997)

Who Needs God? (Fireside, 2002)

Living A Life That Matters (Anchor, 2002)

To Life! The Celebration Of Jewish Being and Thinking (Warner Books, 1994)

Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg is the President of Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation. JLN’s mission is to create new institutions and initiatives to enrich the inner life (religious, cultural, institutional) of American Jewry. Alongside Michael Steinhardt and his son, JJ Greenberg, zichrono livracha, he played a founders role in the JLN initiated partnerships which include such major projects as birthright israel which gives the gift of a ten day educational first trip to Israel to Jews, 18-26 years old, worldwide, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) which offers seed money and expertise to create new day schools, and MAKOR (now Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd Street Y) which reaches out to Jews in their 20′s and 30′s through cutting edge music, arts and Jewish educational programs. Greenberg also served as Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 2000-2002. He has written extensively on the theory and practice of pluralism and on the theology of Jewish-Christian relations.

An ordained Orthodox rabbi, a Harvard Ph.D. and scholar, Rabbi Greenberg has been a seminal thinker in confronting the Holocaust as an historical transforming event and Israel as the Jewish assumption of power and the beginning of a third era in Jewish history. In the book, Interpreters of Judaism in the Late Twentieth Century, Professor Steven T. Katz wrote, “No Jewish thinker has had a greater impact on the American Jewish community in the last two decades than Irving (Yitz) Greenberg.” Rabbi Greenberg has published numerous articles and monographs on Jewish thought and religion, including The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays (1988), a philosophy of Judaism based on an analysis of the Sabbath and holidays, Living in the Image of God: Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World, (1998) and For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter between Judaism and Christianity (2004).

From 1974 through 1997, he served as founding President of CLAL – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a pioneering institution in the development of adult and leadership education in the Jewish community and the leading organization in intra-Jewish dialogue and the work of Jewish unity. Before CLAL was founded, he served as Rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center, as Associate Professor of History at Yeshiva University, and as founder, chairman and Professor in the Department of Jewish Studies of City College of the City University of New York.

Books by Rabbi Greenberg:

For The Sake Of Heaven And Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism And Christianity (Jewish Publication Society, 2004)

The Jewish Way : Living the Holidays (Touchstone, 1993)

Living in the Image of God : Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World : Conversations with Rabbi Irving Greenberg with Shalom Freedman (Jason Aronson, 1998)

Prof. Rabbi David Hartman, Founder and Director of the Shalom Hartman Institute, is a philosopher of contemporary Judaism and an internationally renowned Jewish author.

Born in 1931 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, David Hartman attended Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and the Lubavitch Yeshiva. In 1953, having studied with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, he received his rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He continued to study with Rabbi Soloveitchik until 1960, while pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy with Robert C. Pollock at Fordham University. From his teacher Rabbi Soloveitchik, David learned that the practice of Judaism can be integrated with a deep respect for knowledge regardless of its source. From Professor Pollock he learned to joyfully celebrate the variety of spiritual rhythms present in the American experience.

After serving as a congregational rabbi in the Bronx, New York, from 1955-1960, David Hartman became Rabbi of Congregation Tiferet Beit David Jerusalem in Montreal, where he had a profound influence on the lives of many of his congregants, some of whom followed him to Israel when he moved there in 1971. While in Montreal, he also taught and studied at McGill University and received his Ph.D. in philosophy.

In 1971, Prof. Hartman immigrated to Israel with his wife Barbara and their five children, a move which he viewed as an essential part of his mission to encourage a greater understanding between Jews of diverse affiliations – both in Israel and the Diaspora – and to help build a more pluralistic and tolerant Israeli society. It is with this unique vision that David Hartman founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in 1976, dedicating it to the name of his father. At the institute, Prof. Hartman leads a team of research scholars in the study and teaching of classical Jewish sources and contemporary issues of Israeli society and Jewish life. His work emphasizes the centrality of the rebirth of the State of Israel – the challenge as well as the opportunities it offers to contemporary Judaism. His teachings draw upon the tradition of Orthodox Judaism and emphasize religious pluralism, both among Jews and in interfaith relations.

Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he taught for over two decades, David Hartman was also visiting Professor of Jewish Thought at the University of California at Berkeley during 1986/7 and at the University of California at Los Angeles during 1997/8. His involvement goes beyond the academic fields, in which he has published extensively, and his influence has also been felt in Israel’s political and educational arenas: from 1977-84, he served as an advisor to Zevulun Hammer, former Israeli Minister of Education, and he has been advisor to a number of Israeli prime ministers on the subject of religious pluralism in Israel and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.

David Hartman’s publications in Jewish philosophy have received wide recognition and become standard references in academic scholarship. He was awarded the National Jewish Book Award in 1977 for Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest (Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1976) and in 1986 for the recently reissued A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism (Jewish Light Publishing, Vermont, 1997). In 1993, the Hebrew translation of A Living Covenant From Sinai to Zion (Am Oved Publishers) was awarded the Leah Goldberg Prize. A Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices Within Judaism was published by Jewish Lights Publishing in 1999. Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: an Ancient People Debating Its Future was published by Yale University Press, 2000, Love and Terror in the God Encounter: the Theological Legacy of Joseph B. Soloveitchik was published by Jewish Lights 2001. The Hebrew translation of Israelis and the Jewish Tradition – Moreshet B’Machloket was published by Schocken Publishing House, 2002.

Professor Rabbi Hartman was awarded the AVI CHAI Prize in the year 2000 and on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Shalom Hartman Institute he was awarded the Guardian of Jerusalem Prize. He was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Yale University in May 2003. In 2004 David Hartman received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College and was awarded the Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Books by Rabbi Hartman:

A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism (Jewish Lights, 1998)

Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest (Jewish Publication Society, 1976)

A Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices Within Judaism (Jewish Lights, 1999)

Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: An Ancient People Debating Its Future (The Terry Lectures Series)
(Yale Univ Press, 2000)

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought, is a distinguished rabbi, scholar, and leader of the Reform Movement, internationally recognized for his publications and research in the areas of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history. Rabbi Ellenson received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1981 and holds M.A. degrees from Columbia University, HUC-JIR, and the University of Virginia. He received his B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1969.

He is a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem and a Fellow and Lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Rabbi Ellenson has published and lectured extensively on diverse topics in modern Jewish history, ethics, and thought. He is the author of Tradition in Transition: Orthodoxy, Halakhah and the Boundaries of Modern Jewish Identity (1989), Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy (1990) (nominated for the National Jewish Book Council’s Award for outstanding book in Jewish History, 1990), and Between Tradition and Culture: The Dialectics of Jewish Religion and Identity in the Modern World (1994). After Emancipation:Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity, a collection of his essays, has been published by Hebrew Union College Press (2004).

Dr. Ellenson’s work describes the writings of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist leaders in Europe, the United States, and Israel during the last two centuries and employs a sociological approach to illuminate the history and development of modern Jewish religious denominationalism. His application of this method has allowed him to emphasize the interplay between Jewish religious tradition and modern society in unique ways, and has prompted him to write and lecture on diverse topics, including early Reform and Orthodoxy in 19th century Germany, conversion to Judaism at the beginning of the 1900s, and the problems of medical ethics in present-day America. His academic lectures have been delivered at such institutions as Charles University in Prague, Ben Gurion and Bar Ilan Universities in Israel, Haverford College, Harvard University, Yale University, Brown University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1947, Rabbi Ellenson was raised in Newport News, Virginia. He is married to Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, who was ordained at HUC-JIR/New York in 1983. They are the parents of Ruth (married to Robert Guffey Ellenson), Micah, Hannah, Naomi, and Raphael.

Books by Rabbi Ellenson:

After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses To Modernity (Hebrew Union College Press, 2004)

Tradition in Transition (Rowen & Littlefield, 1989).

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis is one of the best-known pulpit rabbis in America, serving as Rabbi at Congregation Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California. He combined a Talmudic education at Yeshiva College with graduate studies in modern philosophical and theological thought at New York University, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Pacific School of Religion, from which he received his Th.D. in theology. He has lectured in philosophy and theology at CCNY, the University of Judaism and Hebrew Union College.

Rabbi Schulweis has been instrumental in the development of synagogue programs such as the Synagogue Havurah Program (since adopted nationally), Para-professional Counseling Center, Para-Rabbinics and Jews-by-Choice, Outreach to the Developmentally Disabled (Shaare Tikvah and Chaverim), the VBS Day School, as well as addressing the issues of Jewish education and interfaith dialogue. He is the founding Chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that identifies and offers grants to those non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews threatened by the agents of Nazi savagery. After the revelation of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, he recently founded the Jewish World Watch project to raise the moral consciousness within the Synagogue community. Synagogues and other religious institutions are now supporting this effort across the country.

Rabbi Schulweis has authored many books, including: Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion (Prentice-Hall), For Those Who Can’t Believe (Harper Collins), Finding Each Other in Judaism, In God’s Mirror, and two books of original religious poetry and meditation: From Birth to Immortality and Passages in Poetry. Currently, he is completing a book entitled Godliness (Jewish Lights). His Evil and the Morality of God (Hebrew Union College Press) is regarded as a classic.

He and his wife Malkah Schulweis are the proud parents of Seth and Kathleen, Ethan and Cindy and Alissa and Peter. They are blessed with nine grandchildren, the lights of their lives.

A partial listing of other honors and awards bestowed upon Rabbi Schulweis include:

  • The Beautiful People Award for Outstanding Community Service, 1999
  • Simon Greenberg Award for Distinguished Leadership, 1999
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Pacific School of Religion, 1998
  • Crown of the Good Name Award, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, 1994
  • Martin Buber Award, American Friends of Hebrew University, 1992
  • Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1991
  • Human Relations Award, San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council Committee, 1991
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, University of Judaism, 1983
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, Jewish Theological Seminary, 1975
  • Israel Prime Minister’s Medal, 1975
  • United Synagogue Social Actions Award, 1965
  • Invitation to tour West Germany from Federal Republic of Germany, 1965

Books by Rabbi Schulweis:

For Those Who Can’t Believe: Overcoming the Obstacles to Faith (Perennial, 1995)

Finding Each Other in Judaism: Meditations on the Rites of Passage from Birth to Immortality (URJ Press, 2001)

In God’s Mirror (KTAV, 1990, 2004)

Evil and the Morality of God (Jewish perspectives) (KTAV, 1984)

Rabbi Ed Feinstein is Senior Rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California. He serves on the faculty of the Ziegler Rabbinical School of the University of Judaism, the Wexner Heritage Foundation, the Whizen Center for the Jewish Family, and the Synagogue 2000 initiative. He is a columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and lectures widely across the United States. His book, Tough Questions Jews Ask – A Young Adult’s Guide to Building a Jewish Life, published by Jewish Lights in 2003, was one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Books on Religion for Young Readers and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His stories have been published in a number of anthologies, including Sacred Intentions and Restful Reflections, both edited by Kerry Olitzky and Lori Forman.

In 1982 Rabbi Feinstein became the founding director of the Solomon Schechter Academy of Dallas, Texas, building the school’s enrollment from 40 to over 500 in eight years, and winning national recognition as center of educational excellence. In 1990, he assumed the directorship of Camp Ramah in California, the largest Jewish camp and conference center in the Western United States. He came to Valley Beth Shalom in 1993 at the invitation of the renowned Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis.

Rabbi Feinstein was raised in the back of his parents’ bakery on the frontiers of the West San Fernando Valley. He graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Judaism, Columbia University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained in 1981.

Rabbi Feinstein lives in the epicenter of the San Fernando Valley with his wife Rabbi Nina Bieber Feinstein. Nina was the second woman ordained by the Conservative Movement. The Feinsteins are blessed with three teenage children.

Every Friday afternoon, Ed bakes brownies from a recipe revealed to his ancestors at Mount Sinai.

Books by Rabbi Feinstein:

Tough Questions Jews Ask, A Young Adult’s Guide to Building a Jewish Life (Jewish Lights, 2003)