May 21, 2024
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May 21, 2024
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Eliezer Berkovits: Theologian of the Jewish People

(Courtesy of Shalem Conference) An international conference will be held on September 11-12 in Jerusalem to mark the 30th yahrzeit of Harav Prof. Eliezer Berkovits, z”l, one of the most important Jewish philosophers of the 20th century.

Many have said that Rabbi Berkovits wrote of the central issues in Jewish contemporary life well ahead of his time. In recent years many young men and women have found his thought to be central for their practice and belief, and for their spiritual and intellectual growth in a world that has become more and more complex. His work is of critical importance for all those who seek clarity, depth and courage in the formulation of a contemporary Judaism that deals unflinchingly with the central issues that concern the Jewish people today

The conference will bring together significant figures in rabbinics, education and academia—in Israel, the United States and Australia—to discuss Rabbi Berkovits’s seminal thought. The conference will include Zoom and livestream broadcasts of the lectures in English. All those who register in the conference internet site will receive a link after the conference to the recordings of all the lectures in Hebrew and in English.

Rabbi Berkovits was born in Transylvania in 1908, and received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Y.Y. Weinberg at the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin in the early 1930s. In Berlin he served as rabbi of the Pestalozzi Street Synagogue, and received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Berlin. After escaping Germany in early 1939 with the manuscripts of his teachers’ responsa, Berkovits served as a communal rabbi in Leeds, England; Sydney, Australia; and Boston, U.S., before assuming the chair of the philosophy department at the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago in 1958. In 1975 Berkovits went to Jerusalem, where he lived and worked until his death in 1992.

Berkovits wrote many articles, and 19 books, which, while demonstrating an unflagging devotion to halacha, nevertheless reflected a sharp discontent with the inability of Orthodoxy to deal creatively in the spirit of Torah with the dramatic changes the Jewish people had undergone during his lifetime—especially with regard to the challenge that Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel represent for a dynamic concept of historic Judaism. His influential books include “God, Man and History,” “Not in Heaven: The Nature and Function of the Halacha,” “Man and God: Studies in Biblical Theology,” “Faith After the Holocaust,” “With God in Hell” and “Crisis and Faith.”

The conference will highlight these central areas of concern in Rabbi Berkovits’ creative work as they relate to the unique challenges that confront the Jewish people in a postmodern world:

The Hidden Face of God and the Gift of Human Freedom

The Divine Encounter, Halacha and the Use of Power in an Ethical Society

The Holocaust and the Collapse of Values in Contemporary Western Civilization

Depersonalization, Sexual Ethics and Creation in the Image of God

Mysticism—The Blessings and Dangers for the Post-modern Jew

The Jewish Woman—A Work of Art in Progress

Zionism and Messianic History—The Encounter Between Faith History and Power History

The Challenge of a Creative Halacha in a Jewish Sovereign State

What Is Jewish Philosophy and Why Is It Relevant in a Postmodern World

The Ethical Challenge of the Jewish People in the History of the Nations

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