212.595.0307
37 West 65th Street, 5th Floor | New York, NY 10023

Join the Drisha Network

Sign Up Now

Jack Flamholz Memorial Yom Iyun

About the Yom Iyun        Schedule          RSVP          About Jack Flamholz, z”l

Judaism in America: Intersecting Values and Identities

Sunday, November 12, 10am-4pm

Please join for a day of learning in memory of Jack Flamholz, z”l. The program, moderated by David Silber, will consist of two major lectures, by Dr. Rivka Schwartz (SAR High School) and Dr. Bernard Steinberg (Director Emeritus, Harvard Hillel), each followed by learning workshops led by educators, scholars, and communal leaders.
Click here to read “On Citizens and Soda Cans,” a piece written by Rivka Schwartz for The Jewish Week.

SCHEDULE:
10am – Welcome – David Silber and Avi Flamholz

10:30am – Dr. Rivka Schwartz on “Dirshu Et Shalom HaIr Asher Hegleti Etchem Shama: On American Jews and American Citizenship”

11:45am – Choice of Workshops (click on the title for workshop description)
~Miriam Gedwiser (Drisha) on The Rule of Law: Promises and Pitfalls?
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

~Shira Hecht-Koller (Drisha) on Esther, Ruth, and the Insider/Outsider Jew
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

~Raphael Magarik (UC Berkeley) on “You didn’t build that”: On Thanksgiving
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

~Yoni Pomeranz (Stanford) on Humans and Animals in Tanach
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

12:30 – Lunch will be provided

1:30pm – Dr. Bernard Steinberg on “Jewish and American Ethos During Tumultuous Times: Complementary and Conflicting Visions of Human Dignity and Worth”

Click here for the source sheet.

2:45pm – Choice of Workshops (click on the title for workshop description)
~Shira Billet (Princeton) on Jewish Philosophical Perceptions of Gentiles in (Early) Modern Europe
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

~Aaron Koller (Yeshiva University) on Hebrew and Jewish Identity in America
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

~Jason Rubenstein (Hadar) on Separation of Shul and State: Torah Study as an Alternative to Theocracy
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

~Sarah Zager (Yale) on Mushrooms and Lullabies: The Public/Private Divide in Rabbinic Sources
          Click here to listen to the podcast. Click here for the source sheet.

3:30 – Conclusion 

 

WORKSHOP DESCRIPTIONS:
Shira Billet (Princeton) on Jewish Philosophical Perceptions of Gentiles in (Early) Modern Europe
Modern Jewish Philosophers in Europe experienced Gentiles as enlightened intellectual colleagues, in some contexts, and as anti-Jewish antagonists in other contexts. They were often prompted — both by friends and adversaries — to apologize for their religion in non-Jewish contexts. They also often found themselves in the role of defending non-Jews to their fellow Jews. In this workshop, we will explore modern Jewish philosophical perceptions of Gentiles in the 18th and 19th centuries, in Europe. In particular, we will focus on debates about the meaning of  “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” and concerning the question of whether and to what extent Gentiles have a “portion in the world to come.” We will look both at internal Jewish debates, as well as Jewish-Christian debates, concerning these matters.

Miriam Gedwiser (Drisha) on The Rule of Law: Promises and Pitfalls?
The United States is often said to aspire to a government of law, not of men.  A government of law is supposed to hold citizens, including government actors, accountable for legal violations and provide predictable, stable, and generally applicable results.  Yet the desirability of the rule of law also depends on the justice of the underlying law itself.  We will explore these ideas through rabbinic texts about the administration and mis-administration of justice in both Jewish and other courts.

Shira Hecht-Koller (Drisha) on Esther, Ruth, and the Insider/Outsider Jew
Jewish American or American Jew? Issues of dual identities and conflicted loyalties have long been a part of Jewish life. Can one be a Jew and a Persian? What about a Moabite and a Judean? A close reading of passages from the books of Esther and Ruth will show that these stories struggle with these issues as well. The authors used literary allusions and other techniques to dramatize the identity conflicts latent in the lives of the central characters. Can these women serve as models for us in the modern world?

Aaron Koller (Yeshiva University) on Hebrew and Jewish Identity in America
How can we build and ensure a robust Jewish culture outside of the political framework of a state? If we want to build a community that is not just backwards-looking, but one that draws on a past, constructs a joint present, and builds toward a richer future, a shared language is crucial. Can Hebrew serve this purpose? We will look at the question of Hebrew as a cultural – rather than a sacred – language in modern thought, and then discuss some failures of Hebrew in America, and possibilities for the future.

Raphael Magarik (UC Berkeley) on “You didn’t build that”: On Thanksgiving
America has given many of us tremendous gifts. But receiving gifts can be tricky. They come wrapped in all sorts of feelings: gratitude, sure, but also guilt, obligation, unworthiness, embarrassment. And that’s especially so when our gift may have been given at someone else’s expense. We’ll look at biblical and rabbinic texts processing the ancient Israelites’ conquest of Canaan (and perhaps a little modern social theory), asking: How exactly do we balance experiencing American history as a gift and as a tragedy? What would a morally mature theology of gifts and gratitude look like?

Yoni Pomeranz (Stanford) on Humans and Animals in Tanach
How can Jewish texts inform our contemporary political lives? One value of studying Torah is exposure to a world that is fundamentally different from our own. Although that world lacks some of our moral concerns (e.g. the Torah allows for the sale of humans), it is also attuned to ethical concerns that are absent from most American political discourse. By studying Torah we can, therefore, expand our  moral universes. We’ll use the passages that source critics attribute to P and see how these passages construct the relationships between humans and animals. We will see how P conceives of the relationship between humans and animals, and the extent to which animals have personhood. We’ll ask what ideas and social institutions tend to accompany the conception of humans and animals as fundamentally similar beings.

Jason Rubenstein (Hadar) on Separation of Shul and State: Torah Study as an Alternative to Theocracy
Is the Torah’s ideal government a theocracy, or something else? If the answer is “something else”, is the Torah still a blueprint for an ideal society? And if the Torah isn’t a blueprint for an ideal society, then what does it mean to study it – and to live lives informed by it? We’ll take up these questions through carefully reading the most important document of Jewish political theory – Rabbi Nissim of Gerona’s 11th sermon.

Sarah Zager (Yale) on Mushrooms and Lullabies: The Public/Private Divide in Rabbinic Sources
The American political system relies on a clear distinction between public and private spheres:  our duties as citizens often require us to put aside our particular social cultural, and familial loyalties. Together we will consider the relationship between public leadership roles and experiences in the family as presented in rabbinic sources. We will explore why chaza”l made caring for children a requisite for serving as a judge, legal witness, and prayer leader on a fast day.

 

RSVP:


ABOUT JACK FLAMHOLZ, Z”L:
(Dec. 15-1949-Oct.1, 2016)
Jack Flamholz moved to Teaneck, New Jersey, in June of 1994. A born and bred Brooklyn boy, he graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a Bachelors and Masters in Physics, from the Polytechnic Institute of New York.

As the “Winds of Change” affected us all, the call for Physicists diminished, and “cutting edge Geeks” were in high demand. Jack changed with the times and went on to work at Ma Bell, and her progeny, Nynex and Verizon. He excelled in his trade and won the Nynex Technical Excellence Award in 1992, and the Verizon Excellence Award in 2004.

Verizon sent him to Columbia University for a Masters in Computer Sciences, and in 1990-1994, he conceived, designed and led the development of “MAX” (a loop- maintenance expert system).  Jack was required to hire Anthropologists, Speech Therapists, and Psychologists to create the Max Program. It was one of the first Artificial Intelligence programs of its kind…. and the beginning of Machine Learning. If there was a dire emergency anywhere in the United States, a person could call 411 and the computer could “hear” in the person’s words the crisis at hand, and respond accordingly. The machine was able to teach itself, from within the program, how to deal with a totally new situation. The computer could be soothing, directional, comforting, and emotive, depending on the Caller’s voice. Today MAX is used across the USA and the World in many different facilities.

In his private life, Jack Flamholz was an avid learner. Every book or article he read captured his imagination; he was a True Renaissance Man. In his last years, he designated for himself 3 projects to pursue.

  1. A Water Sustainability Project to start small at the Hawthorne Elementary School and the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. Once credible, the project was to slowly expand throughout Bergen County. Click here and here to read about it.
  1. A Computer generated Torah that closely followed the Sofer’s rules. Each page would fit beautifully on its section of the parchment. All the empty spaces between the words would disappear to create a symmetric claf. It would be the ideal Scribe’s guide for his manual work.
  1. Flamholz, a physicist and computer scientist, also had a strong interest in Jewish American history. He had delved into the writings of 14 th century Talmudic scholar Rabbi Nissim of Gerona, whose “Drashot HaRan” discussed the factors that allowed Jews to prosper in medieval Italy and Spain( specifically chapter 11). Mr. Flamholz was comparing Chapter 11 to the Federalist Papers, looking for similarities in the writings of the American founding fathers.

The latter topic inspired Drisha and the Luchfeld- Flamholz family to organize a Yom Iyun in his memory. The prime intent is to prepare the participants for critical and thankful table discussion on Thanksgiving.