The word limmud
is Hebrew for learning, it's also the name of an annual event - The Limmud Festival
of Jewish Learning. Now in its third year, organizers have put together a weekend of activities at the Asper Jewish Community
Campus in Winnipeg. It offers the opportunity to learn about Jewish culture through films, lectures, workshops and discussions.
of the international presenters is Rabbi Steven Greenberg from
Cincinnati. Rabbi Greenberg is the author of Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition
. He came out in 1999, 16 years after his ordination.SCENE
wanted to know what was on Rabbi Greenberg's reading pile.
"The God Who Hates Lies"by David Hartman (Jewish Lights)
I typically have three or four books that I am reading at the same time.
I will begin with David Hartman who sadly passed away a month ago. He was among the most influential philosopher-rabbis of our generation, a thoughtful leader and broad educator who drew students from every stream of Jewish life.
His spiritual depth alongside his unflinching honesty, attracted many Christian theologians and university professors to the institute he built in his father's name in Jerusalem, the Shalom Hartman Institute.
Of the four books on my desk now, Hartman's book spoke the most to my soul challenging Orthodox Judaism to abandon its fear of the modern condition. He calls us to resist the temptation to choose a frozen eternality over a God intoxicated vitality rooted within the tradition, but still fully engaged with the human realities of the present.
The Misunderstood Jew
"The Misunderstood Jew" by Amy Jill Levine (HarperCollins)
I began reading because the author Amy Jill Levine is a friend and a marvelous scholar of early Christianity.
Her book is about the Jewishness of Jesus and the failures of both the historic church and the Jewish community to move beyond the political one-up-manships, to acknowledge the historic anti-semitism of the church toward Jews and Judaism, and to recover the the messages of the Christian Gospels in ways that while different, can be meaningful to both Christians and Jews.
Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind" (Vintage)
Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind
is about how human beings come to moral convictions. Blending the research of anthropologists, historians and psychologists he explains the foundations of moral thinking being grounded much less in reason, and much more in the gut, what he calls "moral intuition" than we might ordinarily suppose.
Haidt employs marvelous research that demonstrates how liberals in western democracies typically navigate moral issues with the single frame of harm/care and how conservatives and almost everyone in the third world employ a more varied palette of sensibilities including fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion and sanctity/degradation.
Lastly, I visited the White House last month with a contingent of clergy to press for more thoughtful action on gun violence. Following that visit I began to educate myself on the issues surrounding the fact that 33 people a day are killed by guns in America.
The Culture of Fear
Barry Glassner's "The Culture of Fear" (Basic Books)
by Barry Glassner helped me to understand how the gun lobbies are not really fighting for an historic American freedom to bear arms, but for the naked profit of the gun manufacturers.
Overblown fear is a uniquely American product of television, journalism and political lobbying that manufacture the dangers that sell the guns, and then in turn, causes the violence that justifies buying more guns.
So, from Jewish philosophy, to the Jewish Jesus, from an anthropology of ethics to the specific ethical and political challenge of gun violence in the US, my month has been a busy one. Rabbi Steven Greenberg will be featured at the Limmud Festival on Sunday March 3 at 9 a.m., 4:00 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. See the festival website for details.
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