Koach’s New Educational Series
By Gilana Levavi, Class of 2018
Rutgers Hillel Blogger of the Semester, Spring 2015
This semester, Koach, the Conservative/Traditional-Egalitarian religious community within Hillel, has undertaken a new initiative: a series of learning sessions with a variety of local scholars from Conservative Jewish backgrounds.
The series began in early February with a shiur (class/participatory lecture) given by Cantor Larry Brandspiegel of Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor, father of Koach Co-Chair Sami Brandspiegel. Cantor Brandspiegel spoke about hidden patterns found in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). He had participants count letters in passages from Tanakh to reveal other words and messages spelled out. No definitive explanation of these patterns was given; instead, students were encouraged to think for themselves whether these patterns represent simply coincidence, or something deeper about the divinity of the text.
Next, Rabbi Danny Nevins, Dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School, came to speak about Brit Shalom. Brit Shalom was a political organization founded in 1925 with the goal of creating a bi-national State of Israel in which people of Jewish and Arab cultures could live peacefully side-by-side under one government, interacting with and learning about the other culture, yet with each group maintaining cultural autonomy. Though this experiment ultimately failed, I found the ideas behind it really interesting, and I found it productive to ponder whether there is anything we can borrow from this idea to put to use in the present day.
Last week, Rabbi Jerry Zelizer of Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen came and taught about the complex topic of violence in the Bible. One of the attendees, Steve Gotlib ’18, said, “Rabbi Zelizer’s shiur taught about how the portrayal of G-d by the Jews evolved from G-d being seen as the most powerful of warriors, to a pacifist due to the context of the time. It gave a new perspective on the Jewish religion and how it can grow and change as time flows onward.”
The Koach Presents series offers terrific opportunities to learn from a variety of scholars about an array of topics, in an intimate and friendly setting, while enjoying delicious free food. Students of all religious backgrounds and affiliations are invited to come partake in the learning together, and perhaps broaden their horizons by learning about a topic or perspective with which they are less familiar. We hope you’ll come to the next installment of the Koach Presents series, next Wednesday, April 29! Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El of South Orange will be teaching about “The Jewish Call To Do Social Justice”. Click here for more information.
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