Over Twenty-seven Years of Learning Together. These are the names of scholars who’ve participated at Aitz Hayim:
Rabbi Amitai Adler, Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler, Professor Stephen Asma, Rabbi Elan Babchuck, Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appel, Meron Benvenisti, Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Robert Bloom, Ron Brauner, Joel Braunold, Rabbi Herbert Bronstein, Ellen Cannon, Shoshana Cardin, Joel Carp, Aaron Cohen, Avram Cohen, Robert Cohen, Irwin Corey, Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Anita Diamant, Abba Eban z’l, Gerard Edery, Yitzhak Eitan, Rabbi Ayalon Eliach, Rachel Elior, Albert Erez, Walter Eytanz’l, Leonard Fein, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Hertzel Fishman, Aaron Freeman, Neal Gabler, Jack Gabriel, Yoram Getzler, Neil Gilman, Rabbi Shefa Gold, J.J. Goldberg, Calvin Goldsheider, Hersh Goodman, Rosalee Grad, Rabbi Joel Grishaver, Professor Rachel Gross, Professor Baruch Halpern, Rabbi David Hartman, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, Dr. Judith Heilizer, Lee Meyerhoff Hendler, Susannah Heschel, Rabbi Lizzi Heydeman, Larry Hoffman, Barry Holtz, Bethamie Horowitz, Mayor Ron Huldai, Raphael Israeli, Vicky Judits, Professor Steven T. Katz, Michael Koplow, Michael Kotzin, David Kraemer, Rabbi Irwin Kula, Yehuda Kurtzer, Rabbi Benay Lappe, Rabbi Tsafi Lev, Howard Levy, Hal Linden, Nati Lior, Seth Lipsky, Shaul Magid, Tamar Manassah, John McCormick, Martin Ben Moreh, Rabbi Deborah Dash Moore, Steven Nasitir, Joan Nathan, Shalom Paul, Kalyan Pathak, Jane Peppler, Peter Pitzele, Nathaniel Popper, Moshe Ram, Harold Ramis z’l, Raven Theater, Rabbi Jack Riemer, David Roet, Guy Rolnick, Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, David Roskies, Ruth Rothstein, Dale Schatz, Peninnah Schram, Alice Shalvi, Rami Shapiro, Ari Shavit, Leah Silverstein, Sidney Sorkin, Corinne Stavish, Lynn Sweet, Rabbi Joseph Tabachnick,z’l, Craig Taubman, Jay Tcath, Itai Tennenbaum, Professor Alvin Tillery, Jeff Veidlinger, Arthur Waskow, Richard Wexler,
Congressman Robert Wexler, Ron Wolfson, Rabbi Carl Wolkin, Tom Wood, David Wysnicka, Aharon Yaariv,z’l, Naom Zion.
Some are Rabbis, some are professors and some are leaders of think tanks. But there is also a cookbook author, a film maker, a film critic, musicians, politicians from the U.S. and Israel, journalists, Israeli army officers, storytellers, a hospital administrator, a seventies sitcom star, and a comedian. They are the reflectors and the shapers of Jewish culture today, and, like the culture itself, they are diverse, they speak in many media and they don’t stand still. Neither do we. As is tradition, we learn from text. Yet we know that text in the 21st century includes singing, dancing, literature, art and popular entertainment.
We understand that the more we know—about multiple Jewish traditions, perspectives, practices and culture—the more we can become the authors of our own Judaism. We also understand that by learning together, we create a community of shared understanding.
And so we create an intimate learning environment over Shabbat, holidays and other occasions. We don’t just listen—we ask questions and enter into dialogue.
Many of our scholars come back year after year, such as Professor Steven Katz, who is in the seventh year of a history series that began with Ezra, included the rise of Christianity & Islam and has just concluded the rise of Mysticism and the dispersal of Spanish Jewry. Or Rabbi Donniel Hartman who identifies models of Jewish behavior and practice Rabbi Jack Riemer, the rabbi’s rabbi whose homiletic words form poetry, Rabbi Ed Feinstein’s brilliant wit while introducing us to modern Jewish thinkers. Or Joel Grishaver, who integrates education for adults and children. Or Rabbi Irwin Kula who brings a post-modern rabbinic perspective as we consider the questions that shape our community—what do we bless, what do we eat, what do we notice and how do we act.
Other scholars come only once and leave behind a custom, a melody, a question or a reference that we can use again and again. Film critic Neal Gabler left us a lens through which we can see profound Jewish influence on modern American culture; Joan Nathan shared much more than her favorite recipes and traditional methods of cooking; Congressman Robert Wexler provided an insider’s view of Congress while Jewish Forward editors Seth Lipsky and J.J. Goldberg told of challenges facing Jewish journalism on the national stage. When Neil Gilman asked us what really happened at Sinai, he left us with a question we continually apply as we envision moments of commitment throughout our lives.