Rabbi Leo Baeck: Living a Religious Imperative in Troubled Times
Michael A. Meyer's new biography of Leo Baeck affirms Baeck's place in history as a courageous community leader and as one of the most significant Jewish religious thinkers of the twentieth century, comparable to such better-known figures as Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Meyer will discuss his new book with David Ellenson, Chancellor Emeritus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.
About the Book
Rabbi, educator, intellectual, and community leader, Leo Baeck (1873–1956) was one of the most important Jewish figures of prewar Germany. The publication of his 1905 Das Wesen des Judentums (The Essence of Judaism) established him as a major voice for liberal Judaism. He served as a chaplain to the German army during the First World War and in the years following, resisting the call of political Zionism, he expressed his commitment to the belief in a vibrant place for Jews in a new Germany. This hope was dashed with the rise of Nazism, and from 1933 on, and continuing even after his deportation to Theresienstadt, he worked tirelessly in his capacity as a leader of the German Jewish community to offer his coreligionists whatever practical, intellectual, and spiritual support remained possible. While others after the war worked to rebuild German Jewish life from the ashes, a disillusioned Baeck pronounced the effort misguided and spent the rest of his life in England. Yet his name is perhaps best-known today from the Leo Baeck Institutes in New York, London, Berlin, and Jerusalem dedicated to the preservation of the cultural heritage of German-speaking Jewry.
According to Meyer, to understand Baeck fully, one must probe not only his thought and public activity but also his personality. Generally described as gentle and kind, he could also be combative when necessary, and a streak of puritanism and an outsized veneration for martyrdom ran through his psychological makeup. Drawing on a broad variety of sources, some coming to light only in recent years, but especially turning to Baeck's own writings, Meyer presents a complex and nuanced image of one of the most noteworthy personalities in the Jewish history of our age.
Michael A. Meyer is the Adolph S. Ochs Professor of Jewish History Emeritus, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati. Meyer is the author of more than 200 articles and reviews as well as numerous books, including Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism.
David Ellenson is Chancellor Emeritus and I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). He served as president of HUC-JIR for 12 years, from 2001–2013. He is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem and a fellow and lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His extensive publications include Tradition in Transition, Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy, Between Tradition and Culture, and After Emancipation (a National Jewish Book Award winner).
New Works Wednesdays – The Lamps of Albarracin” with Edith Scott Saavedra
In our extended New Works Wednesdays series, we explore new fictions works. In this part of the series, Edith Scott Saavedra discusses her new work The Lamps of Albarracin.
Historical fiction author Edith Scott Saavedra explores her journey to bring alive the culture and history of Sephardic Aragon and true stories of resistance to the Spanish Inquisition by giving voice to women and girls. Inspired by traditions passed down from mother to daughter for generations, the author would discover in the historical records episodes of resistance long suppressed by the monarchy and church in Spain, write a historical novel in English and Spanish editions, and set out to bring this content to students in Spain and the United States.
"The Lamps of Albarracín" is a fictional first-person narrative by a Sephardic girl that recounts the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition into the Kingdom of Aragon in the 1480s. It is based on extensive review of Spanish Inquisition testimony and historical research. The novel gives voice to the diverse peoples of late-medieval Aragon – Jews, Muslims, Christians and persons of mixed heritage, with a focus on women and true stories of tolerance and courage. It also celebrates the rich culture and traditions of multicultural Aragon in the years prior to the Expulsion of the Jews.
Edith Scott Saavedra earned her BA and JD degrees from Harvard University. She has had a distinguished career as an international lawyer, business consultant and nonfiction author. The Lamps of Albarracín/Los Candiles de Albarracín, her first novel, has received media attention throughout the Spanish speaking world, including Radio Sefarad Madrid, Sefarad.es, eSefarad, Libertad Digital, Radio Aragón, Semanario Hebreo and Radio Las 2 Orillas Bogotá.
For more about the book: https://www.amazon.com/Lamps-Albarracin-Edith-Scott-Saavedra/dp/1724787519/
New York Ladino Day 2021: Adelantre / Onward!
Join us for ASF’s 4th Annual Ladino Day created by Jane Mushabac and Bryan Kirschen.
You’ll hear Ruth Azaria, actor Hank Azaria’s mother, speak about growing up with Ladino; Rabbi Nissim Elnecavé on expressions we love; Ladino students on learning the language; renowned writer Myriam Moscona; the premiere of a contemporary short play; and celebrated singer Daphna Mor.
Ladino is a bridge to many cultures. It is a variety of Spanish that has absorbed words from Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic, French, Greek, and Portuguese. The mother tongue of Jews in the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, Ladino became the home language of Sephardim worldwide. While the number of Ladino speakers has sharply declined, distinguished Ladino Day programs like ours celebrate and preserve a vibrant language and heritage. These programs are, as Aviya Kushner wrote in the Forward last January, “Why Ladino Will Rise Again.”
Since 2013, International Ladino Day programs have been held around the world to honor the Ladino language, also known as Judeo-Spanish. January 10th marks New York’s 4th Annual Ladino Day created by Drs. Jane Mushabac and Bryan Kirschen for the American Sephardi Federation.
The Rich Cultural Heritage of Bukharan Jews
On the heels of our 2-part session about the multifaceted history of Bukharian Jews, we invite you to join us for a deeper dive into the rich and dynamic culture of this millenia-old community. Join us as we explore the musical, literary, and culinary heritage of Bukharian Jews—discovering the ways in which they have developed their mosaic culture through a dynamic interaction with the dominant and changing societies surrounding them. Our discussion will take us on a journey to Central Asia, the Land of Israel, the United States, and beyond.
Born in Uzbekistan, raised in Seattle, and currently based in New York City, Ruben Shimonov is a Jewish educator, community builder, social entrepreneur and artist with a passion for Jewish diversity and pluralism. He previously served as Director of Community Engagement & Education at Queens College Hillel—where he had, within his vast portfolio, the unique role of cultivating Sephardic & Mizrahi student life on campus. Currently, he is the Founding Executive Director of the Sephardic Mizrahi Q Network—a grassroots movement building a supportive, vibrant and much-needed community for LGBTQ+ Sephardic & Mizrahi Jews. He also serves as Vice-President of Education & Community Engagement on the Young Leadership Board of the American Sephardi Federation, as well as Director of Educational Experiences & Programming for the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee. Within both organizations, Ruben has used his artistry in Arabic, Hebrew & Persian calligraphy to enhance Muslim-Jewish dialogue and relationship building. In 2018, Ruben was listed among The Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” young Jewish community leaders and changemakers. He has lectured extensively on the histories and cultures of various Sephardic & Mizrahi communities. He is also an alumnus of the COJECO Blueprint and Nahum Goldmann Fellowships for his work in Jewish social innovation.
Modern Russia and the Putin System – Live on Zoom
Join us for a discussion of the political system of modern Russia and its significance to the world by Russian politician and economist Grigory Yavlinsky. Yavlinksy will address the history of how and why Russia came to be as it is now, the current Russian political system and how it works, and the future of autocracy in Russia. After his lecture, Yavlinsky will be joined by YIVO's Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Brent for a conversation around these issues and audience Q&A.
This lecture is dedicated to Jonathan Brent.
Grigory Yavlinsky is a Russian politician and economist. A proponent of market-oriented reforms under Gorbachev, Yavlinsky has been a key figure of the liberal democratic opposition as a leader of political party ‘Yabloko’ for which he was the member of the Russian Parliament and the 2018 presidential candidate. His books include The Putin System. An Opposing View (Columbia, 2019); Realeconomik: The Hidden Cause of the Great Recession (Yale, 2011); Incentive and Institutions: The Transition to a Market Economy in Russia (Princeton, 2000); 500 Days: Transition to the Market Economy (St. Martin, 1991). He is a professor at the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” in Moscow.