Category Archives: Discussion Guide

Settled & Unsettled

January 21, 2014

1. What animates recent trends that find people leaving clear career trajectories for a hopscotch career that includes shorter interval jobs with less security and advancement?
2. How might we use liminal space — the doorways and gateways of Judaism — as a neutral zone for developing more fully as indi-viduals and organizations? What might those doorways look like? And what would they offer us?
3. Jews are often considered a “wandering people.” Is that true today? How does statehood, a sovereign national home for the Jewish people, change the notion of wandering?
4. What does the Jewish holiday cycle teach us about certainty, vulnerability, and being settled and unsettled?
More »

China, Israel and Judaism

December 1, 2013

How does a growing trade relationship between Israel and China serve both countries as well as the United States?  Why are the Chinese so enamored of Jews and Jewish tradition? What complicates that interest? How do “memory” and “truth” link the two civilizations? Is there a role for China to play in the Middle East? More »

Empathy and Individualism

November 1, 2013

Does our sense of ethics come from within — as the voice of conscience — or is it a social convention and contract? What might be the impact of our government withdrawing its social welfare reach and making room for individual choices?  Could private schools funded by scholarships do a better job than the public school More »

Holiness and the Kotel

October 1, 2013

Discussion Guide

1. What endows a site, whether a wall or a ruin, with holiness? And when does it become dangerous to endow a physical space, perhaps especially a contested one, with spiritual qualities? Is the Wall the closest Jews have to, say, the Vatican, or the Mormon Temple? Are such comparisons uncomfortable, relevant, or beside the point?
2. What does holiness mean for you? Do places inspire such feelings? Have you experienced the Wall as a place of holiness and, if so, why?
3. How does using the Kotel for rituals such as “military swearing-in ceremonies” complicate the fragile relationship between the sacred and the profane? Does it endow military activities with the aura of “holy war”?
4. Can you envision Jerusalem as the shared capital of two states — Israel and Palestine?
5. Should women be permitted to pray at the Kotel with tallitot and a Torah? What complicates this discussion?
More »

Sin

August 1, 2013

Is sin a religiously helpful cate- gory or does it simply engender too much guilt? What is the relationship between sin and repentance? What are some of the most egre- gious Jewish sins today? Has sin become a “Christian” concept — and does that create a barrier to Jewish thinking about such behavior?

Guns and Jews

July 1, 2013

Why has the “loophole” in current gun laws remained on the books? How might you bring a talmudic explication to the Second Amendement, the right to bear arms? Do you know anyone who owns a gun? How do you feel when you’re in that person’s house? Would you let them bring the gun into your More »

Israel: Status Quo?

June 2, 2013

1. How do you understand David Ben-Gurion’s original notion of “status quo,” and what is its legacy?

2. What is the argument about demographic trends and the future of democracy in Israel? How does a broader discussion of “status quo” impact the future of a Jewish and a democratic state?

3. What is the relationship, if any, between Israel’s cultural efflorescence — in food, wine, film, fiction, etc. — and a sense of political stagnation?

4. What will Israel look like — culturally, religiously, geopolitically, economically, and otherwise — if the political status quo is sustained for another 10, 20, or 50 years?

5. How does change take root in a society that situates itself both as a bulwark of tradition and at the cusp of innovation? What might remain static, and what must change? More »

Covenants

May 1, 2013

1. How do you understand the concept of covenant in your personal spiritual life? And, what is the content of “covenant” in your self-understanding as a Jew? How has this changed over time?

2. Does the concept of covenant have any role to play in a non-theistic Jewish spirituality?

3. Have you ever broken a covenant? How was that experience different than breaking a “promise”? How is a covenant different from a contract?

4. God makes a covenant with Noah never again to destroy the earth through flooding. How do we understand that covenant today? How does it speak to Jews and to a greater humanity?

5. Is the idea of covenant as “kol yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh” (“All Israel is responsible one for the other”) still viable? Can the idea of covenant, predicated in mutuality and responsibility, survive in an emerging era of individualism and self-interest? Is the concept of covenant still relevant to contemporary Jewish theology? Why/not? More »

Leaders by Choice

April 3, 2013

Jews by choice create their Jewish identity, for the most part, as adults. Will the increasing visibility of community leaders who have chosen Judaism — and who have a different relationship to ethnicity, history, and practice — influence contemporary Jewish life? How do Jews by choice integrate their own cultural religious history into their Jewish More »