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University Network Events: Fall Semester 2012

Wednesday, February 13 2013

University Network Events – Fall 2012


UPenn: “Sukkathon 2012” building competition – week of September 24th
This major campus-wide event was the brainchild of Campus Fellow Naomi Hachen, who challenged students from multiple denominations to face off in a friendly and educational building competition. On September 30th, she hosted a discussion for the Institute in which she explored how the simplicity of the halakhic requirements for a kosher sukkah allows for a great many social and cultural values to be expressed in the architectural form they ultimately take. Click HERE for the article in Philadelphia News.


American Hebrew Academy: Relating to Orthodoxy – 10/13 @ 1:00 pm
Sarah Chernys has really stepped up to the plate as our only Campus Fellow at a multi-denominational boarding high school! For her inaugural event, she used a recent issue of the Institute’s journal “Conversations” as a text around which to discuss perceptions of Orthodox Judaism from within and from without.

UMaryland: Rabbi Daniel Sperber on women and tefillah – Wed, 10/17 @ 6:30 pm
Guest speaker Rabbi Daniel Sperber put forth some searching perspectives on Partnership Minyanim, analyzing whether they are halakhically plausible and whether they are politically advisable. 40 students joined him in an interesting open-ended conversation.

Columbia: Sephardic Shabbaton – Fri, 10/19 @ 5:45 pm through dinner and beyond
Dozens of students gathered to model the diverse traditions of the Sphardic experience for friends and guests. The marathon event included Tefillah, food, in-depth discussions about halakhic approaches, and a talk by Raif Melhado, Director of the University Network and rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.


Dartmouth: Conversion: Then and Now – Sun, 11/4 @ 1:30 pm
This provocative discussion compared what the Torah and proponents of Rabbinic Judaism have said about how to convert to Judaism with the modern realities of political power plays between Israel and the Diaspora. How does the Israeli Rabbinate justify its harsh treatment of potential converts today?

York University: Rabbi Francis Nataf on the Akedah – Sun, 11/4 @ 8:30 pm
Renowned speaker and educator Rabbi Francis Nataf led a discussion with students about divergent narratives of the Akedah in parshanut. Exactly who was presented as the sacrifice, and what kind of halakhic tradeoffs might the different versions introduce?

McGill: Social Justice in an Increasingly Globalized World – Mon, 11/5 @ 5:30 pm
Rabbi Ari Weiss spoke about Uri L’tzedek’s groundbreaking work on the “Tav Hayosher” program, which certifies whether restaurants actually follow labor laws and uphold basic ethical standards in their treatment of employees.

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah: Pinchas Landau on religion & politics – Tue, 11/6 @ 1:45 pm
In honor of the American presidential election, Israeli economist and political observer Pinchas Landau compared the role of religion in Israeli politics – where religious parties are legal and numerous – to the United States, where it manifests in other ways. The lecture was attended by the entire yeshivah, whom he encouraged to challenge his views in a lively but friendly confrontation.

NYU: Pinchas Landau on Haredim in Israeli society – Wed, 11/7 @ 7:30 pm
Back in action, Pinchas Landau led a conversation on the contemporary and future implications of the Haredi community’s role in the Israeli economic, political, military, religious, and cultural spheres. The discussion focused both on the local Israeli situation and its implications for Modern Orthodoxy in America.

Yale: Uniformity and Diversity: Left-Handedness in Halakhah – Sun, 11/11 @ 6:00 pm
Students used the treatment of left-handedness in rabbinic sources to open up a wider conversation about attitudes towards diversity in the Jewish community. How might we react to those who don’t fit the expected mold? Is this affected by whether the nature of their situation is naturally occurring?

Binghamton: Jewish Particularism and Universalism – Tue, 11/13 @ 7:00 pm
Using the work of Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner, a group of 20 students grappled with the idea of “chosenness,” “or lagoyim” and other claims of Jewish particularism. What does it mean to be a unique civilization? Does this make us “different” or “better,” and how could this affect our attitude to others?

McGill: A Field Guide to Tanakh with Sarah Silverman – Tue, 11/13 @ 7:00 pm
Current student Sarah Silverman spoke candidly about what it’s like to study ecology as an observant Jew. What does the Torah teach us about natural history, zoology, and evolution? How might scientific methodology affect our interpretation of this?

Brandeis: Organ Donation and Brain Death in Jewish Law – Wed, 11/14 @ 8:00 pm
Robbie Berman is the founder and director of HODS – the Halakhic Organ Donor Society. Together with 20 students, he grappled with perspectives on organ donation and brain death in halakhic writings.

George Washington: Being a Modern Jew on Campus – Wed, 11/14 @ 8:00 pm
A dozen students gathered for a friendly dinner and discussion about what it can mean to be an observant Jew on a secular campus. Participants loved having a safe place to speak their mind and hear different takes from their peers.

UPenn: Shabbat Dinner and discussion – Fri, 11/17 @ 6:00 pm
A group of 20 students who were involved in Sukkathon 2012 reunited to process their experience over a friendly Shabbat meal. Building a Sukkah can be an opportunity to introduce new meaning to an old tradition, and people shared what this was like for them and how the experience compared to their expectations.

York: Shabbat Dinner with Rabbi Daniel Korobkin – Fri, 11/16 @ 5:00 pm
Rabbi Korobkin is the senior Rabbi of Beth Avraham Yosef Congregation, the largest Orthodox kehillah in Canada. Taking some time off from the hurly-burly of a large pulpit, he spent Shabbat with 20 students to discuss the complex moral and theological questions raised in Parashat Toledot.

UChicago: Midwestern Regional Conference – Fri, 11/16 and Sat, 11/17
In a student-planned conference with 50 participants, visiting scholar Rabbi David Flatto led several interactive talks and seminars on topics ranging from Rambam’s views of institutionalized prayer, to a comparison of the conception of Sabbath in the three Abrahamic faiths. Participants came from all across the Chicago area, including UChicago, Northwestern, UIC, and Oakton Community College.

Cornell: Haburah conversation about mehitsah – Sat, 11/17 @ 11:30 am
Campus Fellow Peninah Feldman noticed that many students expressed discomfort with the mehitsah in their prayer space, so she held an open-ended discussion about it using a responsum of Rav Moshe Feinstein as a springboard. Participants enjoyed discussing ways to balance a variety of stakeholders in a communal decision.

Brandeis: Morals and Ethics of the Israeli Defense Forces – Sun, 11/18 @ 11:00 am
Rabbi Benny Pflanzer served as operations officer for the IDF officer-training program and won a Medal of Honor for his actions in the Second Lebanon War. Now in the trenches of the world of Jewish education, he looked back on the ethical challenges of his past military life with about 40 students.

Queens College: The Future of Orthodox Judaism – Wed, 11/21 @ 6:30 pm
What are the big, thorny issues facing contemporary Orthodox Judaism today? Where might they shift in future years? Students gathered over a meal to have an informal discussion of what looms ahead in their eyes.

McGill: Nadav Slovin on Jewish Existentialism – Tue, 11/27 @ 7:00 pm
In a student-led, Bet Midrash style setting, current student Nadav Slovin taught a class on existentialism and radical freedom within the Jewish tradition. The rich subject matter was lightened by a convivial atmosphere and delicious food!

Queens College: The Shiddukh Crisis – Wed, 11/28 @ 6:30 pm
It often happens that discussing an issue without resolving it can be more revealing than actually fixing the problem! In the second of a series, students came together over an informal meal and chatted about the issues facing those entering the dating and marriage world, including a judgmental culture that leaves eligible people without a mate.

UM, Baltimore County: Response to the Demise of Evildoers – Ths, 11/29 @ 1:00 pm
Rabbi Darren Levin hosted a friendly conversation with students about the Torah’s response to when evildoers get their comeuppance. Do we celebrate? Must we feel sad, happy, or ambivalent?


University of Chicago: Hanukkah and the Apocrypha - Sun, 12/02 @8:00 pm
Rabbi Hayyim Angel was guest lecturer at this fascinating program in which participants explored the history and meaning of Hanukkah,as reflected in the Apocrypha and traditional rabbinic sources.

YU: Bad to the Bone: The Evil Inclination in Rabbinic Thought – Mon, 12/03 @ 8:00 pm
Four of our Campus Fellows at YU and Stern teamed up for an invigorating conversation about the yetser hara and its long and storied history in our textual tradition. What value might we get by personifying our desire to do bad? Are there risks that we could externalize it and thereby lose an opportunity for growth?

UM, Baltimore County: Will the Real Miracle Please Stand Up? – Tue, 12/04 @ 1:00 pm
Back in action again, Rabbi Darren Levin got students talking about what the “real” miracle of Hanukkah might be – the oil or the military victory of the Jews. What implications might this have for the moral and theological statements of Hanukkah?

Queens College: Equality and Egalitarianism in Judaism – Ths, 12/06 @ 6:30 pm
The final installment of Steven Levine’s dinner series. Students discussed whether Judaism has clearly defined gender roles, the credibility of proposals to change them, and the concepts motivating the push for egalitarianism. What might we do within an Orthodox context in light of these ideas?

American Hebrew Academy: Hogwarts Halakhah – Sat, 12/08 @ 2:00 pm
Campus Fellow Sarah Chernys led a very creative seminar for 20 students that used a prominent icon of pop culture as a way to engage her peers in a serious discussion about rabbinic attitudes to magic and superstition.

NYU: Modern Orthodoxy in 20 Years – 12/10 @ 4:45 pm
Remembering the fight between Jews and Greek culture is a good opportunity to take the current pulse of what Orthodox Judaism represents today. 20 student leaders met in the Kosher Cafeteria to discuss their thoughts on current trends and their hopes for the future.

GW: The Menorah as an example to the community – 12/12 @ 8:00 am
Following a rousing Shaharit and breakfast, the morning minyan crowd explored the Menorah as a parable of being an example to the community. What special responsibilities might we have when people we don’t know can put a label on “what we represent” just by looking at us?

McGill: Should Jews Air Our Dirty Laundry – Sat, 12/15 @ 1:30 pm
With scandals in the community frequently in the news, students devoted a Shabbat lunch to the question of how public we’d like to make our embarrassments. How can we differentiate between genuine discretion and base cover-ups? When is there a public right to know something? What about Hillul Hashem?


Binghamton: Mishmar learning – every other Thursday @ 9:00 pm
Student-led shiurim on diverse topics that addressed an expansive range of approaches. Classes by students and for students, with yummy cholent to boot!

Boston: Parashah learning – Mondays and Thursdays after Shaharit
Rain or shine, students gathered over bagels and juice to discuss how an ancient text like the Torah can speak to a rich set of questions and problems that we face in the contemporary world.

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah: Haburah on Keter Shem Tob – Mo thru Th @ 1:45 pm
Daily study of the Shemtob Gaguine’s “Keter Shem Tob,” an ethnographic and halakhic masterpiece of expansive intellectual horizons. Classes, translations, and more can be found at www.ketershemtob.com