Last night, the Program in Jewish Studies at CU launched their MoVeRs Program with “Smashing the Idols” at the UMC on the CU campus. There seemed to be consensus that the evening program was, indeed, a “smash”.
The program, presented as a 60’s style “teach-in”, was well-attended by five or six dozen people representing a wide spectrum — CU students to seniors, secular to religious, even Jewish and non-Jewish alike. The eight presenters were also a wide spectrum: four rabbis representing Chabad, Modern Orthodox, Reform and Renewal streams; an academic, an activist, our local ADL Director, and an Israeli journalist.
The evening began with an introduction by Menorah’s Kathryn Bernheimer, who explained the origin of this year’s MoVeR’s program, summed up in two words: “Jewish Radicals”. This concept, first floated by Ms. Bernheimer to Professor David Schneer, head of CU’s Jewish Studies program last spring, developed into MoVeRs: Jewish Mavericks, Visionaries and Rebels. She called to the audience’s attention the incredible record of Jewish achievement over the last 5,000 years, quite out of proportion to our numbers in the general world population.
Rabbi Josh Rose, of Congregation Har HaShem, then discussed the theme of the night: “Smashing the Idols”. Rose recapped the Genesis episode wherein Abram/Abraham smashes all the idols in his father’s store, filling out the story with some of the more adult themes that were not taught to us in Sunday School. The main theme to be taken into the teach-in portion of the night was to see if we could be jolted out of our established, comfortable routine patterns of thought through exposure to some different points of view — to see if any of our accepted truths could be knocked down and “smashed” by facing another person’s set of truths.
BJCC Community Concierge Racheli Stanley then introduced the presenters:
- Elissa Barrett, Executive Director for the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) in Los Angeles.
- Gavriel Goldfeder, Rabbi at Congregation Aish Kodesh, Boulder
- Victor Gross, Rabbi from Boulder’s Pardes Levavot, a Jewish Renewal Congregation.
- Orly Halpern is a Jewish American Israeli war correspondent.
- Josh Rose is the Rabbi at Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder.
- David Shneer, Director of the Program in Jewish Studies & Associate Professor of History at CU-Boulder.
- Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm, Rabbi and founder of the University of Colorado’s Chabad Jewish Student Center.
- Amy Stein, Boulder Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The presenters then split up into different parts of the room and taught two twenty-five minute classes to self-selected groups of no more than 15 attendees (the “teach-in” part of the evening).
This writer sat in on Ms. Barrett’s and Ms. Halpern’s classes (since they were each from out of town). Ms. Barrett proved to be an Idol Smasher by demonstrating through her Progressive Jewish Alliance that by engaging young, enthusiastic Jews in the basic Jewish pursuits of social and economic justice in their local communities, their connections to Judaism can be nurtured and strengthened by acting Jewish out of conviction, rather than by affiliation. Ms. Barrett commented that she has seen the spiritual side of her group’s members similarly strengthened by the realization that Jewish values can be pursued in concrete ways that have positive effects in their own communities (“it is not somewhere in the heavens that someone must go up and bring it down to you; it is here…”).
Ms. Halpern, who was born in Israel and grew up in the US, returned to Israel after high school to serve in the IDF. She was just in time to serve during the first Intifada, and it was during her experience supporting an infantry unit in the West Bank that she began to see things in a broader context. When she went to university after the army, she studied Arabic in a broader Middle Eastern Studies program, and became a journalist. Her background and studies led her to cover stories in the West Bank and Gaza, interviewing many Palestinian politicians and members of the “street” for Haaretz and later the Jerusalem Post. She was the only Israeli journalist to cover Hamas politicians in the West Bank at the time of the January, 2006 elections, and was much in demand by other media as a result. Her experiences in the territories, as well as a year covering the war in Iraq led to her smashing the idol that every Arab individually and collectively hates every Jew individually and collectively, and that the reality in the Middle East is much more nuanced than most people give credit for.
Since I was not able to hear the other six teachers, I invite readers who were there (or the teachers themselves) to submit their impressions to the BJN as comments to this article or posts so that our readers can get an even fuller impression of the night’s activities.
Professor Schneer wrapped up the evening and teased us with descriptions of the next MoVeRs events. The entire schedule can be found at www.jewishmovers.org, along with the ability to register and ensure your place (some of the upcoming venues are of limited size).
MoVerRs is such a broad community based program that the BJN has assigned a category just for this program – From the main menu just under our logo, click on Events, then MoVeRs to see all news about this series of programs. You can bookmark http://boulderjewishnews.org/category/events/movers to see the latest news about the program.
MoVeRs is made possible with support from Rose Community Foundation, SCFD, and the Goldberger Fund for Jewish Culture at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is sponsored by: Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, Boulder JCC, ADL, Pardes Levavot, Menorah, Soul Food, Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Hadassah, Hillel – University of Colorado, Nevei Kodesh, Jewish Mosaic and Congregation Har HaShem.
Correction: When this story was originally posted, we incorrectly referred to Kathryn Bernheimer from Menorah, who introduced the program. It has been corrected and the BJN regrets the error.