Intellectual Debates Abound at Reform Scholar-in-Residence Weekend

Historian David Ruderman gives four area lectures in April. (Provided)

Rabbi David Ruderman, a Jewish history scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, will be presenting a series of four lectures at area Reform synagogues in April, delving into historical debates that influenced Jewish intellectual thought and also resonate today.

The Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies Scholar-in-Residence Weekend is set for April 20-22 at Temple Oheb Shalom, Bolton Street Synagogue, Har Sinai Congregation and Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Lectures explore tradition vs. modernity, worship vs. study, faith vs. reason and what Israel stands for.

“Dr. David Ruderman is a respected historian,” said Rabbi Andrew Busch of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. “He has a wonderful ability to take what would seem to be academic insights and make them accessible and meaningful to anyone who is interested or in attendance. We are thankful to be able to bring someone of his caliber to teach our congregations.”

The series begins with “Debate: Tradition vs. Modernity,” a discussion of Abraham Geiger of Reform Judaism and Samson Raphael Hirsch of Neo-Orthodoxy on Friday, April 20, at 6:15 p.m. at Temple Oheb Shalom. For more information, call 410-358-0105.

On Saturday, April 21, at 11 a.m., Ruderman presents “Debate: Worship vs. Study” at Bolton Street Synagogue. The subjects include the Baal Shem Tov of Hasidism and the Gaon Elijah of Vilna. For more information, call 410-235-5354.

“Debate: Faith vs. Reason” is set for Saturday, April 21, at 5:30 p.m. at Har Sinai Congregation. Twentieth-century thinkers Mordechai Kaplan and Abraham Joshua Heschel will be discussed. For more information, call 410-654-9393.

The series wraps up Sunday, April 22 at 9:30 a.m. at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation addressing Zionist-thinkers Achad Ha-Am, Jacob Klatzkin and Louis Brandeis and their visions of a Jewish state. For more information, call 410-764-1587.

“The figures I treat stand out in my courses for the quality of their thinking about Jewish identity and their impact on those who came after them,” Ruderman said. “In debate and rigorous exchange we often learn to appreciate a higher insight or truth through these engagements. To paraphrase the rabbis: ‘These and these [both opposing positions] are the words of the living God.’”

Rabbi Steven M. Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom was first acquainted with Ruderman’s scholarship in 1978, when his teacher at Hebrew Union College suggested he study Rabbi Avraham Farisol for his rabbinic thesis. Ruderman had recently published the only work on Farisol.

“The members of our morning minyan had been watching lectures that Dr. Ruderman had recorded and were very impressed with him,” Fink said. “They urged us to bring him to Baltimore. I am sure that he will shine a brilliant light upon whatever subjects he lectures.”


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