Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas

The Jewish Studies Initiative offers classes and special events in and around Dallas. We envision a community enriched by deep, pluralistic Jewish wisdom, passionately studied by Jews and disseminated among people of many faiths.

The Jewish Studies Initiative (JSI), a non-synagogue-based organization, passionately presents the pluralistic richness and spiritual depths of Judaism through regular, professionally-taught classes, special programs and individual study sessions offered to Jews and people of many faiths throughout the Greater Dallas area. Our focus is on the sacred texts of the Jewish tradition, which we study with love and passion, but also unapologetically, as we endeavor to unlock their message for modern man. Our perspective is multi-paradigmatic and nuanced, and yet traditional, embracing the insight of our sages that ‘these and those may both be the words of the living God’. We welcome all Jews and non Jews as well to join our classes, listen to our audio files, read our Torah essays, invite us to teach in new venues, or simply to contact us and engage in a Jewish dialogue.

Mission: Our mission includes: Deepening commitment to Judaism through study of its traditional texts; Enhancing the unity of the Jewish people by building bridges connecting Jews of different denominations; Enriching lives and society by making the Torah’s wisdom broadly available; Bringing people of different religions together in mutual understanding and respect by engaging in deep interfaith dialogue.

friendsofroots.net

Help sustain our work — Friends of Roots

Mourning Jointly, Mourning Separately:
Join us for a Roots panel discussion on the eve of Israel's Memorial Day

This coming Monday night Israel will begin the 24 hour commemoration of Memorial Day, during which the citizens of the country and many Jews around the world mourn the loss of the combatants and civilians who gave their lives for the freedom and security of Israel.

In Israel almost everyone knows someone who was killed by the enemy or knows someone who has lost someone dear to them at the hands of the enemy. The day is somber and serious. Places of entertainment are closed, the siren sounds for two minutes of silence. During normal times, the military cemeteries are filled with grieving families and friends, and memorial ceremonies take place around the country and are broadcast over the airways.

It goes without saying that we are mourning our dead, those who fought to protect us.

And then about 15 years ago was born the idea of a joint Israeli Palestinian Memorial day ceremony which would remember and honor the dead on both sides. It began small and remained in the shadows. Over the years it has grown and become better known, and has even found itself in the headlines.

For many, it is seen as an unpatriotic, fringe event orchestrated and attended by people outside of the mainstream who through their participation dishonor the memory of the fallen. For others, it is a deep expression of the highest values of humanity, pointing the way towards a shared future of peace, empathy and reconciliation.

Last year approximately 10,000 people participated and it was the second largest memorial day ceremony in the country. This year it will take place remotely and even more are expected to tune in.

While Roots takes no official position, many Roots activists are strong supporters of the joint ceremony … and many are not.

Join us over Zoom this Sunday April 26 for a panel discussion of this very sensitive subject. There will be three speakers:
Shaul Judelman, Roots Israeli co-director
Aliza Shapiro, clinical social worker and Roots activist
Hanan Schlesinger, Roots director of international relations

We will begin at 10:30 am in Los Angeles /1:30 pm in New York / 8:30 pm in Jerusalem. Time will be provided for Q and A at the end. The event will last for 75-90 minutes. Register by sending an email to [email protected] with a one-line explanation of who you are.

There is no formal charge for this program. However we would greatly appreciate a contribution to Roots to help tide us over during this very difficult period. Please go to our website to make a payPal donation! https://www.friendsofroots.net/donate

friendsofroots.net If you are thinking of donating, please also consider making a recurring monthly contribution. Monthly contributions provide long-term security and stability which allows Roots to continue planning and developing for the future.

friendsofroots.net

Help sustain our work — Friends of Roots

Dear Friends,
Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom haShoah), will be observed both by the State of Israel and by synagogues and Jews around the world this coming week, from Monday night April 20th at nightfall until nightfall on Tuesday night April 21.

The memory of the Holocaust plays a significant role in the fraught relationship between Israeli Jews and Palestinians and it is undoubtably a factor in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It is part therefore of the 'painful' hope of Roots/Shorashim/Judur to delve into what the Holocaust means not only for Jews but for Palestinians as well. (Roots/Shorashim/Judur is the Israeli Palestinian grassroots initiative for understanding, nonviolence and transformation that I helped to found 6 years ago)

For this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day, Roots will be conducting a Zoom program in which three Palestinians connected to Roots, two Muslims and one Christian, will talk about their perspectives on the Holocaust. They will discuss their own relationship to the Holocaust, their community’s relationship to the Holocaust, and the role that they see the Holocaust playing in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The subject and the speakers will be introduced by myself and I will moderate as well. Time for Q and A will be provided at the end.

The program will take place on Monday April 20th at 8:30pm Israel time/ 1:30pm New York time/10:30am Los Angeles time. The program will last for approximately 75-90 minutes.

There is no formal charge for this program. However we would greatly appreciate a contribution to Roots to help tide us over during this very difficult period. Please go to our website to make a payPal donation! https://www.friendsofroots.net/donate

If you are interested in joining us, please send me an email or a Facebook message or What’s App message to: [email protected] / +972-55-883-1068.

friendsofroots.net If you are thinking of donating, please also consider making a recurring monthly contribution. Monthly contributions provide long-term security and stability which allows Roots to continue planning and developing for the future.

[04/10/20]   On Sunday, April 12, 10:00 AM New York time, 9:00 AM Texas time and 5:00 PM Israel time, Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger will be offering a Zoom class-lesson entitled: "From a Passover of Alienation to a Passover of Empathy".
To join him, write him an email at [email protected] or message him on Facebook and he will send you the Zoom link (and the source sheet).
(This is a repeat of the same class that he gave a few days ago. There were many many more participants than expected and there were many people who told us that they had wanted to participate but were unable. So now there is a second chance.
We are looking forward to seeing you!
Please feel free to spread the word.

myjewishlearning.com

Recalibrating – It’s Not Only About Us! | My Jewish Learning

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/rabbis-without-borders/recalibrating-its-not-only-about-us/

myjewishlearning.com For decades I have taught that Jews live with a double identity. On the one hand we are B’nai Adam, ...

A Land for All ארץ לכולם بلاد للجميع

We were honored to speak in front of our friends of the Temple Emunah Lexington and B'nai Jeshurun NYC congregations earlier this week.

We had a great time talking to these crowds of people that really want to see a change in the Land of Israel / Palestine. Thank you for this opportunity!

We would also like to thank our friends from Roots-Shorashim-Judur, Rav Hanan Schlesinger and Shadi Abu Awwad, who we joined for these talks.

Gili Rei Karin Loevy Friends of Roots

Photo credit: Gili Getz

spsnyc.org

SHORASHIM-JUDUR-ROOTS: A PALESTINIAN/ISRAELI INITIATIVE FOR UNDERSTANDING, NONVIOLENCE, AND TRANSFORMATION | Sutton Place Synagogue

New York, New Haven Long Island:
Roots November 2018 USA speaking tour
Mr. Shadi Abu Awwad and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger

Thursday Nov 1
1 pm
Keating Hall Third
Fordham University Peace and Justice Studies Program
Rose Hill, Bronx
Muli Peleg - [email protected]

Thursday Nov 1
8pm
Sutton Place Synagogue
225 East 51st Street, New York, NY 10022
https://spsnyc.org/shorashim-judur-roots-a-palestinian-israeli-initiative-for-understanding-nonviolence-and-transformation/
Harriet Janover - [email protected] 212.593.3300 X102
Friday Nov 2
2 pm
Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University – Yale Hillel
80 Wall St. New Haven, CT, 06511
Yotam Wolk - [email protected]

Saturday Nov 3
Devar Tora by Hanan shabat morning during services; main event after kidush
Congregation Beth El - Keser Israel
85 Harrison Street, New Haven, CT 06515
Steven Fraade - 203-535-7440 [email protected]

Sunday Nov 4
10 am to 12 pm for the Brunch and Learn
Huntington Jewish Center
510 Park Avenue
Huntington, NY (Long Island)
Rabbi Ari Saks
[email protected]
(631) 427-1089 Ext. 10
Nili Gitig [email protected]

spsnyc.org As part the annual Stanley Kahn Memorial lecture, SPS will present a compelling dialogue between Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger an Orthodox rabbi who is a passionate Zionist Settler and Shadi Abu Awwad, the grandson, son, and nephew of Palestinians that were at the helm of the First Intifada.

Rabbis Without Borders

My most recent blog post!

"This piece may anger many people because it challenges some of our most deeply held beliefs about our own goodness. It is always hardest to see our own fallacies, especially when we have built the edifice of our own self-understanding upon them. At times, too much is at stake to evaluate ourselves fairly…"

Rav Hanan Schlesinger

myjewishlearning.com

From Shoe Boxes to Pandora’s Boxes | My Jewish Learning

myjewishlearning.com Many years ago I heard a parable about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that I later repeated many times over ...

Intractable

Intractable is a new podcast about real people living amidst and making sense of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

ravhanan.org

Articles Written by Rav Hanan

Roots/Shorashim/Judur, the Israeli Palestinian grassroots initiative for understanding, nonviolence and transformation, needs your help. As we do every year, we have created for this summer a day camp for young kids and a sleep away camp for high school kids. These kids will have never met the 'other' except through the amazing programs of Roots. The impact of spending a week with the 'other' in camp is immeasurably! Please help us make it happen by contributing to our crowd funding campaign at this link:

https://www.jewcer.org/project/summer-of-peace/

Or, if you prefer PayPal: https://www.friendsofroots.net/donate/

Please disseminate both the blogs and the summer camp campaign on social media to the best of your ability!

ravhanan.org

valleybeitmidrash.org

valleybeitmidrash.org | valleybeitmidrash.org

The Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas is now entering a very exciting third phase. At the outset, we offered passionate and pluralistic text classes and interfaith programs, first on a weekly basis and then - for the last four years - on a monthly basis. Just about all of the activities were taught or orchestrated by myself.

In our third phase, beginning this fall, not just pluralism but diversity will be our byword. Once a month we will be bringing into Dallas a dynamic, well-known speaker who is a leader in his or her field of expertise or activism. These speakers will spend a full day in our community, teaching and presenting two or three times - morning, afternoon and/or evening. One - but only one - of the speakers will be myself. An interfaith program will be planned for when I am in town.

Congregations Beth Torah and Adat Chaverim have signed on as founding partners in this new phase of our endeavors. These two synagogues will serve as hosts of our lectures. Other synagogues have been invited to join the coalition and are considering the proposal. We hope to have more Jews involved in these programs than have ever studied with JSI in the past.

This new phase of adult Jewish education in Dallas is developing in cooperation with the Valley Beith Midrash of Phoenix and its visionary and super dynamic executive director, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz. One cannot fail to be energized by the wide range of their offerings and aspirations. Here you can see their website
https://www.valleybeitmidrash.org/?utm_source=May+16%2C+2018&utm_campaign=May+16%2C+2018&utm_medium=email
and video.

I have so far succeeded in raising $11,000 to make this exciting program - which has been so successful and so well received in Phoenix - into a reality in Dallas. All we need now is to raise another $2,000 to $4,000 within the next ten days. I ask you to please contribute generously by clicking here.

A number of people have stepped forward to help us administer this program. We need a few more. Please write to me if you are able to give of your time.

There is also the possibility of a once a week class in Jewish thought next year taught by me over the internet. Please be in contact with me if you are interested.

Have a happy and fulfilling Hag Shavuot,
Hanan Schlesinger
[email protected]

valleybeitmidrash.org

Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas

Good ideas for everywhere...

Jerusalem - The City of Trust and Tolerance

Rav Hanan Schlesinger

Were we to be transported 2000 years or more back in time to the Land of Israel during the period of the First or Second Temples, we would now find ourselves on the road, riding on our donkeys or trekking along on foot, as we make our way towards Jerusalem. Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, and we would have to make it to Holy City long before nightfall of the Shabbat that precedes the holiday this year.

There is a verse in Psalms that describes Jerusalem as a עיר שחוברה לה יחדיו, a city that is connected all together. What that means is not clear at all. There is a midrash that asserts on the basis of this verse that Jerusalem is a city that binds Jews together. The festivities of the pilgrimage festivals bring all the Jewish People together in Jerusalem, and we celebrate together as one happy family.

One of the more celebrated rabbis of the 19thcentury, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Hayot, elaborates on this theme: He reminds us that when the Temple was standing, one was forbidden from entering it or touching anything associated with it, while in a state of ritual impurity. And the law stipulated that usually people who are not among those known as adhering to a very high level of observance, should not be trusted as far as their ritual purity. You should not buy their food, nor eat with them. However, during the pilgrimage festivals, the law states that anyone who claims to be ritually pure is to be believed.

Rabbi Hayot explains that religious differences very often come between Jews. Scrupulous observance of mitzvot unfortunately sometimes prevents us from enjoying the company of our co-religionists. Jerusalem is the city that binds Jews together because it is within her that some of the laws that keep us apart are relaxed. We purposely let down our guard in order to foster and facilitate Jewish unity.

We have here an extremely deep insight. Religious norms are critically necessary, but so is brotherhood and fraternity. There is sometimes a tension which cannot be ignored between these two important values. The solution according to Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Hayot lies in a sort of compromise: During the whole year we are willing to sacrifice the latter for the former; we maintain religious standards even at the price of building walls between Jews. But three times a year, and only in Jerusalem, the fences are lowered, and Jewish trust and unity wins out over the caution mandated by scrupulous observance. Bridges take the place of barriers.

I might suggest that in our day, we ought to go one step further. Bridges and not barriers are to be prioritized. Although Jewish law is always to be carefully observed, every effort ought to be made to interpret and apply it in a fashion that does not create barriers between Jews. This is much easier said than done. Just as there are times at which flippant lack of appreciation for Jewish law lies at the heart of what passes for bridge-building, we must also be wary of instances in which a holier-than-thou insularity is actually what lies at the heart of scrupulous observance. We must closely examine both our halachic decision-making and our personal observance to ensure that we give proper weight to the deep values of Jewish trust, brotherhood and community. Indeed, the symbolic unity and connectivity of Jerusalem should constitute the light the guides us not only on the holidays but every single day of the year.

Hag Sama'ach!

[05/16/18]   Jerusalem - The City of Trust and Tolerance

Rav Hanan Schlesinger

Were we to be transported 2000 years or more back in time to the Land of Israel during the period of the First or Second Temples, we would now find ourselves on the road, riding on our donkeys or trekking along on foot, as we make our way towards Jerusalem. Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, and we would have to make it to Holy City long before nightfall of the Shabbat that precedes the holiday this year.

There is a verse in Psalms that describes Jerusalem as a עיר שחוברה לה יחדיו, a city that is connected all together. What that means is not clear at all. There is a midrash that asserts on the basis of this verse that Jerusalem is a city that binds Jews together. The festivities of the pilgrimage festivals bring all the Jewish People together in Jerusalem, and we celebrate together as one happy family.

One of the more celebrated rabbis of the 19thcentury, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Hayot, elaborates on this theme: He reminds us that when the Temple was standing, one was forbidden from entering it or touching anything associated with it, while in a state of ritual impurity. And the law stipulated that usually people who are not among those known as adhering to a very high level of observance, should not be trusted as far as their ritual purity. You should not buy their food, nor eat with them. However, during the pilgrimage festivals, the law states that anyone who claims to be ritually pure is to be believed.

Rabbi Hayot explains that religious differences very often come between Jews. Scrupulous observance of mitzvot unfortunately sometimes prevents us from enjoying the company of our co-religionists. Jerusalem is the city that binds Jews together because it is within her that some of the laws that keep us apart are relaxed. We purposely let down our guard in order to foster and facilitate Jewish unity.

We have here an extremely deep insight. Religious norms are critically necessary, but so is brotherhood and fraternity. There is sometimes a tension which cannot be ignored between these two important values. The solution according to Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Hayot lies in a sort of compromise: During the whole year we are willing to sacrifice the latter for the former; we maintain religious standards even at the price of building walls between Jews. But three times a year, and only in Jerusalem, the fences are lowered, and Jewish trust and unity wins out over the caution mandated by scrupulous observance. Bridges take the place of barriers.

I might suggest that in our day, we ought to go one step further. Bridges and not barriers are to be prioritized. Although Jewish law is always to be carefully observed, every effort ought to be made to interpret and apply it in a fashion that does not create barriers between Jews. This is much easier said than done. Just as there are times at which flippant lack of appreciation for Jewish law lies at the heart of what passes for bridge-building, we must also be wary of instances in which a holier-than-thou insularity is actually what lies at the heart of scrupulous observance. We must closely examine both our halachic decision-making and our personal observance to ensure that we give proper weight to the deep values of Jewish trust, brotherhood and community. Indeed, the symbolic unity and connectivity of Jerusalem should constitute the light the guides us not only on the holidays but every single day of the year.

Hag Sama'ach!

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