Report From Dublin

Rabbi Glazer recently participated in Philosophizing Monotheism, a conference at the National University of Ireland, Dublin. On his return to the States, he shared the inspiring report below.



The wonderful conference was the culmination of an ongoing relationship I have been cultivating with a group of Israeli academics. I've done so with a few intentions in mind.

Ireland2Firstly, I aim to increase the intellectual and spiritual exchange between Israeli and Diaspora scholars that has been challenged recently by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, especially the arm of the movement that calls for an academic boycott of Israel. Secondly, it is essential that we collaborate across our Jewish spheres on academic projects that will shape the future thinking of Judaism and monotheisms more broadly. Thirdly, to further the awareness and integration of these collaborations, I hope to publish and disseminate gleanings from the ongoing exchanges taking place in Israel, Europe, and America.

Aside from having the gift of focused time to present, listen, reflect, question, and dialogue with each other for uninterrupted hours on end, this was a unique meeting of scholars and philosophers of religion from many walks of life, all sharing a passion for what I call Critical Judaism and Critical Religion. To be able to interrogate the core of our respective monotheistic religions in freedom without fear of persecution is a relatively recent modern phenomenon. On the one hand, this gathering recalled the medieval, magical moments of Convivencia during a golden age of Spain (if not the one usually spoken of), when philosophers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were in constant fruitful exchange and allowed each other's theological thinking to challenge, influence, and inspire each other. On the other hand, as Irish philosopher Dermot Moran commented, my theological investigations (which coincide with his research on Dionysius and Don Scotus) put me in the good company of Baruch or Benedict de Spinoza and Giordano Bruno, both of whom were excommunicated for their heresies from their modern communities. Alas, today we live in a very different world. Such accusations of heresy would demand a kind of caring and religious literacy that seems to be rapidly dissolving, especially in the religious spheres of America.

Ireland1Over these days we were blessed to spend together, I came to realize the gift of scholarly exchange from my vantage point as a scholar-rabbi, especially with Israeli colleagues, living both in Israel and in the European Diaspora. They all equally appreciated my perspective, especially when it turned to questions of the future of religious institutions and applications of critical thinking. The quality of conversation and the feeling that our reflections about God, the world, and humanity matter could not be more urgent and inspiring. At this juncture, being in Ireland, presenting in English, and thinking through all the layers of monotheisms, beginning with the Hebrew Bible, rabbinic literature, mysticism, Hasidism, and its abiding influence on the big questions in philosophy of religion like ethics, justice, cosmotheism, conversion, and doubt will continue to resonate with all of us as we part ways. After a year of planning, we all experienced a light that only appears when scholars from across religious and philosophical boundaries come together in free exchange.

I am grateful as well as for my training at the Center for the Study of Religions at University of Toronto, which really paved the way for this kind of exchange. One of the most remarkable moments for me came in reuniting with a colleague from graduate studies at the Center for the Study of Religions, Mahdi Tourage, (an Iranian refugee to Canada in 1986) to see how decades later we both remained attuned to so many parallel theological concerns in our respective traditions of Jewish and Islamic mysticisms. It was both inspiring and alarming that Mahdi's courageous paper could only be accepted at a forum like this one given that his insightful, critical thinking remains on the margins of the Islamic academe. Ironically, as we discussed this situation at length, he shared with me the struggle that even renowned Jewish scholars of Islam like Aaron Hughes experience with their remarkable critical scholarship, most recently, with Islam and the Tyranny of Authenticity. Clearly, the more opportunities there are to normalize and disseminate this kind of critical discourse on the philosophy of religions, especially in Islam, the better the world is poised to enable the evolution of monotheisms.

Gathered outside the conference center in the top photo (left to right) are: Ward Blanton (University of Kent), Itzhak Benyamini (University of Haifa), Rabbi Aubrey Glazer, Dermot Moran (University College Dublin), Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin), Mahdi Tourage (University of Western Ontario), Raphael Zagury-Orly (Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design), and Joseph Cohen (University College Dublin). Elad Lapidot (Humboldt Universitat, Berlin) and Maureen Junker-Kenny (Trinity College, Dublin) participated, but were already off to other conferences by the time of this photograph.

Responding to the Executive Order on Migration and Refugees

SS-St-LouisThis Shabbat, from 11 – 11:45 a.m., please join us for a special bimah dialogue featuring Rabbi Glazer, Dr. Lindsay Gifford (Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology, University of San Francisco), and Vlad Khaykin (Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco).

As the world faces the most severe refugee crisis since World War II, affecting tens of millions of displaced people, the current administration signed an Executive Order that halts U.S. refugee resettlement efforts. In solidarity with many leading American Jewish organizations, all arms of the Conservative movement released an official statement condemning the presidential order and calling upon Jews everywhere to advocate for the rights of immigrants and reject the targeting of any individual based on their religion.

In this Shabbat discussion, Rabbi Glazer, Lindsay, and Vlad will explore the urgency of the refugee crisis, how it relates to Jewish values and shared history, weigh security concerns and the refugee vetting process, and look at how tradition teaches us to responsibly respond to these challenges with the ethical imperative "not to stand idly by as the blood of your brother is at stake" (Leviticus 19:16).

Please join us. The interactive discussion will take place from 11 – 11:40 a.m., and will be preceded by our full Torah service (beginning at 9:40 a.m.

Lindsay Gifford is Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology at the University of San Francisco. She has worked on Middle Eastern migration and refugee issues for the past decade, including with members of the Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese communities, with field research experience in Syria, Jordan, and the transnational Middle Eastern Diaspora. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University and was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCLA. She also volunteers with refugee resettlement agencies in the US, and is a member of GenR, a professional advocacy group for the International Rescue Committee.

Vlad J. Khaykin is a former Jewish refugee and Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco. He holds a degree in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and graduate degrees in non-profit management and Near East and Jewish Studies from Brandeis University, where he focused on Jewish-Muslim relations and the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim migrant xenophobia.

Image credit: Jewish refugees aboard the German liner, St. Louis, June 29, 1939. (Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images/via JTA)