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Congregation gives members ‘Food for Thought’ about Dead Sea Scrolls and more

 
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The Dead Sea Scrolls have been invaluable in helping scholars understand the Bible. Yet for each question they answer, they raise many others, says Shalom Paul, professor emeritus in the Department of Bible at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Answers to each question “would comprise a lecture in and of itself,” said Paul, who on Nov. 15 will speak on the topic at Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff.

Thanks to the scrolls — the first of which was found in 1947 and the last, “so far,” in 1956 — “a whole new Jewish literature came to light which sheds light on a period that was similar to a dark age in our history and our literature.”

“It opened up entirely new vistas on the understanding of Judaism and Christianity,” said Paul, the first speaker in the Wyckoff congregation’s second annual Food for Thought distinguished speaker series, sponsored by the Fred Emert Memorial Adult Education Fund.

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Shalom Paul

A trustee of the Albright Institute of Archaeology and chair of the Dead Sea Scroll Foundation, the speaker received his rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and received a doctorate in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

“We always knew that early Christianity was [affected] by Judaism, but we did not have the sources available to prove it,” said Paul, adding that the scrolls have been helpful in this regard.

In his talk, he will deal with such questions as: When were they discovered? How? How many were found? What languages were they written in? What materials are they written on? He will also address literary genres in the documents and “why there was such difficulty initially publishing them and how a drastic change took place after the 1967 war with the reunification of Jerusalem and the scrolls being totally within our hands.”

Paul said he will also explore different versions of the Bible and show that the scrolls represent “an intermediate stage in the development of the Bible.”

“Who are these people who produced these scrolls?” asked Paul. “Who are they, living at Kumran, by the Dead Sea, who produced these scrolls [and] composed a Judaism that heretofore was unknown to us? What was their social organization, the rules of their community?”

Paul described his most recent book, “A Study Guide to the Bible,” as a “popular book” on “how [the Bible] came to be, history, literary genres, poetry — everything you ever wanted to know about the Bible.” He said he agreed to the project because he realized that such a book was not available, with existing texts “either highly technical or else not written by competent scholars.” He will sign copies of his book at the Nov. 15 presentation.

Also scheduled to speak at the Wyckoff synagogue is Rabbi Michael Chernick, Deutsch Professor of Jewish Jurisprudence & Social Justice at Hebrew Union College (May 14) and Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor of the New Jersey Jewish News (May 2).

Sharon Weiss, chair of the shul’s adult education committee, explained that the idea of a three-part lecture series was developed to accommodate the congregation’s diverse membership.

The scholar-in-residence program “got a little challenging,” she said, noting that the shul chose to discontinue that approach last year. “We relooked at the model and decided to vary the offerings.”

Now, rather than commit to an entire weekend highlighting one speaker, congregants — and members of the public — can choose among different speakers, talking on different themes.

“We did a little survey of what would interest people and gathered some topics,” said Weiss, noting that Paul is a scholar while the other two speakers will address current events and issues specific to the Jewish community.

“We put a lot of thought into it,” she said, pointing out that the series is dubbed “‘distinguished speakers’ rather than ‘distinguished scholars’ to avoid intimidating anyone.” The series name, Food for Thought, was also consciously selected to indicate that the Sunday morning lectures will be preceded by breakfast.

“Our intention is to make this a time to come together socially as well as for Jewish learning,” she said. “The whole concept in reinventing and growing the model is for more people to be exposed to Jewish learning,” she added. “We’ve got about 460 family units including people from traditional Conservative to Reform and interfaith couples. What we’re trying to do is develop the educational component of synagogue life and be known as a center for lifelong learning.”

For additional information, call (201) 891-4466 or visit www.bethrishon.org.

 
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Walling off, reaching out

Teaneck shul offers discussion of Women of the Wall

It is not an understatement to say that the saga of Women of the Wall is a metaphor for much of the struggle between tradition and change in Israel.

Founded 25 years ago by a group of Israeli and non-Israeli women whose religious affiliations ran from Orthodox to Reform, it has been a flashpoint for the fight for pluralism in Israel, as one side would define it, or the obligation to hold onto God-given mandates on the other.

As its members and supporters fought for the right to hold services in the women’s section, raising their voices in prayer, and later to wear tallitot and read from sifrei Torah, and as their opponents grew increasingly violent in response, it came to define questions of synagogue versus state and showcase both the strengths and the flaws of Israel’s extraordinary parliamentary system. It also highlighted rifts between American and Israeli Jews.

 

Shabbat in the White City

Fair Lawn man aims for Guinness-record dinner in Tel Aviv

Jay Shultz is determined to set a new world record while promoting Tel Aviv — usually cited for its nightlife and startup culture — as a great place to spend Shabbat.

The 37-year-old Fair Lawn native, who has lived in Israel since 2006, has earned a reputation as the “International Mayor of Tel Aviv” after a series of grand-scale initiatives geared at positioning his adopted city as welcoming haven for young professional immigrants.

His latest exploit: Through his popular White City Shabbat program, which offers communal meals for young Israelis and immigrants at local synagogues, Mr. Shultz launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to sponsor the world’s largest Shabbat dinner.

 

Testing for genetic diseases

JScreen provides easy, low-cost screening for people of Jewish lineage

Looking for a novel engagement or bridal shower gift? “Forget a blender or another place setting. Give a JGift and help them ensure the best future for their family,” advises the website JScreen.org.

For $99 you can “give the gift of screening,” said Hillary Kener, JScreen’s outreach coordinator. Ms. Kener was referring to the online genetic screening program that is coordinated through the department of human genetics at Atlanta’s Emory University. With this unique program it is possible to be screened for up to 80 genetic mutations. Along with screening, the site provides education and access to genetic counseling related to the screening tests. And all of this can take place in the comfort of your own home or dormitory room.

 

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Doing well, doing good

Israeli band full of New Jersey locals hopes to tour U.S.

If a crowd-funding appeal is successful, the Israeli band G-Nome Project is coming to the United States.

This is not the scientific kind of genome project having to do with decoding DNA, but a musical project launched by four young expatriates — two of them from Teaneck.

It’s also a kind of chesed project. The band’s proposed 10-city “Giving Tour” aims to combine nightly gigs with days of good deeds such as visiting nursing homes and working in a soup kitchen.

This unusual twist was inspired by drummer Chemy Soibelman’s volunteering with Israeli children suffering from cancer.

 

Less is more

Moriah to institute new tuition affordability program

Good news for the middle class — and for Jewish day school affordability.

The Moriah School in Englewood, which runs from prekindergarten through eighth grade, has announced a new tuition affordability program, which will cut tuition for parents making as much as $360,000 a year.

Full tuition at the school ranges from $12,000 for kindergarten to $15,425 for middle school. (The prekindergarten program is not eligible for the tuition breaks.)

“We’ve been talking, as a board and as a community, about tuition affordability and the tuition crisis for years,” said Evan Sohn, the school’s president. “We decided this was the year we were going to address that issue.”

 

Scrolling through Jewish art

Local exhibit looks at text and images in old and new ways

The English letters that Harriet Fincke of Ridgewood learned when she was young are straightforward symbols that combine to form words, just as they are for everyone else.

But Hebrew letters — ah, they are something else again. “They always seemed kind of solid,” she said. “They seemed more like things,” objects in their own right, opaque. “It’s both the meaning and the look, and the relationship between them,” she said.

Those letters were a foundation part of her childhood — she went all the way through school at the Yeshiva of Flatbush. “I’d always had a kind of richly ambivalent relationship with my religious upbringing, and with the text,” she said.

 
 
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