EVENTS


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CSP Zoom – Distance Learning Series


CSP 3-Part Distance Learning Series

With Prof. Marc Michael Epstein, live from Poughkeepsie, New York
Underwritten by a grant from Terry and Toni McDonald
Co-sponsored by Temple Beth Shalom of Needham, MA

Inside the Jewish Mind
12:00 – 1:00 PM PDT (3:00 PM EDT)
Sunday June 7th, 2020 – Jewish Tours of Heaven and Hell

We’re often told that the Jews are people of the book, and that it’s Jewish texts and knowledge that are the be-all an end-all of Jewish culture. All this is true. But it’s also true that Jews were a people of imagination, invention and emotion. That part of Jewish history is harder to access than, say, what influence the biblical and rabbinic tradition had on their diets, or how their patterns of immigration changed in reaction to pogroms. The inner dimensions of Jewish consciousness—what thrilled and frightened them, what made them sad and elated them, what they anticipated or dreaded lay beyond the world in which they lived—is ingeniously excavated by Marc Michael Epstein, Professor of Religion and Visual Culture on the Mattie M. Paschall (1899) & Norman Davis Chair and Director of Jewish Studies at Vassar College. His sources are those often ignored or discarded as peripheral by scholarship—art, literature, even music regarded as marginal jottings in the seemingly larger and more impressive ledger of history. But he reads, absorbs and interprets those sources as exciting clues on the trail of new discoveries and innovative observations about Jewish history and society. Your view of Jewish culture will be forever transformed.

JEWISH TOURS OF HEAVEN AND HELL

Sunday June 7, 2020, 12:00 PM PDT
We are often told that Jews don’t really have a heaven or a hell. But Jews are an incredibly diverse group of people with a long history, and many Jews in many times and places had heavens and hells as vivid as those portrayed in Christianity and Islam. Join Professor Marc Michael Epstein of Vassar College, as he tours these fascinating topographies of the imagination. Your view of what’s beyond our sphere will never be the same.

Winner of the 2015 Jewish Book Award in Visual Arts for Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts, Marc Michael Epstein is the product of a mixed marriage between the scions of Slonimer and Lubavitcher Hassidim and Romanian socialists, and grew up, rather confused, but happy, in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently Professor of Religion at Vassar College, where he has been teaching since 1992, and was the first Director of Jewish Studies. At Vassar, he teaches courses on medieval Christianity, religion, arts and politics, and Jewish texts and sources. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written numerous articles and three books on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews. His prior book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale, 2011) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2011. During the ‘80s, Epstein was Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby’s Judaica department, and continues to serve as consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world. Among them are the Herbert C. and Eileen Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, for which he curated the inaugural exhibition, and currently serves as consultant for the Fowler Museum at UCLA, where he is in the process of helping plan a major exhibition on aspects of Kabbalah and its relationship to visual culture.


CSP 19th Annual Summer Scholar

3-Part “Zoom Series”, live from Manhattan
PETER A. GEFFEN
12:30 – 1:30 PM PDT
Tuesday June 9, 2020 – A Young Jew in the Civil Rights Movement: A Personal Story from 1965-66
Wednesday June 10, 2020 – The Spiritual Humanism of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Part 1
Thursday June 11, 2020 – The Spiritual Humanism of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Part 2

This series is free of charge to CSP 5781 Members
(to become a member, make your annual donation now at this link)
The cost to the general public is $36 for the series

A Young Jew in the Civil Rights Movement: A Personal Story From 1965-66
Tuesday June 9, 2020, 12:30 – 1:30 PM PDT
Peter Geffen will take us back to 1964 when 3 boys were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi one of whom was his classmate at Queens College, Andrew Goodman. He will explore the influence upon his life as a Jew and his work as a Jewish educator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You can get a taste of the story by watching this short video article from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Peter’s June 9th talk will lead into Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s powerful impact upon the social conscience of America.

[ Registration Link ]

The Spiritual Humanism of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Part 1
Wednesday June 10, 2020, 12:30 – 1:30 PM PDT
Peter Geffen will continue his summer series by contextualizing Heschel’s profound impact upon American Judaism in particular and American religion in general in this 2-part session. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a mystic, a 20th-century religious intellectual, and a powerful agent of social change. His poetic theological writings are still read and widely studied today across the Christian as well as the Jewish world. His faith was as much about “radical amazement” as it was about certainty. As instructive for us now is the way Heschel embodied the passionate social engagement of the prophets, drawing on wisdom at once provocative and nourishing. Peter will take us through Heschel’s fascinating life in a biographical review and then enter the world of Heschel’s thought through presentation of a developmental model based upon Heschel’s teachings. The sessions will require the viewing of a unique 1/2 hour television interview which will be made available to you on Youtube.

The Spiritual Humanism of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Part 2
Thursday June 11, 2020, 12:30 – 1:30 PM PDT

Peter Geffen will continue his summer series by contextualizing Heschel’s profound impact upon American Judaism in particular and American religion in general in this 2-part session. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a mystic, a 20th-century religious intellectual, and a powerful agent of social change. His poetic theological writings are still read and widely studied today across the Christian as well as the Jewish world. His faith was as much about “radical amazement” as it was about certainty. As instructive for us now is the way Heschel embodied the passionate social engagement of the prophets, drawing on wisdom at once provocative and nourishing. Peter will take us through Heschel’s fascinating life in a biographical review and then enter the world of Heschel’s thought through presentation of a developmental model based upon Heschel’s teachings. The sessions will require the viewing of a unique 1/2 hour television interview which will be made available to you on Youtube.

About Peter Geffen
Professionally a Jewish educator, Peter founded The Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City in 1983, considered unique in its integrated approach to curriculum and its social justice programming. Today, the Heschel School is the largest pluralistic Jewish school in North America with over 1000 students on its campus on the west side of Manhattan. In the 1990’s he began working with Jewish day schools across the continent that sought to model all or portions of their programs on the Heschel educational model. Today there are schools in Columbus, Ohio; Austin, Texas; Toronto, Canada and Lafayette, CA that reflect his educational vision. His career in Jewish education began with his design of the unique and unprecedented Park Avenue Synagogue High School program in 1967 where he served as Principal until 1985. In the field of informal education, he held a range of leadership positions (including decades of senior staff roles with Camps Ramah in Canada, Glen Spey and Israel). He has personally taught 1000’s of high school and college aged students over the past 50+ years!

In 2005 Peter Founded KIVUNIM, a year-long post high school/pre-college gap-year program based in Israel and studying about and traveling to 12 countries (from Morocco to India) studying the origins and integration of Jewish life and culture throughout the world. The program seeks to build “world-consciousness” as a context for strengthening Jewish identity, formed as it is from the magnificent history of the Jewish people amongst the nations of the world. KIVUNIM is the only Jewish educational program teaching Arabic and traveling into the Arab and Islamic worlds.

In the summers of 1965 and 1966 Peter Geffen served as a civil rights worker for Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Orangeburg, SC. He played several historic roles at MLK’s funeral including accompanying Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel throughout the funeral procession.

In 2012 he was selected to receive the Covenant Award, the highest recognition in the field of Jewish education. Peter holds a BA from Queens College (where he studied and developed a close personal relationship with the noted Jewish historian Professor Cecil Roth during the final years of Roth’s life), an MA in Religious Education from New York University and a Certificate in Psychotherapy and Counseling from the Alfred Adler Institute in New York City. He is an ABD (all but dissertation) at NYU with a thesis linking the seminal work of Erik Erikson in Identity formation to his Jewish educational philosophy and approach.

He is married to Susie Kessler, founding Director of the Makom Mindfulness Center at the JCC in Manhattan. They have three children: sons Rabbi Jonah Geffen married to Julia Mannes and Rabbi Daniel Geffen, married to LuAnne and daughter Nessa Geffen, Assistant Director of the JCC Camp Settoga and married to Micah Bookman. They have 4 grandchildren, Bina, Shula, Eva and Gabriel.

Peter was born, raised in and has lived in New York City throughout his lifetime. He is a descendant of distinguished and learned Jewish families on both sides: his grandfather Rabbi Tobias Geffen, “Chief Rabbi” of the South 1910-1970, father Rabbi Samuel Geffen, Uncle Rabbi Joel Geffen and numerous rabbinic Geffen cousins and on his mother’s side from Great-Grandfather William Fischman – Founder and President of the Downtown Talmud Torah, President of the Upper West Side’s The Jewish Center for over 40 years and distinguished philanthropist of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

 


CSP Trailblazer On-Line Event

Dialogue with Rabbi Menachem Bombach, live from Jerusalem
“Haredim Cannot Be Isolated Anymore”

12:30 -1:30 PM PDT
Wednesday June 3, 2020
Dedicated in honor of CSP Patrons Aleta Bryant and Michael Rubin

[REGISTRATION LINK]

Rabbi Menachem Bombach, a community leader and educational entrepreneur in the Haredi community in Israel, studied at the Vizhnitz Ahavat Yisrael yeshiva and the Mir yeshiva and holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Moreshet Yaakov College and a master’s degree in public policy from the Hebrew University. He is the founder and head of the “Netzach” Haredi educational network, which combines religious and secular studies and aims to educate students to become observant haredim who are also prepared for practical living. Recently, Bombach created a stir when he took a dramatic step—at least as seen through his community’s norms—by teaching his students about Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen IDF soldiers. The video of the class has gone viral and has been seen by hundreds of thousands of Israelis.


CSP Sunday Event

Conversation with award winning filmmaker and cinematographer
Ferne Pearlstein (live from Brooklyn, NY)
THE LAST LAUGH: Exploring Taboos in Comedy
Dedicated in honor of long-time CSP Patrons, Dalia and Noah Taft
12:00 -1:00 PM PDT, June 14, 2020

The Holocaust would seem to be an absolutely off-limits topic for comedy. But is it? History shows that even victims of Nazi concentration camps used humor as a means of survival and resistance. Still, any use of comedy in connection with this horror risks diminishing the suffering of millions. So where is the line? If the Holocaust is taboo, what are the implications for other controversial subjects — 9/11, AIDS, racism — in a society that prizes freedom of speech? Award winning filmmaker and cinematographer Ferne Pearlstein joins us to address these issues in the context of her 2016 documentary The Last Laugh (a film that offers fresh insights with an intimate portrayal of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone alongside interviews with influential comedians and thinkers ranging from Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Jeff Ross (Comedy Central Roast Battle), Larry Charles (director of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Borat), and Gilbert Gottfried, to authors Etgar Keret and Shalom Auslander, plus Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League). In our discussion, we will encourage audience participation to examine the uncomfortable questions that are more relevant than ever at a time when anti-semitism, racism, and hate speech are on the rise and even feel “normalized.”

Ferne Pearlstein is a prize-winning filmmaker and cinematographer whose work has been screened and broadcast around the world. A distinguished member of the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a 2018 inductee into the Brooklyn Jewish Hall of Fame, Ferne has postgraduate degrees in documentary from Stanford University and the International Center of Photography, and as a cinematographer, she has shot films around the world, from Haiti, Uganda, Guyana to Burma where she snuck her 16mm camera into the rebel bases of the Karen Liberation Army. In 2004, she won the Sundance Cinematography Prize and is one of only a few women in Kodak’s “On Film” campaign. Ferne has had 4 films premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival including her most recent feature, THE LAST LAUGH, which was released in over 25 cities, broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens, after screening at over 100 film festivals worldwide. As a result, she has become a recognized speaker on humor and the Holocaust, and has now been called upon to discuss humor as it relates to Covid-19. Most recently, Ferne was selected as one of eight documentary filmmakers from around the globe by the UN and Google to do a series of PSAs that were set to premiere at Tribeca and Cannes Lyon 2020.

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