Why Be Jewish Gathering


May 2012 New York, New York

The State of Pluralism

As the Jewish community becomes more diverse, it is no longer just the traditional denominational divides that come between us. How do we incorporate non-Jews and non-believers into our collective Jewish identity? Is there room in our conception of the Jewish people for those who value social justice, equality and spirituality more than religious observance and tradition? What guidance can we gain from the wisdom of Jewish texts in how to deal with the challenge of incorporating these many values and identities into one cohesive, pluralistic Jewish community?


May 2011 New York, New York

Nationhood, Peoplehood and the Question of Collective Identity

The changing conditions in Israel - loyalty oaths, conversion politics, the growing Haredi population - and the evolution of American Jewish identity are calling into question conventional ideas of what defines and constitutes the Jewish people. Increasingly, in fact, the communal discourse around 'peoplehood' is not about ideas at all - but rather about statistics and politics. Is it possible to use language and concepts like 'Jewish nationhood' or 'peoplehood' when they conflict with our own lived experience? Should the conventional definition of 'Jewish peoplehood' be an assumed end goal? In a world of intense individualism, can Judaism be defined primarily as a personal and internal experience? Is a sense of belonging to a Jewish collective even central to how we give meaning and purpose to contemporary Jewish life?


May 2010 New York, New York

Engaging the Sacred

For thousands of years, the Jewish tradition has struggled with notions of God, theology and spirituality. In contemporary American life, however, constructive explorations of these issues rarely take place within a Jewish context.

The 2010 Gathering provided an opportunity for its participants to freely engage in a Jewish conversation about the role of the sacred in today’s society. Driven by the ideas of the participants, the discussion explored the broader implications of sacred encounters within both a personal and a communal context.


May 2009 New York, New York

Renaissance in a Time of Ration

Over the last year the Jewish community has entered into a challenging period, which has been driven by a sudden reduction of communal resources and a broad anxiety about its future trajectory. Difficult decisions are now being encountered in every arena of life.

The 2009 gathering examined the concept of “Renaissance in a Time of Ration” through a text based exploration of how Jewish tradition can help provide insight and direction into navigating difficult and complex times, as well as a means to derive meaning and value from Jewish values.


July 2008 Park City, Utah

Judaism as Civilizations: Belonging in an Age of Multiple Identities

Judaism as Civilizations: Belonging in an Age of Multiple Identities

The 2008 gathering explored the dichotomy and tension between two of the twenty-first century’s great emerging tendencies: secularism and tribalism. The conference attendees, who comprised an astounding international array of today’s top Jewish thought leaders, discussed and debated how these tendencies are being negotiated, and what the implications are for what constitutes world Jewry.


July 2007 Park City, Utah

Why be Jewish?

The participants of the 2007 gathering discussed four main responses to the question, Why Be Jewish?, which included ethical and communal action based on tikkun olam; spiritual fulfillment; and education as an antidote to the dangers of fundamentalism.

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