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Exploring the Thought of Irving “Yitz” Greenberg: Targum Shlishi Supports International Symposium

(Miami, FL) November 25, 2014 – For nine days this summer, a group of sixteen scholars convened to discuss the seminal work of Rabbi Dr. Irving “Yitz” Greenberg at the inaugural Oxford Summer Institute in Modern and Contemporary Judaism. The symposium, Modern Orthodoxy and the Road Not Taken: A Critical Exploration of Questions Arising from the Thought of Rabbi Dr. Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, was supported in part by Targum Shlishi.

Greenberg is an influential theologian who has had a wide-ranging career as a rabbi, historian, activist, author, and leader of several major Jewish organizations. He is a revolutionary thinker on an array of issues including the Jewish people’s encounter with the challenge of modernity; confronting the Holocaust as an historical transforming event; the creation of Israel as the Jewish assumption of power, and the beginning of a third era in Jewish history; and the importance of Jewish-Christian dialogue.

In his opening remarks at this summer’s symposium, Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi, called Greenberg “one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the past half-century.” Elsewhere, Rubin has said that Greenberg had a greater influence on American and world Jewry than any other leader or teacher of his era.

Greenberg is widely recognized for his groundbreaking approach to being Jewish in today’s post-Holocaust, post-Israel, pluralistic, and rapidly evolving world. “With much of the Orthodox Jewish world having shifted to the right, and much of the philosophy and praxis of the Modern Orthodox  remaining stuck in a fixed position, Yitz Greenberg has been one of the most important thinkers since World War II, bringing a breath of fresh air and sanity to the world of the Orthodox,” Rubin says.

According to the scholar Steven Katz, “No Jewish thinker has had a greater impact on the American Jewish community in the last two decades than Irving (Yitz) Greenberg.”

The symposium, held near Oxford, England, was organized by Professor Adam Ferziger of Bar-Ilan University and Dr. Miri Freud-Kandel of University of Oxford, and brought together scholars from the United States, Israel, and the U.K. The daily sessions ranged in subject matter from Modern Orthodoxy to Holocaust theology to feminism and were “electrifying,” according to Steven Bayme, who wrote an opinion piece on the symposium for The Jewish Week (New York).

The symposium included seventeen sessions that explored various aspects of Greenberg’s work and influence, including discussions on Modern Orthodoxy, Holocaust theology, gender, Greenberg’s “covenant theology,” and biblical scholarship. Yitz Greenberg and his wife, the influential feminist activist Blu Greenberg, were both in attendance and participated in the discussions. In addition to formal session, there were also several public lectures by symposium participants.

In addition to Targum Shlishi, the symposium was supported by several funders, including Harvey Beker, Harold Grinspoon, Micheal Jesselson, Matthew and Gladys Maryles, Peter and Naomi Neustadter, the Rothschild Foundation (HANADIV ) Europe, and Zahava and Moshael Straus.

For more information on the symposium and on Rabbi Greenberg’s work, see these resources:

  • Go here to read Steven Bayme’s piece on the symposium in The Jewish Week, “Yitz Greenberg’s Impact.”
  • Go here for an edited version of Jack Wertheimer’s symposium presentation, “Contemporary Directions of Modern Orthodoxy in Light of Broader Directions in American Religion.” The written piece, published in Mosaic, is titled “Can Modern Orthodoxy Survive?” and introduces a series of essays on Modern Orthodoxy.
  • Read Alan Brill’s individual interviews with symposium participants Steven Bayme, Michael Fishbane, Samuel Heilman, and Tamar Ross. The interviews are published as individual posts on Brill’s thoughtful blog, The Book of Doctrines and Opinions: Notes on Jewish Theology and Spirituality.
  • Go here for a website and online archive dedicated to Greenberg’s work and produced by Targum Shlishi.
  • Go here for a micro-website on Greenberg’s work.
  • Go here for a profile from Jewish Sages of Today about Greenberg.

About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website.


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