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Online Forum for Contemporary Issues: Reviving Talmudic Discourse—And Bringing It To The U.S.

(Miami, October 25, 2015) – The Talmud “has become the one thing it was never meant to be: an ancient, closed book that seems to deal primarily with irrelevant issues.” That’s according to Sugia, an online forum that is opening up the Talmud, reviving it for today’s world, and demonstrating why it is vital and relevant through—what else?—Talmudic discourse, the implementation of the Talmudic concept of makhloket (debate) to generate productive conversation among Jews.

Established in 2013 and based in Jerusalem, Sugia is a fast-growing online forum that brings Jews across the globe together to explore the Jewish response to contemporary ethical and existential issues. Targum Shlishi is helping to support a pilot project to bring Sugia to the United States and create a bilingual version of Sugia’s website.

Is a person obligated to rescue another even when it means putting himself/herself at risk? Is it acceptable to fabricate evidence to incriminate a known and dangerous terrorist, even when that danger cannot be proven in court? When is it ok to lie? Is it acceptable to lie to someone who is ill about the severity of their medical condition? Should the state have the authority to prohibit commerce on Shabbat?

These are among the questions that Sugia has explored. The answers? That’s why Sugia sees a pressing need to revive the essence of Talmudic discourse and provide a digital platform for global outreach to generate new and relevant Jewish wisdom.

“Knowing that there will always be significant differences among us, it is crucial that we develop creative structures in which Jewish leaders and community members can explore critical and timely issues in a respectful and fruitful manner,” says Udi Lion, founder and CEO of Sugia and director of special programs at Israel’s Channel 2 TV.

Sugia fosters dialogue across denominations through conversations facilitated by prominent intellectuals, community leaders, artists, and others. The organization reaches out in a variety of ways. It is a new media platform that includes ongoing discussion groups, seminars, conferences, and curriculum products. Conferences to date have tackled topics around marriage and family, among others. The following were the focus of selected past conferences:

  • The Contemporary Family in Crisis: Is there a crisis? If so, should society and/or the state deal with it and if so, how?
  • Civil Marriage: The dilemma over the role of the Orthodox rabbinate
  • The Human Right to Marriage: Is the state authorized to interfere with individual decisions regarding marriage, such as gay marriage?

“Sugia is using new technology to disseminate and foster discussion about ancient texts, and is doing so in a dynamic and engaging way,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “We are enthusiastic about helping to bring this online Beit Midrash digital platform to the United States, and hope that it will foster dialogue not only between diaspora communities but also between diaspora and Israeli communities. It is high time that the authority on matters Jewish be taken away from the dogmatic rabbinate and delegated to thinkers, activists, and enlightened clergy.”

Sugia is working with Hebrew College in Boston and Hillel International to pilot Sugia in North America. It is also taking steps to pilot the program in several European countries.

“We believe Sugia will become the next ‘thing,’ a pioneering avenue that has the potential of becoming a game changer in the use of new media for Jewish cultural and educational purposes,” says Sugia’s Udi Lion.

About Sugia
Sugia is a global Jewish organization based in Jerusalem that meets the challenges of the Internet Generation by creating an online forum for a Jewish response to contemporary issues. Using Jewish and non-Jewish texts, new media, and pop culture, burning ethical and existential issues of our time are debated within Batei Midrash (learning and discussion groups). For more information on Sugia, visit its websites in English and Hebrew.

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. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aryeh5.

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