This week, on May 30th, the Schechter Institutes of Jewish Studies (SIJS), in partnership with Bar-Ilan University (BIU) held an evening to celebrate the publication of the Hebrew translation of Professor Benjamin D. Sommer’s book Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition. Following Sommer’s keynote lecture “Traditional Perception and Biblical Studies: in preparation of a New Theology,” an esteemed panel of speakers responded. The panel included Rabbi Prof. David Frankel, Associate Professor of Bible at SIJS; Dr. Miriam Feldmann Kaye, Lecturer in the Jewish Philosophy Department at BIU and Jewish Theological Seminary; Prof. Moshe Benovitz, Professor of Talmud and Jewish Law at SIJS; and Professor Joshua Berman, Associate Professor of Bible Studies at BIU.
Dr. Sarah Schwartz, head of Bible Studies at SIJS, chaired the event along with Dr. Yisca Zimran, from the Zalman Shamir Bible Department at BIU. Dr. Schwartz commented afterward that the event was “a beautiful evening of high academic discourse.” She shared her appreciation for Professor Sommer who “allowed us to host this important evening and to start a discussion around his theological concepts.” The discussion was incredibly open thanks to Sommer welcoming a wide range of views and opinions. Sommer encouraged bringing other speakers who think differently than he does and actively invited criticism. “The evening was truly inspiring and an extraordinary example of pluralism. Those who criticized Sommer’s work, did so with the utmost respect” said Dr. Schwartz.
This book launch for Sommer was just one evening of a larger academic lecture series in Israel co-sponsored by BIU, The Department of Biblical Studies at Tel-Aviv University, and Schechter Institutes of Jewish Studies. The graduate school thanks Prof. Sommer for accepting the invitation to visit Israel, and for the full and generous partnership with him.
The evening was made possible with the help of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary and Dean Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch; and the following BIU faculty: Professor Jonathan Grossman, chair of the Dept. of Biblical Studies; Professor Eric Lawee, chair of the Institute for Jewish Biblical Interpretation of Bible; and Professor Hanoch Ben-Pazi, chair of the Department of Jewish Philosophy. The event attracted over 100 attendees and provided an opportunity for people to purchase Sommer’s book and to ask him questions about his personal theological approach.