The Eighteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies took place in Jerusalem on August 8–12, 2022. This is the largest and most important Jewish studies academic congress and scholars from all fields of Jewish Studies and many countries participate. Not surprisingly the distinguished faculty of the Schechter Institute had a significant presence at the Congress. Eleven faculty members and numerous adjunct lecturers presented their research in the field of Bible, Midrash, Talmud, Jewish philosophy, history, and art.
The vitality and diversity of the Schechter faculty were especially evident in two sessions that were comprised almost exclusively of Schechter faculty members. One of these sessions was devoted to the Sabbath in the history of Jewish thought. It opened with a fascinating lecture by Prof. David Frankel. As is typical of David’s approach, he showed that the Bible speaks in multiple voices regarding the purpose and nature of the Sabbath. I followed with a talk that related to the way medieval Jewish philosophers offered a rationalistic understanding of Shabbat as a day of contemplation. The third lecture was by a third faculty member of Schechter: Prof. Yossie Turner, a professor of modern Jewish thought. He proved a panoramic view of the way that various secular thinkers associated with Labor Zionism reimagined Shabbat to conform to their socialistic commitments. Particularly fascinating was Yossie’s treatment of A.D. Gordon who views labor as a holy act and therefore argued that Shabbat is immanent within the labor performed during the week. The final lecture was given by Prof. Yehoyada (Yoki) Amir who also focused on secular Zionism and the Sabbath. But his focus was on a contemporary thinker, Eli Schweid, who envisioned the way the Sabbath should be practiced within the context of Israeli society as part of a partnership between secular and religious Jews.
An additional session was also comprised of Schechter faculty. It focused on works, boundaries and shifts in Israeli and Jewish art and opened with a lecturer of the dean of Schechter, Dr. Noa Yuval-Hacham. Her lecture analyzed images of the hand of God in ancient Jewish art. The second lecture was delivered by the president of Schechter. Prof. Doron Bar, who discussed a number of conflicts during the first years of the State of Israel concerning the placement of pieces of figurative sculptures in Jerusalem. The last two lectures focused on the spiritual dimensions of Israeli-Jewish Art. Dr. Shula Lederman explored the tension between matter and spirit in works of Jewish and Israeli Art, and Dr. Ronit Steinberg examined contemporary artistic expressions of Jewish religious spirituality.