Chabad to Explore Jewish Identity in Modern World

By Zuchowski, Dave | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 23, 2014 | Go to article overview

Chabad to Explore Jewish Identity in Modern World


Zuchowski, Dave, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Those interested in learning more about Jewish identity might want to consider a six-week course being offered by the Chabad of the South Hills, a chapter of the international organization known as the Jewish Learning Institute.

The course, which starts in February, will answer questions such as what it was like for Jewish immigrants to leave their homeland and start new lives in a free world. It will also explain what descendants can learn from their struggles to connect more deeply to their own Jewish identities.

Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum, who will teach the course titled "To Be a Jew in the Free World: Jewish Identity through the Lens of the Modern World," said that contemporary Jews live in a magical time.

"Throughout our history, we've moved from place to place to escape persecution," he said. "We usually lived in shtetls, small villages away from the big cities. When the Jews began moving away from the shtetls for America, they ended up in large cities where they tried to retain their identities."

Part of the course he'll teach will look at how the Jews who arrived in the New World adapted to the modern age.

"The course will help overcome the perceived incompatibilities between Judaism and modern society," he said. "It will also provide the clarity and conviction to pass on a legacy of Jewish pride to the next generation."

In one of the classes, Rabbi Rosenblum will discuss what freedom offers.

"In 1790, after leading a revolution in the name of liberty, George Washington affirmed the divine and inviolable freedoms of America's tiny Jewish community," he said. "But what is freedom? Is it indeed liberating to do as we please? Perhaps freedom is about something much deeper, more meaningful, and fulfilling."

In another class, he'll discuss how and why alternative allegiances are a cause for concern for Jews and how deep the Jewish identity runs.

A third class will take on the topic of the Jewish vote.

"In 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant signed an order expelling all Jews from the area under his command," Rabbi Rosenblum said. "This became a defining issue in his 1868 presidential campaign. Are Jews obliged to vote as Jews? Can our concerns as Jews conflict with our duties to our diaspora home? …

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