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New York Day of Reconstructionist Learning 2017


As we enter 2017, how will we move forward? How do we help our community and the communities around us heal after a strenuous presidential election and widespread violence around the world?

Register now to learn and share with prominent Reconstructionist rabbis and scholars during the New York Day of Reconstructionist Learning.

Click here for schedule in PDF format.

January 29, 2017
12:15 - 6:00 p.m.
Society for the Advancement of Judaism
15 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024

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Keynote Address:  "Sir, I know just how you feel": Cultivating Moral Courage in Challenging Times

Learn with our keynote speaker Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Bet Haverim and Chair of RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities Tikkun Olam Commission.






Informative, thought-provoking sessions include:

Stories from the Zohar and Their Meaning for Spiritual Depth, Ritual, and Ethics
Joel Hecker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Jewish Mysticism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

One of the features that gives the Zohar, The Book of Radiance, its charm, is the variety of stories found in its pages. In this session, we will look at three non-mystical stories that bear continued significance for Judaism today. The first is a parable that deals with a mountain-man, a figure who is confident in his knowledge about food, which has direct meaning for the way in which we think about and interpret biblical texts. The second is one of the sources for reciting Kaddish for a deceased parent. The last story portrays a couple of rabbis who heap scorn upon a disfigured person, blaming him for his misfortune. What emerges is a narrative that explores the sometimes-conflicting values of rebuke, verbal abuse, and the responsibilities of leadership.



Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards: Texts for a Jewish Resistance Movement
Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, Society for the Advancement of Judaism

“Resistance” is defined as “the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.”

Looking to our history, legend, and texts, we will examine past forms of Jewish resistance against governments and powers that oppress and destroy, and consider how our ancestors’ actions might offer a powerful template for navigating our post-November 8, 2016 world as Jewish Americans.





Saving American Politics Through Tikkun Middot Practice
Rabbi Marc Margolius, West End Synagogue

How can we respond wisely and effectively to the fractious, often toxic political environment ​ in which we operate today? In this workshop, we will explore how Tikkun Middot practice -- integrating mindfulness practice with attention to core middot (spiritual/moral traits) -- ​might inform our efforts to restore civility, ​hope, and integrity to the American political process.





From Eden to the Steppes of Moab: The Torah as a Response to Political Crisis 
Elsie Stern, Ph.D. Vice President for Academic Affairs, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Have you ever wondered why the Torah ends before the Israelites enter the Promised Land? In this workshop, we will explore this peculiar fact and discuss how the experience of exile might help us understand it.





The Theology and Practice of Nonviolent Direct Action
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, Bnai Keshet

Join us for this practical discussion of nonviolence as a tactic and an ethic for Jewish organizing and activism.​





Understanding the Presidential Election
Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D. Director of the Center for Jewish Ethics, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

We will start by looking at how Jews voted and why, and then talk briefly about why Trump’s victory was such a surprise to pollsters and the implications of that. We will then talk about how our values-based community can best use its influence within the new political reality.

Jewish Speech Ethics: A Response to the Politics of Derision and Division
Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D. Director of the Center for Jewish Ethics, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

In a time of growing political disparagement and disregard for truth telling, we as individuals and communities can gain strength from the rich Jewish tradition of sh’mirat halashon, speech ethics. We will discuss key concepts and how to use them.


Nonviolent Communications in Simmering Times
Cyd Weissman, Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Impact, Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Can conflict be transformed into mutually satisfying outcomes? Can we disagree at the dinner table and within the congregation in ways that go beyond power struggles? In such simmering times, can we speak and listen to build trust and cooperation? We’ll ground our practice in the wisdom of the rabbis and a technique developed by Marshall Rosenberg in his groundbreaking book Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life.




Please join us for a wine and cheese reception at the conclusion of the formal program.

In addition, West End Synagogue and the Society for the Advancement of Judaism invite you to attend their joint Shabbaton on the Shabbat preceding the Day of Learning. Clergy from both congregations will participate in both Friday night services (at WES) and Saturday morning services (at SAJ). Following Kiddush lunch, the program will include a roundtable and participatory discussion.

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Questions? Contact Jackie Land at

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