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The State of American Jewish Belief Revisited

The State of American Jewish Belief Revisited

At the Edge of a Crisis or at a New Threshold?

Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Listen to audio from the program

Recent studies point to declining synagogue membership and denominational identification as signs of crisis in American Judaism. This symposium focuses attention on theological dimensions of the perceived crisis. Six leading thinkers came together to share their unique vantage points on a series of questions: Is American Judaism theologically bankrupt or is it at the cusp of a radically new beginning? How should we diagnose this perceived crisis and what proposals might counter it? How can American Judaism build on traditional Jewish thought to address today’s challenges?


12 — 12:30 pm
Welcoming Remarks AUDIO>

  • Hal M. Lewis, President and CEO, Spertus Institute
  • Josef Stern, William H. Colvin Professor of Philosophy and Director, Center for Jewish Studies, The University of Chicago
  • Paul Mendes-Flohr, Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor in the Divinity School and the Committee on Jewish Studies, The University of Chicago; Professor Emeritus of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

12:30 — 2 pm

    • Arnold Eisen, Chancellor and Professor of Jewish Thought, Jewish Theological Seminary of America | Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Stanford University AUDIO>
    • Rachel Adler, Professor of Modern Jewish Thought and Judaism and Gender, Hebrew Union College—Los Angeles AUDIO>
    • Arthur Green, Rector of the Rabbinical School and Irving Brudnick Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Hebrew College, Boston | Professor Emeritus, Brandeis University | Former Dean and President, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College AUDIO>

2 — 3 pm
Response and Panel Discussion

  • Led by Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies in the Divinity School, The University of Chicago AUDIO>

3 — 3:30 pm
Coffee, Tea, and Cookies

3:30 — 5 pm

  • Saul Berman, Professor, Yeshiva University | Founder, Edah AUDIO>
  • Riv-Ellen Prell, Professor of American Studies, University of Minnesota AUDIO>
  • Contribution by David Ellenson (Read by Joseph Stern), President and Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought, Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion AUDIO>

5 — 6 pm
Response and Panel

  • Discussion Led by Richard Rosengarten, Associate Professor of Religion and Literature in the Divinity School | Former Dean, Divinity School, The University of Chicago AUDIO>


The University of Chicago Center for Jewish Studies in collaboration with Spertus was proud to host this timely and important conference. The conference was co-sponsored by the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture, the University of Chicago.