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  • Bar-Ilan University 2018 Honorary Doctorate recipient Malcolm Hoenlein (left) and Prof. Adam Ferziger

    Bar-Ilan University 2018 Honorary Doctorate recipient Malcolm Hoenlein (left) and Prof. Adam Ferziger

    Academic Center Devoted to Reconceiving Relationship between Judaism in Israel and North America Launched

    Date: 2018-07-09 Hour: 8:26

    While Israel and North America are the two most influential bases of contemporary Judaism, the past decade has seen deep points of contention between the two on many issues, including conversion, access to holy places, centralization of religious authority, denominational diversity, and personal status of members of intermarried families. These are not just theoretical divergences, but existential issues that alienate North American Jews from the State of Israel, and perplex Israelis who lack a nuanced understanding of Jewish life abroad.

    The need to enable groups that deeply disagree on core theological and ideological issues to achieve fruitful and non-destructive interfaces rather than growing irreparably apart has never been greater.  To this end, Bar-Ilan University has launched an Impact Center for Research on Judaism in Israel and North America, a first-of-its-kind academic framework in Israel or North America that will propose creative and innovative ideas for the future. 

    "Our mission is to reconceive and shape public discourse on the connection between Israeli Judaism and North American Judaism, paving the way for an honest relationship based upon mutual appreciation for both what is shared between the two and the distinctive features that divide them," says Prof. Adam Ferziger, Director-designate of the Center.  A foremost expert on North American and Israeli Judaism, Ferziger serves as Incumbent of the S.R. Hirsch Research Chair in the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, and as co-director of the annual Oxford Summer Institute on Modern and Contemporary Judaism, University of Oxford.  His book, Beyond Sectarianism, received the National Jewish Book Award in the category of American Jewish Studies. 

    The Center will be based on a framework combining applied academic research and training, and active problem solving.  This will include an academic think-tank and policy research center dedicated to examining the key issues of contemporary Judaism as they are manifested in Israel and North America and designing concrete plans for a future infrastructure that will account for the unique characteristics of each. In addition, a unique, non-partisan framework will be established for decision makers and public leaders to negotiate change.  The Center will also train a new generation of experts equipped to analyze Israeli and North American Judaism.

    At the launch of the new Impact Center, Ferziger conducted a dialogue entitled  "Past, Present, Future – Judaism in Israel and North America" with Bar-Ilan University 2018 Honorary Doctorate recipient Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.   The event was broadcast live on the Nachum Segal Network and may be heard here.

    The new Center is the latest Impact Center to be launched at Bar-Ilan University. IMPACT as a concept represents a new approach to academic research developed at Bar-Ilan which emphasizes multidisciplinary research between groups of researchers from various disciplines with a common goal of tackling some of the most complex social, economic, political, technological, medical and cultural challenges we face in order to impact upon the world in which we live.