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Panel on Rabbinic Perspectives on Secular Jewish Life and Culture Convenes at UAlbany

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 17, 2004) - The University at Albany’s Center for Jewish Studies will host a panel on "Rabbinic Perspectives on Secular Jewish Life and Culture” on Thursday, November 18, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Lecture Center 19, on the University’s uptown campus.

The November 18 panel will feature rabbis from the Capital District representing the spectrum of American Judaism. The panelists include Rabbi Moshe Bomzer of Beth Abraham-Jacob (Orthodox), Rabbi Don Cashman of Bnai Shalom (Reform), Rabbi Debora Gordon of Berith Sholom (Reform), Rabbi Bev Magidson, chaplain at the V.A. hospital and Daughters of Sarah Senior Community (Conservative), and Rabbi Ben Shull of UAlbany Hillel. The panel will be moderated by Prof. Mark A. Raider, director of the Center for Jewish Studies, and will include audience discussion.

“Judaism,” Raider said, “is both a venerable tradition of ideas and values as well as a social and communal bond manifest in the form of Jewish peoplehood.” Raider mentioned a recent study conducted by the Center for Cultural Judaism indicates that roughly half of the American Jewish population is irreligious (American Jewish Identity Survey, 2001). “In other words,” Raider said, “much of contemporary Jewish life is in fact shaped by a distinctive secular sensibility.”

Raider said the panelists will present their attitudes on secular Jewish life and culture. They will be asked to reflect on their rabbinic role vis-à-vis the secular Jewish world as well as recent demographic changes in American and world Jewry. They will also address the issue of the secular-religious divide in Israeli society.

The panel is being held in the framework of a new class offered by the Department of Judaic Studies. The Center for Jewish Studies recently received a $50,000 Posen Foundation Grant to support the development of new courses in the Department of Judaic Studies related to the study of secular Jewish life and culture.

The panel is free and open to the public. For more information and directions to the UAlbany campus, contact Yoel Hirschfeld in the Center for Jewish Studies at 591-8514, or send an e-mail to


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