Our Omer Study Programme, 5782/2022
Standing Together at Sinai
Join us for a fascinating series on the culture wars,
in preparation for this year's Tikkun Leyl Shavuot.
Tuesday evenings in the run-up to Shavuot, on Zoom:
26th April–31st May,
Followed by an optional extra half-hour of discussion.
Click here to join.
The term “Culture War” is probably a translation of the German word “Kulturkampf”, which referred to the struggles that took place in 19th-century Prussia over the right of the Catholic Church to govern itself. From the 1920s the term has been used in a North America context to refer to the broad conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative, and those considered progressive or liberal.
There are always going to be political differences within large human societies. Sometimes those differences seem surmountable, and addressable through free, respectful debate. At other times those differences are experienced as zero-sum, highly polarized and impossible to bridge. Communication between different groups then becomes very charged and difficult, sometimes impossible, and the language of culture “war” becomes more pertinent. The language of “war” implies a comprehensive and significant struggle that needs to be won, where the world is divided into friends and foes.
The major political cleavage in the present “culture war” in the United States has pulled in issues such as abortion, homosexuality, transgender rights, pornography, multiculturalism, immigration, racism, climate change, healthcare policy, the centrality of Christianity in American life, Covid regulations, and gun laws. In the UK the Brexit debates gave us a taste of a torn society and the challenge of trying to bridge gaps and maintain civil discourse. Other current disagreements in the UK also seem to share some features of a “culture war”.
Members of KNMS hold diverse views on a variety of issues. A synagogue is, and arguably should be, a microcosm of broader society. As a small sacred congregation, a synagogue perhaps provides the possibility of a context which can sustain a type of empathetic listening, a thinking-through of painful differences, that might be too difficult on a broader stage.
On Tuesday evenings during the Omer period between Pesach and Shavuot, starting on the 26th April, we will work through a number of contentious contemporary issues, using real arguments in classical Jewish sources as jumping off points. On 26th April itself we will open with an overview of the nature of argument itself in classical Jewish sources. Our annual Tikkun Leyl Shavuot on 4-5 June will also be devoted to this theme.
All sessions will be led by Rabbi Joel. They are all stand-alone sessions, based on arguments from classical Jewish sources, but participation in the whole series is encouraged. Sessions will be on Zoom and, apart from the opening session, they will not be recorded. All participants are encouraged to attend or listen to the opening session where the core terminology of the series will be presented.
Sessions (all 7.30pm-8.30pm on Zoom, followed by optional discussion time):
Dealing with Difference
2000 years of coping—and failing to cope—with profound differences of opinion.
This session was recorded: Here is the recording of the first session.
Borders and Refugees
What issues underpin the painful issue of how a country polices its borders and permits or prevents immigration?
A Climate Emergency?
When should the declaration of an emergency radically change the rules of the game?
Sex and Gender
Are sex and gender two separate things? To what extent should we seek to maintain older models of identity?
Anti-vaxxers and Mask-refusers
How should we weigh the balance between individual liberty and society’s coercive control?
Race, Unconscious Bias and Reparations
Should we feel responsible for our unconscious biases, and for historical abuses committed by our kin?
All open shul events can be joined by clicking on this Zoom link,
or by following the phone instructions and using 8079784899 as the meeting ID and 727721 as the password.