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Aphrodite and the Rabbis Series: How the Jews Adapted Roman Culture

Hosted By: Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program ("CSP")

This is three-part class. Sign-up is allowed at any time.

Synagogue Art in the Ancient World Sunday

August 8, 2021

Although 19th century anti-Semites dismissed Jews as “an artless people,” there are hundreds of examples of synagogue and funerary art from the period of the Talmud (70-600 CE). We will explore these images to see biblical interpretations in frescos and mosaics, and also see pagan motifs, even pagan gods(!), depicted in ancient synagogues. Together we will “read” the art to learn about our ancestors and their beliefs.

Pirke Avot is Stoic Philosophy?

Sunday August 15, 2021

If you’ve studied Pirke Avot before, you know it is “wisdom literature,” not unlike the boy-scout manual. But if the boy-scouts represent a Protestant Ethic, then Pirke Avot represents Stoic Philosophy of the Roman Empire. We will see how this quintessential rabbinic work has a very comfortable place in the pagan intellectual world, much as Jews today have a place in America.

Mighty Aphrodite

Sunday August 22, 2021

We will study two famous, early rabbinic texts about Aphrodite/ Venus to see how the goddess of love both attracted and repelled our rabbis. In the end, they sought a marriage of Torah and Hellenism to create rabbinic Judaism as we know it. We’ll also take a peek at that example of pagan Symposium literature we call the Passover Haggadah.

The event listed here is hosted by a third party. My Jewish Learning/70 Faces Media is not responsible for its content or for errors in the listing.


Professor Burton L. Visotzky

PROF. BURTON L. VISOTZKY, PhD, serves as Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he joined the faculty upon his ordination in 1977. Visotzky was a dean of the Graduate School and founding Rabbi of the egalitarian Women’s League Seminary Synagogue. He serves as the Louis Stein Director of the Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at JTS, programming on public policy, and directs JTS’s Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Prof. Visotzky served as Master Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (where he will return to teach in Spring 2022). He is the author of ten books, editor of seven other volumes, and has authored over 125 articles and reviews. His book, APHRODITE AND THE RABBIS: How the Jews adapted Roman Culture to Create Judaism as We Know It, was published in 2016. He has been featured on radio, television, and in print. In 1995-1996, he collaborated with Bill Moyers on the ten-part PBS series, “Genesis: A Living Conversation.” He consulted DreamWorks on their 1998 film, “Prince of Egypt.” In 2012, Visotzky worked with Christiane Amanpour on her four-hour mini-series, “Back to the Beginning.” Rabbi Visotzky has been named to “The Forward 50” and repeatedly to the Newsweek/Daily Beast list of “The 50 Most Influential Jews in America.” Prof. Visotzky holds an EdM from Harvard University; and has been visiting faculty at Oxford; Cambridge; and Princeton Universities; and the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow.
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Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program ("CSP")

The Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program (“CSP”) is a program offering adult Jewish education and family Jewish celebrations.
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