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Torah with the Way of the Land: The Legacy of German Judaism and Some Questions for Ethically Engaged Jews Today

Hosted By: Valley Beit Midrash

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What is the legacy of German Judaism, and what can it still offer us today? German Judaism began with Moses Mendelssohn’s controversial German translation of the Humash in 1783, and ended with the Nazi pogrom of November 1938. The best known slogan of the Torah-true wing of German Judaism is “Torah im derekh erets” (“Torah with the way of the land”). But this slogan is often misunderstood as nothing more than an educational philosophy that came in one flavor. In fact, it is an ideal of humanity articulated, in several competing versions, in the context of the quest for Jewish civil rights.

The German-Jewish tradition raises vital questions that remain relevant today: What is the mission of Jews within civil society? What makes a Jewish community Jewish? What role should Jews play within the ongoing struggle for social justice and civil rights?

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Professor Paul Franks

Paul Franks is the Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Philosophy and Judaic Studies at Yale University. He was educated at Gateshead Yeshiva; Balliol College, Oxford; and Harvard University. Before arriving at Yale in 2011, he was the inaugural holder of the Jerahmiel S. and Carole S. Grafstein Chair in Jewish Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He has also taught at University of Michigan, Indiana University Bloomington, University of Notre Dame, and University of Chicago, and he has given shiurim at synagogues and Jewish community centers throughout Britain, Israel, and North America. Paul works at the intersection of the Jewish and German philosophical traditions, specializing in Kantian and post-Kantian metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of the humanities and social sciences. He is the translator and annotator, with Michael L. Morgan, of Franz Rosenzweig, Philosophical and Theological Writings (Hackett, 2000); and he is the author of All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism (Harvard, 2005), as well as over fifty academic articles. He is currently writing, with his collaborator Morgan, an ambitious survey that will reveal the dynamic interaction between Jewish philosophy and modern European philosophy from Luria to Levinas, and he is also working on a monograph on Kant’s metaphysical and epistemological legacy.
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Valley Beit Midrash

Valley Beit Midrash (VBM), based in Phoenix, AZ, hosts Jewish learning events on a wide range of topics and perspectives.
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