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Program Sessions (in formation)
 
Keynote
 
Are Joy and Satisfaction Goals of ‘The Good Life’ in Judaism?, Dr. David Kraemer
Jewish historical experience has led to the evaluation that “it’s hard to be a Jew.”  In fact, Jewish rituals require that we remember and mourn (things like the destruction of the Temple and the Holocaust). And Judaism, with all of its commandments, requirements, and restrictions, has been seen by some as pretty joyless. In light of these observations, we will seek to respond to several challenging questions: Does Judaism care about happiness or satisfaction at all? How does Judaism understand “joy” or “satisfaction” and how is it achieved? And perhaps most importantly, is it a betrayal for a Jew to put aside the centrality of memories of catastrophe and instead devote him/herself to joy?
 
Breakout Sessions
 
“Extraordinary Dignity, Unlimited Responsibility”: Modern Jewish Thoughts on the Good Life, Dr. Michal Raucher
The question of “what is a good life” is often considered from an individual’s standpoint, but Jewish thought and ethics tend to convey answers to this question that reflect a more communal perspective. This session examines a selection of Jewish ethical texts that consider the good life to be one devoted to others and the community. We will evaluate these sources in light of our American individualistic framework.
 
“Happy Is He Who Walks in the Path of Truth”:  Mysticism, Morality, and the Emotions, Dr. Eitan Fishbane
What is the relationship between spiritual practice and the quest for moral goodness?  To what extent has the Jewish mystical tradition been concerned with the cultivation of virtue?  Through classic texts from the kabbalistic tradition we will explore key values such as forgiveness, hospitality, compassion, and the restraint of anger, seeking to understand mystical conceptions of the good life — a life lived in pursuit of justice, in the image of God.
 
Anticipating Death and Finding Satisfaction in Life: The Profound Wisdom of Kohelet, Dr. David Kraemer
Wise people will have different views about what constitutes “the Good Life.” But no one researched this question more completely than the biblical author, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). In this session we review his report on his research of Ecclesiastes ch. 2 and evaluate his conclusions concerning what truly makes a life “well-lived.”
 
Does Religious Observance Lead Us to the Good Life?, Rabbi David Hoffman
What do traditional Jewish sources have to say about whether observance of the mitzvot (commandments) will lead one to achieve the good life?  Examining Talmudic and medieval rabbinic texts, we will investigate the limits and possibilities of a life of mitzvot in helping to bring about meaning, joy, and betterment of the world.  
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