Spring Lecture Series - 2017
Spring Lecture Series - 2017

Click Caring for a Vulnerable World:
The Widow, the Orphan, and the Stranger –Then and Now

with R. Shai Held, R. Avi Killip, and R. Jason Rubenstein
featuring R. Jennie Rosenn, Ruth Messinger, and Tamar Fox

Tuesdays May 9, 16, and 23, 2017 at 7:30pm at Hadar
190 Amsterdam Avenue

Event Description | Speaker Bios


The Torah speaks of a God who is passionately concerned with the fate of the vulnerable and easily exploited—the orphan, the widow, and the "stranger."  Accordingly, it challenges Israel to build a society that is everything Egypt was not—compassionate, just, and especially concerned to protect the weak and downtrodden.  As heirs of the Torah, we too are challenged to identify and protect those in our societies who are exploited and oppressed.  

Who were the "widows," "orphans," and "strangers" the Torah speaks about, and who are the widows, the orphans, and the strangers among us today?  In this series, we'll study classical texts and engage contemporary problems, seeking to understand the sources in their own context and then asking what they demand of us today, in 21st century America.

Each evening will begin with a lecture by a Hadar faculty member followed by a dialogue exploring contemporary understandings of the category discussed. These dialogues will be held with people currently working in the field on these topics.

The sessions will be recorded and audio will be available after the events.

Session Descriptions

Click here to listen to the recording.
May 9: "Love the Immigrant/Refugee As Yourself": The Torah's Revolutionary Charge

Lecture by Rabbi Shai Held, Dean and President of Hadar, followed by a dialogue with R. Jennie Rosenn, Vice President for Community Engagement at HIAS.

Many ancient societies were preoccupied with proper treatment of the "widow" and the "orphan." But the Bible goes one step further, focusing on the widow and the orphan but also on the ger—the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee.  In the Bible's vision, vulnerable insiders are to be protected from exploitation, but so also are vulnerable outsiders.  In this session, we'll explore the Bible's insistence that we both protect and love the ger.  Along the way, we'll discover how Jewish memory and Jewish theology come together to yield this call to radical empathy.

Click here to listen to the recording.
May 16: Vulnerable and Empowered: Widows as objects of care and agents of change

Lecture by Rabbi Avi Killip, VP of Strategy and Programs at Hadar, followed by a dialogue with Ruth Messinger, Global Ambassador at AJWS.

Again and again the Torah calls our attention—in both law and story—to the widow. Why is care for the widow so urgent? What is gained by grouping the widow with the orphan and the stranger—and what is lost? Through exploring the experience of widowhood in Jewish tradition we will uncover the complex interplay of power and powerlessness of those on the margins and ask what it means to “care for” categories of people who blur the distinction between vulnerable and empowered.


Click here to listen to the recording.
May 23: To Love Each Child: The Divine and Human Urgency of Orphanhood

Lecture by Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, Dean of Students and Alumni at Hadar, followed by a dialogue with Tamar Fox, a step-parent and foster parent in Philadelphia.

The Torah forcefully insists that caring for children without parents is one of God's central demands of humanity. In this session we will place the human meanings of (not) being cared for by one's parents, and of caring for children who are not our own—alongside the Divine meanings of parenthood and parentlessness. Our central questions will be: what can Torah teach us about orphanhood, and what can the imperative to care for orphans teach us about Torah?


Speaker Bios

Rabbi Shai Held

Rabbi Shai Held — theologian, scholar, and educator—is President, Dean and Chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, where he also directs the Center for Jewish Leadership and Ideas.  Previously, he served for six years as Scholar-in-Residence at Kehilat Hadar in New York City, and taught both theology and Halakha at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  He also served as Director of Education at Harvard Hillel.  A 2011 recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, Rabbi Held has been named multiple times to Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America.  He holds a doctorate in religion from Harvard; his main academic interests are in modern Jewish and Christian thought, in biblical theology, and in the history of Zionism.  Rabbi Held's first book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence, was published by Indiana University Press in 2013; his next book, The Heart of Torah, a collection of essays on the Torah in two volumes, is due out this year.

Tamar Fox

Tamar Fox is a writer and editor. By day she works for the City of Philadelphia to create a new City website and by night she's a step-parent, foster parent, community organizer, and essayist. On Shabbat, Tamar is a gabbai and organizer of Minyan Tikvah, an independent minyan in Center City Philadelphia. Tamar was a fellow at Yeshivat Hadar in summer 2007, and is the author of No Baths at Camp, a PJ Library book.

Rabbi Avi Killip

Rabbi Avi Killip serves as VP of Strategy and Programs and Director of Project Zug at Hadar. Avi was ordained from Hebrew College's pluralistic Rabbinical School in Boston. She is a Wexner Graduate Fellow and holds a Bachelors and Masters from Brandeis University in Jewish Studies and Women & Gender Studies. Avi has worked as a teacher and Jewish professional in two synagogues, an independent minyan, a mikveh, and a yeshiva.

Ruth Messinger

Ruth W. Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) from 1998 to July of 2016, is currently the organization’s inaugural Global Ambassador. In this role, Ruth is continuing her crucial work of engaging rabbis and interfaith leaders to speak out on behalf of oppressed and persecuted communities worldwide.


Rabbi Jennie Rosenn

Rabbi Jennie Rosenn is vice president for community engagement at HIAS, where she mobilizes the Jewish community to advance the rights of refugees in the U.S. and around the world. Previously, she served as Director of the Jewish Life and Values Program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation and as a rabbi at Columbia/Barnard Hillel. A founding board member of AVODAH and Repair the World, she has twice been named to the Forward’s 50 Jews in America. Rabbi Rosenn was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow.

Rabbi Jason Rubenstein

Rabbi Jason Rubenstein is Dean of Students and Alumni at Yeshivat Hadar, where he also teaches Talmud and Jewish thought. Jason was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in May of 2011, and holds an MA in Talmud from JTS and a BA from Harvard College. An alumnus of the kollel of Yeshivat Ma'ale Gilboa, the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, the Legacy Heritage Rabbinic Fellows program at JTS, and the Graduate Fellowship in Jewish Law and Legal Theory of the Cardozo Center for Jewish Law, Jason is also a recipient of the 2015 Pomegranate Prize for Jewish Education.