Hosting: Rabbi Marc Katz

The Heart of Loneliness is a finalist at the 2016 National Jewish Book Award.

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About the book. In simple and unassuming language, Rabbi Marc Katz gives his readers an intense and original interpretation of Hebrew scripture and religious practice. Through an investigation into the loneliness of several Biblical figures, each in his or her own particular dilemmas, the Heart of Loneliness shows how the ancient stories speak to spiritual and psychological pain and isolation and how they can offer inspiration and solace to the contemporary mind. Even God himself is a lonely being in this reading, actually desiring communion with humanity.

The Heart of Loneliness also offers guidance to individuals as well as the community on how to see and relate to loneliness in others. It reads like the mission statement of a thoughtful and wise leader in the making who aims to create a space of compassion. In Rabbi Katz’s temple each and every individual is seen.

The Third and last presidential debate. Watch it with us.

in the previous episode:

Trump was on the ropes.trump-clinton  Explicit audio tapes of his lewd objectification of women have surfaced; confirming the general perception of the man as vulgar and sexist, and sending his insurgent presidential campaign into a tail spin. Clinton was in a precarious position as well. Having to defend her frontrunner status, facing a wounded predator who would surly be looking to strike hard, her vulnerabilities would be laid bare, and she could not afford to make any mistakes. 

The Donald, as expected, attacked: “thirty years in government… just talk…. corrupt…wife of Bill… I will put you in Jail….” He circled around her menacingly, the body language underscoring his bitter rhetoric, as if to say, ‘cast me as the villain, and a villain I would play.’ Hillary did not lose control. But the smile, familiar from earlier exchanges, was gone. Her expression spoke of pain. Donald scored, and scored again. But the results were inconclusive, and Hillary may have weathered the storm.

 But what’s next? 

Almost without a doubt the hostility will deepen. This wonderful, horrible, political theater will continue this Wednesday night, and De Roomies will be watching it and getting triggered together. join us. You’ll feel safer…

Send a note to theroom5776@gmail.com, for the location.

See you there, or here, on social media.

Yoav

Welcome

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Ben Gurion’s home in the Negev

Dear friends and visitors. This new website has been created to document the activities at The Room. It is still under construction and will be updated. Please keep in touch with us. Join our mailing list by sending a note to theroom5776@gmail.com

Hosting: Yoav Gal

Guest artist Yoav Gal describes what studying composition at a music academy has been like, how the dogma of ‘atonality’ caused decades-long period characterized by ugly music, alienating composers from the general listening public as well as from performing musicians. He further explains the connection between ‘atonality’ and (Marxist) Critical Theory; and how starting in the 1970’s, at last, Minimalism offered a solution to the dilemma of late 20th century art music. In response, the Room gently offers that the artist might want to concentrate his efforts on his unique talent and original operas, rather than the political implications of styles of music.

Yoav Gal's VideoOpera

Yoav Gal’s opera, “Mosheh” at Here. Photos by Ari Mintz. 1/26/2011.

 

Hosting: Liron Unreich

The Ripple Project
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Liron Unreich describes himself as an enabler of creativity. For several years now, when not producing and installing high-end art exhibitions, he has been capturing the memories of holocaust survivors in an ambitious project called the Ripple Project, a collection of documentary movies and art installations, which trace survivors’ memories and their continuing effect as they ‘ripple’ through the generations. It is a saintly work, which not only touched the audiences, but is also often transformative to the lives of the survivors themselves, as well as their families and descendants.

Unlike other Holocaust memorials and commemorations, the project is not about the death camps, the war  or the Nazis, but, rather, about the expressions of humanity within the horror; the acts of creativity and kindness which took place amidst starvation, deprivation and death. A new kind of heroism is upheld, not that of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising kind, but that of the musical theater staged by children at Terezín kind.

The implications of this approach are profound. The assertion “never again”, which is at the basis of the state of Israel’s founding, is nowhere to be found in the Ripple Project. The most important lesson we were supposed to learn from the Holocaust, about the need to be able to defend ourselves as people. But the stories told by the Ripple Project are not a call to arms. The Nazis are shadowy demons. They rule over captive people and harvest us at will. Violent resistance, and even escape, are not discussed. They appear futile; perhaps besides the point. It’s the survival of Humanity, of empathy, kindness, creativity, which we are concerned with, not merely the survival of human beings. And since violence makes us more like these Nazi demons, resorting to violence in order to resist and survive implies that we have already lost the fight for humanity anyway.

This pacifist reaction implies a critique of Zionism. The Zionists have, in a sense, participated in the demise of an ideal. The survival of the Jews as, essentially, defenceless people, gave way to a militant stance, which makes us just a little bit (or a lot, depending on who you ask) more like the Nazis. A general disappointment of State of Israel appears to be obvious to the people sitting in the Room. When asked specifically about this, Liron takes on the mantra “Never Again” mantra and confesses that he expects that it, meaning slaughter of Jews on a massive scale, is likely will happen again. And yet – for a reason that is not completely expressed – it remains our (maybe sacred) duty to be Jews and to continue to tell our stories.

It was a fascinating and thought-provoking presentation/conversation which I will be thinking about for a long time.

Hosting: Rabbi Josh Weinberg

Masekhet Atzmaut

Rabbi Weinberg presents The Independence Tractate (Massekhet Atzmaut), an educational edition of the of Israeli Declaration of Independence. Compiled by the Education Department of Rabbis for Human Rights, the Declaration of Independence is treated as a talmudic text, embedded at the center of a page and surrounded with commentary. We are made aware of how ‘biblical’ was the intention behind the creating of this historical document, in content, as well as in form. In Hebrew we call it “Megillat Ha’atzmaut” – literally, ‘The scroll of Independence’. It was written by sofer stam (scribe) on vellum, so as to resemble the five biblical “megillot”. Like each of the traditional megillahs, it is associated with a holiday.  Song of Songs is recited during Passover, Ruth in Shavuot, Esther in Purim; Lamentations in Tisha josh_weinberg1Be’av; Ecclesiast in Sukkot… and megillat Ha’Atzmaut, presumably, should be recited at synagogues during Yom Ha’Atzmaut – the holiday of independence, minted in 1948.

These stylistic choices were meant to present the founding of the modern Jewish state as a continuation of Jewish history. Rabbi Weinberg, however, urges the Room to not to merely recite, but to analyze the veracity of the assertions in the declaration. Already in the first phrase a question mark is suggested. The scroll states:  “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained  statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.” Since the Torah was given in Sinai, however, and the Talmud written mostly in ’Galut’ (exile), is it correct to state that the birthplace of the Jewish people is Israel? Well, there’s the debate, and in this debate might (if we choose) hear echoes of post Zionism. When the text is read aloud at The Room, it was impossible not to notice the murmurs, giggles and ironic asides. It is grandiose, and it probably reminds people of their childhood schooling, when Israeli Nationalism, and triumphalism, was in vogue. But this cynicism seem like a defensive posture. The text; the historical moment is, indeed, of biblical proportions. Ben Gurion and his fellow signatories made a big assertion, declaring what being Jewish is all about. They were leaders in the full sense of the word. Personally humble and nationally ambitious, they took huge risks. They acted pragmatically in order to achieve a huge dream. They were capable of making this biblical-size assertion because they were, themselves, giants of biblical proportions. And we, by contrast, are dwarfs. What’s left for us is to add our commentaries on the edges of the scroll that they had written.

Hosting: Liel Leibovitz

 

On June 7th, 2016, Liel Leibovitz writes in Tablet Magazine:

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Liel

“No Matter who wins in November, the Jews have already lost. No longer at home in either the Democratic or Republican parties, it’s time to acknowledge the end of an era”.

The ‘era’ is the the golden age of Jews in the United States. The republican party essentially disintegrates into populist brew, which include, among many other things, racism, bigotry and Antisemitism. The left’s attitude towards the Jews is more menacing. The progressive wing of the Democratic party is where Intersectionality, the most recent intellectual perversion to come out of Academia, makes its permanent ideological home. The dogma demands that Israel should be rebuked. By August 2016, Black Lives Matter publish their Platform, which includes the audious reference to the Jewish State as an apartheid system in the process of committing genocide against the Palestinian people, confirming Liel’s observations.

The political wilderness, however, is a good place for the Jews – according to Liel – the place where perennial outsiders contemplate big ideas. When I think about the history of political turmoil and what it often meant for the Jews, how golden eras ended in disasters, I feel more dread than excitement. But what else can we do?  I choose to accept Liel’s call for a new intellectual engagement. This is our national calling.  

Liel Leibovitz is incredibly astute. Read his stuff here:  http://www.tabletmag.com/author/lleibovitz