Friday Noon Study Group

An informal discussion group considering various major Jewish texts and writers. Past subjects have included the Books of Judges, Kings, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Pirkei Avot: The Ethics of the Sages, the religious philosophy of Mordecai Kaplan, Elliot Cosgrove's Jewish Theology In Our Time, Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath, Rebecca Goldstein's Betraying Spinoza, Sylvia Boorstein's That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist, Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, Ari Shavit's My Promised Land:  The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,  Ruth Calderon's A Bride for One Night:  Talmud Tales, Song of Songs, Julie Galambush’s The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book, Lawrence Wright's Thirteen Days in September:  The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace, the Book of Joshua, Amy-Jill Levine's The Short Stories of Jesus, Martin Buber's I and Thou, the Book of Hosea, Robert Wright's The Evolution of God, and Joseph Telushkin's Words That Hurt, Words That Heal.  We meet every Friday from 12-1 in the CBI Social Hall.

Friday, March 17, 12-1

Over two dozen participants gathered for our inaugural session on Bernard-Henri Levy's The Genius of Judaism.  Because some folks had not yet obtained copies of Levy's essay collection, we limited our discussion to general first impressions from those who had read some or all the book.  Not unlike many of the book's reviewers, our readers' reactions were mixed:  some found his prose dense and challenging (perhaps because the text lost something in its translation from the original French) or pretentious (too much name-dropping); others thought the writing was accessible.  Most of us were attracted to Levy's subject matter: the rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world and how the spirit of Judaism might confront that rise.  With the help of a handout that covered Levy's life and selected works, we also addressed his reputation as a "public intellectual, media personality, and author," and the extent to which his popularity was "largely dependent on his charisma and photogenic appearance" (especially when a few too many shirt buttons exposed his chest).  I suspect that a few of us may come to share the opinion of Mariane Pearl, wife of an American journalist who was slain by Islamic extremists, who called Levy "a man whose intelligence is destroyed by his own ego."  We concluded our session with a screening (thanks to the always dependable AV skills of Bernard Coleman) of an interview between Levy and Rabbi David Wolpe that was held at a synagogue in Los Angeles.

This Friday, we'll discuss the Prologue and opening two chapters of The Genius of Judaism:  "New Guise of the Oldest Form of Hate" and "What Should We Do? "What Can We Hope For?" (pp. 1-47).  Our informal discussion group meets every Friday from noon to one in the CBI Social Hall.  All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise, and regardless of whether they've attended any previous sessions.   If you have questions, please contact Jay Jacoby at