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Bridging the Jewish Secular-Religious Divide: A Weekend of Learning with Lawrence Bush

Lawrence Bush, writer, educator and longtime editor of Jewish Currents will speak on the vibrant history and contemporary richness of secular Jewish (and Yiddish) culture.

Jewish Currents is a progressive, secular Jewish quarterly magazine that carries on the insurgent tradition of the Jewish left through independent journalism, political commentary, and a “countercultural approach to Jewish arts and literature.  
Judaism as a Counterculture.   (November 16, Friday evening program also Saturday, November 17 at Congregation Beth Shalom)

NOTE: Due to difficulties with travel, Mr. Bush's Friday night presentation will be delivered after Havdalah on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Following the 7:00 p.m. Shabbat Services, he will talk at 8:30 pm on “Judaism as a Counterculture” following a delicious Oneg sponsored by Adult Education. This evening will be the first event in the Weekend of Learning with Lawrence Bush.

In 1915, Louis Brandeis famously wrote that “the 20th-century ideals of America have been the ideals of the Jew for twenty centuries.” How much staying power does Brandeis’ declaration have for 21st-century America? This presentation will explore certain fundamental ethical values of the Jewish tradition — regarding economics, community, paradigms of masculinity, teachings on justice and compassion, and more — and propose that they constitute a counterculture within, and even a culture of protest against, contemporary American attitudes.

The November 17 program at Beth Shalom will begin at 5:00 p.m. with Havdalah followed by Mr. Bush’s talk on “Judaism as a Counterculture.” This talk will be a repeat of the Friday evening program at Bet Haverim in Davis, part of the weekend of learning focused on “Bridging the Jewish Secular-Religious Divide.” Please .
36 Reasons to be Radically Jewish (Saturday morning D’var Torah, November 17)

The classic Yiddish writer Y.L. Peretz wrote that Jews who “wish to be true to ourselves” should be asking “vital questions” about “conscience, freedom, culture, ethics.” This presentation will name some of those questions, based on an artwork, “Thirty-Six Reasons to be Radically Jewish,” which organizes them into six categories — the six points of the Jewish star.  

“Resistance Is the Lesson” (Saturday afternoon following services, November 17)

Advance reservations were required for this program. Solomon's Deli will cater our nosh, a tempting selection of Fall salads and roasted vegetables with a sweet treat to complete.  Advance lunch reservations were requested by Friday, November 9th. An $18 per lunch donation is suggested to offset the costs of the catered meal and to ensure that the experience will be accessible to all in our community regardless of their ability to pay.

Lawrence Bush will talk about the “Resistance is the Lesson” exhibit (posters will be installed in the Social Hall) which tells the details about more than twenty stirring acts of armed resistance against Nazi oppression, in ghettos, concentration camps, and the forests and fields of Central and Eastern Europe, France, Italy, Greece, and beyond — with prominent photo portraits of Hannah Arendt, Mordechai Anielewicz (commander of the Warsaw Ghetto
Uprising), Vitka Kempner and Abba Kovner (partisans of Vilna), Roza Robota (a heroine of the Auschwitz uprising), Janusz Korczak (who died with the orphans of Warsaw) and numerous other well-known and little-known heroes and heroines of the Jewish resistance throughout the lands of Europe. Also included is a special section on Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to help Jews.

“Resistance Is the Lesson” is an adaptable exhibit that can be tailored to fit a variety of exhibit spaces. It includes brief summaries of how the “sheep-to-slaughter” vision of the Holocaust took shape, about the meaning and scope of Jewish resistance, and about some of the lessons we might draw from that reality for our contemporary lives.

Putting God in Quotation Marks (Sunday morning, November 18)

Lawrence Bush will lead a dialogue, “Putting God in Quotation Marks” at 10:00 a.m. Coffee and bagels provided. This will be the final event in the weekend of learning with Lawrence Bush focused on “Bridging the Jewish Secular-Religious Divide.”
Why does God and prayer loom so large in synagogue life, when so many people in the pews are agnostic? Is there a way to move God out of the doorway so that a broader cross-section of Jews might enter synagogue? Does “secular” simply mean “anti-religious” — or could secular Jews have something important to bring to the interpretation of Judaism? What does it mean to be “religious” in an era when most key ethical decisions are confined to corporate boardrooms and our kitchen tables? Could religious observance have more influence in our worldly, not only our inner, lives? This discussion aims at sacralizing the secular and secularizing the sacred, to
help bridge the secular-religious gap in contemporary Jewish life.

Lawrence Bush
Lawrence Bush

Lawrence Bush has been a creative force as a writer, visual artist and magazine editor for more than three decades. He has just retired as editor of Jewish Currents, a 72-year old magazine, for which he conducted an eight-year daily blog about the date in Jewish history, JEWDAYO. Bush was a speechwriter for a dozen years for Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, the late leader of Reform Judaism in America, and also served for thirteen years as the founding editor of the magazine of the Reconstructionist movement, Reconstructionism Today. His numerous books include Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist and American Torah Toons: 54 Illustrated Commentaries.

Bush’s essays, fiction and artwork have appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, MAD magazine, Tikkun, Reform Judaism, and other publications, and his writings have been anthologized in Best Jewish Writing 2003; Hallucinogens: A Reader; The 54th Century; and A Mentsh Among Men.


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