Prof. Galili Shahar wishes you Happy holidays
Dear friends and supporters of the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem,
Spring is upon us, and in more senses than one, we are standing before a fateful hour, in which the democratic tradition and civil society institutes are put to the test. Under the guise of reform, the new government has entitled itself to transform the regime, to impose its authority on the court, education, and the higher education systems, to use an even heavier hand as an occupying power in Palestine, and to exclude all forms of free life. This harsh wave is also rising in neighbouring countries, as well as overseas. Our tradition – to the study of which we are devoted, in order to reflect upon and remember, testify to and resist in its name, the tradition of Jewish openness – does not allow us to withdraw in the face of threats and injustices. Certainly not on Passover eve, when we recall the principles of freedom.
While the Leo Baeck Institute celebrates tradition, we are no strangers to the democratic way and liberal worldview, or the philosophy of freedom, from which we can immediately derive mutual responsibility and solidarity with all inhabitants of this country, Jews as Arabs. And while it would not be wise to overestimate our strength, we have the right to resist – exemplary civil resistance to injustice.
And if we needed a source and inspiration for that right, we need to seek them also in that German-Jewish tradition that we cherish, which has many aspects indeed, and while some of which do not necessarily align with that democratic worldview, in the open sense of the word, the major representatives in that tradition – in law, academia, higher education, as well as theology, medicine, public administration, economics, literature and philosophy – have contributed, next to members of other Jewish communities, immigrants both Oriental and Occidental, to the founding of Israeli democracy. Our resistance and our source of inspiration rely on that contribution as well.
It may not be a complete coincidence that the annual lecture program at the Leo Baeck Institute has been dedicated this year to the issue of “reform”. Titled “Reform. Transfiguration: History, Religion, Culture”, the lecture series discusses radical changes and revolutionary amendments, next to structural changes – some slow or minor – throughout German-Jewish history, from the Middle Ages to modernity, inquiring about their historical and philosophical meanings, among other things, as they relate to questions of gender and sexuality. You are invited to take part in the ongoing online lectures, that have additional relevance these days, when we wonder what is a reform worthy of its name.
And what can be expected? That at this time as well we will generate desirable innovations in research and cling on to the tradition of freedom that we endorse, and devote ourselves to studies and havruta, and that empowered thereby, we will also bring peace to our land.
On behalf of the management and staff, we thank you, friends and supporters of the Leo Baeck Institute, for your friendship and support, and wish you a happy Passover.
Yours, as always,
Galili Shahar, Chair, Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem