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A Jewish Theologian in Chicago

A Jewish Theologian in Chicago

Themes in the Thought of Eliezer Berkovits

Monday, March 7, 2011 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm


The Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago, in collaboration with Spertus, proudly presented this symposium, bringing together leading scholars to critically address Eliezer Berkovits’ contributions to modern Jewish thought and life.

Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992) was chair of the Department of Jewish Philosophy at Hebrew Theological College in Skokie for 17 years, from 1958 to 1975. Today, he is recognized as a significant 20th-century Jewish theologian.

A product of Eastern European yeshivot and the Hildesheimer Seminary in Berlin, Berkovits fled the Nazis, eventually moving to the United States, and later, to Israel. He engaged the concrete problems of the Jewish people during a period of momentous change, addressing issues ranging from biblical theology to women’s rights in Judaism to the challenges of conversion.

Berkovits was one of the first Orthodox leaders to build bridges with Reform and Conservative Judaism. He had a strong impact on the Chicago Jewish community and in recent years there has been a renaissance—on much a broader scale—of interest in his work.

Welcoming remarks were made by Dr. Dean P. Bell of Spertus and Dr. Josef Stern of the University of Chicago. Presenters included:

  • Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on Eliezer Berkovits on Conversion: An Inclusive Orthodox Approach
  • Dr. Marc Shapiro of The University of Scranton on Eliezer Berkovits’ Halakhic Vision for the Modern Age
  • David Hazony of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Eliezer Berkovits’ on Evil and the Holocaust
  • Jordanna Cope-Yossef of Advanced Talmudic Institute for Women, Matan Women's Institute for Torah Studies in Jerusalem on The Human Dignity of Women: Laws of Marriage and Divorce and Eliezer Berkovits' Vision of Halakhah
  • Rabbi Dr. David Shatz of Yeshiva University on Law, Morality and Ritual in the Thought of Eliezer Bekovits.