Yael Jaffe, blog post 2

September 7th, 2017

These past few weeks at the Hartman Institute have been truly challenging and enriching. Final sessions from the Community Leadership Program focused the various and often contentious narratives surrounding landmark moments in Israel’s history, often exploring these through energetic panels. The Rabbinic Training Seminar brought yet more recognizable and exciting faces through the institute, and it has been a privilege to sit in on classrooms where colleagues in the rabbinic profession taught and learned from one another. And although we did not get to participate in the programming of the Christian or Muslim leadership programs, we did have the opportunity to hear from the director of the Muslim leadership program, Abdullah Antepli, who provided critical insight into the world of Muslim-Jewish interfaith work, in Israel as well as America.

Grantee Yael Jaffee with Hartman Institute fellows, 2017

Grantee Yael Jaffee with Hartman Institute fellows, 2017

The seminars just for us interns have constituted the bulk of our programming. These featured several sessions with Elana Stein Hain, who provided a thorough introduction to the Hartman Institute’s iEngage philosophy and methodology for promoting more enriching, values-based conversations through which Americans can engage with the modern State of Israel. We also had two seminars with the president of the Hartman Institute, Donniel Hartman, including a lively Q&A which allowed interns to ask questions on subjects of all kinds, from his father’s material and worldview, to contemporary Jewish community politics in America and Israel. With Chaya Gilboa, we spent three seminars investigating different sectors of Israeli society, particularly “New Charedim,” “Religious Zionists,” and Mizrahim as well as other marginalized ethnicities. We had several sessions with Yehuda Kurtzer, who provided a great deal of perspective regarding the overarching goals of the Hartman Institute, and finally, we were fortunate enough to have two private seminars with Tal Becker.

I have been incredibly grateful for this cohort of interns, who consistently challenge and motivate me. As students, they are critical thinkers who ask thought-provoking questions, and as interns, they are dedicated research assistants, seeking to truly engage with and contribute to their scholar’s work. And outside of the classroom, we have developed a wonderful group dynamic that has really enhanced the summer for me overall.

Working with Dr. Ronit Irshai, the scholar I have been assisting, has been a pleasure, as well. Her research focuses on sex and gender in Halacha (Jewish law), and she is currently conducting research for a book she is writing on the conceptualization of gender in modern Halachic discourse. Using Halachic literature related to homosexuality and transgenderism as test cases she plans to read this writing – mostly in the form of rabbinic responsa – and to analyze their approach to gender through various feminist philosophical frameworks. To begin this process, while she was at Brandeis, I collected a wide variety of materials for her, mostly focused on feminist philosophy, but also works related to Rabbinics, queer theory, and gender and sexuality in Halacha. For this month at Hartman, we are reading together Cressida Heyes’s book, Line Drawings: Defining Women through Feminist Practice – a critical, in-depth survey of philosophies of gender across feminist theory and activism. I have been reading and summarizing chapters on my own, then meeting with Dr. Irshai to discuss them once or twice a week. Naturally, we tend to relate the content to the world of Judaism and Halacha, and it has been extremely rewarding to help Dr. Irshai tease out this material for perspectives and categories that may aid in her research and writing process.

Grantee Yael Jaffee with Hartman Institute fellows, 2017

Grantee Yael Jaffee with Hartman Institute fellows, 2017

Entry Filed under: 2017 Grantees

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