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Wisdom Newsletter May 2022
 
Judaism and Hinduism
 
Special Issue of Contemporary Jewry
Judaism and Hindusim
The Art of Prayer - Praying Together in Jerusalem
Judaism and Hinduism
 
We are delighted to announce the publication of a special issue of Contemporary Jewry, devoted to Judaism and Hinduism and different dimensions of their encounter. It follows on the heels of issue 40,1 of Contemporary Jewry, previously featured in our Wisdom Newsletter. Both issues were edited by Alon Goshen-Gottstein at the kind invitation of Harriet Hartman. The earlier issue was devoted to the relations between Judaism and world religions. Now,  a special issue of the journal has appeared, devoted to one particular relationship, that of Judaism and Hinduism. 
Introduction by Alon Goshen-Gottstein

The issue of recognition of another religion, its validation and the ensuing possibilities for learning, receiving and growing through the encounter with that religion are the focus of the twin volumes on Judaism and Hinduism I have written: The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism: Wisdom, Spirituality, Identity and Same God, Other god: Judaism, Hinduism and the Problem of Idolatry. Almost all the theoretical challenges and possibilities that arise in the context of a Jewish view of and encounter with another religion come to expression in the study of the Jewish encounter with and a possible Jewish view of Hinduism. The challenge of legitimation occurs at the most fundamental level - is it a legitimate religion or does it constitute Avoda Zara, idolatry. The possibilities for mutual growth and inspiration are studied through the many angles of the contemporary and unprecedented encounter where a massive number of young Israelis follow in the footsteps of American and European Jewish youth decades earlier in exploring the spiritual riches of India. Once again, we encounter the two poles of identity and spirituality. Jewish identity is threatened by encounter with another religion at the same time as new spiritual openings arise. These come to light for practitioners, but even more significantly for Jewish thought and Jewish tradition, as it encounters a new and significant conversation partner, in the form of Hindu thought. In the same way that Judaism has grown throughout the centuries in its encounter with other traditions and civilizations, so too this new religious encounter opens up multiple possibilities for revisiting many lost parts of Jewish tradition and gaining fresh perspectives on fundamentals of a religious view of reality and of Judaism’s position in relation to world religions. 


My work in these two books is not purely descriptive. It is part of a constructive approach to how Judaism and world religions should be viewed in the contemporary global context, the spiritual challenges this presents and the educational, halachic and theological moves that can, or should, be made, in relating to Hinduism, and more broadly to other religions. For this reason, the two essays that dialogue with my work similarly take positions and make constructive suggestions concerning Judaism’s relation with Hinduism. Alan Unterman’s response to The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism and Marc Shapiro’s response to Same God, Other god are testimony to the vitality of the issues under discussion and to the options that tradition places before the contemporary thinker and how these individuals go about making them. Needless to say, the respondents do not agree in all matters with the positions I myself have suggested. But, as a reading of my work actually reveals, my project is less about adopting a particular stance than it is about advancing and informed and nuanced discussion. In this sense, both responses make important contributions to an ongoing conversation. 

As the volume is devoted to Judaism and Hinduism, it opens with an overview of their relationship, in historical and philosophical/halachic terms. The essay is written in encyclopedic form and offers a summary of many of the themes expounded in greater detail in The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism. Revising this essay, written less than a decade ago, was an eye-opener in and of itself. It showed how fast-moving this domain of study and engagement is. Within a short span of time formative events took place, specific challenges arose, new publications appeared and the field advanced. The exercise of updating this essay so soon after it had been first penned is, for me, one more sign of the vitality and dynamism of Jewish-Hindu relations and why they deserve ongoing attention.

It is likely the case that all those who engage in this area of study do so, to some degree or another, as part of their own personal (spiritual) journey, and certainly to some extent away from the comfort of their study. My introduction to both books spells out my own personal journey. Respondents to my work were chosen because of their known interest in the field, which exceeds a purely academic interest. One author, in particular, offers an overview and reflection on his own academic journey and how it involved both areas of study. Paul Morris’ essay reviews his academic journey through various philosophical standpoints from which Judaism is appreciated, in relation to Hinduism. It makes us realize that the study of Hinduism and the study of Judaism are as much part of the present encounter of the different faiths as are more religiously oriented meetings of religious leaders and spiritual seekers. This should be appreciated in relation to the essay that concludes the special issue, that of Francis Clooney S.J. Clooney, a Jesuit priest and one of the founders of the contemporary academic discipline of comparative theology. Clooney has spent decades studying Hinduism, in the context of a comparative theology, carried out in relation to Christianity. Given the concerns of this issue, I asked Clooney to share some of the lessons of his own journey and what benefit they may bring to students of Judaism and Hinduism. I believe this is the first time such an exercise is attempted by anyone. 


If there is any message or conclusion to be drawn from this issue, it is that we are engaged in a long-term project. We must therefore be well equipped to undertake it and invest ourselves in further advancing it. Being well equipped is a matter of knowledge, open mindedness and a willingness to learn the lessons learned by members of other traditions. To all these, our special issue contributes.
Alon Goshen‐Gottstein
The Elijah Interfaith Institute

 
The paper offers a comprehensive historical and conceptual overview of Jewish-Hindu relations. It offers an encyclopedic overview of historical roots, theological differences, legal challenges and present-day relations. Special attention is given to the possibilities of how Jews can handle the claim that Hinduism is idolatrous and to its present-day consequences. Hindu-Jewish summits form the last chapter in the history of relations, and their declarations are analyzed as part of the overview. The paper concludes with a projection of areas for future development of the relationship.
Francis X. Clooney
Harvard University

 
This essay is the fruit of the author’s long experience in Hindu-Christian studies. The intent of it is to describe something of that learning, and to then extend it, by way of friendly suggestion, to ofer advice for readers engaged in Hindu-Jewish studies.
Marc B. Shapiro
University of Scranton

 
Confronting the Challenge of Idolatory: Response to Alon Goshen‐Gottstein, Same God, Other god
A critical analysis of some important issues raised by Goshen-Gottstein’s book. The author argues that the most fruitful avenue for a Jewish approach to Hinduism is by using the concept of shituf. This means that for Jews, all use of statues, images, and speaking about “gods” is forbidden. However, for non-Jews, this would remain a permitted form of worship as long as the various gods are seen as manifestations of
the one true God.
Paul Martin Morris
Victoria University of Wellington

 
The Study of ‘Hinduism’ and the Study of ‘Judaism’:
A Personal Journey

Two religious traditions have informed my personal and academic life – Judaism and Hinduism. This is a reflection on their intersection over a period of more than 40 years. This article chronicles an academic journey from a reified religious universalism towards identifying a deep structural affinity between Judaism and Hinduism defined in contrast to other major differentially constructed religious traditions, then to a position of radical alterity that is potentially just as productive of a very different discussion among those interested in cross-traditional and interreligious deliberations. The wider context is that of the relationships, conceptual and analytical, between discernible religious traditions, or dimensions thereof.
Alan Unterman
Independent

Reflections on Judaism and Hinduism
This paper offers a comparative analysis of Hinduism and Judaism, largely based on references and quotes from the book The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism—Wisdom, Spirituality, Identity by Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein. It visits topics such as ethnicity, conversion, pluralism and universalism, tolerance and intolerance. The paper also questions the reasons of Jewish seekers of Hindu spirituality, doubting Dr. Goshen-Gottstein’s argument that this is due to a crisis in Judaism, but rather due to prevalence of left-brain thinking over right-brain thinking in Judaism. The paper concludes with a parable that relates to one finding a treasure hidden where one least expects to find it.
Praying Together in Jerusalem
The Art of Prayer


As we approach the Jewish festival of Shavuot, celebrating the Giving of the Torah, and the Christian Pentecost, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit, join us for our monthly gathering of Praying Together in Jerusalem.

Teachers from Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism will share their wisdom on Prayer and Divine inspiration.

We will be meeting only on Zoom this month.

Thursday, June 2 at 6:00 pm Jerusalem time

11 am ET time
8 am Pacific time
4 pm UK time
5 pm Central European time
6 pm Israel time
8:30 pm India time
 
Save your spot by signing up here.
Rabbi Baruch Brener (Jewish, Israel)
Baruch Brener is an Israeli theater director, teacher and ordained orthodox rabbi. He has for the last 25 years been a central motor in researching and experimenting with tools for combining a deep and knowledgeable study of Jewish sources and spiritual practices with qualitative work in theatre, movement and voice. He is also engaged in educational frameworks and workshops where secular people with little knowledge of Jewish sources become acquainted with them in a non-coercive, intense and open manner. 
Douglas E. Christie (Christian, USA)
Douglas Christie is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of Theological Studies at the Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. His primary research interests focus on contemplative thought and practice in ancient and medieval Christianity and on spirituality and ecology. His work has appeared in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality, The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism, Horizons, Cross Currents, The Anglican Theological Review, Weavings, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, Cistercian Studies Quarterly, Studia Patristica, The Best Spiritual Writing, and Orion. Christie's current work is focused on the idea of mystical darkness and the contemporary sense of exile, loss and emptiness.
Swami Atmapriyananda (Hindu, India)

Swami Atmapriyananda is a member of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders and Vice Chancellor of Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University since 2005.  Inspired by the ideal of renunciation and service as taught by Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, he joined as a Brahmacharin (spiritual trainee) in 1978 at Ramakrishna Mission Saradapitha, Belur Math, the Headquarters of the worldwide organization, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission.

Prayers will be led by
Hanna Yaffe
Sister Rita Kammermeyer
Taleb Alharithi
Shelagh Shalev
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