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Crossroads Week

Mandel School for Educational Leadership fellows explored the different paths taken toward the formation of the Jewish collective

Crossroads Week at the Mandel School for Educational Leadership looked at the various approaches that developed at the turn of the 20thcentury toward the formation of the Jewish collective.

The disagreements that for decades stood at the heart of the Jewish conversation addressed a number of fundamental issues that are still with us today, in different ways, including: the tension between the universalist an​d the particularist aspects of modern Jewish identity; the tension between Judaism as nationality and Judaism as religion; the question of Jewish exile and the return to the homeland; the tension between the Jewish langu​ages (Yiddish, Ladino, and Arab-Jewish dialects) and the Hebrew language; and Judaism’s place between East and West.

Thus over the course of the week fellows returned to the beginning of the 20th century and reexamined this formative period in Jewish history via the different paths that were laid at that time. This return to the past allowed fellows to resuscitate approaches and options that have fallen away over the years, and to take a fresh look at the models and possibilities they held, and at the ways in which they molded the Jewish world.

The fellows embarked on this journey via three gates: the gate of language, the gate of place, and the gate of time. Through each of these gates the fellows visited events, incidents, and debates that occurred in the Jewish world at the start of the 20th century; placed them in their proper historical contexts; and examined their consequences for Israeli society and the Jewish world today. Three guides accompanied them on this journey: Naomi Perl through the gate of time; Dr. Gili Zivan through the gate of language; and Dr. Daniel Marom through the gate of place.

“The processes that occurred at that time in different parts of the world, and in particular in our area, raise anew some basic questions about the processes via which collective identities were formed. These processes revolve around a dialectic of deconstruction and construction, imagined and real, of collective frameworks – national, economic, religious, and sovereign.” These were among the introductory remarks made by Dr. Yuval Evri, a visiting member of faculty at the Mandel Leadership Institute, who organized and led the week. “This situation applies equally to Israeli society, and it invites a deep discussion of the fundamental assumptions of the Israeli and Jewish collectives within it.”​​​​​​