" Clearly, there are the lessons that are in our textbooks, like algebra, chemistry and Spanish. But at RZJHS, we also learned essential midot, or values, such as diligence and morality, that you can’t find in a textbook."
The two-day JTS Isidor and Rose Wagner Institute at CJHS provided a rare opportunity for members of our school community and beyond to come together and explore Jewish texts and beliefs with some of the leading scholars in the Jewish world today, including Chancellor Arnie Eisen of JTS.
Endowed by Nate Wagner and Rose Braver, the Wagner Institute has been a staple of JTS’s continuing education for over 15 years. This is the fourth year the Wagner Institute has been held at our school for the greater Chicago community. Over 120 people participated in the programming, and on Monday, the senior and junior classes attended special sessions with Chancellor Eisen and Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, where students had the opportunity to ask questions regarding the future of Conservative Judaism.
Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Pearl Resnick Dean of the Rabbinical School and Dean of the Division of Religious Leadership, had the opportunity to teach sophomores in their Honors Talmud class.
Guided by the Jewish Theological Seminary’s most distinguished faculty, Wagner participants examined texts related to the theme “Creating a Just Society,” which included Chancellor Arnold Eisen on the importance of Jewish rituals; Rabbi Robert Harris on creating a just society in the Torah’s image; Rabbi David Hoffman on the mitzvah of imagination; Dr. Marjorie Lehman on the Rabbis’ search to create a just society in a materialistic world; Rabbi Daniel Nevins on tzedakah for the contemporary Jewish household and Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz on the definition of Jewish justice.
“I was so impressed with the caliber of the teaching – this was a chance to study with the highest caliber of scholars of JTS,” said Mel F. Seidenberg, alumni grandparent.
Wagner Essay Winners
Congratulations to senior Nate Swetlitz and junior Nathaniel Moses, winners of the Wagner Institute Essay Contest! As a highlight of this past weekend’s Wagner Institute at CJHS, the Wagner family graciously established two $5,000 college scholarship awards for CJHS students.
In Nate’s essay, he examined the unique Jewish vision and obligations for creating a just society. He reflected on his time in Tel Aviv when he came in contact with African asylum seekers. “We must show compassion to the stranger because we have experienced estrangement,” he stated. “…Their story is our story. Their lives are our responsibility.”
Nathaniel explored the different dimensions of God and how these dimensions shape a Jewish vision of justice. “The immanence-funded understanding of justice demands personal, moral excellence, and an individual belief that an omniscient and omnipresent God holds us to exceedingly high standards as His chosen people…,” wrote Nathaniel. “Made in the image of God and commanded to be holy, we stand before a powerful and present God, morally at attention.”
In addition to receiving the contest awards, the winners also took part in a special certificate ceremony at the Wagner Institute on Sunday, where they read their essays aloud to the Wagner family, JTS faculty and program participants.
To read Rabbi Silver’s address, click here.