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Lehrhaus “Javneh on the Spree”

August 9, 2012

What is/was Javneh?

Rabbinical Judaism formally commenced with the destruction of the Second Temple, when Rabbi ben Zakkai had himself smuggled out of beseiged Jerusalem and negotiated with the Roman general Titus for a place of study to replace it. The voices in the Talmud are those of the men who joined him there. But Javneh is only one in a long line of transitions in Judaism, beginning with:

  • the transition from paganism to monotheism, encapsulated in the non-sacrifice of Abraham’s children, and continuing through
  • the transition from slavery to freedom as the precondition for a consciousness able to freely choose to accept the Law
  • the destruction of the First Temple when the rituals had become empty and akin to idol worship and then on to
  • the written tradition “discovered” by Esra after the return from exile.

Each seeming disaster transitions to a deeper, more spiritual form of worship. Andalus is replaced by Safed, in which the Kabbalah is externalized and tikkun olam becomes the new focus.

Prior to the Shoah, German Jewish scholars had initiated the “Wissenschaft des Judentums” in which they endeavoured to study Islam as a valid religion and not as a superstision and as the ravings of an epileptic, as it had heretofore been viewed in European academic circles. This was interrupted by the advent of Hitler. People who do view a churban in Jewish history as having the power to be a marker and point of transition generally focus on the physical establishment of the state of Israel as the positive consequence of this last and most tragic churban. But all the other transition points have been, as mentioned above, to more spiritual forms, mostly involving increased learning and integrating potentials which had been nascent in the previous era. You might see the state of Israel in this fashion, if you focus on the act of integrating people returning from all parts of the world/diaspora, or even the ultimate necessity of dealing in some sane fashion with the Arab world. Be that as it may, the focus here will be on the continuation of the project of the “Wissenschaft des Judentums”. How do we find a way to deal with our differences?

There are already a number of Jewish women, active in Berlin but generally functioning in the shadows, who are practicing this dialogue – interacting, finding new forms – questioning, seeking answers in communities they have founded or are in the process of founding. They are not making a lot of noise, but their voices will be gathered here.

The topics, which will concern us are:

  • study of both Jewish and Islamic philosophy
  • education
    – both training teachers and
    – developing programs for children
  • communication and education of the young in families of mixed religious background
  • in the long run also organizational development

Access to the courses will be by invitation only. Access to one part of the framework will not automatically admit the participants to other venues.

This is necessary because trust and a safe environment are essential when developing wholesome new thoughts.

In the coming weeks, diverse aspects of the program will be posted. Occassional papers will also be posted online. You can reach us at:

Javneh on the Spree (the Spree is Berlin’s river) —> javneh_on_the_spree@yahoo.com

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