Each cohort of Russell Berrie Fellows has engaged in an immersive Study Tour of Israel alongside their education at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. To prepare them for this visit, especially for the academic program at the Hartman Institute, Rabbi Dr. Shraga Bar-On led two sessions for this year’s Russell Berrie Fellows on April 26 and 28.
Rabbi Shraga is the Director of the Kogod Research Center for Contemporary Jewish Thought and the David Hartman Center for Intellectual Excellence, both part of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He also works as a lecturer of Talmud and Jewish Thought at Shalem College.
In the sessions with the Fellows, Rabbi Shraga explored the fundamental issues of Jewish existence in Israel since its beginning: the importance of the promised land for Jews, the major challenges facing Jews today in Israel regarding current Israeli politics, the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, and the differences between Jewish communities.
During his presentation, “Israel at 75: Accomplishments, Crisis, and Hope,” Rabbi Shraga examined the diversity and polarization of Israeli society regarding the current judicial reform. Rabbi Shraga points to the collaboration of multiple Jewish communities as an example of hope and shared about the Tent of Agreements that he set up together with other individuals or organizations to show the possibility of a third way to deal with the situation, acknowledging and taking into consideration the pain and challenges of all parties.
“Love your friend more than you hate his or her ideas. Let’s have love be stronger. Let’s use our religion not to hate each other but to strengthen love,” he concluded.