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Rabbi Victor H. Weissberg spoke on Judaism last Tuesday night | Evan Carter, Col­legian

 

Jews maintain their her­itage in the midst of multi-cul­tural set­tings where there may be pressure to assim­ilate, a Reformed Jewish rabbi argued Tuesday night.

Rabbi Victor H. Weissberg, a nationally-known rabbi from the Chicago area, laid out his view on the enduring value of the Jewish tra­dition in his talk “Why We Remain Jews,” beginning with Abraham and ending with the cre­ation of the current Jewish state after World War II.

“I’m here to help us under­stand that because of the way the Jewish saga has unwound, that we’ve tried to make sense of this world, and we’ve tried to make the world an honor to its creator,” Weissburg said.

The event was hosted by the Inter­na­tional Club and Hillsdale Chavarah (Hillsdale Jewish Society) as part of a series of talks on world reli­gions.

Weissburg said Judaism is a very “secular” faith and doesn’t claim to know who sits at the right hand of god, sep­a­rating it from a faith like Chris­tianity. He then gave an abbre­viated summary of the Tanakh, which Chris­tians refer to as the Old Tes­tament of the Bible.

“The Torah is a con­ver­sation,” Weissberg said, “a very deep and moving con­ver­sation, between people and their very highest self.”

While relating the story of Abraham, Weissberg con­cen­trated on what he saw as the story’s uni­ver­sality. He said that all people are children of god and have the power to create and love among other things.

Weissberg also said the story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush could also be seen as a more uni­versal event.

“If you’re not Jewish, it’s called an epiphany; if you’re Jewish, it’s called an epiphany,” he said.

According to Weissberg, if someone listens care­fully — as a Bud­dhist, a monk, or oth­erwise — they will hear god.

Much later, in the 1930s and ‘40s, the Jews were betrayed by those they trusted, Weissberg said. Thus, he said, Jews that escaped Nazi con­cen­tration camps vowed to never again be placed in a sit­u­ation where they could be destroyed.

“The people of Israel said ‘never again’ and they pre­vailed against those who said ‘yet again,’” he said.

Weissberg also touched on the dignity of work, preaching that stu­dents are at school to work, not play, drink, or enjoy sexual pleasure. He said once people leave school, they will be asked what they learned which can be applied to the bet­terment of humanity.

Weissberg con­cluded by saying that Jews, who are known by some as “god’s chosen people,” are not so dif­ferent than other people.

“We’re all children of the same god,” he said.     

Freshman Josiah Leinbach said he appre­ciated the insights the speech gave him into the Old Tes­tament.

“I’m a the­ology nerd and any chance I get to hear talks related to the Scrip­tures, I always jump at the chance,” Leinbach said.

Freshman Alan Kotlyar, the primary orga­nizer of the event, said he wanted Weissberg to pick a topic that would raise eye­brows at a Christian college.

“I wanted to bring a dif­ferent per­spective about why we’d remain Jews as opposed to assim­i­lating into another society,” Kotlyar said. “I hope people who heard the talk are able to take some­thing from what Weissberg said and incor­porate it into their lives.”