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Spring Lineup of Guest Speakers

Clockwise from lower left: Leon Kass, Laura Arnold Leibman, Geoffrey Herman, & Aryeh Green


Dr. Leon Kass

Tuesday, April 17 

The Meaning of Memory: Reflections on Leading a Worthy Life 

A special Yom HaZikaron event, featuring a conversation between 

Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and Dr. Leon Kass, author of Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times


Leon R. Kass, M.D., is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago. He was the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005. He has been engaged for more than 40 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advances and, more recently, with broader moral and cultural issues. His work encompasses numerous themes, including recent efforts seeking to promote American identity, character and citizenship.


In partnership with YU’s Straus Center and American Enterprise Institute Council

REGISTER HERE - The event is free, but registration is encouraged.

For more information, email 
or call 212-960-5400 x6902 


Dr. Laura Arnold Leibman

Visiting Scholar 

Shabbat, April 21 and Monday, May 14

Jews and Voting in Early America: The Fight for Civil Rights

Shabbat, April 21 | Following Morning Services

In 1819, Isaac Lopez Brandon found himself at the unhappy center of a heated dispute about Jews and civil rights in Barbados. Although initially the debate was regarding a petition to the legislature to grant Jews civil rights, ultimately the controversy spiraled into a fight about race and Jews that led to Isaac being denied full rights in the synagogue. Isaac’s struggle was not unique. Between 1776-1826, Jews across the Atlantic World found themselves in the center of debates about what qualified men for citizenship. Even within the United States, Jewish rights varied wildly by state. Although the founding documents of the United States granted Jews freedom of religion, the founders did not clearly give Jews political rights. As late as 1840, five states still subjected Jews to disabilities. Between 1776-1840, Jewish men in the fledgling United States and across the Atlantic World struggled to secure their right to vote and serve in government. In this talk she will highlight how the Jewish struggle for rights shed light on the larger history of race and rights in America.

Help us give Professor Leibman a warm Shearith Israel welcome by sponsoring the kiddush following her Shabbat lecture on April 21- click here to sponsor.  


Sephardic Country Houses

Monday, May 14 | 7:00 PM

In the 1730s, Sephardic luminary Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal) was vacationing at Doornburgh, the country house of his patron and pupil Jacob de Chaves. Doornburgh was in many ways the archetypal eighteenth-century Dutch country house, but with a Sephardic twist. To be sure, there were the decorations: scenes from the Hebrew Bible painted on the walls. More importantly, however, was the environment in which Doornburgh was set. While non-Jews were free to establish their country estates as an escape from society, Dutch Jews built their rural mansions in easy walking distance of Maarssen’s Portuguese synagogue. Neighbors in town became neighbors in the pastoral beauty of the Vecht River. In this talk, Professor Leibman introduces people to the entrancing world of Jewish country houses with elegant examples of the beautiful Jewish country houses built along the Vecht. In the second half of the lecture, she turns westward and shows how early Sephardic immigrants to the Americas adapted the country house life to the desert island of Curaçao, where nearly ninety Jewish country houses remain today.


Laura Arnold Leibman is Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Her work focuses on religion and the daily lives of women and children in early America, and uses everyday objects to help bring their stories back to life. She is the author of Indian Converts (U Mass Press, 2008) and Messianism, Secrecy and Mysticism: A New Interpretation of Early American Jewish Life (Vallentine Mitchell, 2012), which won a National Jewish Book Award, a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association for Jewish Studies, and was selected as one of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013. Professor Leibman earned her PhD from UCLA, is currently at work on a book that uses material culture to trace the history of members of a multiracial family who began their lives as slaves in the Caribbean and became some of the wealthiest Jews in New York. She is currently the Leon Levy Foundation Professor of Jewish Material Culture at Bard Graduate Center. 


Dr. Geoffrey Herman

Visiting Scholar

Shabbat, April 28 

Following Morning Services

Talmudic Archaeology: The Quest for Ancient Jewish Remains in Iraq 

Searching for ancient Jewish remains from Babylonia has had to be conducted from a distance. But new discoveries and new methods of reading already familiar sources have totally revolutionized our understanding of Jewish society in the period when the Talmud was written.  

Afternoon Class at 6:25 PM:

King David the Falcon-hunter: On Persian Motifs in the Babylonian Talmud 

Talmudic Rabbis retell biblical accounts inspired by the prevalent culture and literary models. This lecture explores the unique way Talmudic narrative balances its intended Jewish message through a Persian medium.


Dr. Geoffrey Herman is a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He researches the Jews of ancient Babylonia in the Talmud era, and its neighboring religious and cultural world. The recipient of the Bertel and Eliezer Shimshon Rosenthal Prize for Talmudic Scholarship in 2015, he has been a Starr fellow at Harvard and a visiting professor at Cornell. He holds a Ph.D. in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Aryeh Green

Wednesday, May 23, 7 PM (following 6:30 PM evening services) 

Love, Loss & Healing in the Holy Land

A book talk on his newly released book, My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land 

After his devastating divorce, which rocked his world and confounded his deeply-held optimism, Aryeh Green’s goal was to get his life back on track.  His hike along The Israel National Trail (Shvil Yisrael) enabled the discovery of a number of universal truths for living based on Jewish tradition. 

In a uniquely moving, fascinating and uplifting talk, based on his book My Israel Trail: Finding peace in the Promised Land, Aryeh invites you to join him on his trek, as he shares with you both a new perspective on Israel – the land, the country, its history and people – and illuminating insights from the experience.  Accompanied by photos and videos. 


Aryeh Green is the author of the just-published My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land about his hike on “Shvil Yisrael”, the 600-mile Israel National Trail from Dan to Eilat.  He serves as chief strategy officer at EnergiyaGlobal, a renewable energy platform for Africa, and as director emeritus of MediaCentral in Jerusalem, a project of HonestReporting providing services for the foreign press in the region. Aryeh is a former senior advisor to Natan Sharansky in Israel's prime minister's office, and is a frequent and captivating speaker on Israel, media issues, and human rights. When not promoting Israel and renewable energy, Aryeh grows grapes and makes wine. 

Chatham Square Cemetery

The oldest of our extant cemeteries is known as the Chatham Square Cemetery.  It is located in Chinatown at 55 St. James Place.  The land was originally purchased in 1682 by Joseph Bueno de Mesquita. 

Revolutionary War Torah Scrolls

In 1776, several British soldiers desecrated two of Shearith Israel’s Torah scrolls.