Now in its Bar Mitzvah year, the Community Scholar Program (CSP) is bringing yet another world-renowned scholar to venues all over Orange County from February 4 to March 2.
David Solomon, an educator, scholar, translator and writer, is best known for his teaching in the area of Jewish studies. He has also made contributions in art and media. He holds degrees in anthropology, English literature and Jewish studies, as well as media broadcasting. He spent almost five years learning formally in yeshivot in both Israel and Australia, and studied Kabbalah.
“In One Hour” is an educational initiative, with the teachings and writings of Solomon, an historian, Biblical scholar and kabbalist, at its nucleus. The project brings together Solomon’s innovative and dynamic educational talks – many of which serve as basic introductions to a range of areas in Jewish studies – with his more in-depth survey courses on Tanach and Jewish history, Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah.
Here is a quick Q&A about Solomon and his work. See the full CSP schedule online and more information next month and in the mail.
What motivated the
creation of “In One Hour”?
In early 2005 Solomon devised his popular lecture, The Whole of Jewish History in One Hour. He took the program to Limmud UK at the end of 2005, and it was highly successful. He began to get invited elsewhere. By December 2006, he had launched a full and international educational initiative, known as the “In One Hour” series, with The Whole of Jewish History in One Hour continuing as the flagship presentation. The series comprises a catalogue of lectures, each of which provides basic introductions to a range of areas in Jewish studies, grounded in traditional Jewish sources and combined, in some cases, with original visual mapping techniques. In 2008 Solomon produced a book called The Whole of Jewish History in One Hour.
Solomon believes that Jewish history and Hebrew are the two most essential areas of learning for the Jewish world today and decries educational approaches in which students remain dependent on teachers for access to Jewish ideas and texts. He aims to provide students with the necessary tools to be able to take responsibility for their own Jewish education by having the ability to read Jewish texts directly (Hebrew) and to understand these sources in context (Jewish history).
In March 2012, Solomon moved to Sydney, Australia, in order to take up a commissioned scholarship in residence with Neshama Life to complete the first-ever translation into English of the kabbalistic text Tikunei haZohar.
How and where is it used? Solomon moved to Israel to make it his base. He began to give one-hour talks and created an audio library. He has lectured throughout the world on a range of topics, from modern and Biblical Hebrew to Kabbalah and Jewish history, as well as anthroplogy of religion and conceptual art.
Not based in any one location or attached to a specific institution, Solomon’s teachings reach throughout the world in a number of ways, more specifically when he is booked by communities to teach or speak on an extensive range of topics or when his wife organizes talks or courses in different locations.
Sometimes he tours eight or ten European cities in two weeks. CSP is his longest continuous booking.
What is the philosophy of the program?
According to his website, David Solomon’s aim is to inspire people with a love and passion for Jewish learning by providing them with the tools to pursue and take responsibility for their own Jewish education. The key to enrichment of life through Jewish education is a return to sources.
Solomon believes that Jewish history and Hebrew are the two most essential areas of learning for the majority of Jewish people in the world today. Hebrew provides the tools for people to have access to their own rich heritage, and Jewish history provides the frame and context that makes any individual journey in learning meaningful. He believes that Jewish history is the ultimate vehicle by which to transmit meaning in today’s Jewish world. It provides a context and a framework by which every single Jew can understand his place in the world, his responsibility as a Jew and the incredible role and destiny of the Jewish people – past, present and future. In other words, the more we understand Jewish history, the more we realize that we are part of a continuum. This understanding provides an individual with a sense of belonging and purpose in the world. Most spiritual leaders, as well as psychologists and anthropologists, call this sensation: meaning. What elevates this meaning even further is the realization, afforded by a study of Jewish history, that our continuum has a purpose.
Why is there so much emphasis on Hebrew?
Hebrew, according to Solomon, is essential to all Jewish education. It is, he says, the gateway to Torah. Hebrew is the key to every Jewish person’s ability to take responsibility for his own Jewish education. His view is that there is no serious or authentic journey in Jewish spirituality without Hebrew, the language of God, of the Torah, of the Jewish people and of the Land of Israel. It is the concrete that binds all of the fundamental elements of our Jewish existence.
Although many Jewish people today are not as familiar with Hebrew as they should be, he believes that it is vital for every Jewish person to engage with Hebrew at some level; for even a small knowledge of Hebrew can open new treasures of understanding and spiritual growth.
How have the results of using the program met expectations?
Results have been “extremely good, extremely positive,” according to Marjorie Solomon. “They bring energy to communities with the breadth of knowledge involved.”
What makes “In One
The talks condense a great deal of knowledge into a very short period of time. The idea is that people will be stimulated and motivated to learn.
While Solomon is best known for his “In One Hour” series of talks, and particularly, for his flagship presentation, The Whole World of Jewish History in One Hour, he prefers to teach longer, more in-depth courses, which attract large, enthusiastic audiences from around the world.
What Solomon does best is take a three-dimensional slide of Jewish history and philosophy and get people excited enough to explore it further. According to his wife, Marjorie, who coordinates the marketing and organizational elements of the programs, “His emphasis is on empowering people to go on their own journey. His talks light a fire under people to read more. He opens doors and gets people to travel through them.”