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Society Roundup

Washington Rabbi Comes to Town

Rabbi Binyamin Biber will be the featured speaker at an all day public forum to be held in Laguna Woods Village.  The Orange County Society for Humanistic Judaism forum will be held in Clubhouse from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 5.

The subject for the morning session will be “Toward Peace and Reconciliation in Israel, Palestine and Beyond.”  The afternoon will cover “Uplifting and Deepening the Experience of Our Humanity and Our Jewishness.”

Rabbi Biber has his pulpit with Machar in Washington.  He is deeply committed to the Jewish principle of tikkun ola, repair of the world, through his work in social action and education.

Prior registration of $10 includes a box lunch.  Non residents are welcome; gate clearance will be necessary.

To make a reservation and obtain details, please call (949) 206-9452.

CSP Announces 10th Annual One-Month Scholar

From January 23 to February 11, Prof. Stephen Berk will cover the overall theme of “The Last Two Centuries that Shattered the World and Transformed the Jewish People.”  Prof. Berk is professor of history at Union College in Schenectady, New York, former chair of the department of history, director of the program in Russian European studies and faculty advisor to the Jewish Student Organization.  Considered an absolutely superb lecturer and teacher, Berk is the author of many articles on Russian policy in the Middle East and is frequently consulted by reporters.

Berk is the recipient of the Florence B. Sherwood Chair in History and Culture, has been a consultant to the Wiesenthal Holocaust Center in Los Angeles, and has lectured on the Holocaust throughout the United States and Canada.  In 1996 he received the prestigious Holocaust Memorial Award from the Holocaust Survivors and Friends Education Center.

The opening community lecture is “Zion in America: The American Jewish Experience,” and the closing community lecture is “Looking Back and Looking Forward.”


1.          Lenin, Stalin and the Jews; Great personalities can change the course of history.  These two men took a backward agrarian country and catapulted it into modernity.  The large Jewish community was changed irrevocably.

2.          The Event That Changed Jewish History: The Pogroms of 1881-1882; The pogroms were the great turning point in modern Jewish history.  The creation of Israel and the large American Jewish community have their roots in the events of these years.

3.          Great Trials in Jewish History: Dreyfus, Beilis and Leo Frank. A political trial tells us a great deal about a country’s history.  It also helps shape the future.  These trials help us understand French, Russian and American history.

4.          Germans and Jews; A Bittersweet Encounter. It is wrong to view German-Jewish relations through the prism of the Holocaust. Germany was the place from which Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox Judaism emerged. German Jews made great contributions to the intellectual development of our planet.

5.          Old Wine in New Bottles: A History of Anti-Semitism in the Modern Period. History is not stagnant; it is fluid. Religious based anti-Judaism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries evolved in ways that led to catastrophe.

6.          France and Its Jews. France was the first country in Europe to emancipate its Jewish population. However, it was a conditional emancipation. Jews were led to believe that they had to change their behavior and if they did not do so the emancipation would be revoked.  As a result French Jews became more French than the French.

7.          Herzl, the Man Who Founded the Jewish State. He was an assimilated Jew who discovered his Jewish consciousness when he confronted anti-Semitism in Vienna and Paris.  Possessing great charisma, he was able to transform an idea into a movement.

8.         Lessons of the Holocaust.  It is sixty-five years since the liberation of Auschwitz, and historians now know things about the Holocaust that were not known before. The role of Hitler, Jewish resistance, the part played by indigenous populations and key government officials have been greatly elucidated.  There are lessons that can be applied to our own time.

9. Obama, Netanyahu and Israel At a difficult time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict the Prime Minster of Israel and the President of the United States see the world very differently.  The consequence is increasing tension between the two countries.

10. Three Jewish Cities; Vilna, Warsaw, Krakow. These cities constitute the Jewish heartland.  Great rabbis, important political and social movements and instances of martyrdom all occurred in these places.

11.        Jews and Islam. The emergence of Islam on the historical scene had an enormous impact upon Jewish history.  Jews both benefited and suffered from living under Islamic rule.  Muslim attitudes towards Jews and Judaism play an important role in the modern history of the Middle East.

12.        1948 A Year of Decision. For Jews this was a year of liberation; for the Arabs this was the “Nakhba,” a catastrophe.  There can be no understanding of the contemporary Middle East unless one factors in the events of this crucial year.

13.        A Tale of Two Popes: Pius XII and John Paul II.  The relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish people has not been a happy one.  In the twentieth century two popes demonstrated very different attitudes and approaches to the Jewish people. One was passive during a terrible time and the other altered the course of the relationship and also contributed to the demise of communism.

14.        Poland, What Do We Have to Do With You: A History of Polish-Jewish Relations.  Poland was the center of gravity of Jewish life for over a millennium.  There were good times and bad times and the history of the Jewish people in Poland is inextricably bound up with the fate of that unfortunate country.

15.        The Incredible 1st Century: Jesus, Masada and Yavneh,

16.        Three Who Made a Revolution: Ben-Gurion, Begin, and Rabin,

17.        Schwartzbard, Scharansky, and Spielberg

18.        Film and History: A Discussion of “Schindler’s List”, “Amistad” and “Saving Private Ryan


Cluster One: The American Jewish experience from the Revolution to Obama.

a)  Zion in America: the Course of American Jewish History

b)  “Our People are Your People:” American Jewry and the Struggle for Civil Rights

c)  American Presidents and American Jews

Cluster Two: Israel and the Middle East

a)  Zionism, A History

b)  Three Who Made Israel: Weizmann, Ben Gurion and Begin

c)  Persia, Iran and the Jews

Cluster Three: The Holocaust

a)  The End of a Millennium: The Holocaust in Poland, Lithuania and the Soviet Union

b)  Three Old Men and Two Million Jews: Petain, Horthy and Antonescu

c)  Roosevelt and the Holocaust

For details, contact Arie Katz at (949) 682-4040 or akatz@occsp.org.


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