Conversations with Authors

Who Are the Jews—And Who Can We Become? – Interview with Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman discusses his latest book, Who Are the Jews—And Who Can We Become? with JPS Director Dr. Elias Sacks.

Who Are the Jews—And Who Can We Become? tackles perhaps the most urgent question facing the Jewish people today: Given unprecedented denominational tribalism, how can we Jews speak of ourselves in collective terms? Crucially, the way each of us tells our “shared” story is putting our collective identity at risk, Donniel Hartman argues. We need a new story, built on Judaism’s foundations and poised to inspire a majority of Jews to listen, discuss, and retell it. This book is that story.

To learn more and order the book, click here.

Click here to view the YouTube video.


The Ritual and Communal Power of Psalms – Interview with Professor Benjamin Sommer and Professor AJ Berkovitz

Prof. Benjamin Sommer and Prof. AJ Berkovitz discuss a new feature of the recently published JPS Bible commentary on Psalms 120-150—its explorations of the diverse ways in which the Psalms have been used in Jewish communities across the globe—with JPS Director Dr. Elias Sacks.

In August 2023, JPS released the first volume of its Psalms commentary series: Prof. Adele Berlin’s commentary on Psalms 120-150. Among its many innovations, this series includes “sidebars,” or short discussions, exploring the wide-ranging ritual and liturgical uses of the psalms across the globe and across history, from Jewish communities in the Middle East and Europe to contemporary prayer books in America and Israel. In this conversation, Prof. Sommer (the editor of the Psalms commentary series), Prof. Berkovitz (the author of the ritual and liturgical sidebars for the series’ forthcoming volumes), and Dr. Elias Sacks (the director of JPS) explore these sidebars— and why they matter now more than ever.

To learn more and order the commentary, click here.

Click here to view the YouTube video.


Texts, Translations, and the Future of Jewish Learning – Interview with Sefaria’s Sara Wolkenfeld

Sara Wolkenfeld, Chief Learning Officer at Sefaria, discusses texts, translations, and the future of Jewish learning with JPS Director Dr. Elias Sacks. JPS is proud to partner with Sefaria to make a range of texts available to readers and communities across the globe, including THE JPS TANAKH: Gender-Sensitive Edition, the first major update of the iconic JPS Bible translation in nearly four decades. To learn more and order this translation, click here. To learn more about Sefaria and its work, visit www.sefaria.org/.

Click here to view the YouTube video.


Halakhic Man: 40th Anniversary Edition – Interview with Translator Lawrence J. Kaplan

Prof. Lawrence Kaplan discusses Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s Halakhic Man: 40th Anniversary Edition with JPS Director Dr. Elias Sacks.

Halakhic Man is the classic work of modern Jewish and religious thought by the twentieth century’s preeminent Orthodox Jewish theologian and talmudic scholar, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. It is a profound excursion into religious psychology and phenomenology, a pioneering attempt at a philosophy of halakhah, and a stringent critique of mysticism and romantic religion. This 40th anniversary edition features a new preface, introduction, annotations, and glossary by Prof. Lawrence Kaplan.

To learn more and order the book, click here.

Click here to view the YouTube video.


Open Judaism – Interview with Author Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz, JPS Director Emeritus, discusses his latest book, Open Judaism: A Guide for Believers, Atheists, and Agnostics, with his successor as JPS Director, Dr. Elias Sacks.

Open Judaism offers a big-tent welcome to all Jews and Judaism. It is at once an invitation to the spiritually seeking Jew, a clarion call for a deeply pluralistic and inclusive Judaism, and a dynamic exploration of the remarkable array of thought within Judaism today.

To learn more and order the book, click here.

Click here to view the YouTube video.


Biblical Women Speak – Interview with Author Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman discusses her book, Biblical Women Speak: Hearing Their Voices Through New and Ancient Midrash, with JPS Director, Dr. Elias Sacks.

What were biblical women thinking and doing when the men around them received all the attention and glory? How did Leah, Rachel, and their handmaids negotiate the complicated family dynamics of four women vying for Jacob’s affections? What compelled Potiphar’s wife to risk her high station to seduce Joseph, an enslaved foreigner? How did the midwives and Pharoah’s daughter conspire to rescue baby Moses, right under Pharoah’s nose?

Biblical Women Speak employs midrash (interpretative techniques) to discover ten biblical women’s stories from a female point of view and provide insights beyond how ancient male scholars viewed them. Each chapter brings alive a different biblical woman, including non-Israelite characters and others who are neglected in classical rabbinic texts. After each featured text we hear a creative retelling of the woman’s story in her own voice, followed by traditional midrash and medieval commentaries and the author’s reflections on how these tales and interpretations are relevant for today.

To learn more and order the book, click here.

Click here to view the YouTube video.

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