The Challenges of Freedom & Identity in the Modern Era.

Posted Friday, Jan 10th, 2014
Virginia Connection Newspapers

When the age of faith gave way to the age of reason and the modern world was launched, the Jewish people were profoundly affected. With the emergence of the United States and the enshrinement of religious freedom as a fundamental right of all citizens, the nature of Jewish life in the Diaspora entered a radically new era.

What does it mean to be a Jew in this age of modernity?

This February the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) will present To Be a Jew in the Free World! The Challenges of Freedom & Identity in the Modern Era, it is the institute’s newest six-session course.

Rabbi Fajnland of the Jewish Learning Institute of Northern Virginia will conduct the six course sessions at 7:30 p.m., on Monday night, beginning Feb. 3, at the Chabad Community Campus, 3939 Prince William Drive, Fairfax. And 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night beginning Feb. 4, at the Hampton Inn, 435 Herndon Parkway, Herndon.

In the Shtetl, Jews believed that their Jewishness was defined by the Torah. How did the encounter with modernity affect their identity and the relevance of Jewish law? Does a full Jewish life require its adherents to turn their back on modern day liberties and try to survive in isolation?

These questions are as important to answer today as they were in previous generations.

The latest sociological survey of American Jewry suggests that many Jews are trying to solve this conundrum by limiting the claims that Jewish identity makes on their lives. Yet, in some quarters, the freedom of the age has meant a freedom to discover profound meaning in a life that includes full commitment to Jewish values and teachings. Beyond the apparent conflict, is there a possibility that our new age and the ancient Jewish tradition actually bring out the best in each other?

To Be a Jew in the Free World explores these issues through the prism of six historical events and phenomena. What are the challenges of this new world and what are its unique opportunities?

By showing how key issues came to the fore in the past and how they were answered, and by asking questions of our own and considering what we might learn from our experience, we will discover what it means to be a Jew in a free world.

“Whether you are fascinated by Jewish history or Jewish mysticism, or whether you are seeking a fun and meaningful experience, you won’t want to miss this course,” said Rabbi Fajnland the local JLI instructor. “The material is as relevant as ever, promising to deepen the way we understand ourselves, our universe, and our relationships with our friends and neighbors.

Like all JLI programs, To Be a Jew in the Free World is designed to appeal to people at all levels of Jewish knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple, or other house of worship.

Interested students may call 703-426-1980 or visit for registration and other course-related information.

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