36 Minutes LIVE: The Elul Series 5775

Our popular online series, “36 Minutes LIVE: Elul”, consisted of five stand-alone videoconferences during the month of Elul 5775 and offered a zesty opportunity for alumni, members and fellows to meet, learn, discuss and prepare for the High Holidays. Select faculty (bios below) lead sessions at various times of day so that our alumni, fellows and members, from Israel to California and beyond, could come together online and learn.  Please feel free to review the sessions below.  If you have any questions, please contact Aliza Storchan

R​uby Namdar
“The Rabbi and the Harlot: The Tshuva Tale Most Often Skipped By Your Hebrew School Teachers”
Watch it here.

Rabbi Ysoscher Katz
Rabbinic and Chassidic Attitudes Towards Sin

Watch it here.

Rivkah Slonim
Binyan Hamalchut: the Paradox of Mortal Beings Coronating God

Watch it here. 

Rab​bi Michael Paley
When Should Leaders Bow Down and When Should They Stand Up? Meditations on the Great Aleynu

Watch it here.

Rabbi Rachel Cowan
Al Tashlikhenu l’et Zikna: Connecting Wise Aging with the High Holidays

Watch it here.

David Makovsky
Analyzing the Vote on the Iran Deal: What Now?

Watch it here.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Not in God’s Name

Watch it here.


Rabbi Rachel Cowan, formerly the Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, is working on a special project on “Aging with Wisdom.”  She was named by Newsweek Magazine in 2007 and in 2010 as one of the 50 leading rabbis in the United States, and by the Forward in 2010 as one of the 50 leading women rabbis.  ​Rachel was also featured in the PBS series, “The Jewish Americans.” ​Rachel received her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1989. From 1990-2003 she was Program Director for Jewish Life and Values at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Rachel’s work has been included in Moment and Sh’ma as well as in anthologies, including Illness and Health in the Jewish Tradition: Writings from the Bible to Today, and The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. She is the author, with her late husband Paul Cowan, of Mixed Blessings: Untangling the Knots in an Interfaith Marriage. Her latest book Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit (co-authored by Dr. Linda Thal) was published this Spring. Rachel lives in New York City, near her two children Lisa and Matt, and four grandchildren — Jacob, Tessa, Dante and Miles.

Rabbi Ysoscher Katz is the Chair of the Department Of Talmud and Director Of The Lindenbaum Center For Halakhic Studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) in New York City. Ysoscher received ordination in 1986 from Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, dayan of UTA Satmer. He studied in Brisk and in Yeshivat Beit Yosef, Navaradok for over ten years. A graduate of the HaSha’ar Program for Jewish Educators, Rabbi Katz has also taught at the Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and SAR High School. He was a leading teacher of a daf yomi class in Boro Park for over eight years and currently spends his summers, when not at YCT, teaching in Tel Aviv.

David Makovsky is
the Ziegler distinguished fellow the The Washington Institute and
director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process. He is also an
adjunct professor in Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University’s
Paul H. Nitze School of Advances International Studies and recently
concluded an almost ten-month stint as a senior advisor on Secretary of
State John Kerry’s peace team. Author of numerous monographs and essays
on issues related to the Middle East Peace Process and the Arab-Israeli
conflict, he is also the coauthor of the 2009 Washington Post bestseller
Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction of America in the
Middle East. He has testified before the full U.S. Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations and the full U.S. House of Representatives Committee
on Foreign Affairs. During his time covering the peace process from 1989
to 2000, he was the first journalist writing for an Israeli publication
to visit Damascus.

Reuven (“Ruby”) Namdar received ​the 2015 Sapir Prize for Literature, for HaBayit Asher Neherav: A Novel. Israel’s most prestigious award is given annually to the best work of literature in the Hebrew language and ​Ruby’s novel is being heralded as a watershed masterpiece, reinventing Hebrew language, literature and culture. Remarkably (and controversially for some Israelis), both its protagonist and author live in New York City.  Ruby guest teaches at LABA, The National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y; Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Education; and many other ​venues including Hofstra University and Leeds University. Ruby has also published Haviv, a collection of short stories; and 3 WEEKS: The Opera, a libretto composed solely of excerpts from the Talmud and various Midrashic tales describing the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the fall of the city in 70 A.D.  Ruby received his B.A. and M.A. from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Michael Paley is the Pearl and Ira Meyer Scholar in Residence at the Jewish Resource Center of UJA-Federation of New York. He also teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism, City College, Limmuds around the world, and has long been a beloved teacher for The Wexner Foundation. Prior to his arrival at UJA-Federation, ​Michael was a professor of Jewish studies and ​Dean at Bard College, and ​Vice ​President of ​The Wexner Heritage Foundation. He also founded the Edgar M. Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, a program that brings together outstanding students from diverse Jewish backgrounds. ​Michael also served many years as the Jewish chaplain at Columbia University and before that at Dartmouth College. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Brandeis University and graduate degrees in Jewish and Islamic philosophy and science at Temple University, and  was a student at Yeshivat Hamivtar in Jerusalem and was ordained at Yeshivat B’nai Or. Newsweek named him one of the 50 most influential rabbis several years running. 

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is currently the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University and the Kressel and Ephrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University. He has also been appointed as Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King’s College London. Previously, Rabbi Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth between September 1991 and September 2013, only the sixth incumbent since the role was formalized in 1845.  A global religious leader, philosopher, author and moral voice for our time, Rabbi Sacks will give us a special preview of his latest book Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.  

Rivkah Slonim is the education director at the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life and an instructor of Jewish Bio-medical Ethics at Binghamton University. She is an internationally known teacher, lecturer and activist who travels widely, addressing the intersection of traditional Jewish observance and contemporary life, with a special focus on Jewish women in Jewish law and life. ​Rivkah is the editor of Total Immersion: A  Mikvah Anthology ( Jason Aronson 1996, Urim 2006) and  Bread and Fire; Jewish Women find God in the Everyday  (Urim 2008) as well as the author of the Fascinating Facts course for the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI)  — an adult education provider
with classes taught in hundreds of cities around the world
 — and on the editorial board of JLI. ​Rivkah and her husband are the parents of nine children.