More than 150 parents, grandparents, students, alumnae and community members enjoyed a morning of learning at Ma’ayanot’s 10th Annual Day of Big Ideas on Sunday, December 30. Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, delivered a keynote on the topic, “Who is My ‘Brother’: A Halakhic Look at a Medieval Christian Dilemma.”
Dr. Berman spoke about the rabbinic interpretations of the Torah’s prohibition against charging interest to one’s “brother,” alongside the allowance of charging interest to a “stranger.” The various points of view reflected the perilous status of the Jewish community during the Middle Ages, leading to a fascinating discussion about identity: how Jews view themselves and the world around them. Dr. Berman, whose daughter Tamar is a junior at Ma’ayanot, also reflected on the advancing opportunities for Jewish women today in fields such as technology, business, science, finance and more. “Our students have access to all disciplines, and go out into the world with confidence, spreading Jewish values.”
“The Day of Big Ideas is a wonderful forum for learning with our faculty as they challenge us to think deeply and model for us how the liberal arts and sciences can enrich our personal, religious and intellectual lives,” says Tamar Appel, associate principal. “We’re gratified that we have been able to host this event for the past 10 years, and that community members have joined us annually for this rich experience.”
Dr. Berman’s lecture was followed by nine additional sessions on a wide range of topics taught by Ma’ayanot’s distinguished faculty. These included: Bailey Braun, dean of students, “The Sailor Cannot See the North: The Letters of Emily Dickinson as an Invitation to Spiritual Exploration”; Dena Block, Talmud teacher and director of admissions, “Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands: Lessons from the Gemara and Martin Luther King, Jr.”; Ariella Rosenbaum, computer science teacher, “Einstein’s Relativity: Simplified... Relatively”; and Esther Slomnicki, biology teacher, “Age Reversal, Cancer Cures, and Winged Wolves: Exploring the Possibilities of Gene Editing.”
“The Day of Big Ideas allows the opportunity for the community to learn from our wonderful faculty, and represents Ma’ayanot’s commitment to deep intellectual exploration in the liberal arts and sciences, in a context that strengthens our Jewish identity and the connections between Torah and Madda,” says Rivka Kahan, principal.
The 10th Annual Day of Big Ideas was sponsored by the Brodsky family in loving memory of Bernard and Bernice Kramer, grandparents of Molly Brodsky, Ma’ayanot Class of 2013.