Scholar-In-Residence Shabbat

Please join for Shabbat on Saturday, November 16, as we welcome back Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz to the Center. 

Rabbi Berkowitz will present a Shabbat devoted to Ancient Journey, Modern Reflections: Insights on Israel, Abraham, & the Akeidah

1. Shabbat Morning -- "Embracing Israel: A Contemporary Reflection Inspired by Abraham"
Rabbi Berkowitz  will address some of the blessings and challenges of living as a Conservative Jew in Israel -- as well as the yawning divide between American Jewry and Israeli Jewry.  How may the different portraits of Abraham that Torah presents to us shed light on ourselves and our relationship to the State of Israel?  Rabbi Matt Berkowitz is the JTS Director of Israel Programs. Based in Jerusalem, Matt just celebrated his ten year Aliyah anniversary & will share insights into the gift of living in Israel.

2. Kiddush Lunch & Learn: The Art of Akeidat Yitzhak: Visualizing the Binding of Isaac

This session will explore the liminal moment in the life of Abraham: when God commands "take your son, your only son, the one you love, take Isaac" and raise him as an offering. How are we to understand and wrestle with this important text?  Together, we will take a look at the p'shat (literal) reading of the story, turn to the voices of the rabbis, then see to what extent our interpretation dovetails with a number of artistic renderings of this episode.

3. Seudah Shlishit: Expelling Hagar and Ishmael: Learning the Lesson of Embracing the Other 
Parashat Vayera
 presents us with the troubling episode of Sarah demanding that Abraham banish Hagar and their son, Ishmael.  What does this narrative teach us about the behavior of our ancestors?  And how does this echo down to our own day?  Through a close reading of the text, we will come to understand both our ancestors and ourselves -- and the critical importance of embracing the 'Other' in our midst.


Rabbi Matthew L. Berkowitz is the Director of Israel Programs for The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and co-founder of Kol Ha-Ot, a Jerusalem-based venture devoted to exploring the arts and Jewish learning. For ten years (1999-2009), Matt served as the JTS Senior Rabbinic Fellow, organizing substantive adult learning throughout Florida and beyond. He is a member of The Wexner Heritage Program Faculty and has taught Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver-Boulder, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix groups. He completed his undergraduate work in International Relations and Middle East Studies, summa cum laude, at Colgate University. While in Israel, he studied at Pardes and The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. He was ordained from JTS in 1999, is a Wexner Graduate Fellow alumnus and most recently an alumnus of the Hartman Rabbinic Leadership Institute, Class V.

An accomplished artist, Matt was formally trained in Jewish scribal art in Jerusalem and completed the writing of Megillat Esther, the illumination of several ketubbot, and a limited edition artist portfolio entitled Passover Landscapes: Illuminations on the Exodus which was acquired by Yale University, exhibited at Yeshiva University Museum (April, 2006) and is on permanent exhibit at The Jewish Theological Seminary. The Lovell Haggadah, commissioned by Dedee and Stephen Lovell of Sands Point, NY and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, published in 2008 by The Schechter Institute and Nirtzah Editions, is based on this work. In 2008-2009, he studied illustration and oil painting at The Jerusalem Studio School. He designed a series of tzedakah boxes, sanctuary artwork for the JCC of Harrison New York and a commission in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of SAR Academy.
In addition, Matt and his team at Kol HaOt, Jerusalem are now teaching day schools across North America how to integrate the arts and Jewish learning.
He lives in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem and takes great pride in raising three Israeli children!