Tag Archives: Rabbi Israel Zoberman

Rabbi Israel Zoberman leads book discussion about Samson

What does the Biblical story of Samson have to do with modern Israel? Quite a lot, according to Israeli author David Grossman and local rabbi Dr. Israel Zoberman.

On April 20, fourteen members of the Regent community joined Rabbi Israel Zoberman for a discussion of Lion’s Honey, David Grossman’s examination and retelling of the Sampson story in Judges 13-16. For Grossman, Samson is a metaphor for the tension inherent in Zionism and modern Israel. As Rabbi Zoberman explained, the birth of modern Zionism was deeply “anti-rabbinic” in calling on Jews in the diaspora to look to themselves for their own welfare and to establish a Jewish state before the coming of the messiah. Whereas European Rabbis had traditionally emphasized study and submission to the Gentile authorities, virulent anti-Semitism convinced Zionists that Jews must have a strong state to guarantee their own survival.

Rabbi Zoberman emphasized that Samson is a metaphor for modern Israeli society not only because, like Samson, Israel is so much stronger than her enemies; but also because like Samson, a Nazarite (from the Hebrew word nazir meaning “consecrated” or “separated”), the Jewish people have been called by God “to be a special people unto Himself” (Deuteronomy 7:6). This tension, according to Rabbi Zoberman, between the Biblical and rabbinic teaching that the Jews are a “special people” unto God and the Zionist insistence that Jews must count on themselves for their defense, is one of the ironies of Jewish history that continue to define and shape Israel today.

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Book Discussion & Film Screening: Contemporary Israeli literature and cinema

On Friday, April 20, Dr. Israel Zoberman, from Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach, will lead a discussion of Lion’s Honey: The Myth of Sampson, by David Grossman (b. 1954), one of Israel’s most admired contemporary writers. Lion’s Honey is Grossman’s examination and retelling of the Sampson story in Judges 13-16.

The discussion of Lion’s Honey will mark Rabbi Zoberman’s third visit with the Library Book Club. He is a true scholar and an always engaging speaker. Readers interested in Judaism and modern Israel will not want to miss this event. The book is around 100 pages and can be read in one sitting. For a free excerpt, contact Harold Henkel at harohen@regent.edu.

The Lion’s Honey discussion will be at 1:00 p.m. in the Library Conference Room, located in the Library Administration area.

As a complement to the tragic story of Samson, Professor of Cinema Andrew Quicke will introduce and screen a contemporary Israeli comedy. A Matter of Size is a film about a “Sampson” of a different sort—an obese cook who discovers a talent and love for Sumo wrestling. The screening will be on Thursday, April 19th at 6:30 p.m. in Screening Room B (COM 143).

Rabbi Israel Zoberman leads book discussion at the Library

Biblical & Theological Studies major Jessica Marzucco with Rabbi Zoberman
Written by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

On May 12th, thirteen members of the Regent community joined Rabbi Israel Zoberman for a discussion of In the Heart of the Seas, a modern fable by Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970). In the Heart of the Seas is a modern fable about a group of Hassidim from Eastern Europe making aliyah (“ascent”), the return to Israel. Deceptively simple, In the Heart of the Seas is a retelling of the Exodus from Egypt. In Agnon’s story aliyah is both a physical and spiritual journey, and as with the ancient Israelites, the travelers must overcome many hardships and temptations to return to Egypt/Europe.

Rabbi Zoberman, who speaks both Yiddish and Hebrew, was an ideal guide to Agnon. Dr. Zoberman explained that one of the purposes in Agnon’s works was to recreate the world of East European Jewry, which perished in the Holocaust. The conversation covered an exceptionally wide range of topics, including Hassidism, Zionism, Rabbinical interpretations of Scripture, the Holocaust, and contemporary Israeli culture. Rabbi Zoberman also said that, while he had read In the Heart of the Seas years before in Hebrew, the positive reception to the story by readers at Regent had given him a new appreciation for the work as being not just for Jews, but for all readers sensitive to the story’s spiritual message. Agnon would seem to agree, concluding the book with a verse from the Psalms for readers who have derived benefit from his story: “But those who wait for the Lord, they shall inherit the land” (Psalm 37:9).

Rabbi Israel Zoberman to lead discussion of S. Y. Agnon

S. Y. Agnon
Next month, on the Thursday following Commencement, Dr. Israel Zoberman, from Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach, will lead a discussion of In the Heart of the Seas, a modern fable by Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1988-1970), universally regarded as the greatest master of Modern Hebrew fiction. In the Heart of the Seas is a short work about a group Eastern European Hassidim making the long and difficult passage to Israel, which in Agnon’s telling is a spiritual as well as physical journey.

Rabbi Zoberman led the Book Club’s discussion last year of Amos Oz and spoke at the Library’s Holocaust Memorial Service this past January. The Library is pleased to have Dr. Zoberman visit us again to enrich our understanding of one of the essential writers of Modern Hebrew and Israeli literature.

In the Heart of the Seas is written in clear, spare prose and is only 128 pages long, making it an excellent introduction to Agnon’s work. The Library has four copies of the work, and some excellent deals are available from Amazon and Half.com.

The discussion of In the Heart of the Seas will take place on Thursday, May 12th at 1:00 in the Library Conference Room. For a free excerpt of the book or for more information about the Library Book Club, contact Harold Henkel at harohen@regent.edu or 352-4198.

Library commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Chancellor Robertson, Pat Mercer Hutchens, and President Campo view the paintings in the Library gallery
Written by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

On January 27, 1945 the advancing Soviet army entered Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. In 2005, the United Nations designated this day as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era.

This year, on the 66th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Library marked this solemn event with two days of commemorative events. From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, the Library screened Claude Lanzmann’s 9½ hour film Shoah. Based on interviews with concentration camp survivors, guards, and witnesses from surrounding villages, Shoah (1985) has been acclaimed as the most important of all Holocaust documentaries.

At 6:30 p.m., in front of a standing-room only audience in the Library Auditorium, a memorial service for victims of the Nazis was held in conjunction with an introduction to the world premier of The Auschwitz Album Revisited, an exhibition of 28 paintings by artist Dr. Pat Mercer Hutchens. The memorial service included reflections on the Holocaust by Library Dean Sara Baron, University Chancellor Pat Robertson, and President Carlos Campo. Five honored guests also spoke. Dr. Israel Zoberman, founding Rabbi at Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach, led the recitation of the Kaddish (Jewish Mourner’s Prayer). Holocaust survivor and Chesapeake resident David Katz gave a moving testimony of how he survived the war with the aid of French “righteous Gentiles,” and even served as a courier for the French Resistance. A brief autobiography of Mr. Katz may be read here.

Holocaust survivor David Katz speaking about his experience in Nazi-occupied France
Following Mr. Katz’s remarks, Rev. Sonny Mathew introduced the artist. Dr. Hutchens recounted looking at the Auschwitz Album and feeling deeply moved by the photographs, particularly those of women and children. “I tried to think about how I would have felt, and I was overwhelmed with sorrow.” It was then that she felt God’s call to give artistic expression to the subjects of the photographs. Initially, Dr. Hutchens had planned to do a series of only twelve paintings, but as she worked on the project, she felt a responsibility to memorialize all the children in the Auschwitz Album. Twenty-eight paintings have now been created, and Dr. Hutchens continues to add to the series.

The memorial service concluded with Cantor Roni Wexler chanting the El Male Rachamim (prayer for the departed). A video of the memorial service may be viewed by clicking here.

Following a five-minute break, the audience re-assembled in the Library gallery, and the artist’s husband, Brigadier General James Hutchens, US Army (ret.), offered a prayer, blessing the paintings and officially opening the exhibition. A video of Gen. Hutchen’s remarks may be viewed here.

The Auschwitz Album Revisited will be on display in the Library gallery through February 18th. The paintings will be taken to the Krakow Jewish Cultural Festival in Poland this summer.

On January 28th at the Library, 14 readers joined historian Dr. David Meyer for a discussion of Elie Wiesel’s memoir of Auschwitz, Night, one of the foundational works of Holocaust literature.

Throughout all the commemorative events, the declaration “Never Again” emerged as the over-arching theme of the proceedings, with President Campo articulating what must be the end-purpose of all education about the Holocaust: “We will ever remain vigilant, and I stand in the tradition that says ‘never again.’”