Judaism and Ecology

February 22-24, 1998


  • Opening Session
  • Interdisciplinary Reflections
  • Toward a Contemporary Jewish Theology of the Natural World
  • The Mystical Tradition
  • Nature and Moral Obligation
  • The Bible through an Ecological Prism
  • Nature and Human Obligation
  • Creation and Nature
  • Modern Jewish Thought
  • Nature and the Environment
  • The Engaged Community


Opening Session

Welcome and Introduction:

Lawrence Sullivan, Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Bucknell University

Steven Shaw, Jewish Theological Seminary

Moshe Sokol, Touro College


Interdisciplinary Reflections

Moderator - Michael Paley, UJA Federation, New York

Ismar Schorsch, Jewish Theological Seminary - Judaism and Nature: Some Critical Reflections

Lawrence Rasmussen, Union Theological Seminary - New Directions in Theological Ethics, Nature and the Environment

J. Baird Callicott, University of North Texas - Current Issues in Environmental Philosophy


Toward a Contemporary Jewish Theology of the Natural World

Moderator - Mitchell Thomashow, Antioch New England Graduate Center

Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago

Arthur Green, Brandeis University

Nature in Winter: A Brief Ecological Field Trip (Part I) - Steve Shaw, Dan Swartz, and Michal Smart


The Mystical Tradition

Chair - Everett Gendler, Andover, Massachusetts

Yehuda Gellman, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel - Buber's Bluff: On the Attitude of Early Hasidism to the World and Nature

Shaul Magid, Jewish Theological Seminary - Nature and Disability: The Natural World in Nahman of Bratzlav's “Tale of The Seven Beggars”

Elliot Wolfson, New York University - The Mirror of Nature in the Jewish Mystical Tradition

Respondent - Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Indiana University


Nature and Moral Obligation: Theoretical Perspectives

Chair - Roger Gottlieb, Worcester Polytechnical Institute

Lenn Evan Goodman, Vanderbilt University - Respect for Nature in the Jewish Tradition

Shalom Rosenberg, Hebrew University, Jerusalem - Torah and Nature: On the Functionality of “Nature”

Moshe Sokol, Touro College - What are the Ethical Implications of Jewish Theological Conceptions of Nature?

Respondent - Barry Kogan, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati


The Bible through an Ecological Prism

Daniel Hillel, Center for Environmental Studies, Karkur, Israel - The Bible through an Ecological Prism


Nature and Human Obligation: Biblical and Theological Reflections

Chair - Eric Katz, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Tsvi Blanchard, CLAL - Can Judaism Make Environmental Policy? Sacred and Secular Language in Jewish Environmental Discourse

Evan Eisenberg, Leverett, Massachusetts - The Ecology of Eden

Tikva Frymer-Kensky, University of Chicago - “Leshev” and Gaia: The Limits of Biblical Ecology

Respondent - Eilon Schwartz, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem


Creation and Nature

Chair - David Shatz, Yeshiva University

Stephen Geller, Jewish Theological Seminary - Nature's Answer: Creation and Theodicy in the Bible

Neil Gillman, Jewish Theological Seminary - Liturgical Transformations of the Creation Stories

David Novak, University of Toronto - The Doctrine of Creation and the Idea of Nature

Respondent - Jon Levenson, Harvard University

An Evening with Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

Chair - Paul Gorman, National Religious Partnership for the Environment

Nature in Winter: A Brief Ecological Field Trip (Part II) - Steve Shaw, Dan Swartz, and Michal Smart


Modern Jewish Thought

Chair - David Szonyi, Jewish Theological Seminary

Benjamin Ish Shalom, Bet Morasha, Jerusalem - Nature in the Thought of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

Edward Kaplan, Brandeis University - Reverence and Responsibility: Abraham Joshua Heschel on Nature and The Self

Respondent - Susan Shapiro, Columbia University


Nature and the Environment: Perspectives from the Rabbinic Tradition

Chair - Lawrence Troster, CLAL

Eliezer Diamond, Jewish Theological Seminary - How Much Is Too Much? The Problem of Conventional Versus Individual Pollution Standards in Rabbinic Law

David Kraemer, Jewish Theological Seminary - Jewish Death Practices: A Commentary on the Relationship of Humans to the Natural World

Respondent - Saul Berman, Yeshiva University


The Engaged Community: Reflections by Jewish Environmental Practitioners

Chair - Rachel Cowan, The Nathan Cummings Foundation

Daniel Swartz, National Religious Partnership for the Environment

Mark Jacobs, Coalition on the Environment & Jewish Life

Michal Smart, Camp Isabella Freedman

Jeremy Benstein, Heschel Center for Nature Studies, Israel