When Rabbi Louis Jacobs passed away earlier this year, his "Quest" for religious truth was hardly finished and the debates he had sparked in intellectual and theological circles across England were far from being resolved. Now his family and students, spanning three continents, have created an international reading group both to honor his legacy, and to continue the discussion that defined the rabbi's life. "Reading Rabbi Jacobs" will debut this Saturday night in London, Chicago and Jerusalem as a year-long series dedicated to the dialogue expounded in Jacobs's prolific writings. The three groups will be linked through a Web site (www.readingrabbijacobs.org) on which project members can view material presented during the group meetings, participate in discussion forums, chat live with other members, record personal thoughts for later viewing and access a reference section with the relevant books and articles from Rabbi Jacobs's library. Rabbi Marcel Marcus, owner of Jerusalem's Ludwig Mayer bookstore and a former student of Rabbi Jacobs, will be leading the first session for the Jerusalem branch of the Reading Project in the home of Jacobs's daughter, Naomi Bar-Yosef. "I think there a lot of people in this country who aren't as familiar with his works, but especially in Israel it is very important that we explore the different approaches to our tradition," Marcus explained. During his life, Jacobs, who produced over 40 volumes of work covering talmudic methodology, Hassidism, rabbinic literature and theology, was revered for the depth and extent of his scholarship, but his name also became synonymous with an extensive theological controversy, known in England as the Jacobs affair. Sparked by the ideas espoused in his book, Reason to Believe, the controversy ostracized Jacobs from many religious circles in England and also led him and his followers to establish The New London Synagogue, considered traditional in its practice and progressive in its thought. Despite the controversy, Jacobs was chosen by popular vote as the most influential British Jew of the past 350 years. Founders of the reading project, however, emphasize that they are in no way looking to create political divisiveness through the project, but rather looking to bring more dialogue into theological discussion. "I want to stress that this is not an Orthodox, Conservative or Reform group," said Bar Yosef. The first session, however, will cover Jacobs's famous Reason to Believe as well as Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, written almost 40 years after the former book. Jacobs's protege, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, who initially suggested the reading project, explained that the two books were paired because they span the intellectual journey of Jacobs. "One has to begin with Reason to Believe because of its place within Rabbi Jacobs' life and thought. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a much more recent book because he revisits his ideas and defends them. The two books are partners," he said. According to the organizers, Wittenberg will lead the first session in London while Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, who is writing his dissertation on Jacobs's works, will guide the Chicago session. Although these are the only formal sessions being organized, messages posted on the Web site reveal a worldwide interest with postings from persons in Binghamton, New York, to Holland among those looking to start a live group or participate in Internet discussions about Jacobs's works. The Internet site will also make available rabbinic authorities to answer questions that people might have about the readings. "The books are challenging in parts, and there will be rabbis who have a role in responding to people who are struggling with some of the issues," Wittenberg said. The Saturday night debut is also the one-year anniversary of the death of Jacobs's wife Shula and was chosen as a way to honor her memory as well, Bar-Yosef explained. The project will span six sessions; the second session in Jerusalem will be led by retired Hebrew University Prof. Michael Rosenak.

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