Bar-Ilan University launches new research impact center

The center will address Israeli and North American Judaism, bring together divergent voices, and develop viable models for the future.

A BIRTHRIGHT mega-event in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A BIRTHRIGHT mega-event in Jerusalem.
Israel and North America are the two most influential bases of contemporary Judaism, housing close to 90% of the world’s Jewish population. Over the past century, each has evolved into profound wellsprings for Jewish intellectual, cultural, and religious vibrance and creativity. The ongoing interface between these two Jewish centers has been mutually intertwined, and has nourished Jewish life throughout the world.
However, in recent years points of contention have surfaced, and they need to be addressed.  Fresh models of engagement and cooperation that are predicated on informed and creative thinking should be developed.
With this in mind, Bar-Ilan University has launched a new Impact Center for Research on Judaism in Israel and North America, a first-of-its-kind academic framework that will propose innovative ideas for the future.  With the largest Faculty of Jewish Studies in the world, including scholars noted for their extensive comparative work on the historical development of Judaism in Israel and North America, Bar-Ilan University is particularly qualified to undertake such an endeavor.
The center will consist of three key elements.  A cutting-edge research laboratory consisting of experts on Jewish life in Israel and America who will work together to refine understanding of the distinctive religious characters of each community and propose novel ways to navigate the dynamics between them.  A graduate program will recruit students from both Israel and the United States who will study a specialized curriculum and carry out research projects aimed at producing scholars and future leaders.  These leaders will be equipped with a comparative perspective regarding Judaism in Israel and North America. Lastly, the center will bring together leaders from diverse religious constituencies and streams, and facilitate negotiations regarding core existential topics, with the goal of cultivating viable applied solutions that all sides can endorse. 
“Our mission is to utilize the rigorous tools we possess in order to rethink the dynamics between Israeli and North American Judaism, refine the connection, and contribute profoundly toward a strengthened relationship.  This relationship will be based upon mutual appreciation for both what is shared between the two communities and the distinctive features that divide them,” says Prof. Adam Ferziger, Director-designate of the center.  “Our prominent standing within academic Jewish studies, coupled with our strong credibility in the religious world, place us in a unique position to bring together representatives of a diverse range of contemporary Jewish thinking and practice for dialogue that will effect positive change.”
Prof. Adam Ferziger
Director-designate, Impact Center for Research on Judaism in Israel and North America
A foremost expert on North American and Israeli Judaism, Prof. Ferziger serves as Incumbent of the Samson Raphael Hirsch Chair for Research of the Torah with Derekh Eretz Movement in the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, and as co-director of the annual Oxford Summer Institute on Modern and Contemporary Judaism, University of Oxford.  His most recent book, Beyond Sectarianism (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2015), received the National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies. A native New Yorker, Ferziger moved to Israel in 1987.