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The Jonathan Raz Lecture

In Pursuit of Knowledge and Growth - Honoring the Memory of Jonathan Raz

The annual Raz Lecture honors the memory of BI member Jonathan Raz, who passed away in 2000.  A biostatistician by profession, Jonathan loved to debate the issues of the day in statistics with his colleagues and students. He was an enthusiastic, energetic person with wide-ranging interests. Besides his work in statistics, he wrote science fiction and poetry, and enjoyed astronomy, art and classical music. He was also a devoted family man who loved to spend time with his beloved wife Jennifer Lenway and make up bedtime stories for his two daughters, Amelie and Abigail Raz.  We honor his memory through ongoing learning and celebration.

We are grateful to Beth Israel member (and past president) Jennifer Lenway, for her generosity of time, energy, money, and creativity in honoring her husband's memory.  Each year she works with our rabbis and lay leaders to make this annual lecture possible.  The event is usually held after Shabbat morning services, and often includes a catered lunch.

Recent Raz Lectures

2022: Dr. Debra Shushan and Ken Klothen, "What About Israel?"

Speaker: Debra Shushan is the director of government affairs at J Street where she manages the advocacy operations and activities of the Government Affairs team. As an analyst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US foreign policy, Dr. Shushan honed her expertise as director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now.   (For more information, go to the JStreet website.)

Speaker: Ken Klothen, long connected with BI, has been an attorney and public policy analyst with experience in private and public sectors, specializing in bioethics and mediation in the health care field.  He has worked to improve ethics review in research and clinical settings in the US and Latin America, and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for disputes about quality of care, business relationships and reimbursement.  His role in NIF is Member of the International Advisory Council and Member of the Philadelphia Regional Council. Ken and his wife Eve Biskind Klothen have supported and been associated with NIF for 25 years.

2020: Ali Michael, "Confronting Racism"

Speaker: Ali Michael is the co-founder and director of the Race Institute, who explored the challenging and important topic of confronting racism.

2019:  Rev. Alison Cornish, "Spiritual Resources for Cultivating Hope and Transformation"

Speaker:  Rev. Alison Cornish, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light.  Rev. Cornish is a Unitarian Universalist minister, and serves as both Executive Director of PA IPL and the Director of Congregational and Seminary Initiatives for the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia.  The mission of Interfaith Power & Light is to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

2018:  Ronit Y. Stahl, "Claiming Conscience: Religion and Medical Ethics in the Public Square”

Speaker:  Ronit Stahl, who is a historian of modern America, focusing on religious pluralism in public life.  She is a fellow in medical ethics in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania where she researches and writes about the history and ethics of conscience clauses and religious refusal legislation in health care. She is also the author of Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America, which examines how the military has managed religion in the armed forces despite the constitutional separation of church and state.

2017:  David Ebenbach, "The Artist's Torah"

Speaker:  author and professor David Ebenbach, who shared his wisdom from his work, The Artist's Torah. The event was a kickoff for a monthly gathering of writers, musicians, artists, dancers, all who are involved in a creative process and seek support and inspiration.  The Artist's Torah is an uplifting and down-to-earth guide to the creative process, wide open to longtime artists and first-time dabblers, to people of every religious background-or none-and to every creative medium. Ebenbach works with the weekly Torah portions to create meditations on a life lived artistically, grounded in ancient Jewish wisdom and the wisdom of artists, composers, writers, and choreographers from the past and present.

2016:  Ken Klothen, "Defending the Founders' Zionist Vision: 
The New Israel Fund and the Fight to Save Israeli Democracy"

Speaker:  Ken Klothen, who discussed the New Israel Fund and how the inclusive vision of Israel's founders differs from the current political reality.

2015:  Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb led Shabbat events during Beth Israel's Greenfaith Scholar-In-Residence Weekend.

Speaker:  Rabbi Dobb is active in interfaith, environmental, social justice and Reconstructionist movement leadership, serving as chair of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life ( and having served as chair of Maryland & Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light (, and president of the Washington Board of Rabbis. While serving as rabbi at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda MD (, he helped it to become a widely-acclaimed green spiritual center.

Rabbi Dobb led discussions thoughout Shabbat, on the following topics:

- Eco-Judaism I: What We Can Do as People; Why We Do It as Jews
- Green Davenning with Rabbi Linda and Rabbi Fred: Short Shacharit Sustainability Snippets
- Hands-on Jewish Environmentalism
- Eco-Judaism II: What We Can Do in the Jewish Community, From This Lunch, Forward

2014:  Jacob Lieberman and Nurit Shein, "Transgender Jews: Moving Toward the Blessing of Inclusion"

2013:  Rabbi Bretton-Granatoor, "Creating Liberal Judaism Around the World: Triumph and Challenges"

Speaker:  Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.  Rabbi Bretton-Granatoor is the editor and principal writer of "A Jewish View of Cults and Shalom/Salaam: A Resource for Jewish-Muslim Dialogue."

2012:  Rabbi Daniel Grossman, "Ensuring Access: Becoming a Synagogue that Could Include Moses, Isaac, Leah and David"
Mon, May 27 2024 19 Iyyar 5784