Temple Israel is sponsoring a series of talks by The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (BISR) in which we will explore new approaches to Jewish Studies and critical engagement with enduring Jewish themes. Founded in 2012 by young, enterprising PhD's, BISR now welcomes 1500 students per year into graduate-level seminars they offer to the general public. Click here for more information on BISR.



rebeccaProust and the Art of Seeing it Through
Rebecca Ariel Porte

Sunday, Feb. 25 at 11:00 am

Why bother with Proust right now? And what does it mean to engage with Proust's Jewishness? Concentrating on the lush visual imagery of In Search of Lost Time, we will investigate what it means to see the world with Proust's narration and through it.  Our exploration of his fiction will consider the vital contexts of Jewish identity, literary modernism, and visual art with special emphasis on problems of aesthetic value and early twentieth-century anxieties about seeing and being seen.

Rebecca Ariel Porte holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her work focuses on literary modernism and modern theories of poetics and aesthetics. A member of the core faculty at BISR, Rebecca also heads The Community Initiative program, which offers free educational opportunities to some of New York’s most underserved residents. Her critical and creative writing has appeared in the Boston Review, the Los Angeles Review of Booksio9POETRY, and FENCE



anjay 427x640Intoxication, Intellect, Inquiry, and Illumination: Bodily Pleasure and Enlightenment in Jewish Thought
Ajay Singh Chaudhary

Sunday, March 25 at 11:00 am

It is a long tradition in Western thought – from Plato to Descartes to Kant to contemporary times – that the work of the mind and body are often fundamentally at odds, and that the body, in particular, holds something suspicious, even dangerous about it. Brooklyn Institute Executive Director, Ajay Singh Chaudhary, will draw on Talmudic legal reasoning, the philosophies of Baruch Spinoza and Walter Benjamin, and other examples from Jewish thought to consider a contrasting view: one that takes the body seriously as coterminous with mind and also understands pleasure as ethics, embodied life as intellectual, and even intoxication as form of rational inquiry.

Ajay Singh Chaudhary is the founding and current executive director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society specializing in Comparative Philosophy, an M.Sc. in Culture and Society from the London School of Economics, and an M.A. and M.Phil in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Jewish Daily Forward, and many other publications.


suzanneJewish Thought and the Sins of History: On Collective Atonement and Future Redemption
Suzanne Schneider

Sunday, April 29 at 11:00 am

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." This line from William Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun does much to encapsulate the ways in which historical events continue to affirm their presence and inflame new controversies today. Nowhere is this more evident than when confronting past atrocities like the Holocaust, American slavery, or genocides of the current day.  How can ideas of atonement, so central to Jewish ritual and thought, help us think about – and hopefully redress – historic wrongs?  This lecture by Suzanne Schneider, BISR’s Director of Operations, will explore the tools and concepts within the Jewish textual tradition that might help us formulate a response to this critical social and political need.  

Suzanne Schneider received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the Department of Middle East, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. A social and cultural historian, she is the author of Mandatory Separation: Religion, Education, and Mass Politics in Palestine from Stanford University Press. As  BISR’s Director of Operations, Suzanne also oversees the Institute’s program execution, development initiatives, and institutional partnerships.