On June 20 and June 23, 2022, the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought hosted its annual summer seminars for high school students, Jewish and Western Texts in Conversation. Held in Manhattan, the respective programs for men and women brought together 38 students to participate in unique interdisciplinary seminars and activities, learn at the collegiate level and engage with the YU Straus Center’s renowned faculty.
“The Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University was founded with the aim of more fully realizing YU’s mission: to create truly educated Jews by bridging Torah and the West and teaching them how Yahadut (Judaism) has so deeply shaped some of the best ideas of the Western world,” explained Straus Director Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik. “This annual program allows us to immerse high school students in a conversation between Torah and the great works of Western thought, literature, and history.”
“Our Straus summer seminar drew a diverse group of motivated and knowledge-seeking students from Modern Orthodox day schools across the United States and Canada,” explained Sarah Wapner, impact and recruitment officer at the Straus Center. “In addition to the rigorous seminars, this program also facilitates meaningful networking opportunities for intellectually curious students while introducing them to the prestigious academic and impact opportunities we provide at Yeshiva University and the Straus Center.”
The seminars covered a variety of themes, texts, and questions. In his seminar “Torah and the American Founding: Esther in America,” Straus Deputy Director Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern explored the influence of the Book of Esther on American politics and culture since the country’s founding. Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner, Straus Center clinical assistant professor, led a seminar titled “Torah and Literature: Solitude and Sin,” in which he explored the Jewish philosophies of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. In her seminar on Zionism and Jewish leadership, Ms. Sarah Wapner explored the political rhetoric of Menachem Begin, conducting a close reading of Begin’s 1952 reparations speech and his 1977 Knesset address to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Finally, “Shakespeare’s Biblical Soundscapes,” a rousing and interactive Shakespeare program led by Straus Center Resident Scholar Dr. Shaina Trapedo, focused on excerpts from The Tempest and the Book of Genesis.
The respective programs concluded with closing dinners and a seminar with Rabbi Soloveichik, who examined the influences of the Hebrew Bible on Abraham Lincoln’s writings and the enduring legacy of Lincoln’s words in the American-Jewish consciousness.
Information regarding Jewish and Western Texts in Conversation—offered by the Straus Center with the generous support of the Paul E. Singer Foundation—including updates on the summer 2023 application, can be found here.