Sunday, July 4, 2010

Seminar on Judaism and the Environment

By Dr. Yossi Spanier
Head of the Department of Land of Israel Studies

In the framework of the Rosh Chodesh forum for first-year students, Orot conducted a seminar on the subject of “Judaism and the Environment”. Organized to develop awareness of the issue of the environment and its relationship to the Jewish world, the seminar encouraged students to lead an attitude change towards environmental issues in the educational system.
A team from the organization "Teva Ivri" (Jewish Nature) led the seminar. Among the coordinators was Hadas Yelnick (Zagury), an Orot graduate who studied in Orot’s Department of the Land of Israel Studies and later earned her Master's Degree in Environmental Studies . Hadas returned to Orot as an active member of “Teva Ivri” in order to help promote the importance of environmental issues in educational institutions.
Following an opening lecture by Rabbi Prof. Neria Guttel, Hadas described what she called a “global environmental crisis.” After the lectures, the students split into two rounds of Beit Midrash study on the subjects of “birkat ha'ilanot” – “Blessing of the Trees,” and “Preservation and the Value of Nature.” At the same time, there were two workshops: the first highlighted the importance of producing compost and recycling. The second presented numerous products in daily use and contrasted many products which contain dangerous toxins and should be avoided, with others made from healthy components that are safe to use.
This interesting and informative day concluded with a call to students to join the framework of Israeli environmental activism.

“Srugim at Orot”: A Meeting with Scriptwriter Mrs. Hava Divon

By Dr. Yaron Katz,
Communication Department Head

Students of the Communication and Dance departments met with Mrs. Hava Divon, the creator and scriptwriter of the popular Israeli television series "Srugim". During the meeting they screened her movie "Happiness", as well as a section from the series "Srugim". After the screening, she spoke with the students and presented some of the dilemmas she faces as a religious creator in the secular Israeli media.
She described various considerations the series creators’ grapple with in the process of producing her show, including the selection of actors, production and filming challenges, as well as halachic dilemmas and how she deals with them. Many of Orot’s students questioned the inappropriate behavior which clearly violates halachah, present in the series. Mrs. Divon explained that these scenes demonstrate the complexity of the series and reflect reality, including many of the doubts, dilemmas and the situations that religious youth encounter in their lives.
During the discussion, the students wondered whether, despite the accurate portrayal of reality, if it is appropriate for a religious producer to depict personal stories that illustrate non-halachic male-female relationships. Different students articulated a wide range of views on the issue during a lively and important debate. Dr. Dvori Hendler, co-director of the Communications Department said that only halachic boundaries can determine whether the script falls within the framework of Jewish law. She pointed out that she expects the producer to deal with her work from a religious perspective and find solutions within halachic boundaries.
The students asked Mrs. Divon if she could not have coped with the reality within the framework of halachah by finding creative alternatives to portraying prohibited behavior. Mrs. Divon replied that she didn't hide and didn't cover up reality, and that is actually the complexity of the series. She pointed out that while she lives in a religious society, doesn't have non-religious friends and is cut off from the non-religious world, it is important to her to show the reality as it is. Mrs. Divon claimed that the whole script is based on real situations and that the series describes only a small part of what happens in reality. She described the halachic dilemmas that occurred during the filming, including cases in which she turned to rabbis and asked for their advice how to present certain dilemmas.
Student reaction was mixed. Some felt that because the debate mainly dealt with halachic dilemmas, there was not enough time for the guest to explain the professional considerations in editing the series. Others felt that the meeting with a religious producer was in itself very important in order to understand the challenges she faced and how she copes with them.
After the meeting, the students continued the discussions independently, but added that they hoped for additional input from rabbis and spiritual leaders in order to learn how to cope with such dilemmas for themselves in the future.