An Odd Couple? Religion and the Public Intellectual in America

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

April 16, 2007, New York, NY

Public intellectuals in contemporary America have a complicated relationship with religion. What does it mean to weigh in on public policy, social ethics, and political choices from the point of view of religious conviction? How does that work in our pluralistic democracy?

"Religion and the Public Intellectual in America," a public forum that will explore the responsibility of religiously committed intellectuals to the public square, will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, at The Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street) in New York City.

The distinguished panel will include four prominent religious intellectuals, Professor Arnold M. Eisen, Professor Lenn Goodman, Professor of Philosophy and Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities, Vanderbilt University; Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor in Chief, FIRST THINGS; and Dr. Os Guinness, writer and social critic. The program is being sponsored by JTS's Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies. Dr. Alan Mittleman, Director of the Finkelstein Institute and Professor of Jewish philosophy at JTS, will moderate.

Professor Eisen's engaging and enthusiastic style, deep intellect, and passion usher in fresh energy and vitality to JTS, the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide. Since 1986, Professor Eisen has been a Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford University. One of the world’s foremost experts on American Judaism, he has worked for over twenty years with synagogue and federation leadership around the country to analyze and address the issues of Jewish identity, the revitalization of Jewish tradition, and the redefinition of the American Jewish community. An avid advocate for strengthening the connection between American Jews and Israel, Professor Eisen’s book, Taking Hold of Torah: Jewish Commitment and Community in America, addresses the renewal of Jewish community and commitment in America. He is now working on a book probing new possibilities for the meaning of Zionism. Professor Eisen received a PhD in the History of Jewish Thought from Hebrew University and a BPhil in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Oxford.

Professor Goodman's philosophical interests center on metaphysics and ethics, and he has paid special attention over the years to Islamic and Jewish philosophical thought and their creative interactions. His many books include Islamic Humanism (Oxford University Press, 2003), Jewish and Islamic Philosophy: Crosspollinations in the Classic Age and God of Abraham, winner of the 1997 Gratz Centennial Prize. He has also written philosophical essays on most of the major figures of Islamic and Jewish philosophy and on a variety of topics in political philosophy, biophilosophy, and the theory of knowledge and culture. A past Vice President and Program Chair of the Institute for Islamic/Judaic Studies, he has contributed to many reference works, including the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford Companion to Philosophy, and Blackwell's Companion to the Philosophy of Religion. Dr. Goodman received an AB from Harvard Unniversity and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. He is an active participant in the dialogue on religion and science and a Gifford Lecturer.

Rev. Neuhaus is President of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, founded in 1989 as an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute, whose mission "is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." A close personal advisor to the Bush Administration, he was listed by Time magazine as one of the twenty–five most influential evangelicals in America in 2005. His many books include Freedom for Ministry, The Naked Public Square, The Catholic Movement, Believing Today, Death on a Friday Afternoon, and As I Lay Dying.

Dr. Guinness is the co–founder of the Trinity Forum, where he served as Senior Fellow and Vice Chairman of the Board from its inception in 1991 until 2004. His deep concern is to bridge the chasm between academic knowledge and popular knowledge, taking things that are academically important and making them intelligible and practicable to a wider audience, especially as they concern matters of public policy. He has been a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies and a Guest Scholar and Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, as well as Executive Director of the Williamsburg Charter Foundation. Co–author of the public school curriculum "Living With Our Deepest Differences," he has written or edited more than twenty books, including The American Hour, The Call, Time for Truth, Long Journey Home and Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror. Dr. Guinness received a DPhil in the social sciences from Oriel College at the University of Oxford.

Admission is free, but reservations are required by calling (212) 280–6093 or email. Attendees are requested to have photo IDs available and arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the program to allow sufficient time for registration.

Editors/Reporters: To attend the lecture or for further information, please contact Sherry Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678–8953; or email.

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world–class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic, and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.

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