Feb. 3, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 9

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    Symposium will focus on questions raised in Kaddish

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    Participants in an upcoming symposium, “Traditional Religion and the Contemporary Mind,” will address questions about the nature of faith and the place of traditional religious practice in contemporary life, which are raised by the recent book Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier.

    The book’s title refers to the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning and glorification of God that is recited daily for one year after the death of a parent. Kaddish recounts Wieseltier’s fulfillment of that duty during the time following his father’s death.

    Wieseltier also will participate in the symposium, which will be presented by the Committee on General Studies in the Humanities, the College and the Divinity School in collaboration with the Newberger Hillel House and the Lumen Christi Institute, from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17.

    According to Paul Griffiths, Professor in the Divinity School and moderator for the session, the symposium will explore some of the tensions faced by contemporary subjects who are concerned with the problem of faith. “In his Pensees, Pascal puts it well in advising those who are not sure how to have faith. The proper thing, he says, is to do what those who have faith already do: act as if you believed––as if you were a good Catholic or, by extrapolation, a good Jew––and then, eventually, you will become a believer,” he explained.

    “The symposium, thus, will address a vital question,” continued Griffiths. “Can educated contemporary Americans follow this route? If they can––if the lessons of Wieseltier’s book about the tentative yet earnest practice of aspects of a faith are generalizable––is there anything new in American culture that might explain the possibility?”

    Also taking part in the symposium will be Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor in the Divinity School; Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago; and David Novak (A.B., ’61), chair of Jewish studies at the University of Toronto.

    The symposium, which is free to the public, will be held in Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St. For more information, call the Lumen Christi Institute at (773) 643-3575.