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Straus Center Faculty and Staff Break New Ground in Torah and Western Thought

In October 2023, faculty and staff members at the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought published new scholarly articles, and they are working on multiple book projects in progress.


Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Straus Center, published a chapter entitled “Five Dimensions of Dignity: Jonathan Sacks on Judaism and the Human Condition,” in Jewish Culture and Creativity: Essays in Honor of Professor Michael Fishbane on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, edited by Eitan P. Fishbane & Elisha Russ-Fishbane and published by Academic Studies Press. Rabbi Lerner has taught courses at the Straus Center on the thought of Rabbi Sacks and is a member of the inaugural cohort of Sacks Scholars, an international fellowship of educators and communal professionals dedicated to perpetuating the legacy of Rabbi Sacks. Rabbi Lerner’s essay explores the central tenet of dignity within Rabbi Sacks’ oeuvre. Rabbi Lerner argues that Rabbi Sacks offers a pentangular conception of dignity that corresponds to five needs at the core of the human condition– independence, identity, faith, hope, and solidarity–and that Jewish tradition summons its adherents to attend to and defend these principles.


Yisroel Ben-Porat, the Straus Center’s Programming & Communications Officer, contributed an article entitled “Protestant Rabbi: The Conversion of Judah Monis in Colonial Massachusetts,” in the latest issue of Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought, published by the Rabbinical Council of America. The article focuses on a curious case of religious transformation in colonial America. In 1722, the mysterious “Rabbi” Judah Monis (1683-1764) converted to Protestantism in Cambdrige, Massachusetts and subsequently taught Hebrew at Harvard for several decades. Ben-Porat argues that Monis’ purported rabbinic persona captured the Christian imagination at an auspicious moment in the history of Massachusetts, yet it also undermined the full acceptance of his new religious identity. Ben-Porat is currently completing a PhD dissertation in early American history at CUNY Graduate Center.

Other Straus Center faculty and staff are currently working on a variety of book projects. Dr. Neil Rogachevsky, Associate Director of the Straus Center, recently received a $5,000 award from the Faculty Research Fund administered by Yeshiva University’s Provost’s Office. The funds will be put toward research and translation for Dr. Rogachevsky’s current book project, which will collect translations of core texts from the founding period of Israel along with a critical apparatus. Dr. Shaina Trapedo, Assistant Professor of English at Stern College and the Recruitment Officer at the Straus Center, is co-editing The Soul’s Refuge: Meditations on the Psalms, a volume of essays by YU students, staff, faculty, and alumni on the book of Tehillim. And Rabbi Dr. Stuart Halpern, Deputy Director of the Straus Center, is co-editing The Promise of Liberty: A Passover Haggadah, which gathers primary sources and essays about the influence of the Exodus on the American story.