The Smith Lectures in Contemporary Jewish Life and Thought will be offered as an extension of the academic offerings at William Jewell College for the 2011-2012 academic year. The free lectures are also open to the public. Funding for the lectures has been provided by the family of Edward and Beth Smith through the Jewish Community Foundation of Kansas City. Debbie Smith serves on the Board of Trustees of William Jewell College.
“There is no better setting for these lectures than a liberal arts college,” said Dr. Andrew Pratt, Dean of the Chapel and Vice President for Religious Ministries at William Jewell. “We believe that these lectures will serve to enlighten our students and broaden their understanding of the larger community, addressing William Jewell’s mission of providing a liberal arts education of superior quality that prepares students to lead and serve in the world beyond our campus.”
Leading the Smith Lectures throughout the 2011-2012 academic year will be Rabbi Neal Schuster of Overland Park, Kan. Two evening lectures are planned during the fall semester of 2011 and two additional lectures during the spring semester of 2012. Lectures are at 6 p.m. Sunday evenings in the Gill Family Meeting Room of Yates-Gill College Union. The schedule includes:
September 25, 2011: Becoming the Responsible Self—a Jewish perspective on three foundational questions: What is real? What can we know? How should we live? This session will lay the foundation for understanding the Jewish ethos and worldviews. It references the college’s core curriculum, which is organized around an examination of what constitutes the “Responsible Self.”
October 30, 2011: Between Universal and Particular—Are the Jews an insular people, or a cosmopolitan one? An exceptional people, or an ordinary one? Are they even a people at all? If so, how, who belongs, and what is their purpose?
February 19, 2012: Questions Heaped Upon Questions—How Jews think and why. An exploration of the basic modes of Talmudic discourse and Jewish thought and how it has shaped the essence of the Jewish ethos.
April 15, 2012: What Shall I Do With This People—The place of Jews and Judaism in the world. How Judaisim has transformed the world. Is there still a “Jewish Problem” to be solved? If so, what is it, is there a solution, and what happens when Israel is added to the equation.
Rabbi Schuster holds a B.A. in business administration from the University of Washington, an M.A. in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles, as well as an M.A. in Hebrew Letters from HUC-JIR. While in Rabbinical School, he served as an intern and then as the director of the Berit Mila Program of Reform Judaism, as well as the instructor for several adult education programs throughout Los Angeles. He served as a student rabbi for Congregation B’nai Israel of Butte, Mont.; as a student intern for Congregation Ner Tamid in Las Vegas, Nev.; and as an education intern for Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, Calif. Since 2009, he has served as the rabbi and Senior Jewish Educator at the Hillel chapter at the University of Kansas, where he is also a member of the faculty in the university’s Jewish Studies Program.
Rabbi Schuster has served as part of the clergy team at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, Kansas City’s oldest and largest Jewish congregation. He has been a sought-after teacher in the Jewish Community Center’s Department of Adult Jewish Learning as well as a regular guest lecturer and panelist for the Biomedical Ethics Program at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. He lives in Overland park, Kan., with his wife, Tamara, who is also a Jewish educator, and their three children.