Introducing Spinozium and the On-Going Vote Tally

SHOULD BARUCH DE SPINOZA’S CHEREM BE REVERSED?

In 1952, David Ben-Gurion, in between terms as Israel’s prime minister, appealed to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to cancel the cherem (the religious banishment) on Spinoza. The Rabbinate rejected the appeal, arguing that they were not competent to overrule the wisdom of the rabbis who signed the original writ in Amsterdam on July 27, 1656.

Theater J has now turned to its own audience to ask, “if you had the power, would you move to reverse Spinoza’s excommunication?”

As of 5 pm, March 6, 2013, votes from theater-goers and online follows are:

189 YES

30 NO

These vote totals, which are to be tallied daily until April 1, 2012, are to be entered into the amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs during Spinoza’s re-trial at our SPINOZIUM, April 1, 2012.

For a full Spinozium schedule, click here.   To cast your own vote on Spinoza’s posthumous fate, click here.  To read much more about our Spinozium, read below…

For Immediate Release:  Contact: Brianne K. Nadeau, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications

MEDIA ADVISORY

Washington DCJCC to put Spinoza on Trial

Spinoza trial will be the culmination of Theater J’s second run of New Jerusalem

Washington, DC – As the culmination of Theater J’s revival of New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza, the Washington DC Jewish Community Center will host the “Spinozium” a day symposium including lectures, interviews, panels and a mock trial presided over by retired chief judge for U.S. Court of Appeals Patricia Wald. Others participating include, Leon Wieseltier, Rebecca Goldstein, Marc Saperstein, Steven Nadler, Nat Lewin and Alyza Lewin. Attendees of the play, which runs February 29 – April 1, will have the chance to cast their ballots at the end of each performance and will be encouraged to return for the trial as members of the jury.

The trial, along with sessions such as the “Politics of Excommunication,” “Loving or Hating Spinoza,” and “Was Amsterdam the New Jerusalem?” make up the Spinozium, which will take place on April 1 at the Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater at DCJCC.

Spinoza is one of the most controversial figures in Jewish history. The work of the 17th century philosopher incited such passion at the time that he was excommunicated at the age of 23. His work set the stage for modern biblical criticism and delved into many different disciplines including m
his writings have been the source of heated discourse among students of philosophy, theology and ethics.

Those who wish to attend both a performance of New Jerusalem as well as the Spinozium will receive discounted pricing. All are encouraged to see the play, and then cast their votes.

Theater J originally brought New Jerusalem to sold-out audiences in 2010 and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Production. This year’s performances began on February 29th, and feature Alexander Strain and Michael Tolaydo, previously Helen Hayes Award nominees for their previous performances in New Jerusalem, with Lawrence Redmond, Michael Kramer, Brandon McCoy, Colleen Delany and Emma Jaster.

It is believed that Spinoza was brought to trial under accusations from both the Jewish and Christian communities of Amsterdam that his teachings were heretical, questioning the origins of scripture and the existence of an all-powerful God. The writ of excommunication, considered exceptionally harsh for crimes still never completely explained by court records, has been analyzed and debated by Jewish and legal scholars alike since. In the 1950s Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion proposed a revocation of Spinoza’s excommunication, which was
met with resounding protest in Holland and Israel. The play New Jerusalem has allowed theatergoers to also engage in the debate.

2 thoughts on “Introducing Spinozium and the On-Going Vote Tally

  1. Somewhere, out there in the blogisphere, there was a line (I paraphrase) that Spinoza is ahead of our time –not just his time. Our political world is a work in progress because of Spinoza. His concepts didn’t just impact religious thought but were the basis for increased personal freedom in the political realm. Locke, a contemporary, was influenced by Spinoza and, in turn, so was Jefferson to name but two. Nadler and Goldstein (and others) should address that aspect at the Spinozium, as well.

    It may also be of interest to discuss the geo-econ politics of the time in that in the year of Spinoza’s excommunication Cromwell proposed lifting the ban on Jews to induce migration from Holland and game international commerce.

  2. The Princeton historian Jonathan Israel has been documenting the enormous, if often underground influence of Spinoza in a series of scholarly books. I’m a bit surprised that he isn’t a participant in this program.

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