Everyone who knows Dr. Ruth Calderon, or knows of her, knows that she is a force to be reckoned with in Israeli society, sometimes as a politician, and always as a creative and magisterial educator. She also happens to be my friend of many decades.
Dr. Calderon received a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Talmud from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She co-established Elul, the first beit midrash where women and men (mostly secular) study together. She is also the founder of ALMA, an educational center in Tel Aviv that teaches both classic and modern Jewish literature, from the Talmud to poetry and philosophy.
Dr. Calderon is a former Knesset Member from the Yesh Atid Party, where she was Deputy Speaker, member of the education and state control committees, and Chairperson of the Lobby for Jewish Renewal. Her first speech to the Knesset, a traditional address offered by most incoming MKs, made huge waves, as she was certainly the first secular MK to get up and to teach a passage of Talmud, with the volume in her hand.
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Here’s the speech, which is now considered historic:
While she was a member of Knesset, Ruth set out to have Israel’s Declaration of Independence become a “Basic Law” (i.e. a constitutional law, a category of law we’ve been discussing a great deal since the judicial reform issue first hit the news). In my conversation with Dr. Calderon, we’ll explore why that attempt failed, and why she still believes that Israel’s Declaration of Independence is exactly the right text to answer some of today’s most pressing questions surrounding the identity of the Jewish state.
And then we discuss, given the ongoing protests in Israel and the far-from-resolved issue of Judicial Reform, what kind of Yom HaAtzmaut we’re going to have. Is Israel going to celebrate? Worry? Fear? Something else? She’s optimistic.
The link above will take you to a brief excerpt of our conversation; the full conversation, along with a transcript for those who prefer to read, are being made available today to paid subscribers to Israel from the Inside.
Music credits: Medieval poem by Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gvirol. Melody and performance by Shaked Jehuda and Eyal Gesundheit. Production by Eyal Gesundheit. To view a video of their performance, see this YouTube:
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