On Thursday, April 21, members of the Bloomfield College community attended “Understanding Judaism,” with guest speaker Rabbi Steven Kushner.
“It’s easy for someone raised in the Christian tradition to look at Judaism as simply the ‘religion of the Bible,’” said Rabbi Kushner. “It is much more than that.”
Rabbi Steven Kushner has served as the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Tamid since its inception in 1980. In that time, he has been instrumental in developing adult education, interfaith, social action, outreach, family programming, and even a klezmer band as integral elements of the synagogue.
Rabbi Kushner, a former professor at Bloomfield College (1983 – 2003), spent time discussing significant historical events that shaped the Jewish culture.
“Unlike most western religions, where the central religious institution is a church or mosque, the religious institution in the Jewish culture is the home,” he said, noting to the group that he believes this fact is the most important thing he would say all day.
Hosted the day before Passover began, the open dialogue focused primarily on what Passover is, how it has changed over the years, and what it means to people of the Jewish faith.
“Passover is the coming out of Egypt,” Rabbi Kushner explained to the group where only one attendee openly identified as Jewish. “Passover is rebirth. Passover is the resurrection of life following winter.”
Rabbi Kushner encouraged the group to interject with questions whenever they wanted.
“I thought it was great,” said Reverend Terri Ofori, Bloomfield College Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life. “I learned a lot. It was useful and helpful.”
Outside of Temple, Rabbi Kushner has established himself both within the Jewish and general communities. In May of 1995 Bloomfield College honored him with a Doctor of Laws honoris causa degree. A past president of the New Jersey Association of Reform Rabbis, the Coalition of Religious Leaders of New Jersey, and the MetroWest Conference on Soviet Jewry, Rabbi Kushner has also served on the Ethics Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
“The best way to combat prejudice and ignorance is to speak to one another,” Rabbi Kushner started. “The more we educate one another, the better we understand each other, and the more we will learn to respect differences.”
Currently Rabbi Kushner is the president of the Beth El Memorial Park Foundation, the chair of the Interfaith Partners For Peace of the United Jewish Federation of MetroWest, and is a Trustee of The Blue Card, a unique charity that provides emotional and monetary assistance to Holocaust survivors and their families.
"I appreciate Rabbi Kushner's willingness to facilitate the forum on the eve of Passover,” added Reverend Ofori. “It showed his continued support of the Bloomfield College Community."