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Jewish Life in an Era of Extremism

This course was offered in Winter/Spring, 2016.

extremismMany people have the impression that the world is filled with new threats to Jewish life. These threats are most visible in France and the Middle East, and less so elsewhere. Still, this mounting antagonism intersects with anti-Zionism and has increasingly taken on features reminiscent of old-style political anti-Semitism. And the resonance of militant Islam, felt not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and beyond, has added another unsettling dimension to this picture. According to some, the landscape will likely worsen.

This symposium intends to confront these vexing issues with full, candid, and far-ranging discussions from a wide variety of viewpoints. Some questions we'll address:

  • What are the causes of rising wordwide anti-Semitism?
  • What is the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in Europe, the Middle East, and in the United States?
  • How concerned should we be with extremism in the Jewish world, and in particular in Israel and the West Bank?
  • Does Jewish extremism have an impact on how we, as Jews, are seen and on the future stability of the Jewish State?
  • How potent are voices of moderation and to what extent have they been marginalized?

Photo: courtesty French Consulate in San Francisco

Special Presentation

  • Joby Warrick, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, will speak about his book Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

Keynote presenters and topics

  • Abby Porth, JCRC: The Bay Area
  • Gunda Trepp, journalist: How Germany is Confronting Extremism Today
  • Fred Rosenbaum, Lehrhaus: Terror in France
  • Eran Kaplan, SFSU: Extremism in Israel

Program Facilitators

  • Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, Rachel Eryn Kalish, M.C., and SFSU Professor Fred Astren

This program is supported by the Ingrid D. Tauber Philanthropic Fund of the JCF, the Koret Foundation, and Eda and Joseph Pell. Presented in partnership with the Center for Jewish Peoplehood, Osher Marin JCC.


# Sessions
Date & time

Sunday, January 24
1:00 - 5:00 pm


Pre-registration is closed. Some seats will be available for walk-ins.

Session Time Days Location Instructors
Jan 24 1:00 PM–5:00 PM Sun OMJCC Abigail Michelson Porth Eran Kaplan Fred Astren Fred Rosenbaum Joby Warrick Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan Rachel Eryn Kalish


Osher Marin JCC

200 N. San Pedro Road

San Rafael, CA 94903



Fred Astren

Fred AstrenFred Astren, Professor and Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University and member of the Faculty in Middle East and Islamic Studies, received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley, where he also earned a master’s degree in Arabic. Among Professor Astren’s publications are: Karaite Past and Jewish History (2004); Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communication, and Interaction (Editor, with B. H. Hary and J. L. Hayes), Festschrift for William M. Brinner, E.J. Brill (2000); and The Jewish Printed Book in India: Imprints of the Blumenthal Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The Judah L. Magnes Museum (1992). His areas of research include minority/sectarian history in the Mediterranean Middle Ages, with special focus on Jewish history under Islam, Islamization, Jewish-Muslim relations, and the Karaite Jewish sect. Having recently published a study on Jews in the early medieval Muslim conquests of the Near East and Spain, he is currently writing a book on Jews in the Mediterranean of the early Middle Ages.

Rachel Eryn Kalish

Rachel Eryn KalishRachel Eryn Kalish, M.C., Founding Principal of Workplace Connections, has been a facil­i­tator, trainer, medi­ator and orga­ni­za­tional consul­tant for 25 years. She does conflict trans­for­ma­tion work in global hot spots, with fami­lies, work­place and commu­nity groups. Her capacity to hold a safe space for people in conflict helps facil­i­tate move­ment through intense emotions toward reso­lu­tion and deep­ening rela­tion­ships. Past pres­i­dent of The Compassionate Listening Project’s Board of Directors, she brings a unique combi­na­tion of compas­sion and strength to her work. She is currently the Founding Facilitator of Project Reconnections, a pioneering intra-Jewish dialogue project focused on how the community can work with diverse views about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Eran Kaplan

Prof. Eran KaplanEran Kaplan is the Rhoda and Richard Goldman Chair in Israel Studies at SFSU. He received his B.A. (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University and his Ph.D. in Modern Jewish History from Brandeis University. Before coming to San Francisco, he taught at Princeton, Cincinnati and Toronto. He is the author of The Jewish Radical Right: Revisionist Zionism and its Ideological Legacy and The Origins Of Israel: A Documentary History with Derek Penslar (both published by the University of Wisconsin Press). You can look forward to his next book Beyond Post-Zionism, scheduled to appear in 2015 with SUNY Press. In addition to his scholarly publications, he contributed articles to Haaretz and Tikkun. At SFSU, Professor Kaplan teaches courses on Modern Israel, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Israeli Cinema, Modern Hebrew Culture and the History of Jerusalem.

Abigail Michelson Porth

Abby PorthAbby Porth is Associate Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. She is a public affairs veteran, managing complex and sensitive community relations issues and developing and executing effective organization-wide strategies to advance JCRC’s mission of pursuing a just society and a secure Jewish future. Abby is an Officer of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, and a member of the Board of Directors of Congregation Emanu-El and Scattered Among the Nations, an organization that assists geographically and politically isolated Jewish or Judaism-practicing communities around the globe. She previously served on the Advisory Committee of San Francisco CARD, which trains social service agencies to prepare for emergencies and natural disasters, and was proud to serve on the Board of Directors of San Francisco Head Start.

Fred Rosenbaum

Fred Rosenbaum Fred Rosenbaum, founding director of Lehrhaus Judaica, has written four books on Bay Area Jewish history and three books on the Holocaust. He has taught numerous courses on the history of contemporary Israel at Lehrhaus and the University of San Francisco. He has been awarded the S.Y. Agnon Gold Medal for Intellectual Excellence by the Scopus Society of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators, as well as the Anne and Robert Cowan Writers’ Award for making an exceptional impact on the Bay Area by writing on Jewish themes.

Joby Warrick

Joby WarrickJoby Warrick is a best-selling author and a national reporter for The Washington Post. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he served for 19 years with the Post’s national and investigative staffs, focusing primarily on intelligence, diplomacy and security in the Middle East and South Asia. His first book, The Triple Agent (Doubleday, 2011), is the true story of the Jordanian-born al-Qaeda spy who led the CIA into a deadly trap at Khost, Afghanistan, in 2009, in the agency’s worst disaster in a quarter-century. The acclaimed non-fiction work was hailed by The Economist as a “chilling tale, told with skill and verve,” and by the Los Angeles Times as a “gripping a true-life spy saga.” Warrick’s second book, Black Flags (Doubleday, September 2015), chronicles the rise of the terrorist organization commonly known as ISIS.

As an investigative reporter at The Post, Warrick led the newspaper’s coverage of WMD proliferation and weapons trafficking after 2001, and was among the first American journalists to question pre-war claims about Iraq’s nuclear program. Later, his articles about international proliferation threats earned him the Overseas Press Club of America’s Bob Considine Award in 2004 for best newspaper interpretation of international affairs. Before coming to The Post, Warrick was an enterprise reporter for The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., where he co-authored “Boss Hog,” a series of investigative stories that documented the political and environmental fallout caused by factory farming in the Southeast. The series won the 1996 “Gold Medal” Pulitzer Prize for public service and nine other national and regional awards, including citations by Investigative Reporters & Editors and the White House Correspondents’ Association.

Warrick graduated summa cum laude from Temple University in 1982 with a B.A. in journalism. A native of North Carolina, he lives in Centreville, Va., with his wife and two children.

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan Peretz Wolf-Prusan is the Chief Program Officer and a Senior Educator at Lehrhaus Judaica. From 1975 to 1985 he was actively involved in informal education (UAHC Camp Swig) and in the creation of Jewish scribal art. From 1985 to 1990 he attended the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, receiving his MAHL and Rabbinic Ordination. From 1990 to 2010 he served Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco as Rabbi and Educator, and in 2002, he was awarded the Covenant Award as “An Exceptional Jewish Educator who has had a significant impact on others, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the transmission of Jewish knowledge, values, and identity.” At Lehrhaus since 2010, he is engaged in community education for the Bay Area, focusing on conferences, retreats, tours, the Bay Area Community Talmud Circle, and Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle, and adjunct faculty for the JFCS Holocaust Center.