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Mark Kirchhoff

Community Engagement and Education, JFO

There may not be any concept or state of being more embedded in the human psyche than “freedom.” Mankind has pursued it, obtained it, lost it, abandoned it, embraced it, fought for it, gained it, argued about it and lived by it from the onset of modern civilization. The founding fathers of the United States embraced freedom so strongly that the first amendment to the Constitution spells it out to prohibit the government from imposing its actions so as to deny freedom to its citizens. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Religions speak of man’s ability to make free choices in the way one leads his/her life. With the holiday of Passover approaching, Jews recall their bondage in Egypt and relive the escape to freedom. By now we certainly have a firm grasp of what freedom means. Or do we?

If there is one thing I have learned when Rabbi Shlomo Abramovich, visiting scholar at Beth Israel Synagogue, has his next creative idea for the “Friday Learning Series,” he will tell me, “It’s complicated.” As we  reflected together on the April sessions, Rabbi Shlomo pondered, “Does freedom mean the right to choose your own way – to do whatever you want? What happens when the freedom of the individual conflicts with the freedom of the society or with other values the society stands for?”

As he explored the topic further, he observed, “We are committed to varied types of obligations: the state, the community, our family and also our faith and religion. How can these commitments be compatible with our yearning for freedom? Does responsibility conflict with freedom?”

And it is the exploring of questions such as these that have made “The Friday Learning Series” so popular with the community. This month will be a two-session series on April 5 and 12 at 11:15 a.m. in the Kripke Jewish Federation Library. Rabbi Shlomo will start with the story of Passover and use varied sources to get a better understanding of what real freedom is and how we might achieve it.

The Friday Learning Series is a joint program of Beth Israel Synagogue and the Community Engagement and Education arm of the Jewish Federation of Omaha. The series is open to the community free of charge thanks to the support of the Ann Goldstein Programming Endowment Fund. Reservations are not required. While you are encouraged to attend all the sessions, each one will have a wealth of information and you will benefit from attending one or all.

Contact Mark Kirchhoff at mkirchhoff@jewishomaha. org or 402.334.6463 for questions.