Back in 2019, a team of scholars led by Professor Philip Wexler published an acclaimed study of the unique approach taken by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, to the social challenges of the modern world. Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformative Paradigm for the World showed that the Rebbe’s revitalization of world Jewry in the aftermath of the Holocaust was driven by a powerful set of transformative ideas about spirituality and society. These ideas, the authors contend, provide a roadmap for positive global societal change today.

Professor Wexler passed away in March 2023, but the organization he founded, The Institute of Jewish Spirituality and Society (IJSS), continues his work. An ongoing monthly “Farbrengen” series brings scholars and practitioners face-to-face with a live online audience to discuss the wealth of social insight contained in the spiritual teachings of the great Kabbalists and Chassidic masters. Other exciting initiatives are also in the works.

This week, Professor Wexler’s co-authors, Eli Rubin and Michael Wexler, will join Professor Ariel Mayse of Stanford University for a conversation about how Jewish spiritual traditions can help us survive in the modern world. Along the way, they will probe questions about Chassidism, society, and the practical dimensions of the Rebbe’s social vision.

A previous installment of the Farbrengen series featured Professor Leore Sachs-Shmueli of Bar Ilan University on how Chassidic commentaries on the Zohar negotiate the mixing of contradictory emotions in “a heart crushed yet full of joy.” Another hosted Dr. Jonnie Schnytzer for an ecological discussion of how Jewish mystical texts infuse even inanimate things with vitality and cosmic purpose.

The Farbrengen series continues next month with a conversation between Rivkah Slonim, co-director of Chabad of Binghamton University, and Dr. Elaine (Sneierson) Leeder for “Radical Chassidism: A Dialogue About Restorative Justice.” Dr. Leeder previously worked as a professor and dean at Sonoma State University, and has spent decades working as an educator in prisons in New York and California. Her recent partnership with IJSS exposed her to the Rebbe’s teachings and helped deepen her work with the spiritual ideas and practices of Judaism.