The Social Sciences Department at Spartanburg Methodist College will host Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz on Thursday, October 23. The 4 p.m. seminar on Judaism will be held in the Davis Mission Chapel on the campus of SMC and is open to the public as well as the campus community.
Rabbi Liebowitz was born in Brooklyn, New York, holds a masters in Hebrew letters and has received two honorary doctorates. He recently completed his thirtieth year in the rabbinate and has served in pulpits in New York state and on the West Coast. Rabbi Liebowitz has completed his eighth year with Congregation B’nai Israel, located on Heywood Avenue in Spartanburg, which has proudly served the Jewish community of Spartanburg and surrounding areas for more than one-hundred years.
Judaism, the monotheistic (belief in one God) religion of the Jewish people, was established circa 2000 B.C.E. as part of a covenant between God and Abraham. Uprisings against the Romans during the first and second centuries A.D. led to the beginning of the Jewish diaspora. Those practicing Judaism were kept marginalized from society and persecuted in many countries. The creation of a Jewish state was discussed at the first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897, yet it was not until May 18, 1948 that the state of Israel was formed after World War II and the genocide of over six million Jewish people.
Judaism falls into four major periods: Biblical Judaism, or the Persian Period (approximately 20th-4th century BCE); Hellenistic Judaism (4th century BCE-2nd century CE), a time of Greek and Roman influence in many religions; Rabbinic Judaism (2nd-18th century CE) based on the Talmud; and Modern Judaism (approximately 1750-present). According to the American Jewish Year Book, the core Jewish population includes people who identify as Jews by religion and others who are not interested in religion but see themselves as Jews by ethnicity or other cultural criteria. There are an estimated 13,854,800 Jews in the World, an estimated 43.4% in Israel and 39.2% in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, 4.2 million (or 1.8% of the adult population in the United States) are Jewish by religion.
Rabbi Liebowitz supports a wide number of interests, including digging for dinosaur fossils, Science Fiction and Music. His interfaith musical duo with Pastor Paul Harmon “The cap and the collar” has performed at over forty venues from Churches and Temples to concert halls. He has taught at the university level for many years and currently teaches at Converse College and University of South Carolina Upstate. Rabbi Liebowitz is married and has four children ages 31, 27, 22 and 12.
According to Dr. Cole Cheek, SMC Professor of History and Anthropology, “We welcome this opportunity to explore common questions about Judaism with our students. Is Judaism a race, a religion or a nationality?” Dr. Cheek went on to elaborate that “it is my wish that students walk away with an understanding and appreciation of the Jewish society and the relationships among individuals within that society.”