Tommy Lasorda, Mohammed Wattad, Jack Miles and A Lot of Jews!

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One of the most impressive programs for which University Synagogue is known, across the country, is our “Distinguished Speakers Series.” Usually on Friday nights with a Shabbat Alive service, important people with something to say travel to University Synagogue from around the world to enlighten us with topics ranging from Bible to politics, Talmud to Israel, archaeology to history, Midrash to humor, religion to sports and spirituality to psychological well-being.

In fact, these are the topics of our speakers from now through January 2016. Over the years, we’ve had poets and writers, Knesset members and US Senators, filmmakers and scholars, rabbis and journalists, psychologists and lawyers – men and women from a variety of disciplines, religions and races – each with a compelling story and topic.

Between now and next January, our speakers will include:

  • Baseball great Tommy Lasorda on “Motivation” (11/20)
  • Political pundits Norm Ornstein (2/20) and David Mark (7/31)
  • Israeli Arab law professor Dr. Mohammed Wattad on “Being An Israeli Arab” (3/27)
  • Archaeologist Aaron Burke on recent discoveries in Israel (3/13)
  • Marthe Cohn on being a French Jewish spy in Nazi Germany (4/17)
  • Lawyers such as humorist Jonathan Shapiro (5/29) and Erwin Chemerinsky on the Supreme Court (6/2)
  • The President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Deborah Waxman (6/12) and former President David Teutsch (12/11)
  • The first woman ordained as a Reconstructionist Rabbi Sandy Sasso (8/28)
  • Psychologist Dr. Sarah Pressman on the importance of happiness in life (9/23)
  • Dr. Jack Miles on world religions (10/30)
  • Hofstra professor Dr. Sharon Keller on women in the bible (1/29/16)
  • Our Biblical Trial (3/22) with Erwin Chemerinsky, Laurie Levenson and Justice Richard Fybel

Remember so many wonderful speakers over the years:

  • CIA agent and author Valerie Plame
  • Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai
  • UCI Chancellors Michael Drake and Howard Gillman
  • Chapman University President James Doti
  • Pacific Symphony conductor Carl St. Clair
  • LA District Attorney Gil Garcetti
  • 103-year old psychoanalyst Dr. Hedda Bolgar
  • Jew by Choice Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger (son of Nazis)
  • Mathematician Dr. Arthur Benjamin,
  • Michelle Obama’s cousin Rabbi Capers Funnye
  • Our annual Biblical Trials pitting Erwin Chemerinsky against Laurie Levenson
  • Rabbi Marvin Tokayer on “the exotic Jews of Asia”
  • Political commentators Norm Ornstein and Frank Luntz
  • Former Governors Madeline Kunin and Michael Dukakis
  • Former US Senators Carl Levin and Gary Hart
  • Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress
  • Atheist Sam Harris
  • Reverends Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo
  • Rabbi Steve Greenberg (the first Orthodox gay rabbi)
  • African rabbi Gershon Sizomu
  • LA Times movie critic Kenneth Turan
  • Egypt’s ambassador to the United States Nabil Fahmy
  • Literary critic and author Jonathan Kirsch
  • Actor Martin Landau
  • Dr. Judah Pearl (father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl)
  • Author Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Tikkun magazine editor Rabbi Michael Lerner
  • Schindler’s List author Thomas Keneally
  • Righteous Holocaust Rescuer Irene Opdyke

And the list goes on and on.

Unlike most synagogues across the country, we offer all of our speakers for free (with the exception of the Biblical Trial). We want University Synagogue members to benefit from these incredible minds, voices and personalities and we want to give a gift to the community at large, as well.

No synagogue presents such a variety of fascinating and distinguished speakers. Take advantage of this gift. Circle our 2015-2016 dates on your calendars. (Always check dates and times on our website again closer to the event.)

We have so much to offer. Don’t miss this wealth of knowledge and so many opportunities for growth. See you at shul.


Rabbi Arnold Rachlis

March 1st 2015 |