I am delighted to announce a conference that I am organizing on “Jewish Attitudes toward Wealth and Poverty.”  We are now in the “call for proposals” phase; please consider submitting a proposal and spread the word.  A short description is below and more information can be found here.

The Program in Judaic Studies at Brown University will host a conference entitled “Jewish Attitudes toward Wealth and Poverty” on November 1-3, 2015.

Traditional Jewish texts present different approaches to wealth, poverty, and money. The purpose of this conference is both to identify these texts and to explore the diversity of their ideas. Accordingly, the conference will be organized around particular texts dealing with specific issues. Conference time will be spent primarily in study of and conversation about these texts. Our ultimate goal is to produce a volume that includes the texts (in original translations) with short commentaries.

We invite proposals for presentations. Presenters will select a text (or short collection of texts) and provide an original translation prior to the conference. At the conference, presenters will very briefly introduce their texts and then lead discussions about them. The texts should be relatively short (no more than a few pages in most cases, except perhaps for literary passages) and drawn from almost any Jewish source from any time period. We particularly encourage submissions dealing with texts that have not been previously translated (e.g., responsa; commentaries; Hasidut).

We are particularly interested in proposals that deal with one of the following themes:

  • Ownership: Is there a concept of “private property,” or does all property ultimately belong to God and/or the community? What can acquire the status of “property”?
  • The Moral Value of Wealth and Poverty: Is being wealthy a sign of divine favor? Is poverty ultimately a “better” state in which to live?
  • The Acquisition of Wealth: Are there better or worse ways to acquire wealth? Can one make money off the labor of others? How is the biblical prohibition against charging interest treated, and what are its ramifications?
  • Spending: What are good and bad ways of disposing of wealth? Do the poor have rights to the wealth of others?