I am very happy to announce an upcoming workshop at Brown University that I am coordinating, “Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty,” to take place on November 1-3, 2015. More information can be found on the workshop website.
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.
The conference will be organized around 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?
Each of the four sessions will be prefaced with some comments from the facilitators. Participants will then break out into smaller groups to read and discuss the texts, guided by focus questions. Everybody will then reconvene for a general discussion.