Last week I had the sincere pleasure of witnessing the second annual Prime Minister’s Prize for Research on Jews of Arab Lands and Iran. A presenter at our upcoming conference, Jews and Muslims of Morocco: Uncommon Commonalities, was one of the three recipients. Each recipient represented a unique angle on chronicling, preserving, and disseminating our Jewish past – be it Kurd, Bukharan or Moroccan. Aviva Avidan performed Yemenite songs rounding out what was a very elegant morning at the auditorium of the Foreign Ministry. As I sat there, I was inspired by the quality of research being done and the recognition that is starting to be shown for it.
But I was more inspired by what came next.
Rabbi Professor Moshe Amar, the one set to present at our conference, was chosen from among the three to give the thank you address. He stood up and began to give a dvar torah, one that solidified for me the significance of launching the ASF Institute of Jewish Experience. In this past week’s parsha, Pikudei, it talks about “Hacham Lev”, a wise heart. Most of us know that often our smarts do not line up with our hearts – so what is meant by a smart heart?
This is where it all came together.
The concept, as Rabbi Amar explains, is that ideas cannot simply stay in the brain. Research and knowledge are wonderful, but without the passion they will remain stagnant. Without the heart, they are just words on a page. Once we connect with the words and feel their significance, we bring them to life. We create new projects, the projects begin to open new venues, new people join and are inspired, and on and on. This happens when we feel in our hearts what the knowledge tells us, when we have a wise heart.
“Them has He filled with wisdom of heart (…)” (Exodus 35:35)
Today, like with this prize ceremony, the research on diverse Jewish communities is slowly coming to light and being recognized. Now it’s our turn to make sure that people see it and feel it. My colleagues and I put our heart and soul into disseminating the stories, research, history and culture of the Jewish people, to make this wisdom a wisdom of heart. We are working hard to make this knowledge known, celebrated, and felt. As the ASF Institute of Jewish Experience becomes the center for Jewish knowledge, we hope that this wisdom is applied to all our hearts and our passion is contagious.