Day 6 at SBLAAR20

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Synchronicity is a Thing—Sixth Day of a 10 day Academic Conference in 2020

Expecting a live stream, I planned my day and family life around this SBLAAR20 scheduled event. You can imagine how disappointed I was to find the address was pre-recorded. The one social comfort of the virtual conference is that I am not alone in my schedule. I join hundreds of others with similar interests and academic pursuits. This sort of prerecorded posting, linked to watch at any time, counters the inclusive nature of a conference. Even a virtual conference should have synchronicity. It is one of the few features of a conference available by virtual means.

Dr. Adele Reinhartz gave a presentation called “The Hermeneutics of Chutzpah: A Disquisition on the Value/s of ‘Critical Investigation of the Bible'”. This was scheduled for a specific time on this day of the conference.

In the presidential address, Dr. Reinhartz aligns the Yiddish term chutzpah as a challenge against power structures, with the Afro-American term sass, as a description of the language of challenge against oppressive authorities. She calls for scholars to identify systemic discrimination and form a response that makes way for inclusion.

The heart of her message asks us all to acknowledge the interests of us all, especially those who are least like us. By thinking about the ‘other’, we work toward health as a whole. As biblical scholars, we must reflect on how the the Bible as a text has been weaponized against others, specifically addressing the use of the Bible to promote slavery in the United States.

Dr. Reinhartz proposes the Society of Biblical Literature should avoid representing as a small core with spokes leading outward, but rather as a large and warm reception. She advocates a vision that avoids exclusivity and encourages respectful engagement. In this way, the society should work toward enacting an ethical commitment to the ‘other’.

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