New Course Reveals Jewish Origins Of Western Civilization

This winter, Rabbi Mendy Muskal of the Wellington Jewish Center will offer “Judaism’s Gifts to the World,” a new six-session course by the acclaimed Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), unearthing the Jewish roots of some of the most cherished values of western civilization.

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m., attendees will face toward Jerusalem to discover how common ideas of personal responsibility, the inherent sanctity of human life, institutionalized universal education, human equality, the dignity of a day of rest and devotion to family, and a sense of purpose have their origins in ancient Judaism.

“At a moment in which we are witnessing a rise in antisemitism, it is important to explore what has been the true impact of Jews and Judaism on civilization,” said Muskal, the local JLI instructor. “Understanding Judaism’s historical contribution gives us a deeper appreciation for its continuing relevance and a better understanding of how the moral and ethical institutions we take for granted came into being.”

“Judaism’s Gifts to the World” explores tensions between social and individual responsibility, the implications of monotheism, the sacredness of human life, the meaning of social equality, how Sabbath observance laid the groundwork for the modern weekend and the underpinnings of human morality.

“It is widely known that Judaism gifted monotheism to the world, but for many, that’s where the Jewish contribution ends,” explained Rabbi Mordechai Dinerman, the director of curriculum at JLI’s New York headquarters, who is also the course’s editor. “Even this contribution is often viewed rather narrowly, as a religions contribution, which is only meaningful to those interested in religion. But as this course demonstrates, the universal change effected by the Torah is much broader.”

Dr. Darrin M. McMahon, the Mary Brinsmead Wheelock Professor of History at Dartmouth College, has praised “Judaism’s Gifts to the World” as timely and important:

“There can be no doubt that the Jewish contribution to the civilizations of the west and the world is immense,” he said. “At a time when noxious critics would doubt that contribution, or deny it altogether, the Jewish Learning Institute has offered a timely reminder of the many gifts the Jewish tradition has bestowed. ‘Judaism’s Gifts to the World’ is a gift of its own, providing a scintillating course in the history of ideas and culture by leading experts from around the globe.”

As with all JLI programs, “Judaism’s Gifts to the World” is designed to appeal to people at all levels of knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning.

All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple or other house of worship.

All interested students should call (561) 386-3090 or visit for registration and other course-related information.