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Rabbi Mordechai Rackover

Brown University Chaplain to Discuss Genesis, Sin

Rabbi Mordechai Rackover, associate university chaplain for the Jewish community at Brown University and the rabbi of the Brown RISD Hillel Foundation, will deliver a lecture titled “Family Secrets: Sin and the Book of Genesis” on Tuesday, October 23, at 4:00 p.m. in the Slavin Center’s ’64 Hall.

As a part of Providence College’s Theological Exchange between Catholics and Jews lecture series, Rabbi Rackover will explore the attitudes and behaviors of characters in the Book of Genesis, while appealing to the rabbinic tradition. He also will explain the significance as to why, in this Judaic tradition, Genesis narratives are referred to as “stories of the upright.” 

Established at the College in the 2009-10 academic year, the Theological Exchange serves as a forum for learning and dialogue between Catholics and Jews. The talks are sponsored by the Department of Theology, the Graduate Program in Theology, and the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies.

The lecture series has brought speakers to the College to discuss the history of Catholic-Jewish relations, the priesthood in Judaism and Catholicism, and memory and liturgy in the Jewish and Catholic traditions.

Dr. Holly Taylor Coolman, assistant professor of theology and Theological Exchange organizer, said, “Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has moved more deeply into the Church’s belief that Jews and Christians belong to a single household of faith. These conversations provide Christians an opportunity not only to understand their Jewish neighbors but to understand their own tradition more deeply.”

She explained that the Book of Genesis is a text of foundational importance for both Christians and Jews, containing not only the story of creation but also the narratives of the patriarchs and matriarchs. Interpretations of the book suggest that the notion of sin is something that both Jews and Catholics take with great seriousness, but it does not have the same meaning for both religions, said Coolman. 

“Jews and Catholics have the longest continuous traditions of Bible interpretation,” said Rabbi Rackover. “In our study, I will try and give insight into some of the more difficult stories in the Book of Genesis based on traditional rabbinic sources. While the sources are traditional, the reading will be oriented to finding meaning for contemporary study and spiritual practice.”

A native of Montreal, he spent nearly eight years studying in Israel. Prior to working at Brown, Rackover was a synagogue rabbi and a teacher.

— Genevieve Marie Ilg ’14
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