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The Im/Possibility of Forgiveness in Modern Jewish Thought (Workshop)

Sunday November 14, 2021, 11:00 am - Monday November 15, 2021, 5:30 pm

The concept of forgiveness is central to Jewish life.  It has inspired much philosophical reflection and still provokes many questions.  How can we forgive someone who has wronged us?  Are we obligated to do so?  Does forgiveness require repentance?  Are there actions that are unforgiveable?  Any question about forgiveness is related to other important ones concerning atonement, mercy, and justice.  These questions have also been considered by other philosophical and religious traditions, which in turn have influenced Judaism.  Inspired by a conference of French-Jewish intellectuals in the early 1960s, who gathered to consider the possibility of forgiveness after the Holocaust, we are revisiting these questions in this workshop.  Conference participants will consider different answers to these questions from a variety of philosophical perspectives within modern Jewish thought.  Some papers will examine and reevaluate the debates among French-Jewish thinkers in the 1960s, others will look at earlier and current discussions.  We hope that you will join us.


Sunday, November 14

Zoom link

Session 1, 11am-12:30pm

Moderator:  Bob Gibbs (University of Toronto)

Benjamin Pollock (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem): “Shame, Confession, and the Forgiveness of the Self in Rosenzweig’s Account of Revelation.’

Christian Wiese (Goethe-University Frankfurt): TBD

Session 2, 1-2:30pm

Moderator:  Reinier Munk (VU University of Amsterdam)

Sol Goldberg (University of Toronto): “Antisemitism and Forgiveness”

Michael Morgan (Indiana University): “Levinas and the Interpersonal Context for Forgiveness”

Session 3, 3-4:30

Moderator:  Leora Batnitzky (Princeton University)

Dylan Shaul (University of Toront): “Derrida on Forgiving the Unforgivable: Forgiveness Terminable and Interminable”

Alexandra Zirkle (University of Buffalo): “Forgiveness, Atonement, and Apotheosis: Crafting Modern Jewish Thought through the Language of Sacrifice”


Monday, November 15, 2:00-3:30pm

Zoom link

Moderator: Meirav Jones (McMaster University)

Judah Isseroff (Princeton University): “Arendt’s Jewish Jesus: Forgiveness in the Gospels, the Mishnah, and The Human Condition”

Michael Rosenthal (University of Toronto): “Agency, Sin, and the Spinozistic Paradox of Forgiveness”


Monday, November 15th at 4:00pm (Keynote Panel)

Zoom link

Moderator: Michael Rosenthal (University of Toronto)

Ori Werdiger (University of Toronto): “Léon Askenazi on Forgiving God, Perpetrators, and Victims”

Ynon Wygoda (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): “Can Forgiveness Oscillate?  Jankélévitch Revisited”


The event is sponsored by the Grafstein Professorship in Jewish Philosophy.



Sunday November 14, 2021, 11:00 am
Monday November 15, 2021, 5:30 pm
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