Despite the common assumption that God is at the center of Jewish practice and belief, the topic is seldom discussed formally in Jewish circles. God seems to be either taken for granted or dismissed. According to a 2003 Harris survey, only 48% of American Jews believe in God, whereas 19% of American Jews believe there is no God and 33% of American Jews aren’t sure whether God exists. And yet, all of those responding identified as Jews. What then is God’s role in Judaism? Does God exist? What is God’s nature? What does it mean to be created in God’s image? What role does God play in the world and in the lives of individuals? What does it mean to be commanded? Why do we pray?
This 23-part video series attempts to address these and many other questions relating to Jewish theology, belief, and practice. Through interviews with a wide range of scholars, philosophers, theologians and Jews of all ages and persuasions, WHO KNOWS ONE seeks to discover how Jews see God – or don’t.
Sarah Goldfein grew up in a traditional family in Southfield, Michigan. With a foot in both the Conservative and Orthodox worlds, Sarah attended a Solomon Schechter Day School through eighth grade and spent her summers at Camp Ramah in Canada, but her family belonged to a Young Israel synagogue. Sarah spent two of her high school years at an Orthodox day school in Southfield, following which she switched to the local public high school.
Sarah earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, after which she took some time off to explore. During that time, she was offered a fellowship from the anonymously-funded Jewish Future Foundation. Her mandate was to do a project that would contribute to the Jewish community in some way. Despite a strong Jewish background and an education in Jewish history, Jewish law, Bible, the Holocaust, and Israel, Sarah found that talk of God, belief, and doubt were sorely lacking in her Jewish life and education. Thus WHO KNOWS ONE was born.
Sarah very much hopes that the series will provide a starting point for thought and discussion regarding key issues of Jewish belief and theology. In keeping with the Jewish tradition of “eizehu chakham halomed mikol adam,” “one who is wise learns from every person,” Sarah attempted to speak with thinkers and writers from across the spectrum in Judaism and to present their views in an open and unbiased manner. Her own theology and beliefs were shaped and changed by each of these conversations and she continues to be open to new ideas and perspectives. Most importantly, through the production of WHO KNOWS ONE, she was able to learn to live with the questions.
Thanks and Acknowledgments
“Who Knows One” is the result of the hard work and assistance of many collaborators and friends. While it would be impossible to thank everyone individually for their contributions, the producer would be remiss if she did not publicly thank several people by name. She is grateful to Rabbi Nachman Levine for his exquisite logo and packaging design (nachmanlevinedesign.com), to Adam Kotok for composing and performing the soulful WHO KNOWS ONE theme music, “Blue Knows One,” (other projects by Adam include www.dafnamusic.com), and to Jon Madof (jonmadofdesign.com) for creating this elegant and user-friendly website. Each of them captured the spirit of the project and made it beautiful.
The supplemental materials could not have been assembled without the assistance and guidance of many individuals. In particular, the producer would like to thank Melanie Birnholtz Hildebrandt for her extensive work in compiling the source materials; Rabbi Eric Grossman for his expertise in translating and illuminating the glossary terms; and Professor Louis Loeb of the University of Michigan for his Introduction to Philosophy Course, from which the philosophical arguments and refutations were largely drawn. The producer also gratefully acknowledges the Jewish Publication Society and Judaica Press, Inc. for generously allowing the use of their translations for the source materials included herein (see “Notes on the Supplemental Materials” for credits and copyright information).
The producer would also like to thank her immediate family for their patience, support and practical assistance over the many years of production. In particular, she would like to thank her father, Dr. Irving Goldfein, for his invaluable contributions to each and every element of this project.
Finally, the producer wishes to thank all of her interview subjects for their participation in the project. She was honored to have had the opportunity to speak with each of them, and grateful for their openness, thoughtfulness, and wisdom. May their insights enrich and enlighten all viewers of WHO KNOWS ONE for many years to come.