At the Samuel and Althea Strong Annual Lecture Series, which took place on May 5, 7, and 12 at the University of Washington in Seattle, Weissler, professor and Phillip and Muriel Berman Chair of Jewish Civilization, discussed Jewish Renewal and how it incorporates kabbalistic thought and practice, and also the roles that Hasidism, Buddhism, self-actualization, and feminism play in this new spiritual expression. "Kaballah" is an esoteric system of interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures based upon a tradition supposed to have been orally passed on from Abraham. Kaballistic interpretation of Scripture is based on the belief that every word, letter, number, and even accent contains mysteries interpretable only by those who know the secret meanings.
Titled "Jewish Spirituality in America: The Jewish Renewal Movement," Weissler’s talk included three lectures.
"Jewish Renewal in the American Spiritual Marketplace," delivered on May 5, sets the Jewish Renewal movement into the context of the growing interest in "spirituality" that has characterized recent American religious life in general.
"Gender and Jewish Renewal," given on May 7, discusses the majority of participants in the Jewish Renewal Movement, and a number of its leaders, who are women.
"The ‘Four Worlds’ and the Popularization of Kabbalah" on May 12, explores the complex relationship of Renewal interpretations of Kabbalah to classical forms of Jewish mysticism through a case study of the teaching of the "Four Worlds."
Described as an "energetic lecturer and prolific writer," Weissler is the author of Voices of the Matriarchs, which received the Koret Foundation Book Award in 1999. She has also written articles for publication in the U.S. and abroad.
Weissler studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, earned a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis, a M.S. from Columbia, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She was a fellow at the Annenberg Research Institute and is a NEH recipient.