Rethinking the Covenant: Engagements with the Theology of David Novak

The Ralph and Roslyn Halbert Endowment Fund in Jewish Studies

David Novak (b. 1941) holds the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Regarded as one of the most prominent Jewish theologians alive, his path-breaking work has created new possibilities in the understanding of major themes in Jewish and religious thought, e.g. natural law, the idea of a chosen people, the meaning of the covenant in contemporary society, and interfaith dialogue. This conference brings together leading scholars, former and current colleagues, and students of Novak to critically reflect on his immense contribution to various aspects of Jewish thought. Novak will be present and respond to these assessments of his thought, which makes this conference a unique opportunity to witness Jewish theology and philosophy in the making.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

1:30pm2:00pm Welcoming Remarks

Jeffrey Kopstein, Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto

Russell Reno, Editor of First Things

2:00pm3:30pm Panel 1: Election

George Hunsinger (Princeton Theological Seminary). “The Election of Israel in David Novak and Karl Barth”

Leora Batnitzky (Princeton University). “Reconciling Chosenness and Natural Law in David Novak's Theology of Covenant”

Menachem Kellner (Haifa University and Shalem College). “Maimonides and Halevi Redivivus: Contrasting Views on the Nature of the Jewish People in Contemporary Israel”

3:30pm4:00pm Coffee Break

4:00pm6:00pm Panel 2: Religion in the Public Square

Alan Mittleman (Jewish Theological Seminary). “David Novak's Social and Political Thought: An Appreciation and Critique”

Gregor Scherzinger (Universität Freiburg, Switzerland). “‘Idolatry and the Public Square’: A Political Theology Engaging with David Novak's Thought”

Shmuel Trigano (Paris West University Nanterre). “From Rousseau to Moses: Democratic and Judaic Transcendances”

Martin Kavka (Florida State University). “The Rights of Citizens in a Covenanted Polity”


Monday, September 15, 2014

9:00am11:00am Panel 3: Philosophy and Theology

Robert Gibbs (University of Toronto). “Theology and Philosophy”

Randi Rashkover (George Mason University). “From Text to Philosophy: Reconsidering David Novak's Account of Reason and Revelation”

James Diamond (University of Waterloo). “Philosopher as Talmudist and Talmudist as Philosopher”

Willi Goetschel (University of Toronto). “Out of Judaism Inside Philosophy: Are Jewish Philosophers Outsiders, Insiders, or just Marginal?”

11:00am11:30am Coffee break

11:30am1:00pm Panel 4: Interfaith Dialogue

Markus Bockmuehl (Oxford University). “David Novak’s Theology of Jewish-Christian Dialogue: From Polemics to Joint Enterprise”

Aaron Hughes (University of Rochester). “Was There Interfaith Dialogue in Medieval Jewish Philosophy?”

Peter Ochs (University of Virginia). “Covenantal Relations: Novak, Scripture, and the Other”

1:00pm3:00pm Lunch break

3:00pm–5:00pm Panel 5: Natural Law

Matthew Levering (Mundelein Seminary). “Creation and Election: David Novak and Thomas Aquinas”

Yaniv Feller (University of Toronto). “The Covenant after Auschwitz: Reflections on Fackenheim and Novak”

Paul Nahme (Brown University). “Noahide or Natural Law? Toward a Theory of Normative Agency in a Post-Secular World”

Lenn Goodman (Vanderbilt University). “Getting Clear and Getting Real about Natural Law—in Honor of David Novak”


This event is free and open to the public. No registration is required. Seating is limited so please come early.

Presented by J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair in Jewish Studies, Department of Philosophy, Department for the Study of Religion, and Centre for Jewish Studies

Date & Time
Sunday, September 14, 2014 (All day) - Monday, September 15, 2014 (All day)

Jackman Humanities Building, Room 100, 170 St. George Street