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Herzstein Lecture Examines Free Will
Photo: Dr. Alan Avery-PeckThe University of St. Thomas School of Arts and Sciences and the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation will sponsor the annual Herzstein Lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 in Cullen Hall, 4001 Mt. Vernon. Dr. Alan Avery-Peck, the Kraft-Hiatt professor in Judaic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, will give a lecture on “Fate, Faith, and Free Will: Notions of Divine Providence in Early Judaism.”

Avery-Peck will analyze the question of how Jews historically have balanced belief in God’s absolute knowledge while believing that humans are free agents who shape their own lives. 

“The question of fate and free will brings us to the heart of the Jewish and Christian traditions’ comprehension of God and God’s relationship to humankind,” Avery-Peck said. “Exploring early Judaism’s evolving answer to this question opens a window on how people of faith historically have understood what it means to be human and to confront a world that does not conform to our dreams and hopes. By examining their approach, we learn a lot about how religions face crises and continue to provide a foundation for people’s comprehension of the world as a meaningful and well-ordered place.”

Learning about other religions, Avery-Peck said, leads people to mutual understanding, aims to reduce interfaith hostility and enhances their comprehension and appreciation of their own values and ideals. 

“Interfaith understanding contextualizes the choices we make, shows us the alternatives and makes us think long and hard about our own tradition’s distinctive ideas and values,” Avery-Peck said. “Recognizing that people have choices leads us to think more deeply about our religious ideals and helps us to forge deeper and more meaningful religious commitments.”

An author and editor of 30 books, Avery-Peck is co-editor of “The Encyclopedia of Religious and Philosophical Writings in Late Antiquity: Pagan, Judaic, Christian.” He is the author of a commentary on 2 Corinthians in “The Jewish Annotated New Testament.” Avery-Peck is also the editor of the journal The Review of Rabbinic Judaism.

Avery-Peck served as chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Holy Cross from 1993-2012. He also taught at Tulane University, where he was professor of classical studies and director of the Tulane Jewish Studies Program.

The Herzstein Lecture is made possible through a gift from the Herzstein Foundation, which continues the work of Albert and Ethel Herzstein by providing grants to charitable efforts that offer individuals opportunities for advancement through education and enrichment of the human spirit.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Angelica Luna at 713-942-3491.

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