2023 Boston University Jewish Studies Research Forum (BUJS)

The Boston University Jewish Studies Research Forum (BUJS Forum) aims to facilitate advanced research in Jewish studies or Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies. On March 1, 2023, the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies was honored to host Professor Myriam Bienenstock, a renowned scholar from France, who delivered a lecture titled “A Controversy on Ethical Culture: Hermann Cohen and Felix Adler”.

“A Controversy on Ethical Culture: Hermann Cohen and Felix Adler” with Professor Myriam Bienenstock

In her talk, Professor Bienenstock delved into the history of the German Society for Ethical Culture, which was founded in Berlin in 1892 and modeled after the Ethical Culture Society created by American philosopher and social reformer Felix Adler in New York in 1876. The society had won the support of prominent figures, including the German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen, who later withdrew his support. Professor Bienenstock argued that Cohen remained a staunch defender of the universalistic ethical convictions advocated by Ethical Culture societies but contended that they had to be defended by law to avoid becoming marginalized and relapsing into the very ‘confessionalism’ of the sectarian and ‘religious’ communities they wanted to eradicate. This argument remains highly relevant in the realm of education, particularly in the ongoing debate about how ethics should be taught in schools. 

About the Speaker: Myriam Bienenstock is a renowned expert in Practical Philosophy of German Idealism and Jewish Thought. Born and educated in France, she is currently an Emeritus Professor at the University of Tours and has published extensively on Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas. To learn more about Professor Bienenstock, please visit her website at http://mbienenstock.free.fr/.