A Conversation with Rabbi David J. Wolpe on Jan. 18

UPDATE as of 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18: Due to incoming inclement weather in Nashville and concern for our campus community’s safety, tonight’s event with Rabbi David Wolpe and Dean Yolanda Pierce is being moved to virtual attendance only. There will be no in-person attendance for this evening’s discussion. Please join us here at 5 p.m. CT for the livestream. If you would like to submit questions for consideration, please fill out this form.

Rabbi David Wolpe, whom Newsweek called “the most influential rabbi in America,” will visit Vanderbilt, joining Divinity School Dean Yolanda Pierce, an acclaimed scholar, writer and womanist theologian, for a fireside conversation.

The discussion will be centered around Vanderbilt’s commitment to free expression, constructive dialogue and mutual respect-even when topics are emotionally charged and when people strongly disagree. Topics are likely to include Wolpe’s view of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the theological context and history through which to view the conflict, a discussion on how sacred sites influence dialogue and behavior, and strategies for communicating productively in an ideologically charged environment.

The free event is open to Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff and will be at 5 p.m., Jan. 18, in Rothschild Black Box Theater. Vanderbilt members may register online for in-person attendance.

This timely conversation will also be livestreamed, making it available to the broader public, including our alums. Register here for the livestream.

The event is part of the university’s Dialogue Vanderbilt initiative, which works to provide a range of programs to students, faculty and the public that promote civil discourse and better understanding while addressing political polarization.

“Tragic world events are not better understood, aren’t easier solved and don’t go away if we ignore them or choose not to discuss them out of fear,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “Free speech and respectful debate are bedrock Vanderbilt values. They are fundamental to our purpose of providing transformative education and pathbreaking research, and we believe they will help us all understand the world-and ourselves-a little better each time we engage.”

This event was made possible by a generous donation from Jennifer and Abe Friedman in a new series, the Vanderbilt Forum on Unity & Democracy.


About Rabbi David Wolpe

“The most influential rabbi in America,” according to Newsweek, Wolpe is a columnist for New York Jewish Week and a Torah columnist for the Jerusalem Post. He has been published and profiled in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek and The Atlantic and has been featured on The Today Show, Face the Nation, ABC This Morning, CBS This Morning and PBS. Wolpe is a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School and the Max Webb Emeritus Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Wolpe also serves as the inaugural rabbinic fellow for the Anti-Defamation League. He recently resigned from Harvard University’s Antisemitism Advisory Group.

About Dean Yolanda Pierce

Dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair, Pierce was appointed the founding director of the Center for African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Pierce is the creator and curator of Touching the Sacred, an exhibit on material religion and the Black church. Pierce’s newest book is In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith and the Stories We Inherit. Her most recent essays are in The Christian Century, where she is a contributing columnist.