Rabbi Will Berkovitz, a 1991 graduate of the University of St. Thomas, will speak on “Sustaining the World: Spirituality and Civic Service” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, in the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium on the St. Paul campus of the  University of St. Thomas.

Rabbi Will Berkovitz

Rabbi Will Berkovitz

The lecture is sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning and is free and open to the public. 

According to Berkovitz, “the traditional Jewish mandate to assist God in sustaining and repairing the world has taken on new meaning and urgency in our age of widespread environmental degradation and untold human suffering.”

Drawing on classical and contemporary Jewish sources, Berkovitz will explore how people of various faiths may respond to this mandate through the cultivation of life-affirming spirituality and civic engagement.

Berkovitz, a St. Louis Park native who now lives in Seattle, is vice president of partnerships at a national Jewish service organization called Repair the World.  Before studying to become a rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, he worked as a journalist in Seattle where he edited and wrote for local, regional and national magazines focusing on cultural arts and wilderness travel. 

As a rabbi, Berkovitz has primarily worked with college students. He served as executive director of Hillel (the official Jewish student organization) at Washington University in St. Louis where he founded an inner-city literacy camp and created several other award-winning initiatives, at the University of Oregon where he developed international programs, and at the University of Washington where he made service learning integral to Hillel.

Berkovitz said he has “wonderful memories of St. Thomas” and that he was especially inspired by Dr. Thomas Connery, professor of communication and journalism, and Dr. Thomas Sullivan, professor of philosophy who holds the Aquinas Chair in Philosophy and Theology.

Berkovitz will be serving as the Jay Phillips Center’s rabbi-in-residence from Oct. 18 to 21 at both St. Thomas and St. John’s University in Collegeville.  The two universities co-sponsor the center, whose mission is to promote interfaith learning and friendship among people of various religions. Information about the center can be found  on its Web site.