Ori Soltes identified three problems in faith traditions that can make religion either a positive or negative force in the world — the first being that “it is, by definition, a construct that addresses a reality other than our own.”
Georgia and Ukraine are somewhat “off the beaten track” of American familiarity, but Ori Soltes will use the countries to illuminate larger questions of what kind of role religion plays in society, what role it can play and if religion is a force of unity or disunity.
For his Interfaith Lecture at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Philosophy, Ori Soltes took the audience on a journey through the history of Jews in Turkey. Soltes teaches theology, philosophy and art history at Georgetown University. For seven years, he was the director and chief curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C.
Emperor Justinian I was the first in the history of the Byzantine Empire to make decrees specifically related to Jews, Soltes said. One of the decrees, for example, required that any synagogue that was needed as a church should be converted to one.
Some of the earliest remains of Jewish synagogues in Turkey date back to the second century, but many more Jews migrated to the area in 1492 after being exiled from Spain. They brought knowledge of the printing press, the trading network and gunpowder that helped to transform the Ottoman Empire into a dominant global power.
Ori Soltes’ Interfaith Lecture at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy will focus on how Jews fit into the climate of modern Turkey. Soltes teaches theology, philosophy and art history at Georgetown University. He was director and chief curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C., for seven years and has lectured at dozens of other museums.
About five years ago, Ori Soltes and one of his colleagues were lecturing on Shariah at a conference of approximately 200 federal judges and attorneys. During the Q-and-A portion of the presentation, Soltes claimed that Turkey was “positioned to [connect] the East and the West,” and that Turkey now had an opportunity to “re-engage the Arab world, which had been largely hostile to the country for a long time.”
For several years, Ori Soltes has been speaking in the Amphitheater, Hall of Philosophy and other areas on the Chautauqua grounds about religion, art and culture. But for this week, Soltes gets a smaller audience all to himself.
“What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon and three legs in the evening?”
If the average Chautauquan didn’t know the answer to this riddle, he would have been punished by the plague in Sophocles’ play “Oedipus the King.” What he also probably didn’t know was that this riddle highlights an “eternal triangle” of art, religion and politics.