Ellen M. Umansky, PHD

Dr. Ellen M. Umansky serves as the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies and the founding director of the Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT. She is a long-time member of Reform Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, N.Y.

What Torah Says about Economic Equity

D'Var Torah By: Rabbi Max Chaiken

The word “economics” often evokes stock markets, exchange rates, global trade, and unemployment. But whether we are talking about buying groceries or the national debt, our material welfare and well-being have been of paramount concern since the beginning of human existence.

Revealing Oneself in Order to Heal

D'Var Torah By: Ellen M. Umansky, PHD

As Parashat Vayigash begins, Joseph still has not revealed his identity to his brothers. With Joseph having framed his younger brother Benjamin for stealing his divining goblet, and consequently declaring that as punishment, Benjamin will be enslaved in Egypt, his brother, Judah, now beseeches Joseph to enslave him instead (Genesis 44:33). His plea comes after Judah reminds Joseph that he has an elderly father and describes in detail, why Benjamin did not initially go down to Egypt with the brothers and why, should he not return to Canaan, their father literally would die (Genesis 44:31).

Forgiveness and Reconciliation with the Past

D'Var Torah By: Ellen M. Umansky, PHD

Many years ago, I taught an adult education class on biblical heroes. Among those we studied was Joseph. We focused on Parashat Mikeitz and discussed Joseph’s contentious relationship with his older brothers and their later reconciliation.

Growing Up as the Favorite Son

D'Var Torah By: Ellen M. Umansky, PHD

Parashat Vayeishev introduces the Joseph saga. When it begins, Jacob’s 11th son, Joseph, is a 17-year-old shepherd working in the fields alongside his older brothers. The text’s description of him as a “youth,” na-ar, is apt, both biologically and emotionally. As Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg writes: “Joseph behaves with the narcissism of youth, with a dangerous unawareness of the inner worlds of others” (Zornberg, Genesis: The Beginning of Desire [Philadelphia: JPS,1995], p. 253). He consciously tells Jacob malicious tales about the brothers and by wearing the beautiful, multicolored coat (or ornamental tunic) that Jacob has given him, flaunts the fact that he is the favorite son. It is thus not surprising that when Joseph’s brothers see that their father loves him more than they, they come to hate Joseph (Genesis 37:4).