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Rabbi to speak on spirituality and civic service

Rabbi Will Berkovitz will present a public lecture, "Sustaining the World: Spirituality and Civic Service," at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18 in the Peter Engel Science Center's Pellegrene Auditorium at SJU. The lecture is sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning.

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

A native of St. Louis Park, Minn., and a 1991 graduate of the University of St. Thomas who now lives in Seattle, Berkovitz 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, serving as executive director of Hillel (the official Jewish student organization) at the 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 will serve as the Jay Phillips Center's rabbi-in-residence from Oct. 18-21 at both SJU and St. Thomas. The two universities co-sponsor the center, whose mission is to promote interfaith learning and friendship among people of various religions.