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Spiro delivers his last Brown-Lyons Lecture March 15

March 8, 2016

Jack D. Spiro, D.H.L., Ed.D., the Harry Lyons Distinguished Chair in Judaic Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University and director of the VCU Center for Judaic Studies, will deliver his final Brown-Lyons Lecture.

For more than three decades, Spiro has either planned or delivered the annual thought-provoking lecture on topics in the Jewish culture and faith. The 2016 lecture will be held on March 15, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at James Branch Cabell Library, Lecture Hall (room 303). A public Q&A and reception will follow.

What I mean is that nothing has molded my work as a rabbi, social activist, educator [and] professor more than the prophets.

Spiro’s final Brown-Lyons talk, “And the Prophetic Message Lives On…” will be devoted to exploring the world of Judaism — and the world itself — through the lens of the Hebrew prophets, examining the enduring values they espoused and highlighting the commitment of their lives, in word and deed, to the inseparable bond between justice and compassion.

“I have saved ‘the best for last’ (not that I necessarily planned 31 lectures that way!)” Spiro said. “What I mean is that nothing has molded my work as a rabbi, social activist, educator [and] professor more than the prophets. Their message is the quintessence of what it means to be human; to live in a civil, caring, responsible society. I hope to convey that message in my final lecture. What's ‘at the end’ is also ‘what's at the beginning.’”

Spiro, who himself has delivered the lecture every year since 1999, said he has sought to make the Brown-Lyons series relevant to both the Richmond and VCU communities.

“Given all the cooperation I have received from a very generous library staff under the remarkable leadership of [VCU Librarian] John Ulmschneider, I hope the lectures have made a mark on the town-gown relationship,” he said. “The audience has been primarily members of the Richmond community and beyond — the lectures consistently geared to such a wider audience. But I have also tried to make the lectures attractive for students.”

Spiro, a professor in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, is the author, co-author or editor of more than 30 books and numerous articles. He was editor-in-chief of Religious Education, journal of the Religious Education Association of North America; founding editor of Compass, the national education magazine of Reform Judaism; editorial director of The Torah: A Modern Commentary; and executive editor of the national magazine Reform Judaism. He served as national director of the Commission on Jewish Education for Reform Congregations and is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond.

He has two earned doctorates, one from the Hebrew Union College and one from the University of Virginia. He served in the U.S. Air Force European Command with the rank of captain. In addition, Spiro served as chair of the Richmond Human Relations Commission, president of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and chair of the United Way Appropriations Committee.

The Brown-Lyons Lecture is sponsored by the Friends of VCU Libraries, the VCU Center for Judaic Studies, the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, the Richmond Jewish Foundation and the Weinstein JCC.

The event will be free and open to the public. To register, visit

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