Your Guide to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

By Eva Schlitz, Junior Copywriter/Proofreader

*This is event is sold out. CJP cannot accept walk-ins.

Here's what you need to know about Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, a brand new young adult event coming in October.

First things first… what is Harry Potter and the Sacred Text?

It’s a podcast started by two Harvard Divinity School graduates. Vanessa was raised Jewish and is a humanist chaplain; Casper is training to be a minister for non-religious people in addition to being an expert on new kinds of spiritual communities. They read one chapter of the Harry Potter books a week, and they discuss it with sacred text study practices.

…But what does Harry Potter have to do with sacred texts?

Nothing, really. But also EVERYTHING. Casper and Vanessa noticed that not all young adults connect to sacred texts like the Bible and the Torah. Our ancestors had books that gave them wisdom, advice, and the words to say in troubled times and in joyous ones – but what about us? If you’ll excuse the sweeping generalization, instead of turning to our traditions’ sacred texts, we often rewatch our comfort movies, binge watch a television show for the fourth time, or reread our favorite books. So Casper and Vanessa decided to take something a lot of us already love and see if we could get the same benefits from studying it in the same way that our religious traditions study their sacred texts.

So why Harry Potter?

For a lot of us born in the mid-1980s–1990s, the Harry Potter series was more than the books and the movies — they were part of the architecture that structured our time. We had to wait between installments, but we could always count on it: school started in September, school vacation in December, our birthdays would come, then summer break, and then the next Harry Potter book would come out in July, filling us in on what was going on in the wizarding world, our other home. Harry, Ron, and Hermione grew up with us, facing bigger challenges alongside us as our worlds got bigger and more complicated. They were our compatriots. They were our friends. These books (and movies) were with us every step of the way — they were the foundational text that shaped our world.

Okay! But what do you mean by sacred text study practices?

At a most basic level, it’s just looking for meaning in stories and words. Every text-based religion (and the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are among them) has spent a lot of time working with those texts to figure out what the divine meaning really might be. Think about how many thousands of years Jews have been arguing about the meaning of the Torah – these methods help us figure out what that meaning (or meanings) might be. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text uses practices from all kinds of religions, from sacred imagination developed by Christianity’s St. Augustine to Jewish question-based hevruta in pairs. For the podcast, they adapt them to work for a non-religious context.

Sounds cool! So what can I expect from this event?

The live show is going to be like an expanded version of the podcast. There will be storytelling, live music, a competition between our hosts for the best 30-second recap of the chapter, discussion of the chapter through a theme with some other guests (including a rabbi), and an interactive Jewish sacred text study practice.

What if I’ve never done text study before?

Don’t worry! It will all be explained, and there aren’t any wrong answers.

What if I’m not (or my friend/partner/roommate/colleague is not) Jewish?

Great! More points of view are always better. The Harry Potter and the Sacred Text community is multi-faith and welcomes participants of any — or no — faith background.

What if I haven’t (or my friend/partner/roommate/colleague hasn’t) ever read or seen Harry Potter?

That’s okay! You won’t be able to avoid spoilers… but you’ll be able to get up to speed with the 30-second recap competition and be able to enjoy the discussion with fresh eyes and ears.

...But what if I don’t (or my friend/partner/roommate/colleague doesn’t) like Harry Potter?

Come anyway! Casper and Vanessa put on a great show, and you’ll also be able to enjoy everything else the evening has to offer. (And who knows — you might end up changing your mind!)

What else will the evening have in store?

Schmoozing! Come connect with other Jewish young adults over drinks. You’ll also have the opportunity to get to know more than 60 organizations that are connecting our community and doing good, from sports teams to arts opportunities to ways to give back.

CJP welcomes an open dialogue!  Please refer to our policy for more information.


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