Shabbtai is the Hebrew pen name of Stephen Schecter. Born in Montreal to Chana and Meyer Schecter, a graduate of McGill University, Stephen obtained his Ph. D from the London School of Economics and taught sociology for over thirty years at the Université du Québec à Montréal, from which he has since retired. As a sociologist he specializes in explaining to both lay and academic audiences how modern society works, using the perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory. His last book, Grasshoppers in Zion: Israel and the Paradox of Modernity, used this perspective to give a unique explanation of the conundrum in which Israel finds itself.
Stephen is also a writer, a poet, a lecturer and performance artist, specializing in retelling the stories of the Hebrew Bible. He has written a book of short stories, The Dangers of Critical Thought, and a book-length poem, David and Jonathan, which retold the saga of the stormy relationship between the two men in the Book of Samuel and how it foundered on the shoals of family and political intrigue. He performed a one-man show in Montreal on the first half of the Book of Genesis, There Was Darkness on the Face of the Earth. He has lectured widely to all kinds of audiences across North America, both lay and academic, on these matters close to his heart.
So much for the credentials. Why the website?
For one, Luhmann’s systems theory, for all its power, still remains a minority current in sociology. This is both a shame and a disgrace, since the dominant paradigm of critical theory in its many offshoots is responsible for much of the mess the western world finds itself in today. Stephen Schecter’s unique talent lies in making Luhmann’s theory come alive, showing how it can be used to understand how modern society works. He gives examples of this on his sociology page with its link to his comments on various aspects of modern life and the reader will also find examples of this in his blogs.
For two, Stephen is a staunch but concerned Zionist. Although his sociological theory gives him a unique and politically incorrect take on the situation in the Middle East, he still has trouble believing what his sociological analysis reveals, namely the cognitive obtuseness and moral abdication of both liberal society and the Jews. Many people comment daily on the Israeli situation. Stephen focuses more on what Israel could and should do to resolve it, why this is so and why it most likely will not happen. He combines his sociology with his knowledge of the Hebrew Bible to explore this question and hopes the visitor to his website will consult those essays and his blogs to see what few others will dare to say.
For three, Stephen has an abiding love of poetry, which he continues to write, and of the Hebrew Bible, which he considers both the template of western literature and the literary DNA of the Jewish people. His poems are narrative in style, simple, poignant and accessible to the average reader. The website visitor can also find years of his commentary (Drash) on the weekly Torah portion.
It is also my fervent hope that people visiting the website and reading my work might then wish to invite me to speak to them and to people they know. I do this with brio, combining sociology, the Hebrew Bible, and my own brand of passion and concern to regale audiences, with wit and humour, about topics that touch us all. In my many talks to Jewish audiences on both Israel and the Bible, I have often been described as a cross between Jackie Mason and a poet. Sociology students and professors can expect to hear what no one else will tell them so succinctly and yet so entertainingly. My audiences invariably wind up laughing, though I remind them the matters we are discussing are no laughing matter. Yet, like Yeats, what can I do but enumerate old themes, trying to make the world come alive and our troubles bearable if only by seeing things in a new light?
Stephen Schecter PhD
Please check out the website, read the material and invite Stephen to speak via the contact page.