Memory and Continuity of the Southern Italian Jewish Legacy
Fabrizio Lelli (University of Salento, Lecce)
March 16, 2017
Lecture looks at the history of Apulian Jewish culture and its major intellectual achievements in the late Middle Ages and also concentrates on written and oral testimonies of former Jewish refugees, who at the very end of WWII resided in the United Nations transit camps that were established in the region of Apulia. In this talk, Lelli will focus on this extraordinary spiritual rebirth of contemporary Judaism, by comparing it with other intellectually significant phases of Apulian Judaism in the past.
Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece
Devin Naar (University of Washington)
March 14, 2017
How did the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of modern Greece impact the largest Sephardic Jewish community in the world? Drawing on newly discovered archival materials in Ladino, Greek, Hebrew, and French to demonstrate how the Jews of Salonica (Thessaloniki), sought to transform themselves from Ottoman Jews into Hellenic Jews during the early 20th century. Through the case of Salonica, Naar recovers the experiences of a once dynamic and now lost Jewish community at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East.
Anti-Prophecy in the Poetry of H.N. Bialik
Robert Alter (UC Berkeley)
March 9, 2017
Though H.N. Bialik knew the biblical Prophets in the Hebrew virtually by heart and could compose poetry in letter-perfect biblical Hebrew that would have been entirely intelligible to the Prophets themselves, his notion of the poet as prophet actually came to him from an iconic Russian poem by Pushkin, “The Prophet,” based on Isaiah 6. The lecture focuses on a close reading of his poem Davar (“Word”).
The Joshua Generation: How David Ben-Gurion and his Political Successors Read the Biblical Book of Conquest
Rachel Havrelock (University of Illinois at Chicago)
February 28, 2017
In the name of enshrining the Bible as the central text in Israeli life, Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion convened a study group at his residence dedicated to interpreting the book of Joshua. The study group participants asserted that the true meaning of the Bible could only be unlocked by Jews living in their ancient homeland. However, a web of conflicted interpretations emerged from the group and Ben-Gurion’s concluding address set off a fierce debate regarding the basis of citizen rights that has yet to be resolved.
Joseph and the Genesis of Ancient Israel
Lauren Monroe (Cornell)
February 21, 2017
Joseph stands out as distinct among his brothers, first, for the sheer space allotted to him in the book of Genesis. This alone suggests something different about the figure of Joseph from a literary historical standpoint, and raises the question of the socio-historical circumstances that underlie his representation.
Drumming Away Demons
Susan Ackerman (Dartmouth)
February 7, 2017
The inhabitants of the ancient biblical world, including many ancient Israelites, viewed their cosmos as the home of many unseen forces. Ackerman’s talk explores the possibility that beating upon drums may have been one means by which the ancients warded off these demonic agents.
Jewish Identity in Question: The Legacy of Irène Némirovsky
Susan Suleiman (Harvard)
January 26, 2017
This lecture discussed Jewish identity in the life and work of Irène Némirovsky (1903-1942), a Russian Jewish immigrant to France who achieved a brilliant career as a novelist during the 1930s but was deported as a “foreign Jew” in 1942 and died in Auschwitz. Némirovsky’s portrayals of Jewish characters in her fiction are controversial, often considered anti-semitic. Suleiman argues instead that her Jewish characters exemplify the dilemmas and contradictions of Jewish existence in the 20th century, in Europe and beyond.
Championing Civil Rights and Resisting Injustice: Rabbi Joachim Prinz and Kurt Weill
January 22, 2017
Rabbi Joachim Prinz (1902-1988) and Composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) were both German Jewish émigrés who fled Nazi Germany and came to America to reestablish their lives and careers. Their experiences in Europe informed their professional work and galvanized them to fight injustice and champion civil rights. This symposium will put the lives and works of the two men in conversation with one another by examining a shared historical foundation for social justice and delving into their specific contributions on the world stage.
Rome in the Jewish Imagination
Daniel Stein Kokin (UCLA and Universität Greifswald)
December 7, 2016
As capital of a mighty empire and missionizing church, Rome for Jews has often appeared a source of unyielding oppression and persecution. Yet Jews have lived continuously in Rome for more than two thousand years, longer than in virtually any other city in the world. Stein Kokin will explore the more than two millennia of vexed ties binding the “eternal city” and “immortal people” (as Mark Twain described the Jews).
The Rabbinic Sacrificial Vision and the Roman Imperial Cult
Mira Balberg (Northwestern)
December 6, 2016
Sacrifice in the Roman Empire was a heavily politicized matter and an arena through which relations of power were formed, loyalty was displayed, and alliances were worked out. Seminar will explore the ways in which Jews in the Roman Empire were entangled in Imperial sacrificial networks, and how Jews and Romans used sacrifice, both as a cultic form and as an expression of fidelity, to assess and define the relations between the Jews and the Empire.
‘Lock and Key’: The History of Ancient Israel between the Hebrew Bible and Archaeology
Stefan Beyerle (Universität Greifswald)
November 29, 2016
The so-called “Lock and Key” model represents a method to establish the relationship between data from Ancient Near Eastern archaeology and the literary history of texts from the Hebrew Bible. In its first part the talk will explain current alternative models concerning the relationship of archaeological and historical examinations by focusing on the “Lock and Key” model. In addition, the presentation will discuss archaeological and literary evidence with a view to the Book of Amos.
Wounds of History: The Polish Underground and the Jews during World War II
Joshua Zimmerman (Yeshiva University)
November 17, 2016
Discussing one of the central problems in the history of Polish-Jewish relations: the attitude and behavior of the Polish Underground toward the Jews during World War II. Presenting archival documents, testimonies, and memoirs, Zimmerman recasts the entire debate by concluding that the reaction of the Polish Underground to the catastrophe that befell European Jewry was immensely varied—sometimes killing and other times helping the Jews who also participated in the anti-Nazi struggle.
The First Decade of Israeli Literature: The case of Aharon Appelfeld
Arnold Band (UCLA)
May 12, 2016
The first decade Israeli sovereignty has been a source of fascination for all sorts of historians who find in this “return to history” many intriguing phenomena. The same is true, of course, for Israeli literature. Usually the emphasis is on what is new in Israeli writing after 1948 or how the individual writers emerged from the collective ethos of the kibbutz. Critics cite such writers and Shamir, Megid, or Yizhar in prose or Amichai and Zach in poetry. A consensus has arisen regarding the nature of Israeli writing in its first decade. If however we shift the emphasis from these writers to the late Agnon, the leading writer of the period, or to the early Appelfeld, who developed a brilliant career afterwards we get a strikingly different picture. The further we advance from the first decade, the more we realize that its literature as more varied and richer than early historians have described it.
The Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the Jewish Communities of the Ottoman Empire: Between Participation and Exclusion
Eyal Ginio (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
April 19, 2016
The Balkan Wars (1912-13) presented a major watershed in the life of the Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire. By using the Ladino and Ottoman press, memoire literature and various archival documents, Ginio’s presentation discusses the dilemmas faced by Ottoman Jews during these troubled times and their changing perceptions of citizenship and their role in the public life on the eve of the Ottoman Empire’s demise.
Absence and Presence: Readings and Conversation
Dalia Sofer (Author)
April 14, 2016
Dalia Sofer reads from the novels The Septembers of Shiraz—which chronicles the unraveling and eventual departure of a man wrongly imprisoned in Tehran in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution—and The Soundman of Tehran, a work-in-progress, about a man contending with a fraught past: his early years in Tehran’s dilapidated Jewish quarter, his misguided youth in France, and his eventual return with his young son to the city of his birth. The protagonists of these two novels have contrasting trajectories: one chooses to leave, the other chooses to return.
Two Models of Jewish Continuity from India
Nathan Katz (Florida International University)
April 12, 2016
As American Jewish institutions struggle to find way to ensure Jewish “continuity,” it would be wise to look outside of the usual contexts to learn how other Jewish communities have successfully done so. In India we find two models: the learned Jewish community at Kochi (Cochin), and the pious group known as the Bene Israel. These two tiny communities each lived in India for centuries if not millennia, interacting harmoniously with their Hindu, Muslim and Christian neighbors, contributing to their host societies as well as to Jewish literature and customs, all the while maintaining their identities as Jews.
Dan Stone (Royal Holloway, University of London)
March 31, 2016
Seventy years after the end of the war, the liberation of the camps is still relatively understudied by historians. In this lecture, Dan Stone will give an overview of the different sorts of liberation experienced by the victims of Nazism and explain the importance of the liberation and what followed for understanding the history of the Holocaust.
From Maimonides to Microsoft: The Jewish Law of Copyright Since the Birth of Print
Neil W. Netanel (UCLA)
March 1, 2016
In 1998 Microsoft petitioned a rabbinic court in Bnei Brak for a ruling that commercial piracy of software violates Jewish law. The court’s curt one-paragraph ruling proclaims that rabbis have ruled on similar questions since the dawn of print. Prof. Netanel’s new book traces the emergence and historical development of this Jewish law of copyright. He places Jewish copyright law in the context of the Jewish book trade; the precariousness of Jewish communal autonomy; and the influence of modern copyright law and of secular and papal book privileges on key rabbinic rulings.
Songs that Speak: Reflections on Research Among the Ethiopian Jews
Kay Kaufman Shelemay (Harvard)
February 11, 2016
Shelemay’s presentation provided an overview of the Ethiopian Jewish tradition based on the only musical study of their liturgy and its musical content before their departure from Ethiopia. Here song revealed unexpected insights into both the Ethiopian Jewish past and the processes through which Ethiopian Jews became part of the broader Jewish world.
The Money Launderer’s Daughter: A Sephardic Woman and a Slave Rumor in the Early Modern Mediterranean
Gillian Weiss (Case Western Reserve University)
February 9, 2016
This is a talk about a pregnant, Arabic-speaking girl from Tunis forcibly converted to Catholicism at Marseille’s main cathedral. Her travels and travails – which feature three years in Algerian captivity provide a map for discovering otherwise hidden communication patterns, social connections and religious-political concerns, notably the conquest of Jewish and Muslim, as well as Protestant, souls for France’s “Most Christian King.”
From Ritual Space to Ritual Text: New Light on the Background of the Priestly Blessing in Ancient Judah
Jeremy Smoak (UCLA)
January 26, 2016
Several recently discovered inscriptions from Israel and surrounding regions offer new light on the early history and function of the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24–26. These inscriptions demonstrate that the blessing held a diverse set of functions related to both temple rituals and private religious practice during its earliest history in the biblical period. By extension, these inscriptions provide new insight into the background and meaning of the instructions for the priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:22–27.
Refiguring American Jewish Identity: the Palestine Chapter
Atalia Omer (University of Notre Dame)
January 21, 2016
Based on in-depth interviews with Jewish-American Palestine solidarity activists and systematic study of Jewish solidarity movements in social media, the talk explores new configurations of American Jewish identity.
The Book of Daniel in Jewish Neo-Aramaic Translation
Yona Sabar (UCLA)
November 24, 2015
Shortly after the Babylonian Exile, Jews found Hebrew Scriptures (Torah) more and more difficult to understand. There was a growing need for oral and written translations-explanations, such as the classical Aramaic Targums, which began with Ezra, and continued until modern times. All traditional Jewish education includes teaching a traditional translation in the local language, be it Aramaic, Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, or English. The book of Daniel is unique, since most of it is already in Aramaic. So, how does a traditional Neo- Aramaic speaker (of ca. 1960s CE) cope with a Biblical Aramaic text (of ca.160 BCE)? Sabar, himself a native speaker of Aramaic, will discuss the general nature of the translation and offer samples of the types of translations, and mistranslations he encountered.
Academic Research on Moroccan Judaism: Historiography, Sources and Archives
Jamaâ Baïda (Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco)
November 12, 2015
Moroccan historians tended to neglect topics revolving around Moroccan Judaism until the mid-seventies when the Jewish element became essential in economic and social history. Baïda will discuss the progress and difficulties in the appropriation of Judaism as a component in the country’s history.
David Bezmozgis (Author) & Naya Lekht (UCLA)
November 5, 2015
Writer and filmmaker, David Bezmozgis, in conversation with Dr. Naya Lekht, discusses his award-winning new novel, The Betrayers (2014), in context with his previous books, Natasha and Other Stories (2004) and The Free World (2011). Unfolding over the course of one day, The Betrayers, is the story of a disgraced Israeli politician who flees with his young mistress to Crimea, only to encounter the man who denounced him to the KGB forty years earlier. The novel explores the themes of personal and political morality set against contemporary Israel and the former Soviet Union.
Ladino’s Controversial History
Olga Borovaya (Stanford)
October 14, 2014
For more than a century, everything related to the history and use of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) has been a matter of disagreement among scholars. In this talk on the Ibero-Romance language used by Sephardi Jews in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean in the 16th through mid-20th centuries, Borovaya will offer a history of the Sephardi vernacular and elucidate some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the language.
How to Accept German Reparations
Susan Slyomovics (UCLA)
October 23, 2014
In a landmark process after the Holocaust, Germany created the largest sustained redress program in history, amounting to more than $60 billion. When human rights violations are presented primarily in material terms, acknowledging an indemnity claim becomes one way for a victim to be recognized. At the same time, indemnifications provoke difficult questions about how suffering and loss can be measured. Slyomovics, daughter of a survivor, maintains that we can use the legacies of German reparations to reconsider approaches to reparations in the future.
A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York
Liana Finck (Author)
November 13, 2014
The original “A Bintel Brief” (“A Bundle of Letters”) was an advice column for Jews fresh off the boat in The Jewish Daily Forward, a.k.a. The Forverts, a feature regarded by many as the prototype for “Dear Abby.” This seminar will discuss Liana Finck’s new, widely acclaimed graphic novel, A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York (Ecco, 2014), which brings a selection of these letters to life and includes an imaginative conversation with the paper’s editor, Abraham Cahan.
Jews and Sovereign Political Power in the Middle Ages: New Evidence from the Cairo Geniza
Marina Rustow (Johns Hopkins University)
December 10, 2014
The vast majority of Jews in the Middle Ages lived in the Islamic world. While the salience of that fact has long been recognized for the survival of Judaism after antiquity, we still know remarkably little about how medieval Jews navigated one of the fundamental conditions of their existence: the states under whose rule they lived. Hitherto unknown documents from the Cairo Geniza, a cache of manuscripts discovered in a medieval Egyptian synagogue, suggest that Jews maintained surprisingly close and extensive contacts with the courts of caliphs and sultans, their bureaucracies and provincial officials. This lecture will present some of that evidence and discuss its implications for the Jewish communities of the eastern Mediterranean in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, as well as for the history of premodern Islamic statecraft.
The Book of Genesis in the Western Imagination
Ronald Hendel (UC Berkeley)
January 26, 2015
The book of Genesis has had a surprising and momentous life in Western culture, from its birth in the ancient Middle East to current controversies about sex and science. The ways that people read Genesis and the ways that they understand the world have long been intertwined. Hendel will explore some of these byways, including Genesis as apocalypse, allegory, mysticism, and literature.
Jewish Refugees in Apulia
Fabrizio Lelli (U. of Salento, Italy)
January 28, 2015
At the end of WWII, more than 250,000 Jewish refugees lived in DP camps in Germany, Austria and Italy which were set up under the aegis of the UN and the Allied Forces, with the support of international Jewish organizations. Since 2000, Fabrizio Lelli has been collecting documents and personal testimonies from former refugees in the Apulia region of southern Italy. Traumatized, unable or unwilling to return to their former homes, many were stuck in a Mediterranean limbo, trying to recover from the war but without knowing where they would—or could—go next. Through his Jewish Refugees in Apulia project, Lelli has published the moving stories of 36 refugees on his website. His work also played a role in convincing an Italian municipality to preserve three murals painted by a Jewish refugee in a building slated for demolition.
Was Ancient Israel a Patriarchal Society?
Carol Meyers (Duke)
February 10, 2015
The answer to this question, surprisingly, is not an automatic “yes.” This presentation will examine the origins of this designation, which assumes a hierarchical male-dominated structure for Israelite society. Recent research using archaeological and ethnographic data in addition to biblical texts challenges the patriarchal-hierarchical model and proposes another one that may be more appropriate for the complexities of Israelite society.
The Late Agnon and the Re-Imagining of Galician Jewry
Alan Mintz (JTS)
February 12, 2015
During the fifteen years before his death in 1970, S. Y. Agnon wrote an epic cycle of stories about Buczacz, the Galician town in which he grew up. This project represents a unique response to the Holocaust and an unprecedented effort to re-imagine the inner life of Polish Jewry during its golden age.
David’s Divided Heart
David Wolpe (Sinai Temple)
February 17, 2015
Of all the figures in the Bible, David arguably stands out as the most perplexing and enigmatic. He was many things: a warrior who subdued Goliath and the Philistines; a king who united a nation; a poet who created beautiful, sensitive verse; a loyal servant of God who proposed the great Temple and founded the Messianic line; a schemer, deceiver, and adulterer who freely indulged his very human appetites. Rabbi Wolpe takes a fresh look at David in an attempt to find coherence in his seemingly contradictory actions and impulses.
Interpreting the Family of Abraham: Political Uses and Abuses
Carol Bakhos (UCLA)
February 19, 2015
This panel discussion will explore the broader implications of Prof. Carol Bakhos’ recent book, The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, Muslim Interpretations (Harvard University Press, 2014). The term “Abrahamic religions” has gained considerable currency in both scholarly and ecumenical circles as a way of referring to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Bakhos steps back from this convention to ask a frequently overlooked question: What, in fact, is Abrahamic about these three faiths? Exploring diverse stories and interpretations relating to the portrayal of Abraham, she reveals how he is venerated in these different scriptural traditions and how scriptural narratives have been pressed into service for nonreligious purposes.
People of the Book or People of the (Foot) Ball? Ethnicizing European and Latin American Soccer
Raanan Rein (Tel Aviv University)
February 23, 2015
While most historians would agree as to the centrality of sports in general and of soccer in particular in Latin American societies, very little has been written on ethnicity and sports in such immigrant societies as Argentina and Brazil. As far as the historiography of the Jewish experience in Latin America is concerned, hardly any scholarly works exist that are devoted to popular culture, particularly that of unaffiliated Jews.
Raanan Rein examines Argentine football as a space of both prejudice and dialogue. Rein argues that for the first immigrant generation, belonging to this club was a way of becoming Argentines. For the next generation, it was a way of maintaining ethnic Jewish identity, while for the third it has become a family tradition.
When Jews Speak Arabic: Jewish Languages in Colonial Morocco
Oren Kosansky (Lewis & Clark College)
February 24, 2015
As in much of the greater Sephardic world, the Jews of Morocco have long used multiple languages within North Africa and broader Mediterranean networks. Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, Berber, and Arabic were among the idioms in common usage, distributed across various ritual contexts, social environments, and geographic regions. Yet, the early twentieth century marked a significant language shift that captured the interest of French colonial forces that occupied Morocco from 1912 – 1956. Reducing a much more dynamic linguistic environment to a single channel of transformation, colonial linguists focused predominantly on Arabic as the language of a receding Moroccan Jewish past and French as the language of more promising future.
Folksongs of Modernity: A Judeo-Spanish Perspective
Edwin Seroussi (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
February 25, 2015
Folksongs of modernity: is it an oxymoron? If tradition is all that preceded modernity and folksongs a characteristic feature of traditional societies, then how are folksongs still among us and why? Seroussi suggests that modern touristic excursions, pilgrimages and edifying fieldtrips to ruins’ sites are experiences analogous to the performance and modern consumption of folksongs. The sonic excursion, substitutes the spatial-visual experience of the tour for the museum or ruins’ park. “Modern” folksongs from the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) repertoire will buttress these theoretical postulates.
Deuteronomy as Scripture and Deuteronomy as Tradition
Benjamin Sommer (Jewish Theology Seminary)
March 2, 2015
There are several respects in which Deuteronomy straddles the line between what scholars of religion call “scripture” and what they term “tradition.” These include Deuteronomy’s pronounced interpretive character and its emphasis on its own orality. Sommer will discuss surprising similar views of modern biblical critics and of some traditional Jewish interpreters (especially in the Jewish mystical tradition) regarding these characteristics of Deuteronomy. He shows that Deuteronomy not only embodies a central Jewish concept of scripture but helps to construct it.
Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields
Wendy Lower (Claremont)
March 12, 2015
Wendy Lower’s stunning account of the role of German women on the World War II Nazi eastern front powerfully revises history, proving that we have ignored the reality of women’s participation in the Holocaust, including as brutal killers. Drawing on twenty years of research that included access to post-Soviet documents and interviews with German witnesses, Lower makes an incisive case for the massive complicity, and worse, of the 500,000 young German women she places, for the first time, directly in the killing fields of the expanding Reich.
The Wherewithal: A Novel in Verse
Philip Schultz (DePaul University)
April 23, 2015
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Schultz will speak about The Wherewithal: A Novel in Verse (Harcourt, 2014). This is the astonishing story of Henryk Wyrzykowski, a drifting, haunted young man hiding from the Vietnam War in the basement of a San Francisco welfare building and translating his mother’s diaries. The diaries concern the Jedwabne massacre, an event that took place in German-occupied Poland in 1941. Wildly inventive, dark, beautiful, and unrelenting, The Wherewithal is a meditation on the nature of evil and the destruction of war.
Capital, Culture, and the City: German Jews and the Other Weimar Republic
Emily J. Levine (University of North Carolina, Greensboro)
April 30, 2015
Berlin may have been the capital of Weimar, Germany, but Hamburg, the port city 200 miles northwest, emerged in interwar Germany as a unique setting for intellectual life. Through the interconnected lives of three German-Jewish scholars Aby Warburg, Ernst Cassirer, and Erwin Panofsky, Emily J. Levine tells the forgotten story of this commercial city’s transformation into a cultural center and the significant role that the city played for the German Jewish experience.
Music and Identity: The Musical Lives of Shlomo Carlebach and Mickey Katz
Mark Kligman (UCLA)
May 7, 2015
Jewish music has always responded to its environment. Jews often negotiate utilizing music of the Jewish tradition and developing new sounds influenced by the music of their surroundings. This presentation of the music of legendary Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and comedic entertainer Mickey Katz will highlight both their European Jewish rooted traditions and recent developments in America.
Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: A Conference in Honor of Abraham Joshua Heschel
May 3 & 4, 2015
A theologian of extraordinary eloquence and poetic vision, Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was also a key figure in social justice movements in the United States in the 1960s and early 70s, including the civil rights movement, the movement against the war in Vietnam, and the transformations of the Catholic Church known as Vatican II.
Heschel’s books have had immeasurable impact on both Jewish and non-Jewish thinkers. Hence, this conference will feature talks by key figures in contemporary Jewish thought and practice, as well as Christian scholars and public figures. Panels will discuss Heschel and social justice, Heschel’s poetry and spiritual practices, and the continuing urgency of his life and ideas today.
The Faith of Fallen Jews: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi and the Writing of Jewish History
David N. Myers (UCLA)
Alexander Kaye (Ohio State University)
May 19, 2015
From his first book, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto, to his well-known volume on Jewish memory, Zakhor, to his treatment of Sigmund Freud in Freud’s Moses, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (1932-2009) earned recognition as perhaps the greatest Jewish historian of his day. The collected essays represent the range of Yerushalmi’s writing, from his research on early modern Spanish Jewry and the experience of crypto-Jews, to varied reflections on Jewish history and memory, and his enduring interest in the political history of the Jews. Also included are little-known autobiographical recollections and his only published work of fiction.