Katz Center News


  • A new library web exhibit curated by last year's fellows is now available.

New Katz Center Web Exhibit


Each year the fellows at the Katz Center collectively curate an online exhibition of holdings in the Penn Libraries that touch on their research. The latest exhibit, arising from the 2015 – 2016 fellowship theme of Jews Beyond Reason: Exploring Emotion, the Unconscious, and Other Dimensions of Jews' Inner Lives, has just been published. Explore the exhibit here and check out the fantastic list of past exhibits here.

Meet the 2016-2017 Incoming Fellows


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The Katz Center is delighted to announce its incoming cohort of fellows on the topic Political Ramifications: Expanding Jewish Political Thought. They are an extraordinarily talented group of scholars drawn from throughout North America, Israel, and Europe. Their collective expertise will extend political theory into conversation with legal theory, history, economics, literature, gender studies and even musicology. For more about our fellows and their research, click here.
On September 14, the fellows will convene for an opening round table discussion with Menachem Lorberbaum (Tel Aviv University/Katz Center), Julie Cooper (Tel Aviv University/Katz Center), David Myers (UCLA/Katz Center) and Anne Norton (chair, Political Science, Penn). That event will kick off a year that promises many opportunities to explore the intersections of Jewish studies and political theory. Please keep your eyes open for Katz Center-related events on campus and beyond, many of which will be open to the public.

Katz Makes a MOOC!


In June, the Katz Center partnered with Penn Libraries and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) to launch their first MOOC. This Massive Open Online Course brings together the Katz Center’s scholarly networks with the extraordinary collections of SIMS to push Jewish scholarship into an exciting new collaborative space, and to reach interested audiences worldwide.

The MOOC is a forty-minute minicourse by Professor Y. Tzvi Langermann (Bar-Ilan University), the first SIMS-KATZ fellow. Langermann presents a case study that builds from a unique manuscript codex produced in the 15th century containing three important medical manuscripts in Judeo-Arabic. Compiled in Sicily by a physician identified as David ben Shalom, the manuscript bears witness to the rich cultural exchanges among Latin, Jewish, and Arabic communities during this time, especially in the sciences. Professor Langermann not only walks the student through the basics of medical knowledge training and practice in the Jewish Middle Ages and beyond, but also shows how clues gleaned from elements of a particular manuscript (such as marginal notes, mistakes, and handwriting) shed light on the purpose and use of these texts. The course includes eight short video lectures that explore the highlights of this extraordinary manuscript.

Over 1000 students initially enrolled in the course, guided by NELC doctoral student Marc Herman, who served as Teaching Assistant. The course is offered free to anyone with an internet connection and an email address, and it can be accessed at any time through edX.org (PennX-Katz1.1x, or search for “Langermann”). The course is self-paced and takes about 2 hours to complete. The content will not be inaccessible to the novice but the nature of the material and the level of scholarship should interest graduate students and colleagues from a range of disciplines as well. There is an active discussion forum, and a link to the full manuscript in digital form.

This MOOC is the first in a series on Jewish manuscripts that will emerge from the SIMS-Katz partnership in the coming years. The next installment will be taught by Professor Alessandro Guetta (INALCO, Paris), and begins production this winter.

This fellowship is funded in part by the David b. Ruderman distinguished visiting fellowship.  

New from JQR


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The spring 2016 issue of the Jewish Quarterly Review (106.2) has arrived.


On Muses and Mystics: Some Essays on Some Essays by Solomon Schechter
Editor’s Introduction
    Elliott Horowitz
Saving Knowledge
    Lawrence J. Kaplan on “Nachman Krochmal and the ‘Perplexities of the Time’” (1887)
Reclaiming His Past
    Arthur Green on “The Chassidism” (1887)
Rabbinics without the Crutch of Canonicity
     Eliyahu Stern on “Rabbi Elijah Wilna, Gaon” (1890)
Rocks versus Gravel
    Irene E. Zwiep on “The Seminary as a Witness” (1903)
The Saint in the Drawing Room
    Abraham Socher on “Saints and Saintliness” (1905)
Asceticism, Mysticism, and Messianism
    Elliot Wolfson on “Safed in the 16th Century—A City of Legists and Mystics” (1908)


The “Evil Inclination” of the Jews: The Syriac Yatsra in Narsai’s Metrical Homilies for Lent
    Adam H. Becker


Irano-Talmudica: The New Parallelomania?
    Robert Brody
 “This, but also That”: Historical, Methodological and Theoretical Reflections on Irano-Talmudica
    Shai Secunda
The Bavli, the Roman East and Mesopotamian Christianity
    Richard Kalmin
Irano-Talmudica and Beyond: Next Steps in the Contextualization of the Babylonian Talmud
    Simcha Gross

Fellowship Alumni Receive Prestigious Book Awards


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
  • Julia Phillips Cohen, whom we highlighted in the Spring 2015 Newsletter for her receipt of a 2014 National Jewish Book Award, has also won a 2015 AJS Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the Category of Modern Jewish History—Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, as well as an honorable mention in the 2014 Salo Baron Book Prize, for Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (Oxford University Press).


The Katz Center wishes a hearty congratulations to one and all.

Announcing New Online Portal for Holy Land Collections


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

We are delighted to announce the online presentation of the Penn Libraries’ Holy Land Collections.

Featured here are a wide range of special and general collections related to the Holy Land. Among the most important are the Lenkin Collection of Photography, which consists of over 5,000 early photographs of the Holy Land, dating from 1850 through 1937. This collection, described as the finest in private hands, was purchased in 2009 from the Lazard Family in Paris, thanks to the vision and generosity of Edward J. Lenkin (C'71; PAR'12).

Great thanks to the leadership of Carton Rogers, Vice-Provost and Director of the Penn Libraries and to Oren Weinberg, Director General of the National Library of Israel for supporting the digitization of the Lenkin Collection, and to Dror Wahrman, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities and Vigevani Professor of European Studies at the Hebrew University, for the invaluable role he played conceiving and advising on this project.  We also are most grateful to Leslie Vallhonrat of the Libraries’ Web Unit, who designed the web page, and to Michael Gibny and the Libraries Technology Systems Department for developing the digital library architecture supporting the operation of this page. 

The Penn Libraries' Holy Land Collections are located on campus at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, the Museum Library and the Library at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.

Rethinking Secularism


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Secularism in Question: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times has now been published in the Jewish Culture and Contexts series at Penn Press. Edited by Ari Joskowicz and Ethan Katz, the volume is the product of the 2009-2010 fellowship year, "Secularism and Its Discontents."

Bringing together scholars of history, religion, philosophy, and literature, the volume examines contemporary revivals of religion to illustrate how the categories of "religious" and "secular" have frequently proven far more permeable than fixed.

Contributors include Michal Ben-Horin, Aryeh Edrei, Jonathan Mark Gribetz, Ari Joskowicz, Ethan Katz, Eva Lezzi, Vivian Liska, Rachel Manekin, David Myers, Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, Andrea Schatz, Christophe Schulte, Daniel B. Schwartz, Galili Shahar, Scott Ury.

Read more and order the book over at the Penn Press website.

New Library Acquisitions Include Early Modern Manuscripts and 20th-Century Papers


Rabbi Michael Strassfeld Collection

The Penn Libraries and its Judaica collections are honored to accept the landmark donation of Rabbi Michael Strassfeld's personal papers and Jewish sound recording collection. Taken together, the collection comprises forty-five linear feet of primary source materials for studying American Judaism and Jewish culture since the 1960s. Rabbi Strassfeld, now Rabbi Emeritus of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, and formerly rabbi of Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York City, was one of the leaders of the Jewish Counter-Culture movement which over the last half-century has pioneered dynamic new forms of Jewish life beyond the denominational structures of American Judaism. Rabbi Strassfeld was one of the key leaders of the Havurah movement, co-author of the Jewish Catalog - what has been called the “Bible” of Jewish Counter Culture, editor of the original version of the "Passover Haggadah: The Feast of Freedom," and author of several other works, including Shabbat Haggadah for Celebration and Study (1980), The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary (1985), A Night of Questions, a Passover Haggadah with Rabbi Joy Levitt (2000), and a A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice (2002).


Two Rare Early Modern Hebrew Manuscripts

At the Kestenbaum and Company Auction House, held in New York City on June 25, 2015, the Libraries successfully bid on two rare, early modern Hebrew manuscripts entitled Tavnit ha-mishkan and Hanukat ha-bayit. Both are written in the Italian cursive scribal hand of the author Malkiel Aschkenazi, who lived in Mantua in the early 17th century. The volumes contain numerous drawings about the construction of the mishkan (biblical tabernacle) and the bet ha-mikdash (Solomon’s Temple) and its holy vessels, such as the seven-branched candelabrum. These drawings reflect not only a concern with understanding the physical shape of these sacred buildings but also their kabbalistic interpretations.  The first of the two manuscript volumes, Tavnit ha-mishkan, remains unpublished. The second, Hanukat ha-bayit, was published only in the 1960s and contains variant readings from those found in the printed version.

Recent Titles by Fellowship Alumni


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Katz Center fellowships often bear fruit years afterward in the form of published works. Here are a few recent additions to our bookshelf.

Paul Lerner (F ’08), The Consuming Temple: Jews, Department Stores, and the Consumer Revolution in Germany, 1880-1940 (Cornell University Press, 2015)

Netanel Fisher (’10-’11), The Conversion Challenge in Israel (Hebrew; The Israeli Center for Democracy, 2015) and “A Jewish State? Controversial Conversions and the Dispute over Israel’s Jewish Character” in Contemporary Jewry 33.3 (2013): 217–40.

Chaim Noy (’11-’12), Thank You for Dying for Our Country: Commemorative Texts and Performances in Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2015)