Katz Center News


  • We at the Katz Center are deeply saddened by the news that a fellowship alumnus, Michael Feige, was among the victims of the shooting in Tel Aviv on Wednesday June 8. Professor Feige was a sociologist and anthropologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, specializing in Israeli society, collective memory and political myth, and he was the head of the university's Israel Studies track. He was a fellow at the Katz Center during the 1996-1997 year on "Israeli Culture and Society: The Formative Period." One of his books, Settling in the Hearts: Jewish Fundamentalism in the Occupied Territories, won the annual Shapiro Prize for best book in Israel Studies in 2010 and, like his work in general, it addresses a political subject in a highly insightful and sensitive way. He leaves behind a wife and three daughters. The Katz Center joins the many people in Israel and the global intellectual community who mourn this great loss.

Katz Makes a MOOC!


The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries announce the launch of their first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): The History of Medieval Medicine through Jewish Manuscripts.

Taught by Professor Y. Tzvi Langermann, Professor of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. 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 mini-course (PennX -  Katz1.1x) is offered free to anyone with an internet connection. It can be accessed at edX.org, where with just an email address you can create an account. 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. The course will initially be monitored by a TA, Penn doctoral student in medieval Jewish history, Marc Herman. Professor Langermann himself will also occasionally participate in the discussions and respond to student queries. 

The course will launch on June 1 — Please join the discussion!

The 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 Winter 2016 issue of the Jewish Quarterly Review (106.1) has just appeared. 

This issue includes:

EYAL BEN-ELIYAHU, ‘‘Cities Surrounded by a Wall from the Time of Joshua Son of Nun’’ as a Rabbinic Response to the Roman Pomerium

ODED YISRAELI, Jewish Medieval Traditions on the Origins of the Kabbalah

MICHAEL LAURENCE MILLER, Rabbi David Oppenheim on Trial: Turks, Titles, and Tribute in Counter-Reformation Prague

KARMA BEN JOHANAN, Wreaking Judgment on Mount Esau: Christianity in R. Kook’s Thought

BRAD SABIN HILL, A Century of Hebraica at the Library of Congress

Plus, the annual list of recent dissertations in Jewish studies.

To subscribe, visit jqr.pennpress.org

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)