- The 2014-2015 fellows have convened to bring new perspectives to the origins, context, and diffusion of the academic study of Judaism. The weekly seminar schedule is available here.
- Taking Note: 20 Years of Scholars and Scholarship at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, 1993–2014, a collection of essays, images, and a history of the center since it became part of Penn in 1993, is now available as an e-book and a pdf.
- The Katz Center welcomes Dr. Steven Weitzman as its new Ella Darivoff Director.
- We are proud to announce that three of nine Jordan Schnitzer Book Award recipients for 2014 are Katz Center fellowship alumni: Elisheva Carlebach, Pawel Maciejko, and Glenn Dynner.
- Video of Susannah Heschel's public lecture, "Abraham Joshua Heschel's Vision of a New Jewish-Christian Relationship and Its Continuing Importance for Today," is now available here.
Workshop: Sacred Texts? Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qur’an in Jewish Research of the 19th Century and Beyond
December 10, 2014
Judaism is a religion founded on sacred texts, and the understanding of those texts underwent a revolutionary transformation in the nineteenth century with the rise of academic critical study. How did the rise of academic Jewish studies impact Jews’ relationship to their sacred texts? What did Jewish scholars contribute to the study of other sacred texts, the New Testament or Qur’an, and what, if anything, was distinctively Jewish about their approach? How did the idea of sacred texts change in this period, and what new texts were added to the Jewish “canon” as a result of academic scholarship? This day-long conference will draw on fellows and invited scholars to explore these questions and more.
During my first few months here, I have witnessed up close what a truly remarkable place the Katz Center is. With this early transitional period behind me, I would like to take a moment to share my thoughts about the Katz Center's past and future.
To begin with, I am mindful of what it means to guide an institution at the heart of the field of Jewish studies. Although scholarship has helped to revolutionize modern Jewish culture linguistically, religiously, sociologically, and politically, it has not always been seen as a legitimate area of academic inquiry. Jews had to struggle to gain access to secular universities, and their engagement in academic Jewish studies provoked opposition both from academia and from some corners of the Jewish community.
Dropsie College, the ground-breaking institution which was eventually transformed into today's Katz Center, was the first in the world to offer a state-accredited doctoral program in Jewish studies, and it was committed from the beginning to being accessible to all, regardless of background. As part of the University of Pennsylvania, the Katz Center perpetuated Dropsie's pioneering vision, integrating Jewish studies more fully into the humanities and social sciences.
I feel the responsibility to sustain such a profound inheritance—to honor the visions of those who created and transformed this institution and the academic study of the Jewish people. What this responsibility means at a practical level is the ongoing support of outstanding, innovative research—giving time, space, and intellectual stimulation to our fellows, and sustaining the library's extraordinary work.
Intellectual vitality depends on openness to new ideas and perspectives. The Katz Center is a place where scholars can experiment with approaches, venture into uncharted areas of research, and explore collaborative scholarship. I myself have not always been content to remain within established disciplinary boundaries, having instead sought unexpected connections with fields like genetics, environmental science, the arts, creative writing, and the social sciences. I will do everything I can to promote the Katz Center as this kind of laboratory.
As I look forward to building on the center's extraordinary success, I have the good fortune to be able to work with its wonderful staff, to benefit from the guidance and generosity of an accomplished and committed board of overseers, and to be part of a vibrant university community anchored by our close relationship with Penn's Jewish Studies Program. I am very grateful to my predecessor, David Ruderman, for his past leadership and ready counsel during this transition. I invite scholars within and beyond the field of Jewish studies to learn more about the Katz Center; and I welcome the public to discover the exciting work being done here.
Dr. Steven Weitzman joined the Katz Center as its Ella Darivoff Director in July of this year. He received his B.A. from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before coming to Penn he was the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford University, and director of Stanford's Taube Center for Jewish Studies. At Penn, in addition to being the Ella Darivoff Director, he will serve as the Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures in the Department of Religious Studies.
Dr. Weitzman is a scholar of biblical and Jewish studies who applies insights from the study of religion, literary theory, anthropology, and other fields to understand the origins of Jewish culture, the formation of the Bible and other ancient texts, and how the Bible has been reimagined in later cultural traditions. Among his recent projects is a study that aims to form a bridge between Jewish studies and population genetics in exploring conceptions of Jewish origins.
In the summer of 2014, Joseph and Susan Moldovan (both class of 1976) presented an extraordinary gift of over 1,200 books, pamphlets, scrolls, graphic art, and art reference works of Judaica to the Penn libraries. This collection was assembled over many decades by Joseph Moldovan and his late parents, Dr. Alfred Moldovan and Jean Moldovan. Joseph Moldovan donated the collection to the Penn libraries in his late parents’ honor and memory. The Moldovan collection consists of over 600 haggadot dating from the 17th-20th centuries printed in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Ladino, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish. The largest portion is concentrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, emanating from over twenty different towns, cities, and countries, such as Amsterdam, Basel, Brisk, Brünn, Danzig, Djerba, Frankfurt, Fürth, Halle, Jerusalem, Livorno, London, New York, Paris, Prague, Sulzbach, Tel Aviv, Vienna, Vilna, and Warsaw. Many are beautifully printed and illustrated and, most unusually, include two haggadot printed in scroll form. The Moldovan Family Collection also features dozens of liturgical works and specialized historical imprints. Among the more noteworthy items are: a Yiddish translation of the medieval chronicle Sefer Yosipon, printed by Moshe Katz, the important Prague Hebrew printer, in 1607; a number of early modern Christian Hebraist works, including Jacques Basnage’s translation from Latin into French of Petrus Cunaeus’s Republic of the Hebrews, which was printed in Amsterdam in 1713, as well as finely illustrated nineteenth-century texts such as a red leather, gold embossed, tooled German edition of Gustave Doré’s illustrated Bible. Most significant, perhaps, is the Moldovan’s collection of nearly 250 historical prints and engravings from the 17th-19th centuries depicting rabbis, synagogues, family scenes, and Jewish ceremonies from Europe and the Ottoman empire. The Moldovan gift joins the Moldovan Family French Judaica Collection donated in 2012, which together constitute a substantial boon to Penn’s modern Jewish historical holdings.
The center would like to congratulate our own Arthur Kiron, Schottenstein-Jesselson Curator of Judaica Collections at the Libraries of the University of Pennsylvania. Constellations of Atlantic Jewish History, 1955–1890—a catalog edited and curated by Arthur as a companion volume to a 2014 exhibition of the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica at the University of Pennsylvania Library—has just been awarded the Arline Custer Memorial Award for 2014 in the book category. The gorgeous work, designed by Andrea Gottschalk, contains a series of essays by top scholars of American and Atlantic Jewish history, and beautiful reproductions of what is only a small sample of the extraordinary richness of the Kaplan Collection. The award committee noted the innovative ways that the book balanced the serious historical essays with pragmatic guides to use of the collection by researchers. The award is sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, to support exceptional work in archiving and public outreach.
The chairman of our Board of Overseers, Thomas O. Katz, has been profiled in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of Penn's Arts and Sciences Magazine. Click here to read the full article in which Tom talks about his relationship to the center and the importance of continuing the legacy of his father, Herbert D. Katz.
We are thrilled to announce that three past fellows have just won the 2013 Israel Prize: Yosef Kaplan was honored in the category of the study of the history of Israel, Chava Turniansky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem won the prize for the study of Jewish languages and literature, and Yoram Bilu was honored in the field of sociology and anthropology. In the ceremony on Independence day (April 16, 2013), Israel's Education Minister Shai Piron said: “Society is measured by the importance of its intellectuals and leaders.” We could not agree more. Mazal tov to all three!