Katz Center News

 


The 2017 Eclipse Has Come and Gone, but What Secrets Did It Portend? Some Insights From the Jewish Middle Ages// David Shyovitz

 

posted August 22, 2017


In 1218, an army of Crusaders landed in Damietta, an Egyptian town in the Nile River Delta ruled by the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamil. They were greeted shortly thereafter by a heavenly omen, described by the German-born canon and schoolmaster Oliver von Paderborn, who chronicled the military expedition:

Soon after the arrival of the Christians there was an almost total eclipse of the moon. Although this very often happens from natural causes at the time of the full moon, nevertheless… we interpreted the eclipse as unfavorable to the Saracens, as if portending the failure of the ones who ascribe the moon to themselves, placing great weight in the waxing and waning of the moon.

In Oliver’s estimation, the moon symbolized the fortunes of Damietta’s Muslim defenders, since Islamic ritual and liturgical life are oriented around a lunar calendar. The moon’s obstruction by the sun thus portended victory for those who followed the solar calendar, namely the forces of Christianity. And sure enough, the following year, after a lengthy siege, the city fell to the Crusaders (though it would be retaken by the Ayyubid forces just two years later).

Read more in the CAJS Blog


Response to Charlottesville

 

In response to the violence in Charlottesville this last weekend, Dr. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, has issued the following statement:

The racism, anti-Semitism, and other bigotry expressed by the neo-Nazi, KKK, and other white supremacist groups that demonstrated in Charlottesville are deeply abhorrent and call for universal condemnation. The hatred espoused is inimical to any decent society and anathema to the most fundamental ideals of our University.

President Gutmann’s statement speaks for itself. I would only add a bit of commentary from my perspective as director of the Katz Center: that the hatred displayed during the Unite the Right rally this last weekend is anathema to the most fundamental ideals of the university. 

Read more from Katz Center Director Steve Weitzman at the CAJS blog here.  


Transition on the Board of Overseers

 

The Katz Center is pleased to announce that Ivan Ross (W ‘83) will become chairman of our Board of Overseers starting July 1, 2017. Ivan takes the helm after serving the Katz Center as an active member of the board for nearly a decade. For him and his wife Nina, supporting the Katz Center reflects a philanthropic commitment to learning as a central pillar of cultural strength and individual development in Jewish culture and beyond. “Ivan has been extraordinarily supportive and engaged throughout my time as director,” says Steven Weitzman, “bringing energy, a genuine sense of curiosity, savvy advice, and enthusiasm about the Center's future. We are extremely fortunate that we will be benefitting from his leadership.”

In his decades-long career, Ivan has worked at Skadden Arps, Goldman Sachs, and Mason Capital. Ivan and a partner recently started a boutique investment banking firm, Ardea Partners. The Rosses are the proud parents of three sons, Ethan (C’ 15); and Tyler (W’ 14) and Josh (C’19), and they are devoted philanthropists. In addition to their commitment to Jewish learning, they invest in education for disadvantaged children. Nina is a longstanding board member of Westchester Jewish Community Services, where she also has driven the successful growth of an after-school tutoring program in Mount Vernon, New York. Nina is also a generous donor to UJA where she has been a member of a nedivot group focused on Jewish continuity. Ivan is also a member of the Board of Overseers at the Jacobson Leadership Program in Law and Business at NYU School of Law.

Read more at the CAJS blog here.  


Announcing the 2017-2018 Cohort of Fellows

 

We are pleased to welcome the new cohort of fellows for the 2017-2018 academic year. They will convene in September for a year of research and discussion on the theme of Nature between Science and Religion: Jewish Culture and the Natural World. These researchers will explore the theories, institutions, and paradigms that have shaped Jewish views of nature, and the cultural and religious consequences of that engagement. 

2017-2018 Fellows [pdf] | Press Release [pdf]

These distinguished scholars will explore the theories, institutions, and paradigms that have shaped Jewish perspectives on nature, and the cultural and religious consequences of those perspectives. Fellows include researchers working on particular thinkers, texts, or theories as well as those framing the subject in relation to classical, Christian, Muslim, or similar approaches. The topic spans the entirety of Jewish history, and encompasses the history of science, the anthropology of science, philosophy,  philology, and environmental studies, among other relevant fields. With this theme, the Katz Center embraces an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, seeking to better understand how Jews have understood, interacted with, or sought to intervene into nature.  Click through for more information


Jewish Culture and Contexts: Entangled Histories

 

Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Announcing the publication of Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Jewish Culture in the Thirteenth Century, edited by Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler, published by Penn Press in association with the Katz Center (Jewish Cultures and Contexts Series), 2016

 

This volume is the result of the scholarship carried out here under the 2012-2013 fellowship theme Institutionalization, Innovation, and Conflict in 13th-Century Judaism: A Comparative View.

From halakhic innovation to blood libels, from the establishment of new mendicant orders to the institutionalization of Islamicate bureaucracy, and from the development of the inquisitorial process to the rise of yeshivas, universities, and madrasas, the long thirteenth century saw a profusion of political, cultural, and intellectual changes in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. These were informed by, and in turn informed, the religious communities from which they arose. In city streets and government buildings, Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived, worked, and disputed with one another, sharing and shaping their respective cultures in the process. The interaction born of these relationships between minority and majority cultures, from love and friendship to hostility and violence, can be described as a complex and irreducible "entanglement." The contributors to Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Jewish Culture in the Thirteenth Century argue that this admixture of persecution and cooperation was at the foundation of Jewish experience in the Middle Ages... continue reading

Contributors: Elisheva Baumgarten, Piero Capelli, Mordechai Z. Cohen, Judah Galinsky, Elisabeth Hollender, Kati Ihnat, Ephraim Kanarfogel, Katelyn Mesler, Ruth Mazo Karras, Sarah J. Pearce, Rami Reiner, Yossef Schwartz, Uri Shachar, Rebecca Winer, Luke Yarbrough

The Katz Center congratulates the editors and contributors, with shared appreciation for all of the fellows who participated in this fellowship year.


Announcing the 2017 Advanced Summer School for Graduate Students in Jewish Studies

 

Personal/Interpersonal: I, We, and You in Jewish Culture and History

This ongoing Katz Center partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem alternates between Philadelphia and Jerusalem each year. It brings together faculty and graduate students from diverse fields and institutions for a week of intensive teaching and learning. This year's theme will explore the place of individuals and the relationships between individuals in Jewish societies, past and present.

Fore more detail: http://en.mandelschool.huji.ac.il/summerschool.


Fellowship Alumni Honored

 

Congratulations to past fellow Sylvie Anne Goldberg (Prescriptive Traditions and Lived Experience, 2003-2004) and Penn Hillel director (and current LEAP fellow) Mike Uram on their recognition by the Jewish Book Council.  Goldberg was a finalist for the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award for best book of scholarship for her Clepsydra: Essay on the Plurality of Time in Judaism (SUP). Uram won for best book on education and Jewish identity for his Next Generation Judaism: How College Students amd Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations.  

Fellowship alumna Eva Mroczek (Beyond Reason, 2015-2016) has won a Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, whoch recognizes outstanding doctoral or first post-doctoral works that address the topic "God and Spirituality," broadly understood. Every year, ten scholars are selected for this honor by an international committee of evaluators from 18 countries.

The Cashmere Subvention Grant in Jewish Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies has been awarded to past fellow Natalia Aleksiun (Wissenschaft, 2014-2015) and Elissa Bemporad for their forthcoming volume, Gender and Jewish Women in Central and Eastern Europe.  

Fellowship alumnus Andrew Berns (Wissenschaft 2014-2015) has been awarded the Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize from the American Catholic Historial Association for his book, The Bible and Natural Philosophy in Renaissance Italy: Jewish and Christian Physicians in Search of Truth


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.