Katz Center News


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

Elliott Horowitz, z"l

Elliott Horowitz (1953–2017)

The editors and staff of the Jewish Quarterly Review express our profound sadness at the untimely death of our friend and colleague, Professor Elliott Horowitz. For nearly fifteen years, Elliott lent his unique intellect, editorial skills, and humor to JQR, which he helped shape into one of the leading scholarly forums in the field of Jewish studies. A dedicated Anglophile, Elliott took seriously the English roots of JQR (founded in London in 1889), and delighted in recovering treasures from the journal in its early years. His own essays in our pages, famous for their humor and bibliographic bounty, borrowed from the impressionistic and associative style of Israel Abraham, one of the journal’s founding English editors. Working with Elliott on the journal—or, in fact, editing his own articles—was never a race to the finish, but rather a leisurely country outing, replete with ample stops to reflect on the beauty of the surroundings.

Apart from his work for JQR, Elliott was a uniquely creative cultural historian. He relished and perfected the article form, producing some of the most innovative pieces in early modern Jewish history in the last half-century, including his path-breaking “Coffee, Coffee Houses, and the Nocturnal Rituals of Early Modern Jewry” (1989). Few scholars of the Jewish past can think of coffee, the Safedian practice of midnight study (tikune hatsot), Italian confraternities, or Purim without immediately summoning up the work of Elliott Horowitz. His monograph Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (2006), which was a runner-up for the National Jewish Book Award, brought together his enduring and fearless scholarly curiosity with his ethical concern for the way in which religion has been used and abused. This book, like so much of his work, bore traces of his deep humanity, which we all will sorely miss. He was a polymath, an iconoclast, and indeed a decent and caring person whose wit had few peers.

We at the journal, and indeed the field, will miss a friend and colleague whose time came far too soon.

posted March 21, 2017

Just Out: 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.

Effundere in Latrinam // JQR blog

posted March 10, 2017

In Pope Innocent III’s 1205 papal bull Etsi Iudeos, we read that “on the day of the Lord’s resurrection the Christian wet nurses of [Jewish] children receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, for three days [their Jewish patrons] make them express milk into the latrine before they may nurse [the Jewish children].”

Jeremy Cohen’s lively and meticulous rereading of this bull (JQR 107.1, winter 2017) overturns its standard interpretation among Jewish historians, taking aim at the way bad habits and biases get passed among members of academic guilds. He does not exempt even himself in this micro-history of misreading, and his reconstruction offers a cleaner view into the place of the Jews in early 13th-century church doctrine.

We have made the full text of Cohen's Note available for free here.


JQR 107.1 (Winter 2017) Arrives on Newsstands


The latest issue of JQR just arrived

“Those Who Descend upon the Sea Told Me…”: Myth and Tall Tale in Baba Batra 73a–74b
       Daniel J. Frim
God and His Son: Christian Affinities in the Shaping of the Sava and Yanuka Figures in the Zohar
       Jonatan M. Benarroch

The Nascent Nationalization of Holy Sites: The Conceptual Evolution of the Western Wall and Rachel’s Tomb and Its Expression in Yishuv-Era Visual Representations
       Kobi Cohen-Hattab & Ayelet Kohn

The PLO’s Rabbi: Palestinian Nationalism and Reform Judaism [Read Jonathan's blog post here]
       Jonathan Gribetz

Pope Innocent III, Christian Wet-Nurses, and Jews: A Misunderstanding and Its Impact
       Jeremy Cohen [available for free download]

The PLO and the Pittsburgh Platform // Jonathan Gribetz // JQR blog

posted February 26 2017

What makes someone Jewish and who gets to decide? These questions divide Jews in the Diaspora from those in Israel and divide Jews from one another everywhere. While there is no Jewish consensus on the definition of the Jews or on who has the right to decide, most Jews, I suspect, are united in this conviction: non-Jews (that is, people who make no claim to being Jewish themselves) have no business participating in this debate. All the more so when those non-Jews are regarded as hostile to Jewish interests. So when they confront the Palestine Liberation Organization’s declaration in its founding charter of 1964 that “Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong,” Jews tend not only to underscore the self-serving nature of those lines but also to protest reflexively and adamantly: Who are the Palestinians to tell us Jews what Judaism is and what makes us Jews?! (Some also add—apparently without recognizing the irony—that there is no such thing as a “Palestinian” anyway, as they are simply Arabs.)  But what if that Palestinian definition of the Jews and Judaism were actually a (not the but a) Jewish definition? How might the PLO charter be understood differently if we were to see German and American Reform rabbis, rather than Palestinian militants, behind the definition of the Jews and Judaism that the Palestinian charter espoused?

Jonathan Gribetz

Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies and the Program in Judaic Studies, Princeton University

Katz Center Fellow, 2009-2010, Secularism and Its Discontents: Rethinking an Organizing Principle of Modern Jewish Life

Read Jonathan Gribetz's fascinating history of the PLO's explorations and use of Reform Judaism in his essay "The PLO's Rabbi: Palestinian Nationalism and Reform Judaism" in JQR 107.1 (Winter 2017). On newsstands now.  

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.

Full details, including this year's faculty, and the application portal (due March 1) are here: 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

Meet the 2016-2017 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.
This fellowship year promises many opportunities to explore the intersections of Jewish studies and political theory. See our calendar for Katz Center-related events on campus and beyond, many of which will be open to the public.

To see the fall seminar schedule click here. Seminars are open to faculty and invited guests. RSVP is required. Please contact Karen Schnitker with questions or to RSVP kschn@sas.upenn.edu.