Katz Center News


December Symposium Program Now Available


The program for the 2017 December Symposium is set. Speakers and responders include fellows as well as scholars from across the tri-state area.

Click here to view the program for the event and be sure to RSVP to Carrie Love at carrielo@sas.upenn.edu by December 6!  

Naftali Levy: An Interesting Species (or min) of Jewish Evolutionist // Daniel Langton // CAJS Blog


Big ideas don't come any bigger than Darwinism, and I've spent a fascinating few years looking at the impact of evolutionary theories on Jewish history and culture. I've discovered a wide variety of species of Jewish evolutionists rethinking their texts and traditions: from Italian kabbalist Elijah Benamozegh to religious Zionist Abraham Isaac Kook, from Anglo-Jewish eugenicist Lucien Wolf to US Reform rabbis Joseph Krauskopf and Isaac Mayer Wise. Even the Holocaust has been reconsidered in light of The Origin of Species, in the works of Mordecai Kaplan and Hans Jonas.

Sometimes one puts off reading a particular thinker because of one's preconceptions, and Naftali Levy (1840–1894) is a case in point. Three other studies have been made of this Polish rabbi's Toldot Adam or The Origin of Man (1874), and, frankly, I doubted that there would be much more to say... 

Read more on the CAJS Blog

The 2017-2018 Cohort of Fellows


The 2017-2018 fellows convened 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

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.