New: Natalie B. Dohrmann Appointed Associate Director of the Katz Center
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Natalie B. Dohrmann as Associate Director of the Katz Center.
Dr. Dohrmann first came to the Katz Center as a fellow during the 2001–2002 program on biblical exegesis and shortly after she was appointed Executive Editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review and Director of Publications of the Katz Center. To cite the journal’s co-editor David N. Myers (UCLA): “Natalie Dohrmann is, simply put, the anchor of JQR. Her unique blend of editorial creativity and intellectual rigor has guided the journal to a position of respect and prominence in the field of Jewish studies. It is both a joy and a privilege to work with her.” Over the past years, Dr. Dohrmann has played an increasingly important role in almost every aspect of the Center’s programs and has consistently demonstrated her leadership in shaping the vision of the Center.
An expert on rabbinic Judaism, Dr. Dohrmann received her doctorate from the University of Chicago. She has published on ancient Jewish law and its Greco-Roman context. Her publications include “The Boundaries of the Law and the Problem of Jurisdiction in an Early Palestinian Midrash,” in Rabbinic Law in its Roman and Near Eastern Context, ed. C. Hezser (2003), and “Law and Imperial Idioms: Genre and the Hegemony of Jewish Law,” in The Poetics of Power: Judaism, Christianity, and the Roman Empire, eds. Natalie Dohrmann and Annette Reed (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming). She has also co-edited with David Stern Jewish Biblical Interpretation and Cultural Exchange: Comparative Exegesis in Context (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) in which she has a piece titled "Manumission and Transformation in Jewish and Roman Law." Dr. Dohrmann offers courses at Penn on Jews and Judaism in antiquity and is known to undergraduates as a dynamic and inspirational teacher.
As Associate Director of the Katz Center, Dr. Dohrmann will maintain her responsibilities as the Executive Editor of JQR while being involved in all programs at the Center. As David Ruderman adds: “Her promotion to associate director is both a fitting tribute to her extraordinary past service to the Center and to our firm belief in her future contributions.”
New: Summer School for Doctoral Students in Judaic Studies
The Hebrew University and the Katz Center are pleased to announce a new summer school for students pursuing doctoral studies in all fields of Judaic studies. The summer school will be held alternately in Jerusalem and Philadelphia, beginning in the summer of 2012 in Jerusalem. The school is open to all graduate students in the first three years of their studies and will offer full or partial fellowships to successful candidates for travel and living expenses depending on need. The objective of the school is to expand the academic horizons of the participants by exposing them to new approaches and new areas of study in Jewish civilization. In small seminar settings focused on specific textual readings with senior faculty and with some of the best and brightest students from around the world, we hope to create a sense of social and intellectual connection among all participants, enhancing their relationships with each other and with other fields beyond their specific areas of specialization. The summer school will also take advantage of the rich scholarly resources of both Jerusalem and Philadelphia by arranging visits to libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions. The school will be jointly directed by Israel Yuval (Hebrew University) and David Ruderman (University of Pennsylvania) who will be joined by a faculty carefully chosen to enhance the intellectual ambiance the school hopes to foster.
Summer school topic for 2012 Mingled Identities: Rethinking the Notion of Identity in Jewish Culture (July 8–17, 2012)
The 2012 summer school will probe the meaning of Jewish identity across the sweep of Jewish history. Recent scholarship on the history of Judaism as well as the history of western religions in general has moved away from the narratives of religious conflict and separation. Instead of border maintenance, scholars increasingly speak of border crossings, socio-cultural mixing, hybridity, and mingled identities when examining the histories of interaction between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Such explorations have challenged the meaning of Jewish culture itself. What elements in specific Jewish cultures can we speak of as enduring or internal, and how are these ideas themselves created and disseminated? Is it not more productive to examine Jewish cultures at their borders, at their sites of cultural contact and exchange with other cultures, rather than merely to study them in isolation in search of their essential nature?
Through an intense seminar format, students will explore these questions with a faculty of distinguished scholars representing variegated fields and approaches to Jewish studies, as they emerge from close readings in original languages and open discussion. While all teaching and discussion will occur in English, a strong reading knowledge of Hebrew will be required of all participants.
In the spring seminars on the theme of conversion, the Katz Center fellows approached the topic from a wide range of methodological perspectives, and transversed evidence from centuries of Jewish history. Research presented focused on variegated issues such as the genealogy of the terminology used for conversion, the idea of joining Israel in biblical literature and beyond, conversion of individuals in medieval and early-modern Europe, conversion as a literary trope in Victorian culture, and conversion as a reality in southern Italy and Israel. The fellowship year culminated with the seventeenth annual Gruss Colloquium in Judaic Studies, where the fellows and invited guests convened for a two-day conference. The colloquium was made possible through the generous support of Martin D. Gruss(W’64).
Fourteenth Annual Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Lecture
David Nirenberg (University of Chicago) delivered the Fourteenth Annual Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Lecture, “Converting Canvas: Christian Art’s Struggle with Judaism from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.” Nirenberg traced the ways that Christianity worked out its own complicated relationship to images, aesthetics, hermeneutics, and the corruptible world through the trope of the Jew. By tracing the depiction of Jews in medieval and early-modern Christian art and literature, Nirenberg opened up a host of questions about the possibilities, limits, and dangers of visual representation. If, as he argued, Christian artists understood part of their identity to be “Jewish”—grounded in the literal—then the phenomena of “conversion” might be better understood not merely as the crossing of rigid religious boundaries, but instead as the mutable coexistence of aspects or components in the cultural self-image of religious practitioners.
The Meyerhoff Lecture was established by the Joseph Meyerhoff Memorial Trusts to honor the generosity and service of Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz and the late Herbert D. Katz to Penn’s Department of History and the Katz Center. It was cosponsored by the Kutchin Seminar Series of the Jewish Studies Program, the Department of History, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Katz Center.
This year’s fellowship program homes in on the idea and practice of travel in Jewish history and literature. Travel writing has served a variety of social and ideological functions throughout the ages, from documenting the sights taken in by the tourist to charting travels of dislocation and return, pilgrimage, trade and conquest, and the imaginary journey. Such narratives hold a prominent place in formative Jewish and non-Jewish fictions of identity. The inherent richness and diversity of travel writing makes it a perfect venue for an interdisciplinary approach. By exploring the phenomena from many angles we hope to shed light on the Jewish experience, as observer as well as observed, as rootless and home-bound. Travel genres also link Jewish travel to larger historical experiences of globalization, leisure, identity formation, and alienation, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
This Fellowship Program will bring together scholars of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic social and intellectual history. The aim of this interdisciplinary enterprise will be to develop a more fully integrated account of Europe and the Mediterranean basin in the thirteenth century. Major attention will be paid to the way that material and social changes contributed to the creation of new kinds of political and religious institutions and also to the formation of new intellectual horizons and religious concepts. We will also consider the era’s intellectual ferment and criticism of established norms, both within the framework of traditional religious boundaries and beyond. Diverse phenomena such as the appearance of Kabbalah and the institutionalization of Sufi brotherhoods, the creation of new philosophic and scientific cultures, the rise of universities, the establishment of mendicant orders, the evolution of medieval Halakhah, and the creation of the Inquisition shall be considered, not only as isolated phenomena but in their mutual interrelations. Scholars in the humanities and social sciences at all levels, as well as outstanding graduate students in the final stage of writing their dissertations are encouraged to apply. Stipend amounts are based on a fellow’s academic standing and financial need with a maximum of $45,000 for the academic year. The application deadline is November 10, 2011. Awards will be announced by February 1, 2012.
In Becoming the People of the Talmud, Talya Fishman examines ways in which circumstances of transmission have shaped the cultural meaning of Jewish traditions. Although the Talmud’s preeminence in Jewish study and its determining role in Jewish practice are generally taken for granted, Fishman contends that these roles were not solidified until the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. The inscription of Talmud—which Sefardi Jews understand to have occurred quite early, and Ashkenazi Jews only later—precipitated these developments. The encounter with Oral Torah as a written corpus was transformative for both subcultures, and it shaped the roles that Talmud came to play in Jewish life. (Adapted from the website of University of Pennsylvania Press).
Talya Fishman (Universityof Pennsylvania) worked on this book during the 2003–2004 Fellowship Program: Prescriptive Traditions and Lived Experience in the Jewish Religion.
Each of the fifteen essays collected in this volume uses literary production and writing in general as the laboratory in which to explore and represent Jewish experience in the modern world. Works in Hebrew and Yiddish are amply represented, but works in English, French, German, Italian, Ladino, and Russian are also considered. Topics range from the poetry of the Israeli nationalist Natan Alterman (1910–1970) to the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam (1891–1938); from turn-of-the-century Ottoman Jewish journalism to wire-recorded Holocaust testimonies; from the intellectual salons of late eighteenth-century Berlin to the shelves of a Jewish bookstore in twentieth-century Los Angeles. (Adapted from the website of University of Pennsylvania Press).
The mass migration of East European Jews and their resettlement in cities throughout Europe, the United States, Argentina, the Middle East and Australia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries not only transformed the demographic and cultural centers of world Jewry, it also reshaped Jews’ understanding and performance of their diasporic identities. Rebecca Kobrin’s study of the dispersal of Jews from one city in Poland—Bialystok—demonstrates how the act of migration set in motion a wide range of transformations that led the migrants to imagine themselves as exiles not only from the mythic Land of Israel but most immediately from their east European homeland. Kobrin explores the organizations, institutions, newspapers, and philanthropies that the Bialystokers created around the world and that reshaped their perceptions of exile and diaspora. (Adapted from the website of Indiana University Press).
How did ancient Jewish authors claim authority for their interpretations? How, after the “end of prophecy,” could they claim the authority of revelation? Whom did one have to be, or aspire to be, in order to merit authority? In Past Renewals: Interpretative Authority, Renewed Revelation, and the Quest for Perfection in Jewish Antiquity, HindyNajman tackles these questions by studying practices of pseudepigraphy and authoritative interpretation within a variety of ancient Jewish texts, e.g., Ezra-Nehemiah, Philo of Alexandria, 4Ezra, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Jubilees. (Adapted from the website of Oxford University Press).
Hindy Najman (University of Toronto/2007–2008 Fellow)
This book provides the first full-length case study of early postwar Holocaust testimony, focusing on David Boder’s 1946 displaced persons interview project. In July 1946, Boder, a psychologist, traveled to Europe to interview victims of the Holocaust who were in the Displaced Persons (DP) camps. During his nine weeks in Europe, Boder carried out approximately one hundred and thirty interviews in nine languages and recorded them on a wire recorder. Alan Rosen sets Boder’s project in the context of the postwar response to displaced persons, sketches the dramatic background of his previous life and work, chronicles in detail the evolving process of interviewing both Jewish and non-Jewish DPs, and examines from several angles the implications for the history of Holocaust testimony. (Adapted from the website of Oxford University Press).
Alan Rosen (Yad Vashem, Israel) began working on this project during the 2004–2005 Fellowship Program: Modern Jewish Literatures.
The Jewish Quarterly Review may have passed its one hundredth birthday, but its pages are as lively as ever. The journal continues to draw work from wonderful scholars young and old. Take a look at the table of contents for JQR 101.3 (summer 2011) and JQR 101.4 (fall 2011).
Every month, Project Muse, the main online distributor of TheJewish Quarterly Review publishes a top ten list—naming the most viewed or downloaded articles of the quarter from the recent volumes (ranging only back to 2005). It is always an instructive list for us; and from this recent top ten you can get a sense of the journal's reach and our readers' current appetites.
Monday, November 7, 7PM Oded Irshai Blood in the Street: Jews among Christians in Late Antiquity Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Ave., Wynnewood, PA 19096
Monday, November 28, 7PM Miriam Frenkel Golden Age or History of Sorrow? Jewish Life under Medieval Islam Beth Am Israel 1301 Hagys Ford Rd., Penn Valley, PA 19072
Monday, December 5, 7PM Iris Idelson-Shein Hairy Women and Noble Savages: Jews, Christians, and Others during the Long Eighteenth Century
Haub Executive Center, McShain Hall
Saint Joseph's University 5600 City Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19131
All lectures are free and open to the public.
In spring 2012, our fellows will participate in a lecture series on Jewish travel throughout the ages, engaging topics ranging from the depiction of Jewish travel in visual media (photography, film, postcards and advertising), to the interaction of Jewish authors with European and American models of expansion and discovery. The theme of Jewish travel allows one to explore and better understand many issues pertaining to the formation of Jewish identity in the past as well as in the present and we look forward to many intriguing conversations. The 2012 Penn Lectures on Jewish Travel will run from January to March in greater Philadelphia.
All lectures are free and open to the public.
If you would like to receive emails about upcoming public lectures and events in the area, please send a note with your email address to Etty Lassman (email@example.com).
Public Lectures in Philadelphia and New York City (Spring 2011)
As in previous years, the Katz Center collaborated with other institutions to build exciting and accessible programs for broad audiences. Over thirteen hundred people participated this year in our various public events. Reflecting the richness and relevance of the fellowship program on conversion, the fellows touched upon many intriguing topics such as the debate about mixed marriage during the Second Temple period, conversion from Judaism in late medieval Spain, and conversion policies in the State of Israel.
This series was made possible through a generous endowment from the Harry Stern Family Foundation, the support of the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education/Jewish Outreach Partnership in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and the support of the National Museum of American Jewish History.
In April, fellows participated in a symposium on conversion to and from Judaism at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. The first panel—including stimulating presentations by our fellows David Satran (Hebrew University), Paola Tartakoff (Rutgers University), and Fabrizio Lelli (Università del Salento, Italy)—centered on conversion in Jewish history from the biblical period to the mid-twentieth century. The second panel—featuring WNYC radio personality Brian Lehrer and including, among other distinguished participants, our fellow Ellie Schainker (Emory University)—presented a range of important voices on conversion in Judaism today and addressed such related topics as intermarriage, denominational debates, and the status of non-Jews in Israel today.
The program in New York City was cosponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society, the Center for Jewish History, Centro Primo Levi, Yeshiva University Museum, and the Katz Center. We thank Natalia Indrimi (Centro Primo Levi), Judith Siegel (Center for Jewish History), Jacob Wisse (Yeshiva University Museum), and especially Jonathan Karp (American Jewish Historical Society) for their efforts in mounting this program.
This spring we continued our programs at Penn Hillel with the aim of facilitating conversations between fellows and Penn undergraduates. Ayala Eliyahu (Hebrew University) spoke about the treasures of the Cairo Geniza and Fabrizio Lelli (Università del Salento, Italy) shared with the students his passion for Hebrew inscriptions on statues from sixteenth-century Florence.
These programs were cosponsored by Hillel Education, the Orthodox Community at Penn (OCP), and the Katz Center. We thank Michael Rubin (C'12) and Rita Wahba (C'12) for their help organizing the events.
The Penn Libraries have received a major collection of 280 medieval and renaissance Manuscripts, valued at over $20 million, from long-time benefactors and Library Board members Lawrence J. Schoenberg (C’53, WG’57, PAR’93) and Barbara Brizdle Schoenberg. To promote the use of this and other manuscript collections at Penn, the Libraries will create the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. The Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection reflects the passions of its collector—art, science, mathematics and technology—and is utterly unique, comprising early manuscripts in Eastern and Western languages and illuminating the scope of premodern knowledge of the physical world in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions.
Among the most beautiful of the Hebrew manuscripts in the Schoenberg collection is an early fifteenth-century Book of Esther, which is on display in the rare book room of the library at the Katz Center. Written in codex form in a fifteenth-century square Italian hand, this text, amounting to sixteen leaves in total, originally formed part of a larger miscellany. Following the Book of Esther there is a single added folio which contains two liturgical poems: Asher Heni (He Who Wrecked) and Shoshanat Ya‘akov (The Rose of Jacob), written in a semi-cursive rabbinic Italian hand. According to Librarian and Archivist Bruce Nielsen (University of Pennsylvania), who has studied the manuscript thoroughly, “while a codex such as this would not fulfill one’s obligation to hear Esther read on Purim except by listening to it read from [an intact] megilah (scroll), the presence of these two liturgical poems associated with Purim indicates that in its current form the codex was adapted for Purim.” Notably, the scribe left space around the text of Esther for the elaborate illumination and decorations which were added at a considerably later time.
Another extraordinary manuscript in the Schoenberg Collection is an original copy—one of only three known to be extant in the world—of the “Livornina,” a charter of toleration, enacted on June 10, 1593 by authority of the Medici Grand Duke Ferdinand I (1549–1609) to attract foreign merchants to the Tuscan free port of Livorno just south of Pisa. Written on blind-ruled contemporary Italian goatskin, this document is one of the most important landmarks on the path to Jewish legal emancipation in Europe. The “Livornina” granted Jews the right to settle in Livorno and gave them unprecedented protections, including the right to build a synagogue, own real estate, establish a cemetery, and practice medicine.
Bonnie L. Blankenshiphas beenessential to the operation ofthe Jewish Quarterly Review for over thirty years. Her hard work, professionalism, and infectious laughter are all part of what makes the Katz Center what it is. The following is an interview between Bonnie Blankenshipand Yechiel Schur (Klatt Family Director for Public Programs, Katz Center):
YS: How did you come to work at JQR?
BB: When I was hired in 1978 as the receptionist at Dropsie College, in addition to my duties at the reception desk I processed student admission application forms. I was officially appointed the registrar of Dropsie College in 1981 and also began working for JQR, first as secretary until 1989 and then as manager. During the transition from Dropsie College to the Annenberg Research Institute I continued to serve as registrar to the remaining dissertation students until 1992 when administering JQR became my main occupation.
YS: Would you like to share with the readers some memorable moments from your work at JQR?
BB: I am the front line of JQR communication with the scholars who write and review for us. One builds pretty close relationships over 30 years! I know about new babies, sick parents, new jobs (all excuses for not having a report in on time), and you really get to know folks. On occasion, I see at the Katz Center fellows with whom I have exchanged emails for a long time but never met before. Having the opportunity to get to know some of these wonderful scholars is most gratifying. I vividly recall how one well-known scholar brought back from one of his research trips miniature perfumes for all the “ladies” at the Katz Center. One other prominent scholar gave me as a souvenir a small pillow embroidered with “There’s no place like home,” which I still keep in my “home” at the Katz Center. These human gestures taught me that no matter where we come from or what our passion might be, we share many similarities with one another.
YS: What is JQR for you?
BB:JQR is a very special journal for me, having been part of it for so many years. It is clearly an impressive academic journal that has gained the respect of many readers in Jewish studies and beyond. But what I particularly like about JQR is the excellent rapport that we have with the academic world. Every submission is considered thoroughly by invaluable anonymous readers and we always strive to offer authors constructive suggestions and criticisms based on readers’ remarks, no matter what the decision concerning publication may be. That we are able to continuously handle our affairs so respectfully and kindly makes me proud of being part of this remarkable journal.