Sheila Allen has been the Administrative Coordinator of the Katz Center since its inception in 1993. She works closely with David Ruderman in all aspects of the Center's work and is also indispensable to incoming fellows and visiting scholars—from their earliest contact as applicants, to the many ways she helps them settle into Philadelphia and into their work here at the Center.
David Ruderman offers these thoughts regarding Sheila's retirement:
“It is hard to imagine the Katz Center without Sheila Allen. Ever since I arrived in my new job seventeen and a half years ago, she has been my guide, my collaborator, and my counsel. It is hard to imagine the daily functioning of the Center and the completion of my multiple tasks without her assistance. Sheila and I have a running joke: We are personally insulted by people who don't answer us by email within five minutes! We like instant responses to our queries; we enjoy efficiency and high performance; and our worries and concerns, after so many years, coincide with each other's. In fact, she anticipates my concerns even before I even articulate them. It is a truism that behind good administrators are strong assistants. I consider myself a very good administrator and I attribute my strengths to Sheila's unwavering support and mastery of detail. Sheila is an institution's dream: caring, committed, highly efficient, and personable. It comes as no surprise that Sheila has so many admirers and friends among the fellows who remain in touch with her year after year. She has given them so much; and she has given the director even more. She is a wonderful colleague and a dear friend.”
The following is an interview between Sheila Allen and Yechiel Schur (Klatt Family Director for Public Programs, Katz Center):
YS: How did you come to work at the Center?
SA: In 1976, after two years as a stay-at-home mom, I was seeking a part-time position. I had prior experience working at Temple University which I enjoyed, and wanted to continue working in an academic environment. I applied to Dropsie College (the Center's predecessor institution) and was hired as secretary to the Friends of Dropsie College, the college's fundraising arm.
YS: How would you describe your time at the Katz Center?
SH: The Center has been not only a large part of my life, but a tremendously important part. It has provided me with the rare opportunity to meet and work with scholars of all ranks from throughout the world, and I have formed some dear friendships. The staff, several of whom have worked together for many years, has become like an extended family. I have also been privileged and delighted in more ways than I can say, to have worked with David Ruderman for the last eighteen years. To say that we work together hand-in-glove is not an exaggeration. It's been a great ride.
YS: Would you like to share with the readers some memorable moments from your work at the Center?
SH: The most memorable moments for me have been the personal encounters with those who inhabit the Center whether for one year or for many—the fellows and staff, as well as the wider Penn community of faculty, staff and graduate students I have come to know. I especially enjoy reconnecting with our visiting fellows who return for a lecture, seminar, colloquium, or another year of study. One of my favorite experiences was the Festschrift-announcement surprise we planned for David Ruderman at last year's conference. Trying to keep the details secret; trying to hide his closest friends who were lurking in corridors just out of sight was quite a challenge and enormous fun. I also fondly recall the year that two of our fellows, married to one another, catered our final seminar. They cooked it all, from appetizers to dessert. Another great memory is the year that our fellows—many of whom had just met one another here for the first time and who were unable to be with their families during Passover—planned, cooked, decorated the room, and held a beautiful Passover seder at the Center. On the wall above my desk I have placed a collection of photographs of fellows taken at Center events, which serves as a constant reminder of some of the wonderful people I have met and worked with. I plan to take these pictures with me when I retire.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 5:00 pm
Claudia Cohen Hall, Room G17, University of Pennsylvania 249 South 36th Street, Philadelphia PA 19104
In 1943 Karl Baedeker, publisher of the well-known and long-established series of European tourist guides, issued a new volume on the General Government region of Nazi-occupied Poland. Indistinguishable in format from the rest of the series, the guide was sponsored and introduced by the Governor General Hans Frank (later hanged at Nuremberg). It was intended not only to provide German visitors to the region with the usual tourist information on accommodation, sight-seeing etc., but also to fulfill Frank's political agenda: to showcase his semi-autonomous fiefdom as an outpost of age-old German culture and a harbinger of the Nazi new order in the east. This lecture will discuss how the surface normality of a tourist handbook was related to the project of racial imperialism pursued by Frank and the Nazi regime in this region.
Jane Caplan is Professor of Modern European History at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford. She has worked mainly on the history of Nazi Germany and is currently researching the proof and policing of identity in the Third Reich. She is equally interested in the documentation of individual identity in nineteenth-century Europe, especially the written and visual marks of identity on and off the body and their status in political and legal discourse.
This event is cosponsored by the Department of History, the Jewish Studies Program, the Penn Political Theory Workshop, Department of German, and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. The event is free and open to the public.
Constructing Borders and Crossing Boundaries: Social, Cultural and Religious Change in Early Modern Jewish History (2013–2014)
Scholars working in a wide variety of disciplines have long identified the late fifteenth through the late eighteenth century as a discrete historical period called “Early Modern.” Among scholars interested in the place of Jews and Jewish culture within this period, however, there has been little attempt to think broadly about early modernity as a whole or to connect the insights of discrete studies in any coherent and meaningful way. This research group will create a conversation that connects these smaller units and so examines those changes in the Jewish world which characterized the Early Modern. We will focus on the issue of borders and boundaries, understood as not only geographical, but also social, cultural, legal, political, and economic. Some divided and connected the Jewish and the non-Jewish, while others functioned within Jewish society, creating internal divisions and conjunctures. Considering, among other things, the breakdown of old social and cultural boundaries and the construction of new ones, the boundary as both a dividing line and a place of meeting and mixing between different groups (Jewish and non-Jewish), and the ambiguities inherent in situations where elites envisioned strong boundaries while others ignored them (and vice versa), will encourage a wide ranging discussion on the very nature of both Jewish Early Modernity and the early modern period in general.
Proposals might address the following questions:
How did the establishment of new Jewish centers in new places with new legal frameworks affect the development of Jewish society and culture?
What were the nature and characteristics of Jewish transregional networks in the Early Modern age?
How did the religious and cultural borders between Ashkenazim and Sephardim change?
How did the spread of printing affect cultural and intellectual boundaries both inside Jewish society and between Jews and non-Jews?
To what extent did early modern Jewish society witness shifts in its cultural borders, such as those between men and women, the educated and the uneducated, and the rabbinic and lay elites?
How did early modern European religious and intellectual life affect the social, cultural and political boundaries between Jews and non-Jews?
What are the implications of changes in the social, cultural, religious, and political borders of the early modern Jewish world for our understanding of the early modern period in general and of the modern Jewish experience in particular?
The Center invites applications from scholars in the humanities and social sciences at all levels, as well as outstanding graduate students in the final stages of writing their dissertations. Stipend amounts are based on a fellow’s academic standing and financial need with a maximum of $50,000 for the academic year. A contribution also may be made toward travel expenses. The application deadline is November 10, 2012. Fellowship recipients will be notified by February 1, 2013.
We look forward to our next Fellowship Program: Institutionalization, Innovation, and Conflict in Thirteenth-Century Judaism: A Comparative View. This year at the Center will bring together scholars of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic social and intellectual history with the aim of developing a more 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 philosophically-oriented scientific cultures, the rise of universities, the establishment of mendicant orders, the evolution of Halakhah, and the creation of the Inquisition shall be considered, not only as isolated phenomena but in their mutual interrelations.
Recap of Fall 2011
Travel Facts and Travel Fiction
Joshua Levinson, Ora Limor, Martin Jacobs, and Jack Kugelmass
Our conversations on travel began in the fall with a roundtable discussion between the authors of the original proposal: Martin Jacobs (Washington University), Joshua Levinson (Hebrew University), Ora Limor (Open University), and a fourth fellow, Jack Kugelmass (University of Florida), who brought to the table an important anthropological perspective. Throughout the weekly seminars, fellows presented on a variety of topics ranging from rabbinic travel narratives to a reassessment of Benjamin of Tudela's famous medieval travelogue to recent memory books written by Yemenite women. In December, the fellows marked the end of their semester's work with a full-day workshop: Intersections: Jews and Travel. In addition to the papers, there was also an interview and discussion with Roger Allen (University of Pennsylvania) on his translation of a nineteenth-century Egyptian traveler. A special thanks to the two organizers Orit Bashkin (University of Chicago) and Chaim Noy (Sapir College, Israel). We resumed our weekly seminars in January with several new fellows joining the discussion and look forward to the culmination of the program in the Gruss Colloquium: Jews and Journeys (April 29–May 1, 2012).
David Ruderman addresses those gathered at the 2011 Board Members Retreat
As in previous years, we continued the tradition of offering board members the opportunity to study and interact with fellows for a one-day retreat. Fellows spoke about American Jewish visits to Poland and about the ways in which the travel of Iraqi Jews can inform our thinking about Arab-Jewish relations in Iraq. The second part of the program involved a vivid conversation about contemporary travel, touching on birthright trips, travels of Israeli youth to death camps in Poland, and the phenomenon of Israeli backpackers in South Asia, including their gathering at massive Passover seders in India and Nepal.
Glory and Agony is the first history of the shifting attitudes toward national sacrifice in Hebrew culture over the last century. Its point of departure is Zionism’s preoccupation with its haunting “primal scene” of sacrifice, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, as evidenced in wide-ranging sources from the domains of literature, art, psychology, philosophy, and politics. By placing these sources in conversation with twentieth-century thinking on human sacrifice, violence, and martyrdom, this study draws a complex picture that provides multiple, sometimes contradictory insights into the genesis and gender of national sacrifice. (Adapted from the website of Stanford University Press).
Yael S. Feldman (New York University) worked on this book during the 2009–2010 Fellowship Program: Secularism and Its Discontents: Rethinking an Organizing Principle of Modern Jewish Life.
Foreigners and Their Food explores how Jews, Christians, and Muslims conceptualize “us” and “them” through rules about the preparation of food by adherents of other religions and the act of eating with such outsiders. Freidenreich analyzes the significance of food to religious formation, elucidating the ways ancient and medieval scholars use food restrictions to think about the “other,” shape ideas about religious foreigners, and draw communal boundaries. (Adapted from the website of University of California Press).
David M. Freidenreich (Colby College) worked on this book during the 2006–2007 Fellowship Program: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Life under Caliphs and Sultans.
This book uncovers the life and work of the legendary Renaissance scholar Isaac Casaubon (1559–1614). Grafton and Weinberg follow Casaubon as he unearths the lost continent of Hebrew learning, and adds this ancient lore to the well-known Renaissance revival of Latin and Greek. Close reading and sedulous inquiry were Casaubon’s tools in recapturing the lost learning of the ancients, and these are the tools that serve Grafton and Weinberg as they pore through pre-1600 books in Hebrew, and through Casaubon’s own manuscript notebooks. Their search takes them from Oxford to Cambridge, and from Dublin to Cambridge, Massachusetts, as they reveal how the scholar discovered the learning of the Hebrews—and at what cost. (Adapted from the website of Harvard University Press).
Anthony Grafton (Princeton University) and Joanna Weinberg (Oxford University) participated in the 2005–2006 Fellowship Program: The Jewish Book: Material Texts and Comparative Contexts.
Why should we be excluded from the history and literature of Judaism, Geoffrey Hartman asks, because the world of our fathers and mothers became a secularized one or because religious literacy, whatever our faith or community affiliation, has gone into relative decline? And why do those who have no trouble finding pleasure and intellectual profit in the Greek and Roman classics or in the literary and artistic productions of two millennia of Western Christianity not easily find equal resonance and reward in the major texts of Jewish tradition? For if Christianity and the classical inheritance stand as two pillars of Western civilization, Hartman argues, surely the third pillar is the Jewish tradition. The Third Pillar collects some of the most important and eloquent of Hartman’s essays on the major texts of the Jewish tradition. In three groupings, on Bible, midrash, and education, Hartman clarifies the relevance of contemporary literary criticism to canonical texts in the tradition, while demonstrating what has been—and what still remains to be—learned from the midrash to enrich the interpretation of commentary and art, sacred or secular. (Adapted from the website of University of Pennsylvania Press).
Geoffrey Hartman is Sterling Professor Emeritus & Senior Research Scholar of English and Comparative Literature at Yale University. He has been a major force in literary theory for many decades. His importance to Jewish studies lies in his linkage of rabbinic midrash to the western literary canon. Last year, the Katz Center republished his seminal essays on midrash and literature with a new introduction, underscoring their significance for Jewish studies and giving them a new life for a younger generation of students. Hartman has been a frequent visitor to the Center and has participated in several of its seminars over the years.
Over the past several decades, the field of Jewish studies has expanded to encompass an unprecedented range of research topics, historical periods, geographic regions, and analytical approaches. Yet there have been few systematic efforts to trace these developments, to consider their implications, and to generate new concepts appropriate to a more inclusive view of Jewish culture and society. Jewish Studies at the Crossroads of Anthropology and History brings together scholars in anthropology, history, religious studies, comparative literature, and other fields to chart new directions in Jewish studies across the disciplines. This volume explores forms of Jewish experience that span the period from antiquity to the present and encompass a wide range of textual, ritual, spatial, and visual materials. The essays give full consideration to non-written expressions of ritual performance, artistic production, spoken narrative, and social experience through which Jewish life emerges. More than simply contributing to an appreciation of Jewish diversity, the contributors devote their attention to three key concepts—authority, diaspora, and tradition—that have long been central to the study of Jews and Judaism. Moving beyond inherited approaches and conventional academic boundaries, the volume reconsiders these core concepts, reorienting our understanding of the dynamic relationships between text and practice, and continuity and change in Jewish contexts. (Adapted from the website of University of Pennsylvania Press).
This volume emerged from the 2004–2005 Fellowship Program: Prescriptive Traditions and Lived Experience in the Jewish Religion: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives.
Ra'anan S. Boustan (UCLA); Oren Kosansky (Lewis & Clark College); Marina Rustow (Johns Hopkins University).
Past fellows are invited to apply for summer research support at the Katz Center. The research should be conducted over the course of two weeks or more between May 15, 2012 and August 15, 2012. While this research opportunity does not include a stipend, recipients will be given access to an office, a computer, and full access to the Penn Libraries. Additionally, the Katz Center will provide a modest research fund to cover office services including photocopying, phone usage, and mailings. To apply, please email Yechiel Schur (email@example.com) the title of your research project and indicate briefly how your visit to the Katz Center will enhance your research. Applications should be received by April 15, 2012; successful applicants will be notified by May 1, 2012.
Take a look at the table of contents for JQR 102.1(PDF) (winter 2012) and JQR 102.2 (PDF)(spring 2012) to see what we have been up to at JQR. Click here (PDF) to see the ten articles (since 2005) most often downloaded for 2011. These lists are always instructive for us, and from it you can get a sense of the journal's reach and our readers' appetites.
Yechiel Y. Schur (University of Pennsylvania), Philip A. Cunningham (Saint Joseph University), Iris Idelson-Shein (Tel Aviv University) at Saint Joseph’s University after Dr. Idelson-Sheinlecture “Hairy Women and Noble Savages: Jews, Christians, and Others during the Long Eighteenth Century.” December 5, 2011
This fall, three fellows were featured in a well-attended lecture series titled "Between Cross and Crescent: Three Chapters in Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations." The series was the product of a collaboration between the Katz Center, Beth Am Israel, Main Line Reform Temple, and the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph's University. The three presenters offered unique historical perspectives on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations from late-antique and medieval Egypt to early modern Europe. We thank all three—Miriam Frenkel (Hebrew University), Iris Idelson-Shein (Tel-Aviv University), and Oded Irshai (Hebrew University). Thanks also to the hosts Rabbi David Ackerman (Beth Am Israel), Dr. Philip A. Cunningham (Saint Joseph's University), and Rabbi David Straus (Main Line Reform Temple), for their generous hospitality.
Katz Center fellows featured in a lecture series on Jewish travel throughout the ages. Their topics ranged chronologically, geographically, and thematically with the common thread of the series being Jewish travel in history as seen through the lens of travelers and others who have documented their experience. The fellows asked such questions as: what do we learn about Jewish-Christian relations when reading medieval pilgrimage narratives or when looking at early modern maps of the Holy Land? How do Israelis understand their African neighbors and what can this teach us about Israeli sense of place and orientation in the broader world? More generally, the scholars considered the experience of travel as a mode of Jewish exploration and self-expression in literature and history. Click here to see the full program.
The series is made possible through a generous endowment from the Harry Stern Family Foundation. 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Fellows & Rabbis
In collaboration with the VAAD: Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia, Chaim Noy (Sapir College, Israel) spoke about the commemoration site Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem and Joshua Levinson (Hebrew University) discussed the ancient rabbi as a traveler. We thank the President of the VAAD Rabbi Elisa Goldberg and the hosting rabbis Rabbi David Straus (Main Line Reform Temple) and Rabbi Joshua Waxman (Or Hadash) for their hospitality and other contributions to the program.
Fellows @ Penn Hillel
We continued in the fall with our dinner conversations with Penn undergraduates at Hillel. Orit Bashkin (University of Chicago) told the relatively unknown history of Iraqi Jews during the first half of the twentieth century; Vered Madar (Hebrew University) shared and analyzed the songs Yemenite Jewish women sing at the birth of a child; and Asher Salah (Bezalel Academy of Arts, Israel) discussed the representation of Jews in Italian Cinema. The events were cosponsored by Hillel Education, the Orthodox Community at Penn (OCP), and the Katz Center. We thank Meir Dardashti (C’13), Michael Rubin (C’12), and Rita Wahba (C’12) for their help organizing the events.
Scroll of the “Torah of the Messiah” from Nineteenth-century Calcutta
In Fall 2011, the Penn Libraries received an extraordinary gift from Rabbi Ezekiel N. and Margaret Musleah: an exquisite, luminous Sefer Torah (Pentateuch scroll) which had been kept and cherished by their family for over six generations. Both Rabbi and Margaret Musleah were born in Calcutta to distinguished Jewish families that trace their origins to a continuous line of rabbis from Baghdad, at the time one of the most important centers of Jewish learning in the world. Rabbi Musleah received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1952, returned to Calcutta to serve at Maghen David Synagogue, and in 1964 moved with his family to Philadelphia to become the religious leader of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, Congregation Mikveh Israel. He is the author of several books including On the Banks of the Ganga: The Sojourn of Jews in Calcutta (1975),and most recently has served at Congregation Beth Zion-Beth Israel. Margaret Musleahis a direct descendant of Mordecai Shindookh, the sofer (scribe) of the family’s Sefer Torah.
The Sefer Torah is a handwritten document, measuring 10.5 inches (height) x 597 inches when unrolled (approximately 50 feet in length). The Holy Writ is inscribed in 226 columns, each of which contains 51 lines, written in a Baghdadi square hand. The writing surface consists of vellum made from the skin of a “Ben Pakua” (a surviving fetus within an animal that was ritually slaughtered). The silver case in which this Sefer Torah is held bears a Hebrew inscription which records the precise date when the writing of the scroll was completed: the month of Sivan 5580 (May–June 1820), the same year during which the Shindookh family moved from Baghdad to Calcutta. This is noteworthy because Torah scrolls, unlike Hebrew codices, do not contain colophons, thus it is quite unusual to find such a precise dating of a Torah scroll.
The Musleah donation also includes a library of over 1,200 scholarly books, periodicals, printed pamphlets, handwritten documents, and artifacts. The topics of the pamphlets range in time from Masada (first century CE) to the Holocaust, and address subjects as varied as medical ethics, Conservative Judaism, Jewish education, and tributes to individual Jewish leaders. Among the artifacts are photo portraits of Rabbi Musleah’s predecessors at Congregation Mikveh Israel: Rabbi Leon Elmaleh and Rev. Sabato Morais.
Zucker Holy Land Travel Manuscript
Penn’s Judaica collections also have been enriched by the donation of a unique early modern Swiss Holy Land travel manuscript donated by Benjamin Zucker—a precious gems dealer, avant-garde author, and distinguished collector and philanthropist—in honor of his dear friend, Dr. Alfred Moldovan. Decades ago, Dr. Moldovan—founder of the Harry Friedman Society for Judaica Collectors—encouraged Benjamin Zucker to purchase this manuscript. At the time, little was known about it: where it came from, who wrote it, and when and where it was written. Dr. Moldovan and Mr. Zucker, in the course of their long friendship, continued to return to the manuscript to try to decipher its secrets. Dr. Moldovan contacted eminent scholars from around the world, including the late Prof.Ze’ev Vilnay, a specialist in Holy Land historical geography (who received his doctorate from Dropsie College in Philadelphia). Prof. Vilnay speculated that the manuscript was copied from a printed source but he was unable to say which one. Dr. Moldovan, himself a collector of antique maps of the Holy Land, reasoned that the illustrations, particularly the map sections of the Holy Land, might be based on recognizable sources. In order to verify that he stitched together the individual map illustrations, numbering about eighty-five, to see if together as a composite map they might reveal their origins. The Penn Libraries partnered with Mr. Zucker and Dr. Moldovan to unravel the mysteries. Thanks to the dedicated work of Anna Baechtold, a visiting scholar from the University of Bern, Switzerland, working in tandem with a number of exceptionally talented Penn Libraries staff members, many of these mysteries have been solved through the creation of a composite digital map, and work on the project continues.
Click here to see the manuscript and read more about this story of “detection in the collections.”