This is a moment of transition as two close friends of the Katz Center are stepping down from their respected positions after many years of service. On July 1, 2013, SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell will step down from her position as the dean of Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, where she has served since 2005. We thank Dean Bushnell for her many contributions to and incredible support of the Katz Center and wish her good luck as she resumes “civilian life” at Penn as Professor of English. We look forward to working with the new dean, Steven J. Fluharty, and wish him much success.
It’s also time to express our deepest gratitude to Beth S. Wenger for her many years of dedicated service to the Jewish Studies Program at Penn. Beth is stepping down this summer as the director of the program, a position she held for seven years. Professor Wenger’s special rapport with the Katz Center reaches back to her time as a fellow during our fellowship program Jewish Religion and Culture in the American Diaspora, 1920–1970 (1996‒1997) and earlier. Since then she has been a regular at our weekly seminars and colloquia. In her role as the director of the Jewish Studies Program, Professor Wenger worked closely with the Center on wide array of joint programs and initiatives. The Katz Center wishes her well as she begins her well-earned sabbatical, and welcomes Talya Fishman as the new director of the JSP.
Spotlight: 2013 Israel Prize Awarded to Three Past Fellows
The Israel Prize is Israel’s most prestigious award and is granted annually to individuals who have demonstrated excellence in academics and other arenas, and who have made an exceptional contribution to the nation.
This year on Israel’s Independence Day (April 16, 2013), three former Katz Center fellows were among the recipients of the Israel Prize. Yoram Bilu, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was honored in the fields of sociology and anthropology for his work on the history of Jewish religious culture, pilgrimage, and sacred space. He was at the Katz Center in 2003‒2004 with a group that focused on anthropology and history. Yosef Kaplan, Bernard Cherrick Professor Emeritus of the history of the Jewish people at the Hebrew University, won in the category of Jewish history. Kaplan, a historian of Iberian and Dutch Jewry as well as Converso culture in the early modern era, has been a fellow twice—in the 1999‒2000 year on Christian Hebraism and in the 2010‒2011 year on converts and conversion to and from Judaism. We are delighted he will participate next year in a group working on a range of topics in early modern Jewish history. Chava Turniansky also of the Hebrew University, and a scholar of medieval and early modern Yiddish literature, was honored for her work in Jewish languages and literatures. She was a fellow in the 2005‒2006 year on the Jewish book. The Israel Prize is presented in a moving ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the president, the prime minister, the speaker of the Knesset, and the chief justice. We congratulate the three laureates on their extraordinary achievements!
Goings on at the Center: Dispatches from the Thirteenth Century (2012–2013)
This year scholars of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam engaged in a dialogue that traversed the cultural, religious, and academic boundaries of the 13th century. The weekly Ruth Meltzer Seminars ranged from medieval Jewish medical incantations to the perception of Jews in 12th- and 13th-century miracles of the Virgin Mary to Muslim philosophy and thirteenth-century Spanish Kabbalah. The fellows marked the end of the fall semester with a day-long workshop on the medieval city—mapping, comparatively, the interplay of knowledge, piety, and power in three medieval centers: Cairo, Paris, and Barcelona.
In the spring, John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame) delivered the Sixteenth Annual Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Lecture, Jews, Friars, and Beguines: Narrating the History of Thirteenth-Century Europe. In his lecture, Professor Van Engen highlighted the structural challenges of and commonalities among three distinct religious groups: Jews, mendicant friars, and Beguines (lay Christian women who lived in quasi-religious orders). Van Engen’s talk demonstrated the power of the surprising juxtaposition, and how apparently disparate religious communities such as Beguines and Jews shared not only the same space—often in daily contact with one another within the confines of bustling medieval cities and beyond—but also many overlapping legal, political, economic, and social challenges that make them illuminating to compare.
The annual Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Lecture was endowed to bring together the work of the Center with the Meyerhoff professorship in the history department, two causes very dear to the Katz-Meyerhoff families. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Jewish Studies Program, and the Katz Center.
We capped the fellowship year with the Nineteenth Annual Gruss Colloquium in Judaic Studies, Patterns of Relations: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Thirteenth Century. The program combined fellows and invited speakers, among them: Anthony Bale (Birkbeck College), Jonathan Berkey (Davidson College), Robert Chazan (New York University), Mark Cohen (Princeton University), John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame), Görge K. Hasselhoff (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Michael McVaugh (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), and Ian P. Wei (University of Bristol). Elisheva Baumgarten (Bar-Ilan University), Ruth Karras (University of Minnesota) and Katelyn Mesler (Hebrew University) have been appointed the editors of a volume which will detail the work accomplished through the course of this fellowship year.
Twenty five gifted students from Israel, North America, and Europe will convene at the Center this summer (July 16‒25, 2013) to study Jewish learning throughout the ages. In addition to seminars with our core faculty, the program will feature daytrips and special programs in Philadelphia and NYC guided by Penn faculty and major authorities in the field of Jewish education. Click here for more details.
The Summer School for Graduate Students in Judaic Studies is coorganized and cosponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Katz Center. The Center is grateful for the generosity of longstanding supporters of the summer school initiative, JulieBeren Platt and Marc E. Platt.
The turn to history in the 19th century fundamentally recast the nature of Jewish thinking in Europe and beyond, influencing even those who challenged or rejected the dominance and mandate of historical-critical scholarship. The foremost narrative in this history of the academic study of Jews and Judaism is that of the Wissenschaft des Judentums (WdJ), which fulfilled crucial cultural, political, and religious functions in its day, and which, despite recent scholarship, remains to be fully contextualized. How have academic categories and methodologies framed how Jews and Judaism are understood—be they in parallel with Christian theology, political science, history, classical philology, or in relation to traditional teaching contexts and methodologies? How might modern Jewish studies be seen in comparison to other emergent ethnic and religious area studies? What can be learned from a more systematic comparative study of different religious or national currents within WdJ and other parallel academic developments in Jewish studies? The year will convene a research cohort that will revisit and possibly rewrite the history of Jewish studies. Proposals might address the following questions:
How did and does WdJ function in the struggle for emancipation and against anti-Semitism in varying national contexts?
How was Jewish scholarship influenced by its institutional home or lack thereof?
What role did Jewish scholars play in the establishment and conceptualization of Oriental and Islamic studies? And vice versa.
To what extent did the WdJ engage with, build on, and depart from, the scholarly legacy of Christian Hebraism and Renaissance humanism, and the historical-critical approach to the Bible in the late 18th and early 19th century?
What extra-scholarly motives drove the development or neglect of some fields? To what extent were those aims achieved, and what do its failures reveal about European-Jewish history in the 19th and 20th centuries?
What impact has the rise of Jewish nationalism and Zionism had on the direction of Jewish scholarship, such as the politics of archaeology, the place of messianism in Jewish history, or the history of communal institutions, even the funding of academic chairs?
By what channels did the results of critical scholarship reach a broader public, and which audiences exactly?
The Katz 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, 2013. Fellowship recipients will be notified by February 1, 2014. Applications are available on our website: http://katz.sas.upenn.edu. For questions please contact Carrie Love (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Fall 2013 will be the start of our new fellowship year on early Jewish modernity. Accomplished scholars from a wide variety of disciplines will come together to examine the many changes in the Jewish world which characterized the early modern period. An extensive consideration of geographical, cultural, legal, political, and economic borders and boundaries will advance a wide ranging discussion on the very nature of both early Jewish modernity and the early modern period in general. We hope to explore how the establishment of new Jewish centers in new places affected the development of Jewish society and culture; as well as the nature and characteristics of Jewish transregional networks in the early modern age. Other issues pertinent to the era are the shifting religious and cultural borders between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and the spread of printing, with its deep and wide effect on cultural and intellectual boundaries both inside Jewish society and between Jews and non-Jews.
Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire brings Jewish perspectives to longstanding debates concerning Romanization, Christianization, and Late Antiquity. Focusing on the 3rd to 6th centuries, it draws together specialists in Jewish and Christian history, law, literature, poetry, and art. Perspectives from rabbinic and patristic sources are juxtaposed with evidence from piyyutim (liturgical poems), documentary papyri, and synagogue and church mosaics. Through these case studies, contributors highlight paradoxes, subtleties, and ironies of Romanness and imperial power.
Natalie B. Dohrmann is Associate Director of the Katz Center and the Executive Editor of JQR. Annette Yoshiko Reed isM. Mark and Esther Watkins Assistant Professor of the Humanities in Penn’s Department of Religious Studies.
This book attempts to make sense of the economic foundations of Jewish life in different parts of late antique and early medieval Europe. The first part of the book describes the demographic arc, decline, subsequent rise, and spatial distribution of Jewish populations. This data is then broadened to include the range of economic activities undertaken by these populations. The second part analyzes the actual share of Jews in different branches of the economy. This includes the notion of an intercontinental network of Jewish commerce, the phenomenon of Jews in agriculture and entrepreneurship, gender roles and the household mode of production, and the difficult subject of the significance of minority status for economic activity, among other subjects.
Michael Toch is Professor of Medieval History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He worked on this project during the fellowship program: Jews, Commerce, and Culture (2008–2009).
In a series of intimate and searing portraits, Nathan Wachtel traces the journeys of the 17th- and 18th-century Marranos—Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism but secretly retained their own faith. Fleeing persecution in their Iberian homeland, some sought refuge in the Americas, where they established transcontinental networks linking the New World to the Old. The Marranos—at once Jewish and Christian, outsiders and insiders—nurtured their secret beliefs within their new communities, participating in the economic development of the early Americas while still adhering to some of the rituals and customs of their ancestors. In a testament to the partial assimilation of these new arrivals, their faith became ever more syncretic, mixing elements of Judaism with Christian practice and theology.
Nathan Wachtel is Professor Emeritus at the Collège de France. He worked on this book during the fellowship program: Jews, Commerce, and Culture (2008–2009).
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 July 15, 2013 and August 15, 2013. While this research opportunity does not include a stipend, recipients will be given an office, use of 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 postage. To apply, please send 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 July 1, 2013.
The Jewish Quarterly Review launched into lucky 2013 with two issues covering topics ranging from the sputtering spoiled despots of ancient Jewish court tales to the haunting interlacing of midrashic thought and holocaust testimonial in Geoffrey Hartman’s scholarly career, with much in between. Click here to see the table of contents for our winter and spring 2013 issues. To peruse more than a century of JQR, visit Project Muse and JSTOR online.
As in previous years, the Katz Center collaborated with other institutions to build exciting and accessible programs for broad audiences. Three fellows were featured in the fall in a lecture series on the significance of gender roles to understanding the medieval Jewish past. We are grateful to our partners 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. In the spring, over six hundred people flocked to our Penn series on the Jewish Middle Ages. The lectures represented the range and richness of this topic, showing the degree to which the Middle Ages were a time of interreligious exchange and creativity in all fields of Jewish culture. The lectures touched on a variety of topics such as the role of magic among medieval Jews, war and belligerence in the medieval Jewish tradition, and Jewish learning and education in the Islamic world. We continued our tradition of offering one lecture in Hebrew, this year featuring a talk by Ehud Krinis (Ben-Gurion University), ‘Can Two Walk Together without Having Met?’ Theological Affinities between Jews and Shiites in the Middle Ages. Click here to see the full program.
The Penn Lectures are made possible through a generous endowment from the Harry Stern Family Foundationand the Klatt Family. 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).
This year we continued our collaboration with the VAAD: Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia. Marina Rustow (Johns Hopkins University) explored the ways rabbis who lived in the medieval Islamic world dealt creatively with community politics through dynamic coalition building and much constructive thinking. Charles Manekin (University of Maryland) considered the variety of medieval Jewish philosophical positions on free will. We thank the hosting rabbis Rabbi David Ackerman (Beth Am Israel) and Rabbi Robert Leib (Old York Road Temple-Beth Am) for their hospitality. We also thank the President of the VAAD, Rabbi Elisa Goldberg, and also Rabbi Joshua Waxman (Or Hadash) for their many contributions to the program.
Fellows @ Penn Hillel
This past fall, the Jewish Cultural Studies Program of Rodin College organized a Shabbat dinner and discussion with Judah Galinsky (Bar-Ilan University) on Jewish charity. In the spring, Rami Reiner (Ben-Gurion University) offered at Penn Hillel a Hebrew seminar on medieval Jewish Responsa literature. Though the course granted no credit, was taught entirely in Hebrew, and involved decoding difficult medieval halakhic texts in the original, more than twenty students attended regularly. Following this successful experience, next year Elchanan Reiner (Tel Aviv University/Shalom Hartman Institute), Rami Reiner’s brother, will continue the tradition.
Rami Reiner’s course was cosponsored by the Orthodox Community at Penn (OCP), the Jewish Studies Program, and the Katz Center. We thank Shlomo Klapper (C’15) for all his help organizing the classes.
The University of Pennsylvania Libraries was honored to receive the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica. This gift is valued at $8.5 million and contains over 11,000 items. It is the most important private collection of its kind that documents the social and economic development of early Jewish life in the Western Hemisphere before the 20th century. The earliest item in the collection is a late 16th-century codex of the proceedings of the Mexican Inquisition against a New Christian accused of Judaizing. Engraved maps dating from the 17th and 18th century are among the first to document permanent Jewish settlement in the New World. A major component of the collection focuses on the development of Jewish mercantile, social, and religious activity in the Americas of the 19th century. Penn Libraries will make part of the Kaplan Collection available on long-term loan to the National Museum of American Jewish History. Every item in the collection will be digitally reproduced and made available online to scholars and students. The Penn Libraries will hold an exhibition in January 2014 in its new Special Collections Center with highlights from the Kaplan Collection on view, accompanied by an exhibition catalog with essays by leading scholars in the field.
Sam Cardillo, Administrator of the Katz Center, is the moving force behind many aspects of the Katz Center, including finance and building management. The following is an interview between Sam and Yechiel Schur (Klatt Family Director for Public Programs, Katz Center):
YS: When and how did you come to work at the Katz Center? I was working toward a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at Dropsie College when, in 1986, Dropsie became the Annenberg Research Institute, where I took a job that eventually led to my current position as Administrator of the Katz Center.
YS: How would you describe your time at the Katz Center? I feel fortunate to have worked at the Center for the past 26 years in a stimulating academic environment in which I have met hundreds of scholars from around the world. I am also honored to be working with fellow staff members who have long term commitment to the vision and work of the Center. Most of my co-workers have been here for many years and we are in many ways like family.
YS: How would you compare your original tasks at the Katz Center with your current responsibilities? I came into my current role as Administrator in 1987 when the Annenberg Research Institute merged into the University of Penn and became the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Having had no business background, I came in cold and faced many challenges as I learned on the job. As manager of our 44,000 sq. ft. building there have also been some major challenges in restoring damage caused by floods and wear to our facility, but we occupy a beautiful facility that has served our scholars well.
YS:What does the Katz Center mean to you? Managing the business of the Center has occupied most of my working career. And although I would have preferred an occupation in academia, I have had the next best thing—exposure on a daily basis to academe at the highest level. It has also been an honor for me to work with David Ruderman who has not only been my boss for 20 years, but a friend as well. I appreciate his many years of strong leadership and his love for the Center, and in particular his success in ensuring the Center’s financial well-being into the future by raising a substantial endowment.
YS: Would you like to share with the readers some memorable moments from your work at the Center? That’s easy! My two most memorable moments are the floods of 2005 and 2010, both of which caused severe damage to our building and resulted in major repairs of some original construction flaws. Last summer we underwent complete interior renovation of our office space throughout the building. On a more personal note, my best memories are of encounters with former fellows from years ago who come back for repeat fellowships or just stop by to say hi. I constantly hear from our fellows how much they have valued their time with us, and hearing such testimonies makes it all worthwhile.