Katz Center News


24th Annual Gruss Colloquium: April 22–23, 2018


Science and Transformation in Jewish Culture

During this two-day colloquium, scholars from around the world will join our fellows to explore the ways that science and Judaism have long been mutual catalysts of change, exploration, and self-reflection. Panels are divided according to four rubrics: transmission, expertise, praxis, and institutions, opening avenues for the nuanced interdisciplinary conversations across a wide range of case studies, premodern and modern.


Click here to see the full program

A New Way to Understand How History and Memory Are Constructed // CAJS Blog


This month saw the passing of Hayden White (b. 1928), a scholar renowned for making connections between the study of history and fiction. In studies like Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe and Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (first published in 1973), White showed that historical narratives, even when grounded in verifiable facts, are constructed in much the same way that fictional stories...



Read more on the CAJS Blog

Library at the Katz Center Acquires Decorated Ketubbot from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East // CAJS Blog


The Library at the Katz Center holds a wide range of Judaica in the form of photographs, ephemera, and, as of December 20, 2017, a collection of Jewish marriage contracts (ketubbot) from North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. These ten beautifully illustrated documents date from 1862–1931, and originate from Fez, Ancona, Izmir, Gibraltar, and...



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Katz Center Director Wins National Jewish Book Award


Congratulations to Katz Center Director Steven Weitzman on his National Jewish Book Award win! In the National Jewish Book Council review, Weitzman's book, The Origin of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age, was described as "a joyful read for the erudite scholar and the everyday reader eager to delve into the complexity and grandeur of Jewish history and the Jewish experience."

Weitzman will be giving a talk on the book on March 22nd with a reception to celebrate the publication immediately following his presentation. 

The 2017-2018 Cohort of Fellows


The 20172018 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. 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.