Katz Center News


  • Video of the January 29 panel discussion, "The State of Jewish Politics," is now available. More information about the program and a link to the video is here.
  • The book resulting from the 2009-2010 fellowship year, Secularism in Question (2015), is stimulating productive discussion in the field. It was the subject of a review forum in the most recent issue of the journal Politics, Religion, and Ideology, where critical essays by David Biale, Robert A. Yelle, Claire Sufrin, and Daniel Bessler are followed by a response penned by the editors of the volume, Ethan Katz and Ari Joskowicz. Check out their response here. You can see the essays here.  
  • Check out the roster of public programs for this semester. Upcoming programs include Rebecca Kobrin on Jewish soft power in interwar Europe (February 16) and Vered Sakal on Jewish communities in colonial Algeria (February 20).
  • Applications are now being accepted for the 2017 Advanced Summer School for Graduate Students in Jewish Studies, taking place in Jerusalem July 30-August 4. Details here.
  • To see the spring seminar schedule click here. Seminars are open to faculty and invited guests. RSVP is required. Please contact Karen Schnitker with questions or RSVP to kschn@upenn.edu.
  • The latest issue of the Jewish Quarterly Review is 106.4 (Fall 2016). More on the whole issue here or go directly to read it in Project Muse. Arnold Eisen's piece on Gerson Cohen's notion of the blessing of assimilation is available for free here.
  • This year's fellowship theme is Political Ramifications: Expanding Jewish Political Thought. Read about the 2016-2017 fellows.
  • To stay up to date on Katz Center news throughout the year, follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our mailing list.
  • The web exhibit "Jews beyond Reason," featuring last year's fellows, is now online via the Penn Libraries.

Announcing the 2017 Advanced Summer School for Graduate Students in Jewish Studies


Personal/Interpersonal: I, We, and You in Jewish Culture and History

This ongoing Katz Center partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem alternates between Philadelphia and Jerusalem each year. It brings together faculty and graduate students from diverse fields and institutions for a week of intensive teaching and learning. This year's theme will explore the place of individuals and the relationships between individuals in Jewish societies, past and present.

Full details, including this year's faculty, and the application portal (due March 1) are here: http://en.mandelschool.huji.ac.il/summerschool.

"Just for Fun”: Making and Reading Hebrew-Italian Translations of the Early Modern Period // Alessandro Guetta


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

2016-2017 Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies & the Herbert D. Katz Center Distinguished Fellow’s Lecture in Jewish Manuscript Studies is pleased to welcome
Alessandro Guetta, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris

new date TBA

"Just for Fun”: Making and Reading Hebrew-Italian Translations of the Early Modern Period
Professor Guetta will consider the significance of the 16th-century phenomenon of translation of Hebrew texts into Tuscan, the literary language of Italy.  What motivated this small and largely unstudied endeavor, one not seen in other European Jewish communities of the time? Was it "just for fun," as one of these translators declared? Or, given that Tuscan would become a vital element of cultural and national cohesion, did it belong to a strategy of acculturation?
This lecture is sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Guetta visits the Katz Center as the David B. Ruderman Distinguished Visiting Scholar

The Latest (Technicolor) Issue of JQR


RUN don't walk to see the fall issue of JQR, a stellar lineup featuring FIRST EVER color images:

  • A forum animating the question of assimilation to mark the 50th anniversary of Gerson Cohen's famous essay calling it a "blessing" (for David Myers's blog post on Cohen's relevance in the age of Trump, click here)
  • Pawel Maciejko​'s investigation of an 18th-century portrait of a kabbalist in the circle of Casanova, with ever-widening implications
  • Yonatan Moss on the impact of Syriac Christian sources on Saadia Gaon's view of the resurrection of the dead
  • Michael Rosenberg​ on how "sexual serpents" in the BT subvert Syriac Christian tropes about Mary 
  • A note from Joseph Davis​ on readings of the tale of King Solomon and Ashmedai the Demon

View the issue through Project Muse, or subscribe through jqr.pennpress.org

Meet the 2016-2017 Fellows


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The Katz Center is delighted to announce its incoming cohort of fellows on the topic Political Ramifications: Expanding Jewish Political Thought. They are an extraordinarily talented group of scholars drawn from throughout North America, Israel, and Europe. Their collective expertise will extend political theory into conversation with legal theory, history, economics, literature, gender studies and even musicology.

For more about our fellows and their research, click here.
This fellowship year promises many opportunities to explore the intersections of Jewish studies and political theory. See our calendar for Katz Center-related events on campus and beyond, many of which will be open to the public.

To see the fall seminar schedule click here. Seminars are open to faculty and invited guests. RSVP is required. Please contact Karen Schnitker with questions or to RSVP kschn@sas.upenn.edu.

New Katz Center Web Exhibit


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Each year the fellows at the Katz Center collectively curate an online exhibition of holdings in the Penn Libraries that touch on their research.

The latest exhibit, arising from the 2015 – 2016 fellowship theme of Jews Beyond Reason: Exploring Emotion, the Unconscious, and Other Dimensions of Jews' Inner Lives, has just been published. Explore the exhibit here and check out the fantastic list of past exhibits here.


Fellowship Alumni Receive Prestigious Book Awards


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
  • Julia Phillips Cohen, whom we highlighted in the Spring 2015 Newsletter for her receipt of a 2014 National Jewish Book Award, has also won a 2015 AJS Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the Category of Modern Jewish History—Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, as well as an honorable mention in the 2014 Salo Baron Book Prize, for Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (Oxford University Press).


The Katz Center wishes a hearty congratulations to one and all.

Announcing New Online Portal for Holy Land Collections


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

We are delighted to announce the online presentation of the Penn Libraries’ Holy Land Collections.

Featured here are a wide range of special and general collections related to the Holy Land. Among the most important are the Lenkin Collection of Photography, which consists of over 5,000 early photographs of the Holy Land, dating from 1850 through 1937. This collection, described as the finest in private hands, was purchased in 2009 from the Lazard Family in Paris, thanks to the vision and generosity of Edward J. Lenkin (C'71; PAR'12).

Great thanks to the leadership of Carton Rogers, Vice-Provost and Director of the Penn Libraries and to Oren Weinberg, Director General of the National Library of Israel for supporting the digitization of the Lenkin Collection, and to Dror Wahrman, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities and Vigevani Professor of European Studies at the Hebrew University, for the invaluable role he played conceiving and advising on this project.  We also are most grateful to Leslie Vallhonrat of the Libraries’ Web Unit, who designed the web page, and to Michael Gibny and the Libraries Technology Systems Department for developing the digital library architecture supporting the operation of this page. 

The Penn Libraries' Holy Land Collections are located on campus at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, the Museum Library and the Library at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.

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.