Katz Center News


Jewish Political Thought beyond Borders // A day-long workshop, December 14, 2016


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Jewish Political Thought beyond Borders

Discussions of Jewish politics today all too often become discussions of borders. This day-long workshop will resist this temptation, finding, interrogating, and fostering Jewish political thought where it crosses boundaries—whether spatial, temporal, or disciplinary. It seeks to highlight new resources and modes in political thought that escape, erode, and challenge established confines and impasses.

December 14, 2016, 9:30 am to 7:30 pm
420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia

Space is limited and meals will be served.
Registration is required.
Please RSVP to Elizabeth Martin,
martinev@upenn.edu by December 7, 2016

Click here to learn more & to see the full schedule

Is Man a "Sabbatical Animal"? Giorgio Agamben, Franz Rosenzweig, and A. J. Heschel


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Is Man a "Sabbatical Animal"? Giorgio Agamben, Franz Rosenzweig, and A. J. Heschel

Thursday November 3, 2016     5 pm

Agamben’s claim that “man is a sabbatical animal” enlists the Judaic idea of Sabbath to limit the 24/7 temporality of capitalism under neoliberalism. He affiliates the idea of Sabbath—the day of rest—with his ontology of inoperativity, of which schole, the Greek notion of leisure, is another instance. These suspensions of work are joined together by Agamben and juxtaposed to instrumentality or “use", as such. This lecture will interrogate Agamben’s claims, putting him into dialogue with Judaic ideas of Sabbath explored by Franz Rosenzweig and A. J. Heschel. Further, Honig argues for the necessary implication of the weekly Sabbath with the other Sabbaths—land sabbatical, debt sabbatical, and the emancipatory Jubilee—whose aim is not only temporary relief from work or injustice, but the periodic reestablishment of equality.

The Latest from JQR


Jewish Quarterly Review
Volume 106.3 (Summer 2016)
Access the issue now through Project Muse or subscribe through the Penn Press website.

Find the table of content to JQR's latest issue here. It features essays by Rachel Manekin, Maud Kozodoy, Marcin Wodziński, Micah Gottleib, as well as a special forum "Jewish Paideia in the Age of Enlightenment."

Meet the 2016-2017 Incoming 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.


Katz Makes a MOOC!


In June, the Katz Center partnered with Penn Libraries and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) to launch their first MOOC. This Massive Open Online Course brings together the Katz Center’s scholarly networks with the extraordinary collections of SIMS to push Jewish scholarship into an exciting new collaborative space, and to reach interested audiences worldwide.

The MOOC is a forty-minute minicourse by Professor Y. Tzvi Langermann (Bar-Ilan University), the first SIMS-Katz fellow. Langermann presents a case study that builds from a unique manuscript codex produced in the 15th century containing three important medical manuscripts in Judeo-Arabic. Compiled in Sicily by a physician identified as David ben Shalom, the manuscript bears witness to the rich cultural exchanges among Latin, Jewish, and Arabic communities during this time, especially in the sciences. Professor Langermann not only walks the student through the basics of medical knowledge training and practice in the Jewish Middle Ages and beyond, but also shows how clues gleaned from elements of a particular manuscript (such as marginal notes, mistakes, and handwriting) shed light on the purpose and use of these texts. The course includes eight short video lectures that explore the highlights of this extraordinary manuscript.

Over 1000 students initially enrolled in the course, guided by NELC doctoral student Marc Herman, who served as Teaching Assistant. The course is offered free to anyone with an internet connection and an email address, and it can be accessed at any time through edX.org (PennX-Katz1.1x, or search for “Langermann”). The course is self-paced and takes about 2 hours to complete. The content will not be inaccessible to the novice but the nature of the material and the level of scholarship should interest graduate students and colleagues from a range of disciplines as well. There is an active discussion forum, and a link to the full manuscript in digital form.

This MOOC is the first in a series on Jewish manuscripts that will emerge from the SIMS-Katz partnership in the coming years. The next installment will be taught by Professor Alessandro Guetta (INALCO, Paris), and begins production this winter.

This fellowship is funded in part by the David B. Ruderman Distinguished Fellowship.  

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.