The Pathos of Chosenness: Who Are the Jews if Not Exceptional?

For the Public
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM EST

Zoom Link to be provided
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Dajana Denes Walters
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The year 2020 has been a transformative one for American society, but what is it becoming?

Even as the country struggles with a pandemic and massive unemployment, many Americans have at the same time been newly awakened to racial injustice and economic inequality. Much of the change now underway has been tragic; some of it is hopeful; and the combination may yet produce a very different America.

The aim of this online series is to draw on the insights of scholarship to explore the implications of all these changes for American Jews—their role in the changes underway, and/or the stake they have in them as a community. Through presentations by experts from the fields of Jewish Studies, Religious Studies and Political Theory, the series will address the implications for Jews of the #Metoo movement, the continuing struggle against racism, the prospects for freedom of speech, the fight against economic injustice, and the future of America's relationship with Israel.

No one can be certain about what the future brings, but in certain ways, the future is already here. The aim of this series is to encourage reflection about the America to come, and what Jews can do to help shape it.

In their 2013 book, The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election, Dr. Todd Gitlin and his co-author tried to redeem the claim of chosenness as a concept that might be parlayed into a humane and universalistic vision. In this talk, Dr. Gitlin will discuss the failure of this ambition in recent years.


Todd Gitlin

Todd Gitlin

Todd Gitlin is professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, as well as a writer, sociologist, communications scholar, novelist, and poet. He is the author of sixteen books, including Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives; The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars; and The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage.

He holds degrees from Harvard University (mathematics), the University of Michigan (political science), and the UC Berkeley (sociology). He was the third president of Students for a Democratic Society, in 1963-64, and coordinator of the SDS Peace Research and Education Project in 1964-65, during which time he helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War and the first American demonstrations against corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa. 


Presented by the Wolf Humanities Center and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. With support from the Jewish Studies Program.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Klatt Family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.