Virtual Courses

The Katz Center is beginning to develop a series of online mini-courses meant to share the knowledge of the world's leading scholars of Jewish studies with a global community of learners. Current offerings include courses developed with the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS), virtual master classes in how to make sense of medieval and early modern manuscripts. In the near future, the Center hopes to expand its offerings into areas of Jewish studies such as early American Jewish history and the history of Jewish philanthropy.

For more information on the SIMS-Katz partnership, visit our Archival Initiatives page.

Currently Available

Professor Fabrizio Lelli: Changing Minds: Geographic Discoveries and New Worlds through the Eyes of a Renaissance Jewish Scholar. The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies holds a rare manuscript of the northern Italian Iggeret Orhot ‘Olam  (Treatise on the Paths of the World). This Renaissance work of geography and ethnography was both produced out of and grapples with the radical changes in technology and knowledge happening in the vibrant fifteenth century. Written by the Farraran Jew Abraham ben Mordecai Farissol (d. 1528), the book celebrates the discoveries made by world exploration, new ideas being expressed in contemporary belletristic forms, and new technologies such as print, all the while trying to integrate them into a distinctly Jewish worldview that still builds itself on the Torah. The manuscript is the first Hebrew document that mentions the New World, making it of singular importance for America history.

Professor Alessandro GuettaThe Tabernacle in Word & Image: An Italian Jewish Manuscript Revealed. This case study is constructed on a single, remarkable Hebrew manuscript from seventeenth-century Mantua: Malkiel Ashkenazi’s Tavnit ha-mishkan, an extended commentary on the structure and implements of the ancient Israelite Tabernacle (mishkan). Guetta suggests ways that this work, which examines the details of a long-destroyed building, illuminates Italian Jewish intellectual life in the early modern period, as Jews expressed themselves in terms that combined Jewish traditions with the Renaissance humanism around them.

Professor Y. Tzvi LangermannThe History of Medieval Medicine through Jewish Manuscriptsin this course one can learn about medieval Jewish medical training and thought by exploring and interpreting a distinctive fifteenth-century medical manuscript. Langermann’s course draws us into the world of medieval medicine, showing how one medical miscellany incorporates both highly sophisticated theories of the body drawn from Greek and Arabic science and the nuts and bolts of the treatment of disease. Notes in the margins of this manuscript, for example, indicate the local Sicilian words for plants needed for a remedy, telling us not only about dialects, but also about botany across the Mediterranean, Jewish interaction with non-Jews, education, multilingualism, and much more.

In Production

Professor Judith Olszowy-Schlanger’s course The Scribes of the Cairo Geniza, uses Penn’s holdings from the Cairo Geniza to introduce to students to the methods and riches of paleography. Unlike print, handwriting does not merely transmit content, but is itself a bearer of information: handwriting can allow us to date otherwise anonymous fragments, tell us how to map Jewish networks as well as relationships between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors, give us access into the personalities, careers, and interests of scribes, help us learn how Jews learned to read and write. Using forensic techniques, Olszowy-Schlanger makes handwriting into lively of evidence of a vibrant Jewish past.

Professor Elisabeth Hollender looks closely at the manuscript of one heavily used and not particularly exceptional thirteenth-century Mahzor (prayer book for the holidays) as a way to walk us into the way Jewish prayer rites changed over time in an every-day Jewish community from the German Rhineland. The binding, marginalia, cuts, burn marks, scars and illumination, all  allow Hollender to paint a vivid portrait of a lost community and its world through one loved and valued artifact.