Academic Gatherings

Call for Papers 

Atlantic Jewish Worlds, 1500–1900
7–8 April 2021

The deadline for proposals for this event has been extended to 15 June 2020. The conference organizers understand that many are feeling uncertain about making plans at this time. Please know that this event will take place as scheduled, whether in-person or online or perhaps as a mix of formats. We also understand that even if an in-person event can take place, individuals might still need to participate remotely, and we are preparing to accommodate those needs.

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, in partnership with the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, invites your participation in a two-day conference focused on Jewish life in the Atlantic world in the period between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The conference has been timed to coincide with the 2020–2021 Katz Center fellowship year devoted to “America’s Jewish Questions” and will also explore what the study of Jewish history can contribute to our understanding of early American history beyond national frames of reference, and in turn what Early American Studies can contribute to Judaic Studies. The event will feature a keynote address by Aviva Ben-Ur, author of Jewish Autonomy in a Slave Society: Suriname in the Atlantic World, 1651–1825 (2020).

The Atlantic World is often defined as a system of interaction and exchange where people, commodities, diseases, ideas, and technology were regularly exchanged among the four continents of North and South America, Europe, and Africa. The field of American Jewish History, though often conceived as a national history of Jews of the United States, has been increasingly reframed by the Atlantic perspectives of related fields such as Early American Studies. The broadening of focus is uncovering new data which is in turn changing how scholars understand early modern Jewish history as well as the connected histories of the Atlantic basin in this period, and there is much yet to discover. Documentary and material sources still to be mined include Penn’s own recently digitized Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica.

This two-day conference seeks to advance such research by bringing together scholars pursuing research on Jewish life and interactions among Jewish and other peoples in the Atlantic world broadly defined. We hope to explore connections between Jewish Studies and other disciplinary approaches, including the economic, social, cultural, literary, environmental, archaeological, and material.  Scholars specializing in Africana, Hispanic, or Indigenous studies, museum studies or historic preservation, musicology or folklore, gender or queer studies or other fields are particularly encouraged to contribute work that enriches the conference theme directly or comparatively.

Proposals for individual presentations are welcome from both established scholars and advanced graduate students. The conference organizers will consider proposals for complete panels as well as for non-traditional presentations such as tours, workshops, or demonstrations. If you wish to propose a paper, please submit an abstract (250 words) and a short curriculum vitae to no later than 15 June 2020. Proposals for panels should include abstracts for each participant, as well as a title and brief description of the panel as a whole. Most papers will be pre-circulated in order to encourage constructive dialogue during a working conference. Texts of approximately 5,000 words exclusive of notes will be due no later than 1 February 2021 for pre-circulation. Some support for travel and lodging will be provided to participants.


CFP: Atlantic Jewish Worlds, 1500–1900


In tandem with the theme of its fellowship year, the Katz Center organizes conferences, symposia, and other gatherings to promote scholarly exchange and intellectual collaborations. Highlights of each year include:

The Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Lecture series

Established in 1996, the annual Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Lecture honors the memory of Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff, parents of Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz, wife of Herbert D. Katz, and important philanthropists who supported numerous and enduring civic and Jewish causes. The series brings to Penn preeminent scholars for a campus talk meant to enrich the experience of Katz Center fellows and open up the fellowship theme to the broader university community.

Past Meyerhoff Lectures

  • 2019–20  Microhistory and Global History
  • 2018–19  Jews, Muslims, and Modernity
  • 2017–18  Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe
  • 2016–17  Is Man a 'Sabbatical Animal'? Giorgio Agamben, Franz Rosenzweig, and AJ Heschel
  • 2014–15  Regaining Jerusalem: Eschatology and Slavery in Jewish Colonization in 17th-Century Suriname
  • 201314  Cristobal Mendes alias Abraham Franco Silveira: The Puzzling Saga of a 17th-Century Converso
  • 2012–13  Jews, Friars, and Beguines: Narrating the History of Thirteenth-Century Europe
  • 2011–12  "Jetzt Judenfrei" ("Now Free of Jews"): Being a Tourist in Nazi-Occupied Poland
  • 2010–11  Converting Canvas: Christian Art's Struggle with Judaism from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance
  • 2009–10  Old Worlds, New Mirrors: On Jewish Mysticism and Twentieth-Century Thought
  • 2008–09  The Military as a Jewish Career in Modern Europe
  • 2007–08  Saint Stephen's Bones: A Chapter in the History of Jewish-Christian Relations in Late Antiquity
  • 2006–07  Defining the Karaites: Between Self-Perception and Scholarly Evaluation
  • 2005–06  Exile, History, and the Nationalization of Jewish Memory
  • 2004–05  People of the Land, People of the Book: The Bible and Israeli Identity
  • 2003–04  Fences and Neighbors: Jews and Muslims at the Last Millennium
  • 2002–03  A Medieval Accusation Made Modern: Reassessing 'Ritual Murder' in Jewish History
  • 2001–02  The Dark Forward of Time: the Holocaust, History, and Fiction
  • 2000–01  Jewish Art and Jewish History: The Universalist Tradition
  • 1999–2000  Born Under Saturn: Astrology, Magic, and the Construction of Jewish and Christian Identities in Early Modern Europe
  • 1998–99  Did German Jews Assimilate? Revisiting German Jewish History
  • 1997–98  Writing the History of the Shoah: Some Old/New Dilemmas
Penn Museum Bull Head

The Martin Gruss Colloquium

Planned by the fellows themselves for the end of the academic year, the Martin Gruss Colloquium is a capstone moment for every fellowship year,  sharing the research of the fellows and expanding their conversation to include other perspectives and voices from within and beyond the field of Jewish Studies.

The Katz Center also host various other conferences and symposia, usually open to the university community and often in partnership with other academic units at Penn or elsewhere.

Past Gruss Colloquia

  • 2019–20  The Jewish Home: Boundaries, Disorder, and Power
  • 2018–19  Order, Reorder, and Disorder: Jews and Muslims Encountering the Modern Era
  • 2017–18  Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe
  • 2016–17  Expanding Jewish Political Thought: Beneath, Between, and Beyond the State
  • 2015–16  Reason and Its Discontents: Exploring Affect in the Imagination in Jewish Culture and Beyond
  • 2014–15  Doing Wissenschaft: The Academic Study of Judaism as a Practice, 1818–2018
  • 201314  Transformations of Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe
  • 2012–13  Patterns of Relations: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the 13th Century
  • 2011–12  Jews and Journeys: Travel and the Performance of Jewish Identity
  • 2010–11  Taking Turns: New Perspectives on Jews and Conversion
  • 2009–10  Secularism and Its Discontents: The View from Jewish Studies
  • 2008–09  Jews, Commerce, and Culture
  • 2007–08  Jewish and Other Imperial Cultures in Late Antiquity
  • 2006–07  Religious Communities in Islamic Empires
  • 2005–06  The Jewish Book: Material Texts and Comparative Contexts
  • 2004–05  Modern Jewish Literatures: Language, Identity, Writing
  • 2003–04  Challenging Boundaries: Histories and Anthropology in Jewish Studies
  • 2002–03  Jewish History and Culture in Eastern Europe
  • 2001–02  Jewish Biblical Interpretation in Comparative Context
  • 2000–01  Modern Jewry and the Arts
  • 1999–2000  Hebraica Veritas? Christian Hebraists, Jews, and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe
  • 1998–99  Dialogues with the Past and Present: Jewish Cultural Formation from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment
  • 1997–98  Text, Artifact, and Image: Revealing Ancient Israelite Religion
  • 1996–97  Divergent Centers: Shaping Jewish Cultures in Israel and America
  • 1995–96  Learning and Literacy in the Judaic Tradition: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Inquiry
  • 1994–95  History—Remembered, Recovered, Invented: Historical Memory and the Construction of Tradition
Penn Museum Ram in the Thicket