Shaking Foundations


Presented by the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Whether in response to change or in pursuit of it, Jews have engaged in a perpetual process of creating, rebelling against, and transforming foundational texts, institutions, and ideas. Likewise, modern research has challenged traditional understandings of Jewish texts, recast the histories of formative events and people, and questioned fundamental ideas and beliefs.

These two complementary themes are the subject of Shaking Foundations, an intensive, week-long program for graduate students in all areas of Jewish studies. Faculty from Israel, Europe and the United States will employ a variety of disciplinary approaches (literature, anthropology, legal studies, philosophy, etc.) as the group investigates moments of disruption in Jewish life and thought.

Shaking Foundations will bring together an exceptional cohort of 25 graduate students, selected from programs all over the world, for an immersive experience in interdisciplinary Jewish studies, exposing them to innovative scholarship, broadening their intellectual perspectives, and allowing them to engage with internationally recognized scholars as well as their peers from around the world. It will also include opportunities for professional development, a visit to the Katz Center’s rare book room to learn about the extraordinary Judaica collection housed there, and directed excursions in the historic center of Philadelphia, where the Katz Center is located.

Directors: Steven Weitzman and Elisheva Baumgarten

Faculty Sessions:

o   David Engel, New York University

Why Be Jewish? Shaking the Foundation of Jewish Nationalism

o   Shaul Magid, Indiana University

A Jewish Theology of the Anti-Christ: The Political Theology of R. Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar

o   Sarah Hammerschlag, University of Chicago

What Must a Jewish Thinker Be? Jewish Intellectuals and Jewish Exemplarity: Derrida Reading Levinas

o   Jenna Weissman Joselit, George Washington University

The Americanization of the Ten Commandments

o   Anne Dailey, University of Connecticut

Approaching the Constitutional Text: Interpretation and Amendment

o   Mira Wasserman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

How to Read the Talmud as Literature

o   Moulie Vidas, Princeton University

Foundations, “Foundations,” and New Directions in Talmudic Philogy

o   Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

A Foundational Moment, Foundational Texts: Safed and Jewish Modernity

o   Lila Corwin Berman, Temple University 

American Jewish Urbanism

o   Elisheva Baumgarten, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Retelling Stories: Continued Narratives and Changing Contexts

o   Tamar El-Or, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Women in Ultra-Orthodoxy

o   Anne Albert, University of Pennsylvania

Early Modern Community and Authority

o   Dariusz Stola, Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Postwar Poland


Special programming, including:

o   Lecture and walking tour on mid-century synagogue architecture, led by Susan Solomon, Curatorial Resources & Research

o   ‘Narrating Foundations’: a tour and visit of the National Museum of American Jewish History, led by Beth Wenger of the University of Pennsylvania Jewish Studies Program

o   Tour and seminar on Jews and the U.S. Constitution, led by Michael Gerhardt of the National Constitution Center and the University of North Carolina School of Law

o   Performance and discussion of Jewish musical foundations, led by Joey Weisenberg of the Hadar Center for Communal Jewish Music and Rabbi Yosef Goldman of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel

o   Cooking demo and discussion of Jewish diaspora food, led by chef Yehuda Sichel, Abe Fisher Philadelphia and Cook N Solo Restaurants


Meet the participants:




This program is made possible by the generous support of Dr. Garry Rayant and Dr. Kathy Fileds-Rayant.