The major New York Times article from Sunday, September 11 on Hasidic education in New York has elicited a huge outpouring of responses on social media from many different quarters—critics of the school system, supporters, and, quite noticeably, many within the Hasidic community itself. It is hard to recall a story in which the Haredi community in the United States has been the focus of such wide national visibility and scrutiny.
Earlier this year we had the pleasure of hosting Menahem Ben-Sasson, a Katz Center fellow and Chancellor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in our public lecture series. He spoke about Israel’s Declaration of Independence, its relationship to the founding and current laws of the State of Israel, and efforts to create a constitution, to which Ben-Sasson himself has contributed. Audience members submitted so many excellent questions that there wasn’t enough time to answer them all on air. Prof. Ben-Sasson was kind enough to respond in writing.
In April, JQR convened a three-part online forum to analyze the “Haredi moment” of 2020. The COVID-19 crisis and the U.S. presidential election highlighted both lingering patterns and new modes of Haredi behavior, especially evident in the broader public sphere. A few short days after the last of the three forum panels was posted, on Lag Ba-Omer (April 30), a tragedy took place at Mt.
The idea that “America is different”—that American Jewish experience has been marked by success and progress in a way that was unprecedented, unexpected, and wildly impactful—is well entrenched. This year at the Katz Center, a diverse cohort of visiting research fellows is looking again at the American Jewish story, not necessarily to overturn a narrative but to reframe the question; in fact, to frame a new set of “America’s Jewish questions.”
The Katz Center fellowship is a residential one, meaning that its central aim is to bring people together to work physically side by side for extended periods, with fellows making temporary homes in Philadelphia. With the arrival of COVID-19, this defining feature of our collective work has disappeared. Instead, under orders to shelter in place, our homes are capturing our attention in new ways. Home’s boundaries, contents, and location, its material and emotional culture, are, for the moment at least, our whole worlds.
Much of what the Katz Center does is focused on the past, but sometimes we try to look into the future. That is what we attempted to do in the spring of 2019 by organizing a series of public talks focused on how religion is shaping the future of the globe. We are pleased to be able to share with you a seven-part podcast based on that lecture series.
The current issue of JQR includes a set of short essays on particular years of import in the history of Israel and Zionism—all of which, as it happens, end in seven. The essays themselves, linked below, are available with a subscription. Here on the blog, we excerpt JQR coeditor David N. Myers’s introduction to the lot.
This blog post is part of a series focused on the research of current fellows. In this edition, Steven Weitzman sits down with Alma Heckman to explore her research project, "Radical Roads Not Taken: Moroccan Jewish Trajectories, 1925–1975." Heckman is the Neufeld-Levin Chair in Holocaust Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and assistant professor in the Department of History. She received her PhD from UCLA.
Steven P. Weitzman (SPW): Can you tell us a bit about how you came to your scholarly interests?