As much of the world expresses sorrow and solidarity with the Ukrainian people—and admiration for its president, Volodymyr Zelensky—the ironies of history abound. To students of Jewish history, it is a source of near incredulity that the same recurrent site of mass violence against Jews—from the Khmielnitsky massacres of the mid-seventeenth century to the brutal killing fields during and after World War I to the bloodlands soiled by Nazi murderers in Operation Barbarossa in 1941—is home to a fledgling democracy and an unlikely and inspiring Jewish president.
The Trump presidency saw the emergence of the alt-Right on the national stage. Figures such as Richard Spencer and groups like the Proud Boys became household names while the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 gained national attention. 2019 was the deadliest year for domestic terrorism in the nation since 1995, the year of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded at least nine hundred and forty hate active groups across the United States.
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 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.
The Katz Center used the 2018 Meyerhoff Lecture as an opportunity to reflect on the field of Sephardi studies by inviting field pioneer Aron Rodrigue (Stanford University) to discuss his own fascinating intellectual biography, and to trace its legacy through the work of three influential students of the next generation. Julia Philips Cohen, one of Rodrigue’s students, now associate professor of History at Vanderbilt University, ended her reflections with the following.
The Katz Center's 2018–19 fellowship year kicked off last week with a panel discussion.