It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the Center’s most important goals is to help create intellectual community among those with an interest in Jewish history, culture, and thought, and I am always keen to welcome new people to that community, be they scholars, students, or people beyond academia curious to learn about new discoveries and ideas.
When I began as director of the Katz Center in 2014, I was humbled by the role. Together with the Center’s Board of Advisors and university faculty and administration, my predecessor David Ruderman had built the Center into the premier post-doctoral research center in Judaic Studies in the country—and arguably the world. Its international fellowship program had supported the research of hundreds of scholars from throughout North America, Israel, and Europe, launching careers and seeding untold numbers of articles and books. A newly revitalized journal, the Jewish Quarterly Review, had become the flagship English language journal in the field. The Center sponsored a stellar series of scholarly books through its partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Press, and it was also home to one of the world’s most important Judaica collections.
As daunting as it was to have to sustain such a legacy, I knew how important it was to Judaic studies scholarship—and to the preservation of Jewish intellectual vitality—to keep the Center going strong, and I felt honored to be entrusted with that responsibility. What I have been trying to bring to the Center is an embrace of experimentation—promoting exploration in less traveled areas of research, supporting collaboration with an ever-widening circle of partners, engaging the community through innovative public programs. I’d like to believe that what makes the Katz Center such a dynamic place is the way it combines a commitment to the tradition of intellectual excellence with the entrepreneurial embrace of new forms of inquiry, and new ways of sharing scholarship with a broader community of the inquisitive.
If you are a scholar, I encourage you to become a part of this community—to apply to our fellowship program, to participate in our seminars or conferences, or to reach out directly to me about other ways to get involved. We welcome researchers from beyond Jewish studies, and remain committed to connecting Jewish studies to the broader landscape of the humanities and social sciences and to making the findings of Jewish research relevant through public scholarship.
Graduate students represent the future of the field, and have a legacy of engaging students from Penn and other universities. In addition to a summer school designed specifically for graduate students in Jewish studies that we offer in partnership with the Hebrew University, we host early career scholars at our weekly seminars and our conferences. In general, we want to do what we can to welcome new scholars to the field.
If you are someone motivated to learn about Judaic studies from outside of the field, it is a goal of ours to share the insights of scholarship with you. We invite you to any of our community programs held over the course of the academic year—some on the Penn campus but many in Center City and the Philadelphia suburbs as well. Many are free and open to the general public, and we use them to share the fruits of Katz Center research with a larger community, to encourage people’s sense of curiosity, and to give them opportunities for learning and inquiry.
I look forward to seeing you at one of our academic or community events soon or to hearing from you directly about how you can get involved.
Ella Darivoff Director, Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies &
Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures, University of Pennsylvania