Around Connecticut Feature Stories Latest

judaic studies 101

Inviting the community into the lecture hall

By Cindy Mindell

Connecticut’s colleges and universities offer a wealth of informal learning opportunities to the general public, and departments of Jewish, Judaic, and Israel studies are no exception. Through lectures, films, conferences, and cultural events, the community becomes an integral part of these academic programs, adding their perspectives to the audience and interacting with students in an informal educational setting.
Prof. Avinoam Patt, assistant director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at University of Hartford, explains the relationship between campus and community.
“Just as the University of Hartford prides itself on the motto ‘a private University with a public purpose,’ the Greenberg Center sees itself as ‘the place where the community comes to learn,’” he says. “The Greenberg Center is dedicated to providing high-quality programming for the public and our students, 
and always free and open to the public. Our most recent event, ‘New Frontiers in Church and State: The Significance of Religion in the 2012 Elections,’ was a perfect example of this.  The Sept. 23 program, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, the Rell Center for Public Service at University of Hartford, and the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in American Life, offered nearly 150 people a free, high-level discussion on religion and politics. Every semester, we hold at least ten programs on campus, usually coordinated with new exhibitions at the Museum of Jewish Civilization, and on-going programs in the community. And on top of that, [Greenberg Center director] Richard Freund and I maintain an extremely active schedule of speaking engagements in the 
That philosophy is echoed by Dr. Ellen Umansky, who heads the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University. “While one of the expectations of the donors in the creation of the Center for Judaic Studies in 1994 was that there would be some sort of ‘outreach’ to the Greater Bridgeport/Fairfield Jewish community, this was never clearly defined nor mandated,” she says. “It was, however, one of the things that attracted me most about the [teaching] position at Fairfield University – a position which included serving as director of the center. From the center’s inception, we have sponsored lectures and other special events open to the general community, Jewish and non-Jewish, most of which are free of charge. Our undergraduate students learn a great deal from the well-informed questions regularly asked of our speakers by adults in the audience and, I think, enjoy being part of an audience that is more diverse in terms of age and religious background/affiliation than is the undergraduate Fairfield University population.”
The Trinity College Jewish Studies program brings to the Hartford campus two or three speakers every semester, often in collaboration with Trinity College Hillel. “It’s not that we ‘have to,’ but we want to offer an intellectual resource to the community,” says program director Dr. Samuel Kassow. “Sometimes it’s nice when adults come and ask questions and give another point of view. There is usually a reception after the talk, where students and community-members can interact and discuss the topic.”
The same interaction is fostered at the UConn Stamford Center for Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies. “In addition to credit courses within the academic curriculum in the humanities, the center also offers non-credit outreach programs for the community at large in all areas of Judaic culture, literature, and history, from antiquity to modern times, Israel, and Middle Eastern literature and politics, and in interfaith studies,” says director, Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy. “For over three decades, the center has been at the heart of local and cultural life. We have hosted some of today’s most prominent scholars, writers, and policy analysts, who address the center’s audiences and meet and converse with our students. We have gathered around the center a learning community of accomplished professionals from all walks of life who have the opportunity to meet and engage in stimulating discourse with some of the best and brightest in contemporary scholarship, politics, and letters – Irving Howe, Amos Oz, Chaim Potok, Howard Sachar, Shibley Temhami, and Amb. Daniel Kurtzer – to mention a few.”
Wesleyan University integrates two annual cultural programs – both open to the community – into its Jewish and Israel Studies curriculum. “Contemporary Israeli Voices” is a cultural series of lectures and film screenings by leading Israeli scholars, artists, and film directors. Organized by Jewish and Israeli Studies interim director Prof. Dalit Katz, the series showcases the latest Israeli innovations in the arts and reflects upon a range of social, cultural, and political issues, followed by a Q&A. Students are required to write papers in Hebrew on each event, Katz says, and to participate in conversation, in Hebrew, on each event. In addition, the annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival, co-sponsored by Jewish and Israel Studies, showcases contemporary Israeli film, followed by conversations with guest speakers from various academic disciplines.
At Yale, the Judaic Studies department and the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA) each takes a different tack. YPSA regularly sponsors talks and lectures by leading scholars, both from Yale and other institutions, and hosts an annual conference focused on a specific theme – all open to the public.
Most Judaic Studies events are open and welcoming to the non-Yale communities, says department director Dr. Steven Fraade. “That being said, we are an academic program in which our speakers and their topics and approaches are primarily intended for university students and faculty, some of whom are specialists in the given topic and others who are not,” he says. “We do not design or direct any of our programs to a non-academic audience.  Some of our activities may be of broader interest outside of the university than others, but they are all intended primarily for the university community.  We assume that there are other venues – no less worthy – such as synagogues, JCCs, etc. that are better suited to having as their primary audience the wider non-academic community.  As individuals, most of our faculty also participate, teach, and lecture in those Jewish communal contexts as well, but they do so on their own.”

Comments? Email

In the lecture hall this fall…
Judaic, Jewish, & Israel Studies programs
Here are the highlights of the fall semester Judaic Studies programs offered by Connecticut’s colleges and universities that are open to the community. Not all programs were available at press time. Visit the schools’ websites for more information.

Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies 

Dr. Ellen Umansky, Director /
(203) 254-4000 ext. 2065

Jonathan Sarna

Monday, Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m.  

Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Lecture: 
“Rising from the Rubble: Creating the Museum of the History of Polish Jews,” Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Professor of Performing Arts, NYU and Program Director, Core Exhibition, Museum of History of Polish Jews, Warsaw

Monday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Seventh Annual Lecture in Jewish-Christian Engagement: “When Christians Were Jews” 
Dr. Paula Fredriksen, William Goodwin Aurelio Chair Emerita of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University

Thursday, Nov. 29, 7:30 p.m. 
Lecture: “When General Grant Expelled the Jews, “Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and Chief Historian, National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia


Department of Jewish Studies 

Dr. Samuel Kassow, Director
Program information unavailable at press time

Center for Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies

Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy, Director
(203) 251-9525

Dr. Susannah Heschel

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 7:15 p.m.
2012 Louis J. Kuriansky Annual Conference: “Narratives of the Holy: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the Modern Jewish Imagination,” Dr. Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professorship in Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life 

Prof. Jeffrey Shoulson, Director
(860) 486-2271

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 1 p.m. 

Faculty Forum Luncheon Series: “Travelling Libraries: The Arabic Manuscripts of Muley Zidan and the Escorial Library,” Daniel Hershenzon, Assistant Professor, Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages, University of Connecticut
Yiddish Tish Discussion Luncheon provides a monthly opportunity for faculty and students to practice their listening and/or speaking skills in an informal manner. A few of the student members of the group in the recent past were so devoted to their study of Yiddish that they spent a part of the summer studying Yiddish at Vilnius University in Lithuania, a pre-Holocaust center of Yiddish culture. All are welcome and novices are especially welcome.



Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies 

Dr. Richard Freund, Director
(860) 768-4964

Lisa Gossels

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 7–9 p.m. 
“Prevention vs. Treatment: What’s the Right Balance?,” Halley Faust, President-Elect, American College of Preventive Medicine and Paul Menzel, Professor of Philosophy, Pacific Lutheran University

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 7:30–9 p.m.
“Breath in a Ram’s Horn: Classical Music and Judaism,” Daniel Asia, Professor of Music Composition, University of Arizona

Monday, Oct. 29, 7–8:30 p.m.
“Jews on Film: From the Jazz Singer to the Zohan,” Lawrence Baron, San Diego State University

Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m.
2012 Annual Miller Reel Jewish Woman Filmmaker Award  
Lisa Gossels, Emmy Award–winning social-issue documentarian; celebrating a new film, “My So-Called Enemy”

Jewish and Israel Studies 

Prof. Dalit Katz, Interim Director /
(860) 685-5356

Ronit Matalon

Tuesday, Oct. 30, 8 p.m.
“Jewish Non–Jewish Romances about Israel: From Ari to Zohan,” Prof. Lawrence Baron, Nasatir Chair of Modern Jewish History, San Diego State University

Monday, Dec. 3, 8 p.m.
“Reading Memory and Autobiography,”
Ronit Matalon, bestselling writer and novelist in Israel

Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism 

Dr. Maurice Samuels, Director

Thursday, Oct. 18, 5 p.m. 

“At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989,”  
Jeffrey Herf, Professor of History, University of Maryland

Richard Weisberg

Friday, Oct. 19, 4 p.m. 

“Antisemitism in France” (lecture in French) 
Annette Wieviorka, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; co-sponored by the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and the French Department

Sunday, Oct. 21
Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies 30th Anniversary Conference: “Achievements and Challenges: 1982-2012”

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 5 p.m.
“The Rhodes Blood Libel of 1840. Two Versions,” Olga Borovaya, Visiting Scholar, Stanford University

Monday, Dec. 3, 4 p.m. 
“Fatal Flexibility: A Defense of ‘Flexiphobia’ against Early Christian Antisemites and the Secularists They Have Influenced through the Millennia,” Richard Weisberg, Walter Floersheimer Professor of Constitutional Law, Cardozo Law School, in conversation with Robert Burt, Alexander M. Bickel Professor of Law, Yale Law School



Department of Judaic Studies 

Dr. Steven Fraade, Director
(203) 432-0843

Thursday, Oct. 18, 5 p.m. 
“Sects and the Cities: Effects of Political Context on the Formation of the Dead Sea Scrolls ‘Covenanters’ and Other Hellenistic-Roman Voluntary Associations,” Yonder Gillihan, Assistant Professor, Theology Department, Boston College

Moshe Halbertal

Monday, Oct. 22, 5.30 p.m. 
“Two Powers in Heaven: Binitarian Ideas in Ancient Judaism,” Peter Schäfer, Perelman  Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion, Yale University
The Franz Rosenzweig Lectures: “Nationalism, Liberalism and Religion in Modern-Day Israel,” Moshe Halbertal, Gruss Professor, NYU Law School and Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7 p.m.
“What Is a Jewish Democratic State?”

Thursday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m.
“On the Ethical Challenges of Contemporary Warfare: The Case of Israel”

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
“Judaism and Its Encounter with the  State of Israel”

Jordan Kei-Rahn receives Massachusetts state honor
Why it’s a big deal that Argentina canceled its soccer game in Israel
Golden Globes 2020: Quentin Tarantino’s Hebrew and other Jewish moments

Leave Your Reply