2018 -2019 Academic Events

The Duke Center for Jewish Studies is an inter-departmental program that sponsors a wide variety of cultural events, offers educational programs, and fosters academic research and scholarly exchange of ideas. Over the past several decades, the Center for Jewish Studies has confirmed its commitment to fostering global academic engagement through the acquisition of resource materials in conjunction with Duke Library, as well as the continued presence of a wide variety of specialists in the field of Jewish studies through a series of endowed lectures, conferences, reading groups, seminars, and talks. The following events were offered in the 2018-2019 academic year by the Duke Center for Jewish Studies to students, faculty, staff, community members, and beyond. 

August 31 - September 1, 2018

1968 in Poland and Czechoslovakia in Comparison

The year 1968 was a momentous one in many spots on the globe, perhaps no more so than in Poland and Czechoslovakia. With a few exceptions, however, 1968 and its aftermath in these two countries largely have been studied in isolation from each other. This conference seeks to compare each “1968” while exploring transnational linkages that connected events, people, cultural expressions, and processes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and beyond. The conference will also include public conversations with Communist-era dissident turned editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza Adam Michnik and celebrated scholar of Jewish life in Communist Czechoslovakia and 1968 émigré Alena Heitlinger. The first day will also include a screening of “Dworzec Gdański”, named after the train station from which many Polish Jews departed the country amidst the anti-Semitic campaigns of 1968. The conference will conclude with a cabaret performance in Person Recital Hall about the family, memory, and 1968 entitled “Rendezvous in Bratislava.”


October 1, 2018

Joshua Friedman: "How to Make 'A Huge Yiddish Family.': Yiddish and American Jewish Philanthropy"

Over the past three decades, the American Jewish community has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Jewish identity initiatives such as Birthright, Hillel and Jewish service learning trips, for college students and 20-somethings. These projects leverage donor dollars to stave off assimilation, decrease intermarriage, and promote Jewish literacy. Drawing on ethnographic research at the Yiddish Book Center, a major Yiddish non-profit, Joshua Friedman explores what the Yiddish world can tell us about the expansive enterprise of identity through Jewish philanthropy. Friedman shows how American Jews use philanthropy as a way of negotiating fraught communal politics around inter-generational wealth, identity and Jewish memory.

Joshua B. Friedman is the Perilman Postdoctoral Fellow at Duke. He received his PhD. in cultural anthropology in 2015 from the University of Michigan, where his dissertation won the Bernstein Dissertation Prize in Judaic Studies. Friedman's research and teaching explore the political economy of heritage and cultural production in the U.S., the politics of emotion in American religious life, and the intersection of race, class, gender and religion in American Jewish identity politics. His book manuscript, Strategies of Continuity: Economy, Generation, and American Yiddish focuses on the relationship between the American Jewish non-profit sector and contemporary Yiddish activism in the United States.  His scholarship has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Association for Jewish Studies, Rutgers University's Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, and the University of Michigan's Institute for the Humanities and Frankel Center for Judaic Studies.


October 7, 2018

NCJSS welcomes Miriam Bodian: The ‘Sephardim’: An Imagined Diaspora?

The consortium is hosted by UNC Chapel Hill with the generous support of the Jewish Studies programs of Appalachian State University, Duke University, UNC Wilmington, and Wake Forrest University.

There is a widespread belief that from the medieval period onward, the great majority of Jews belonged to one of two ethnic sub-groups – the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim – that developed in parallel fashion and are thus somehow comparable. But the structures of these two diasporas are profoundly different. While it is possible to describe an “Ashkenazi culture” (at least up to the nineteenth century) with continuities of language, style, geography, ancestry, and religious environment, the profound disjunctions of Sephardi history make any such description impossible. How, then, has “Sephardi” identity survived? What meanings has it assumed?l


October 14, 2018

NCJSS welcomes Benjamin Braude: "Sanhedrin on the Sistine Ceiling: Challenging the Conventions of Western Civilization"

The Jewish Studies Seminar welcomes Benjamin Braude for a paper entitled "Sanhedrin on the Sistine Ceiling: Challenging the Conventions of Western Civilization."

Professor Braude (Boston College) teaches courses on the Middle East and on European-Middle Eastern relations. In addition to those interests, his research also focuses on religious, racial, and ethnic identities in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim culture. Currently he is completing Sex, Slavery, and Racism: The Secret History of the Sons of Noah, which examines the construction of attitudes toward color and identity from the ancient Near East and the classical world to the present. More broadly, he is interested in post-national conceptions of historiography. He has been a visiting professor at the École des hautes etudes en sciences sociales in Paris and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


October 24, 2018

Professor Joel Baden (Yale): "The Museum of the Bible and the Academy"

The museum of the Bible presents a conundrum for academics. It is perhaps the most prominent space in which the Bible and its history is presented to the general public but it is surrounded by controversy, including the well-established problems with provenance and the deep evangelical agenda of the museum. How have academics helped or hindered the museum, and what is the responsibility of academia with regard to it?


October 25, 2018

Yair Rosenberg (Tablet Magazine): "Journalism in America & Israel in the Age of Fake news, Trolls, and Feuding Jews: How to Make Sense of It All Before the Midterms"

Yair Rosenberg is a Senior Writer at Tablet Magazine, where he writes about the intersection of religion, politics and culture.  He’s tackled everything from misrepresentations of Orthodox Jews in the media to Muslims and Jews in comic books to political anti-Mormonism, and his work has been published in places like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The Guardian.


October 29, 2018

Jonathan Weisman (NY Times): "Antisemitism and the Jewish experience in the South"

The Sylvia and Irving Margolis Lectureship on the Jewish Experience in the American South:“Antisemitism and the Jewish experience in the South.”

 Jonathan Weisman is a Deputy Washington Editor and Congress Editor at The New York Times. He covered Congress, politics and economics for The Times. His journalism career has taken him from The Oakland Tribune to The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal before he found himself at The Times.

His 2014 novel, No. 4 Imperial Lane, was a Chautauqua Prize finalist, Amazon Best Book of the Month and Great Group Reads Pick at the Women’s National Book Association. His new book, (((Semitism))) is a rumination on the rise of anti-Semitism, racism and hate in the era of Trump, and what should be done to confront it.

This event is hosted by the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, and cosponsored by the Duke Center for Jewish Studies.  


November 1, 2018

Church Freilich: The Future of Israeli Security

National security is critical to Israel, but the country has no formal national security strategy.  Church Freilich, a former Deputy Israeli National Security Advisor and current Harvard Kennedy School professor, wants to change this.  Come hear his place for a strategy in an era of new technology, new policy, and the changing nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Chuck Freilich is a senior fellow in the Belfer Center's International Security Program and a former Israeli deputy national security advisor. His most recent book is Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change (Oxford, 2018). He was a 2007 Ira Weiner Fellow at The Washington Institute, where he published the study Speaking about the Unspeakable: U.S.-Israeli Dialogue on Iran's Nuclear Program.

We are pleased to be co-sponsoring this event with J Street U at Duke, the Israel Policy Forum, Israel on campus coalition, Duke Asian and Middle Easter Studies, Duke Department of Political Science, American Grand Strategy and the Student Organization Finance Committee.


November 1-2, 2018

Symposium: Arabic Medicine Conquers Latin Europe, 1050-1300: Methods and Motives

The Kenan Institute and the Duke Library will hold a two-day symposium on 1-2 November 2018 entitled "Arabic Medicine Conquers Latin Europe, 1050-1300: Methods and Motives," showing how the accomplished Arabic medical writings of the medieval Middle East and Spain were discovered, translated, and assimilated by a previously wholly unsophisticated European world. The symposium will mark the opening of the exhibition of Arabic medical manuscripts at Perkins Library.

A keynote lecture by Prof. Cristina Alvarez Millán of the UNED (Madrid), "Arabic Medicine in the World of Classical Islam: Growth and Achievement" will open the symposium and exhibition on the evening of November 1 at 5:30PM.  A reception will follow.


November 5, 2018

Shari Rubin: “How Frontier Jews Made American Judaism”

Shari Rabin (College of Charleston), comes to Duke to discuss "How Frontier Jews Made American Judaism."

Shari Rabin is the Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies, Director of the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston. Shari Rabin joined the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program in Fall 2015. She is a scholar of American Judaism working in the fields of modern Jewish history and American religious history. She is interested in intersections between Judaism and everyday life, especially in the nineteenth century. At the College of Charleston she teaches Jewish history and various topics in Judaism, religion, and culture. Her most recent book, "Jews on the Frontier: Religion and Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America" (NYU Press, 2017) is a religious history of the United States that begins in an unexpected place: on the road with mobile Jews. The book has won numerous awards, including the 2017 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies.


October 14, 2018

NCJSS welcomes Benjamin Braude: "Sanhedrin on the Sistine Ceiling: Challenging the Conventions Of Western Civilization"

Talmudic influence on Michelangelo’s Sistine frescoes and its broader significance: Much rabbinic lore, at times disguised, appeared in an elaborate collection of purported ancient classical and near eastern texts, in fact, forgeries, The Antiquities of Giovanni Nanni, aka Anius of Viterbo, published with papal privilege in Rome, 1498. Nanni’s retelling of an excerpt from the tractate Sanhedrin in the Babylonian talmud helps explain a striking Sistine mystery, the iconography of Noah.  Annius was a highly influential Dominican theological advisor to the pope.  Although no reference to him appears in any of Michelangelo’s extant writings, the two had significant documented points of very close proximity, if not necessarily direct contact.  Nanni’s originally widely-cited but now neglected work polemicized against Greek thought and cited talmudists more than scholastics. The Antiquities presents one of the many significant examples in a persistent pattern over many centuries that demonstrates the consistent interaction of Hellenized Judaism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity in creating what has been misnamed western civilization. The overarching argument of this paper is related to Female Sultan/Female Pope: Shajar al-Durr and the Making of Pope Joan and is excerpted from Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, Jewish and Muslim Tales in the Chapel of the Palace.

Speaker: Prof. Benjamin Braude, History, Boston College, has been a visiting professor/research fellow at Harvard, Princeton, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, the Institute for Advanced Studies, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, the Corso de Verano (Universidad Complutensa de Madrid), and St. Antony’s College Oxford.  Harvard has awarded him a BA, MA, PhD all in History.  He has published on subjects as varied as the history of racism and comparative Jewish/Christian/Islamic exegesis in the William and Mary Quarterly and Annales.  His most recent publication is a new edition of the widely-cited classic collection Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire.  His paper is part of a multi-part project Sex, Slavery and Racism: the Secret History of Noah and His Sons, a study of the meanings of Genesis 9:18-27 in Jewish, Christian and Muslim verbal and visual imaginations.  Currently he is revising two manuscripts, Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, Jewish and Muslim Tales in the Chapel of the Palace and Female Sultan/Female Pope: Shajar al-Durr and the Making of Pope Joan.


November 11, 2018

NCJSS Welcomes Sara Lipton: A Double-Edged Knife: Circumcision and Hypocrisy in Later Medieval Christian Thought

Sara Lipton’s work focuses on religious identity and experience, Jewish-Christian relations, and art and culture in the high and later Middle Ages (11th–15th centuries).

"I am interested in the relationship between formal knowledge and lived experience, particularly as manifested in the interplay of text and image, and as mediated through the figure of the Jew. I recently completed a book called Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Iconography (Metropolitan Books, 2014). Dark Mirror examines how changes in Christian devotion, thought, and politics affected the visual representation of the Jew. It explains the emergence of the iconographically identifiable Jew around the year 1080 and brings theoretical coherence to the dizzying proliferation of images of Jews in subsequent centuries. My current project, “The Vulgate of Experience: Art and Preaching in the High Middle Ages (1180–1300),” explores why and to what effect Christendom invested so much in worshiping the ineffable Word through the material thing."


November 14, 2018

Ephraim Kanarfogel: "Differing Perceptions of Church Garments and Worship Implements in the Writings of the Tosafists"

The Duke Center for Jewish Studies welcomes Ephraim Kanarfogel, the E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University.  Professor Kanarfogel will present a lecture on: "Differing Perceptions of Church Garments and Worship Implements in the Writings of the Tosafists."

Ephraim Kanarfogel is a professor and dean at Yeshiva University and one of the foremost experts in the fields of medieval Jewish history and rabbinic literature, as well as an ordained rabbi and Torah scholar.


January 10, 2019

Chaim Saiman: Halakah

Chaim Saiman, Professor of Law at the Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova University, will discuss his recent book, "Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law" (Princeton University Press, 2018). "In this panoramic book, he traces how generations of rabbis have used concepts forged in talmudic disputation to do the work that other societies assign not only to philosophy, political theory, theology, and ethics but also to art, drama, and literature." Moderated by Prof. Ralf Michaels. Co-sponsored by Duke Law School, the Center for International and Comparative Law, and the Duke Center for Jewish Studies. 

Chaim Saiman is a scholar of Jewish law, insurance law, and private law. Professor Saiman served as the Gruss Visiting Professor of Talmudic Law at both Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, as a visiting fellow at Princeton University, and as a visiting professor at the University of Toronto, Bar-Ilan, Hebrew University and IDC faculties of law. He has also served as an arbitrator on rabbinical courts and as an expert witness in insurance law and Jewish law in federal court.


January 13, 2019

NCJSS welcomes Yair Mintzker: “’Jew Süss’ and the Jewish Community in Stuttgart, 1707-1738”

The NC Jewish Studies Seminar welcomes Yair Mintzker (Princeton U.) Yair Mintzker studies the history of early modern and modern Germany, with particular interest in the Sattelzeit (1750-1850).Professor Mintzker is the author of The Defortification of the German City, 1689-1866 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012; paperback 2014), which tells the story of the metamorphosis of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German cities from walled to defortified (open) places. His second book, The Many Deaths of Jew Süss (New York: Princeton University Press, 2017), is a retelling of the trial and execution of Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, the notorious "Jew Süss."Born and raised in Jerusalem, Professor Mintzker received his M.A. in history cum laude magna from Tel-Aviv University (2003) and his Ph.D. from Stanford University (2009). He is the recipient of several prizes, including the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize (2010) and the Urban History Association best book prize (2014), as well as fellowships from the DAAD, the Whiting Foundation, the Stanford Humanities Center, the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.


January 17-18, 2019

Conference: “Visualization and the Holocaust: Analyzing Space and Place with Digital Methods and Geographical, Textual, and Visual Sources”

This public conference seeks to reflect synthetically on the first decade of historical and spatial analysis of the Holocaust through the use of digital methods. What interpretive problems are illuminated by different physical, textual, and visual sources, such as physical killing sites, bureaucratic documents and postwar survivor interview transcripts, photographs and maps? What digital methods can manage and integrate large volumes of diverse historical evidence that has previously been used in depth mainly in locally focused case studies? How can we use the iterative process of computational analysis as a positive mode of inquiry to ask more probing and complex questions? And what new insights could computational approaches yield?

In addition to presentations on how digital methods have been used in analyzing the Holocaust (with beneficial and problematic results), the conference also seeks to broaden the scope and impact of such a discussion by opening up a dialogue with digital historians and visualization experts from a broader range of fields outside of the study of the Holocaust.


February 1 – 2, 2019

Coalition for Preserving Memory Documentary Film Series

The Coalition for Preserving Memory at Duke brings to campus a Documentary Film Series February 1 & 2.  With the recent signing of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act into law, we invite you to help us shed light onto the realities of genocides not often discussed in popular culture through these documentaries — and to join us in our journey to raise awareness of both the long-term impacts of genocide and the hope and resilience that often come out of tragedy.  We will be hosting Darfur Genocide survivor Daoud Hari, esteemed director and journalist, for a Q&A and discussion on Friday after the showing of "The Devil Came on Horseback."


February 3, 2019

NCJSS welcomes Carina Branković (University of Oldenburg) “Staying Human in Inhuman Times: Resistance in George Tabori’s Holocaust Plays”

Dr. Carina Branković is a Research Associate in Religious Studies at the Institute of Protestant Theology, the University of Oldenburg. She was trained in Religious Studies, Protestant Theology and Jewish Studies at the University of Heidelberg, the College of Jewish Studies Heidelberg and the University of Zurich. She completed her PhD. on George Tabori (1914-2007), a Hungarian born Jewish writer and theater director, at the University of Heidelberg, where she also served as a Research Associate. Her doctoral thesis addresses ritual and religious constructions in Tabori’s Holocaust play “The Cannibals” (New York City 1968) and “Die Kannibalen” (West-Berlin 1969). Her interests focus on the post-Holocaust German-Jewish theater as well as on Material Religion, especially the representation of religion(s) in museums. She is currently developing a project on discourses of the Jewish-Christian dialogue in Germany and the US. 


February 7, 2019

The Christianity in Antiquity Workshop presents Annette Yoshiko Reed: "The Jewishness of Jesus: Between Memory and Forgetting"

Location: UNC

The Christianity in Antiquity Workshop is pleased to be hosting Dr. Annette Yoshiko Reed of New York University on Thursday, February 7, to deliver a talk entitled "The Jewishness of Jesus: Between Memory and Forgetting." Dr. Reed is a prolific writer who has published extensively on Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, and the phenomenon of "Jewish-Christianity." Her latest monograph, released just this year from Mohr Siebeck, is entitled Jewish-Christianity and the History of Judaism and consists of an appraisal of "Jewish-Christianity" from the perspective of Jewish studies.



February 7, 2019

From Passion to Action: An Evening with Erin Schrode

We are pleased to co-sponsor this event brought to campus by Jewish Life at Duke welcoming social justice and pro-Israel activist Erin Schrode to the Freeman Center. Erin will be speaking about her work which takes her around the world championing issues from the #metoo movement and environmentalism to helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria to combatting anti-Semitism in the current political climate. A small reception will follow Erin's presentation and Q&A session.


February 12, 2019

Beetles, Lightning and Stars: All the World Praises You!  with Artist Debra Band

Hebrew manuscript illuminator, Debra Band, will share the whimsy and ecstasy in her recent book, All the World Praises You! an illuminated Aleph-Bet, based on the tenth century Jewish work, Perek Shira (Chapter of Song).

Debra Band’s work in Hebrew illuminated manuscripts draws upon her love of both the manuscript arts and biblical studies.  She holds a BA Honours in History from Concordia University in Montreal and an MS in Political Science from MIT, and turned full attention to Hebrew manuscript arts in 1987. Descended from an eminent rabbinic family, her extensive studies of Jewish texts and research into medieval European and middle Eastern painting and manuscripts inform her work. Her work, celebrated for its intellectual and spiritual depth as well as visual beauty, includes illuminated and papercut books and ketubot, other manuscript pieces and papercuts, in exhibits, private collections, community institutions and galleries across the English-speaking world. Debra is the artist and author of The Song of Songs: the Honeybee in the Garden (Jewish Publication Society) 2005, I Will Wake the Dawn: Illuminated Psalms (Jewish Publication Society 2007), and Arise! Arise! Deborah, Ruth and Hannah (Honeybee in the Garden, 2012) and Kabbalat Shabbat: the Grand Unification (Honeybee in the Garden, 2016).


February 17, 2019

NCJSS welcomes Alex Valdman: A Miracle in Minsk: Secondary Education and Social Mobility in the Pale of Settlement before 1887

In post-reform Imperial Russia, secondary education was a significant and growing path of Jewish social mobility. My paper draws on the autobiography of the Zionist leader Shmarya Levin and on archival sources to determine the factors that influenced the Jewish integration in the Russian schools before 1887. It explains how despite its relative liberalization in the 1860’s, the Russian educational system retained many exclusivist features, and shows how the Jewish students’ social background determined their chances to gain secondary education. It traces, furthermore, the extent of agency available to Jewish young people to overcome the system’s peculiarities and enroll a secondary school. Examining three complementing perspectives – the characteristics of the Russian educational system, their actual implementation in the Pale of Settlement, and the modes in which the system interplayed with Jewish society – the paper lays the ground for the discussion of the secondary schools as unique sites of Jewish-Russian socialization.

Speaker: Alex Valdman received his PhD from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2017. Currently he is a Visiting Scholar at the Department of History, University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to that he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Haifa and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and coordinated the Yerusha project at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem.


February 20, 2019

Dror Bondi: Bringing Heschel to Israel

We are pleased to welcome back to Duke, Dr. Dror Bondi (The Hebrew University), who will be presenting an update to his project on the works of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, through previously unpublished letters and manuscripts.  As some of you may remember from last year, Dr. Bondi has been doing some incredible work and we truly look forward to this update.


February 25, 2019

The Rudnick Lecture at the Duke Center for Jewish Studies welcomes Susan Silverman: "Pharaoh was Scared Too."

The Rudnick lecture at the Duke Center for Jewish Studies welcomes Susan Silverman who will give a lecture entitled: "Pharaoh was Scared Too." Rabbi Susan Silverman will turn common suppositions on their heads in her talk about asylum seekers in Israel and the US from the perspective of Jewish paradigms, values and history.

Rabbi Susan Silverman is a writer, teacher, activist and Director of Second Nurture: Every Child Deserves a Family -- And a Community, a program to find loving families for waiting children. She is a founder of Miklat Israel, an NGO that assists the State of Israel in creating sustainable solutions for asylum seekers. Her recent book is Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World.


March 1, 2019

Shai Ginsburg: “Modern Hebrew: A History Revisited”

Join the Franklin Humanities Institute for its new Friday morning series, tgiFHI!  tgiFHI gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present on their current research to interlocutors in their fields. 

Scholars concur that modern Hebrew emerged as an everyday spoken language in Ottoman Palestine during the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century. Whereas they differ on exactly when, where, and how it took place and who were its primary agents, its geographical and temporal coordinates are never questioned. In this talk Professor Ginsburg shall contest, however, these coordinates. He shall first suggest that Hebrew emerged as a vernacular not in Ottoman Palestine but, rather, in the largest centers of Jewish population at the time and, first and foremost, in the Russian Pale of Settlement and Congress Poland. He then suggests that it happened not "overnight," but over many decades. Finally, Professor Ginsburg will outline what such a revision of the history of the language means for our understanding of Jewish society and culture in general and of the rise of Jewish nationalism in particular.

Shai Ginsburg is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. His work focuses on Israel and its culture in its relation to Jewish nationalism and its variants.


March 3, 2019 

NCJSS Welcomes Martina Steer: Fromet Mendelssohn and the Emergence of Middle-Class Gender Norms

In 2013 the place in front of the Jewish Museum in Berlin was named “Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz”. Besides from a mandatory gender parity in Berlin’s street names, the Senate of Berlin made amends for the neglect, history has shown to Fromet and other women in the shadow of prominent men. This paper challenges this narrative of patriarchal ignorance and explores the interaction of gender, religion and collective memory. It claims that Fromet was by no means invisible in the commemoration of Mendelssohn. She rather played a role in the formation of German-Jewish gender norms that should not be underestimated, yet, in an unexpected way. Whereas Mendelssohn was commemorated as virtuous male German Jew and hence served as a positive role model for the emerging German-Jewish middle-class throughout the 19th century, Fromet was remembered contemptuously. Contemporary major historians and intellectuals, such as Meyer Kayserling, Heinrich Graetz and others characterized her as frolic, but flighty and superficial. In the emerging debate about assimilation and conversion Fromet served as a cautionary tale for the consequences of religious indifference. By laying the sole blame on her for the conversion of their children Dorothea, Abraham, Henriette and Nathan, agents of memory not only erased all elements from Mendelssohn’s biography that could besmirch the memory of the immaculate “patron saint of German Jews”. The paper will show that moreover, they created the misogynic image of the careless and spoiled Western Jewess and held her responsible for the alleged degeneration of German Jewry – with severe consequences for gender norms and politics in Jewish and non-Jewish society.

Speaker: Martina Steer teaches modern Jewish history at the University of Vienna. She is the author of Bertha Badt-Strauss. Eine jüdische Publizistin (Frankfurt: Campus, 2005) and Margarete Susman und die Frage der Frauenemanzipation (Bochum: Winkler, 2001) and number of volumes and articles on Jewish history, collective memory, and cultural transfer. She is currently working on a project on Jewish women in Germany and Austria after 1945.


March 18, 2019

“The Challenge of Being an Afro-Italian Writer”

Award winning Italian author, academic, activist, and journalist, Igiaba Scego has produced wide-ranging work that plays a vital role in current debates on Italy’s colonial past, its sexist and racist legacy, and the identity of Italians of African origins. It also raises the question of fiction’s place in these discussions. Her parents came to Italy from Somalia and many of her works concentrate on the identities of a Muslim black woman in Italy. Her recent novel Adua reveals the connections between Italy’s colonialism, anti-Semitism, and current stances on immigration.

Co-sponsored by Jewish Studies, African and African American Studies, Romance Studies, the Social Movements Lab, Literature,International Comparative Studies, Islamic Studies Center, Forum for Scholars and Publics, Franklin Humanities Institute


March 21, 2019

“Passing Fancies” An Evening with Judith Ruderman

Join Jewish Life at Duke and the Center for Jewish Studies as we welcome Judith Ruderman for a reading from her new book, Passing Fancies. In this book, Ruderman takes on the fraught question of who passes for Jewish in American literature and culture. Ruderman retired as Vice Provost for Academic and Administrative Services at Duke University in 2009, and currently serves as a Visiting Scholar of English. She is the winner of the 2017 Harry T. Moore Award for lifetime contributions to D.H. Lawrence studies, and author of four previous books, including Race and Identity in D.H. Lawrence: Indians, Gypsies, and Jews.


March 24, 2019

Screening: “Home in E Major” by Tamar Rachovsky

Perilman Fellow, Tamar Rachovsky, screens her MFA project, “Home in E Major.”   How do you know when you are home? Is it where you hang your hat? Or where you leave your heart? Moving from Jerusalem to Durham, North Carolina, I went from being at home to living as a foreigner. We were four strangers under the same roof, the landlady and her three tenants. With time and often dramatic upheavals in the house, with budding friendships, the four of us came to support and care for one another. Home in E Major is a personal film, it documents a special meeting and a unique friendship.


March 25, 2019

“Antisemitism: Here and Now” with Deborah Lipstadt

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, will deliver a free public lecture on the rise of antisemitism in the United States and Europe at Duke University March 25.  Her talk, "Antisemitism: Here and Now" will begin at 5:30 pm in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (Room 153) at Rubenstein Library on Duke's West Campus. Paid parking is available at the Bryan Center.

Lipstadt will discuss her recent book of the same name, in which she traces the recent rise of hostility and discrimination towards American and European Jews, including expressions of antisemitism in more blatant forms, such as at the deadly Charlottesville rally in 2017, last year's massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and other modern-day attacks in Belgium, France and Germany. She will also examine how antisemitism can manifest itself in more subtle and insidious speech, acts and practices on the political left and right.


April 13-15, 2019

Moments of Enlightenment: German Jewish Interactions from the 18th Century to the Present 

UNC- Chapel Hill

This three-day conference brings together colleagues and collaborators, as well as former students, of Jonathan Hess. 

The conference opens with a keynote address by Martha Helfer, of Rutgers University, titled: Maurice Sendak’s Dear Mili: A Contrapuntal Elegy. The next day is a full day of talks and roundtable discussions, which continue Monday morning. Nearly 50 colleagues and former students are scheduled to participate in the conference.


May 1, 2019

Religions and Public Life Graduate Fellows Research Workshop

Please join the 2018-19 Religions and Public Life Graduate Fellows as they present public talks based on their research. Each panel's talks will be followed by open discussion and Q&A.


Workshop Schedule:

2:05-2:55 Panel 1: The Voice of Faith: Praise and Preaching

Adam Perez (Divinity), Peace Lee (Divinity), Amy Whisenand (Divinity)

3:00-3:40 Panel 2: The Weight of Religion in Personal and National Histories

Tamar Rachkovsky (Documentary Arts), David Dulceany (Romance Studies)

3:40-3:50 break

3:50-4:40 Panel 3: Words on the Page in Religious Community

Nathan Hershberger (Religion), Brad Boswell (Religion), Joanna Murdoch (English)

4:45-5:30 Panel 4: "Church" and State

Hannah Ridge (Political Science), Brian Spisiak (Political Science), 

The theme of the 2018-19 working group was "Pain and Joy, Polemics and Praise in Religious Communities." Graduate and professional students representing six departments and two schools developed projects exploring the ways in which members of religious communities represent, interpret, and act in response to suffering and good fortune, or to clashes between traditions and values.


May 5, 2019

NCJSS Welcomes Hilda Nissimi: “The Troubled Discourse on English National Identity:

Was It Protestantism, Political Freedom or Empire?”

Hilda Nissimi is a senior lecturer in the general history department in Bar-Ilan University and until lately the chair of the department. Her main research interest is in Jewish identity as it is expressed in various ways, and especially in Jewish museums.  Her latest article is, "The National Rhetoric of the Israel Museum: Between Zionism and Israeli Citizenship" ('Iyunim 2017 - Hebrew). Her other academic interest is the convergence of Jewish and Imperial identities, and her article on "Protestant Nationalism and a Secular State - the English Dialetics" in Nationalism and Secularization is forthcoming in Hebrew (Jerusalem, Van Leer) on the discourses of the English National identity and the connection to anti-Semitic outbursts.


June 19 – 21, 2019

INIRE Presents: Religious Heritage in a Diverse Europe: New Directions in Practice, Policy & Scholarship

Immigration and secularization are changing the religious makeup of European societies. While more people identify as non-religious, new arrivals and conversion mean that the religious landscape is becoming increasingly more complex. This presents new challenges to the organizations, government agencies and scholars engaged with maintaining and promoting cultural heritage. How should Europe’s plural religious pasts be represented? How can heritage be translated for audiences who may not identify with local religious traditions? Should heritage organizations address believers and non-believers? These pressing questions are at the heart of the conference “Religious Heritage in a Diverse Europe”.

This conference will bring together leading scholars and professionals in the fields of religion and heritage studies to explore this question. The challenges of dealing with religious heritage in a diverse Europe will be approached from the perspectives of the academy, education, museums, preservation societies, as well as religious and secular organizations.

The conference will take place in Groningen, a northern Dutch province that plays a leading role in European heritage work. It has a wealth of medieval churches and modern synagogues that are increasingly cared for by secular heritage organizations, the largest being the Stichting Oude Groninger Kerken (SOGK). The Centre for Religion and Heritage (CRH) at the University of Groningen has long provided expertise and training in heritage studies. The SOGK and CRH partnered up with Museum Catharijneconvent, the national Dutch museum for Christian heritage and history, and the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam. European support is granted by the Future of Religious Heritage, the Brussels-based network for historic places of worship.

The conference will have a festival format with a variety of activities planned for participants. In addition to professional presentations, there will be excursions to local heritage site, an international summer school for BA & MA students, a children’s university conference, and art projects in the city center.