Jewish Studies Weekly Newsletter
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Monday, October 25th, 2021

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us this week, on Wednesday, October 27th at 4PM, to explore the parallels between the yearning for a safe homeland among Black Americans in the nineteenth century and the Jewish Zionist movement in the twentieth. In his talk "Searching for Zion: Black Emigration to Haiti and the Elusive Quest for American Citizenship," Wes Alcenat will share with us the story of Prince Saunders, an early nineteenth-century Black American activist, who promoted migration to Haiti, the world’s first Black republic and, at the time, the only Black state that guaranteed freedom from slavery or its threat, and promised, as Wes has argued, the possibility of economic freedom and a redefinition of the boundaries of citizenship and equality in the Atlantic world. Wes will be joined by Derek Penslar, a prominent scholar of modern Jewish history and of Zionism, and the author, most recently of Theodor Herzl: A Charismatic Leader, which you can purchase here from Yale University Press with at a discount using the code HERZL. To register for the event, click here, or scroll down.

I also want to invite you to register early for the e-screening and discussion of the film "The Dove Flyer" that explores the final days of the Jewish community in Baghdad. The film, based on a partly biographical novel by the Iraqi-born Israeli writer Eli Amir, is the first film, perhaps even the only one, in Judeo-Arabic, and specifically in the Baghdadi dialect. On Wednesday, November 3rd at 1PM we will host a discussion of the film with Ahuva Keren, an Israeli actress and translator of the script into Judeo-Arabic, Hagit Goral Halperin, who teaches Hebrew at Fordham, and Mohamed A. Alsiadi, who teaches Arabic at Fordham. Be sure to register now, to get the link to the film to watch it before our November event. If you registered before October 18th, you should have received the link in a separate email. If you have not, please email us and we'll resend it.

I also want to share some news about our faculty. Sarit Katan Gribetz published an essay on Elijah Zvi Soloveitchik's commentary, from the 1860s, on the Gospels in the Marginalia, which is published by the LA Review of Books. You can read it here.

The LARB's Marginalia also published a review of Ayala Fader's Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in the Digital Age, which came out last year from Princeton University Press, which is available here. And if you want to hear Ayala speak about her book, you can watch her conversation with Robert Orsi at her virtual book launch during the early months of the COVID pandemic. 

A final piece of news, my last book Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth won the George L. Mosse Prize from the American Historical Association. The announcement is here.

We look forward to welcoming you this week for another talk on Wednesday. 

*As you register for our events, I want to plea for your patience. All our events are free and open to all. But the system is a bit clunky. So, if you are not affiliated with Fordham, you will need a bit more patience. Choose "Friend" for the Fordham affiliation and persevere through the pop up screen that says that your profile has not been found. It will land you on the confirmation page after a few seconds. Thank you for your patience!*

Scroll down for more events, RSVP links and YouTube links to the talks you may have missed, and links to the readings (marked by this icon .

Magda Teter
The Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies
We couldn't do any of this without your support.  Please consider contributing any amount that you are able, so that we can continue this work.

Wednesday, October 27, 4PM 

Black Studies and Jewish Studies in Conversation

Westenley Alcenat 
“Searching for Zion: Black Emigration to Haiti and the Elusive Quest for American Citizenship”

In conversation with Derek Penslar

Wednesday, November 3rd, 1PM
A conversation about the film
“The Dove Flyer (Farewell Baghdad)"
With Mohamed A. Alsiadi, Hagit Goral Halperin, and Ahuva Keren 

*The film is now available for virtual viewing in advance of the event.*


Judith Weisenfeld 
“Race, Religion, and Black Jewish Identity in the Early Twentieth-Century U.S.”

With Jenna Weissman Joselit

Read more:
An Excerpt from Judith Weisenfeld's book New World A-Coming

A photo essay be Antwaun Sargent about Alexander Allan's photograph of the Ethiopian Hebrews in Harlem


On Our Blog

Hurricane Ida's Impact on the Walsh Family Library

As Hurricane Ida hit the New York tristate area on September 1, 2021, it caused catastrophic damage: homes were destroyed and lives were lost. Fordham was not spared. And the Walsh Family Library in the Bronx campus suffered the most devastating damage of all university buildings. Read more here about it and about the Judaica Collection.
We couldn't do any of this without your support.  Please consider contributing any amount that you are able, so that we can continue this work.

September 9-20, 2021

Virtual Screening
"18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre"
A Film by Allen Oren

Join us for a virtual screening of the Emmy nominated short film by Allen Oren “18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre.” Kol Nidre is one of Judaism’s best known and most misunderstood prayers. It is recited before Yom Kippur begins. This Aramaic prayer has a place both in the history of Jewish liturgy and the history of Jewish-Christian relations.  The short film “18 Voices” is the first documentary to tell the prayer's rich story.

Steiner, Richard C (Richard Cecil). “Kol Nidre: Past, Present and Future.” Jewish Studies, an Internet Journal 12 (2013): 1–46.



Sunday, September 19, 1PM
The Cloisters and the Jews in Medieval Spain
A Conversation on Art, Literature, and History

An event co-organized by Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies and  The Met Cloisters in conjunction with the exhibition Spain, 1000-1200: Art at the Frontiers of Faith (August 30, 2021-January 30, 2022), Peter Cole, Karin Kogman-Appel, and Jonathan Ray.

To learn more:

Katrin Kogman-Appel, "Hebrew Manuscript Painting in Late Medieval Spain: Signs of a Culture in Transition." The Art Bulletin 84, no. 2 (06/01/ 2002): 246-72.

Jonathan, Ray, "Beyond Tolerance and Persecution: Reassessing Our Approach to Medieval "Convivencia"." Jewish Social Studies 11, no. 2 (01/01/ 2005): 1-18.

Jonathan Ray, "Between the straits: the thirteenth century as a turning point for Iberian Jewry," Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 4:1 (2012), 101-105

Thursday, September 30th, 1PM

Elazar Ben Lulu, "Don't Ask Don't Pray: Gender Resistance and Sexual Recognition in Reform Jewish Holiday Rituals"
Elazar Ben Lulu, an anthropologist, will discuss contemporary debates over gender and rituals related to High Holidays.


"Zooming In and Out of Virtual Jewish Prayer
Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic"
published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Tuesday, October 5th, 4PM
"Black Studies and Jewish Studies in Conversation"

Laura Leibman, "Black and Jewish in Early America" 
In conversation with Westenley Alcenat

Tuesday, October 12th, 4PM
"Black Studies and Jewish Studies in Conversation"

Judith Weisenfeld, “Race, Religion, and Black Jewish Identity in the Early Twentieth-Century U.S.”

In conversation with Jenna Weissman Joselit

Read more:
An Excerpt from Judith Weisenfeld's book New World A-Coming

A photo essay be Antwaun Sargent about Alexander Allan's photograph of the Ethiopian Hebrews in Harlem

Wednesday, October 27, 4PM
"Black Studies and Jewish Studies in Conversation"

Westenley Alcenat, “Searching for Zion: Black Emigration to Haiti and the Elusive Quest for American Citizenship”

In conversation with Derek Penslar

You may purchase Derek Penslar's recent book Theodor Herzl with a 20% discount here, using discount code HERZL

Wednesday, November 3, 1PM
“The Dove Flyer (Farewell Baghdad)"
A conversation between Mohamed A. Alsiadi, Hagit Goral Halperin, and Ahuva Keren about the Israeli film, based on a novel by Iraqi-born Jewish author Eli Amir, the only film in Judeo-Arabic-language.
*The film will be available for virtual viewing n advance of the event.*


Tuesday, November 16th, 4PM
"Black Studies and Jewish Studies in Conversation"

Eli Rosenblatt, “Creole Ambivalence: The Politics of Jewishness in Caribbean Suriname, 1890-1959”
In conversation with Belinda Edmondson


Tuesday, November 23, 1PM 

Daniel Soyer, "The Jewish Metropolis: New York from the 17th to the 21st Century" 
In conversation with Ayelet Brinn, John M. Dixon, Diana L. Linden, and Devin Naar.

Sunday, December 5, 1PM 
"Exhibiting Medieval Spain: Yesterday and Today"

An event co-organized with The Met Cloisters in conjunction with the exhibition Spain, 1000-1200: Art at the Frontiers of Faith (August 30, 2021-January 30, 2022).

This roundtable will feature scholars who have deep experience curating exhibitions that engage with the multiple cultures of medieval Spain. It will be moderated by the curator of the Met Cloisters exhibition, Julia Perratore.

Wednesday, December 8th, 4PM 

“Putting on Cologne”: An Exploration of a Medieval City

Ephraim Shoham Steiner, the 2021-2022 visiting scholar and a Fordham-NYPL Fellow in Jewish Studies, and members of Fordham’s faculty in Medieval Studies will explore together how Cologne served in this fashion drawing on examples from both medieval Christian and Jewish sources.

This event is co-presented by Fordham's Center for Jewish Studies and Center for Medieval Studies, the Leo Baeck Institute, and the New York Public Library's Dorot Judaica Division.


We couldn't do any of this without your support.  Please consider contributing any amount that you are able, so that we can continue this work.

Welcome to Our Visiting Fellows and Award Winners:

2021 Salo Baron New Voices in Jewish Studies Awards
Daniella Farah’s scholarship lies at the intersection of modern Jewish history, education history, Middle Eastern history, and transnational studies, focusing on Jewish-Muslim relations and Jewish identity formation in twentieth-century Iran and Turkey. Daniela's Stanford University dissertation is titled "Forming Iranian Jewish Identities: Education, National Belonging, the Jewish Press, and Integration, 1945-1981." By applying a transnational approach to the history of Jewish education, her work asks what bearing language and access to education had on Turkish and Iranian Jews’ abilities to integrate into and claim belonging to their respective nation-states. Daniella will be Samuel W. and Goldye Marian Spain Postdoctoral Fellowship in Jewish Studies at Rice University.
Jeremiah Lockwood's Stanford University' dissertation, titled "Golden Ages: Chassidic Singers and Cantorial Revival in the Digital Era," argues that a cadre of young Chassidic singers who have embraced a style of early 20th century recorded sacred music illustrates the contested nature of prayer practices in the contemporary Jewish American community. His thesis offers a picture of artists who surface sounds of the Jewish sonic past as a means of aesthetic self-cultivation and a utopian effort to revive an approach to prayer characterized by the transportive experience of listening. Beyond a revival of musical style, their work with the archive of early Jewish records attempts to reanimate a form of comportment in prayer based in an imagined Jewish past in which aesthetics and prayer were integrated and the role of artists was foregrounded as communal leaders facilitating the experience of listening as a sacred act.  Jeremiah is currently Associated Researcher at UCLA's Department of Ethnomusicology.
Alex Moshkin's research examines the largest outpost of Russian-Jewish culture in the twentieth century—that of Israel. His dissertation, “Russian-Jewish Culture in Israel: In Search of Identity,” which he wrote at the University of Pennsylvania, tells the story of how Russian-speaking writers and artists sought to forge a Jewish/Israeli cultural identity after their immigration to Israel with a divided and often vague understanding of this identity-in-the-making. In analyzing this cultural output, Alex shows how engagement with Soviet history, Jewish religious tradition, ideas of cosmopolitanism, and the institution of the Israeli army has allowed Russophone artists in Israel both to inscribe themselves as part of the Jewish population and to insist on their unique, hyphenated Russian-Israeli identification.  Alex will be Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Koç University in Istanbul.
Sarah Zager is a scholar of philosophy, religion, and Jewish thought. Her Yale University dissertation puts Jewish philosophy into conversation with contemporary ethical theory in order to develop a novel account of the relationship between moral rules and character development. While much of the philosophical conversation to date has assumed that we can understand ethics either as a system of rules (deontology) or as a discourse about character-formation (virtue ethics), Sarah uses the work of Maimonides, Moses Mendelssohn, and the nineteenth-century Musar thinkers Israel Salanter and Simhah Zissel Ziv to show that we can productively combine virtue ethical and deontological approaches, arguing that these thinkers provide us with useful resources for addressing problems in contemporary moral conversation, including those of race and gender.  She is also working on a project on the role of abstract thinking in feminist thought and Jewish philosophy, focusing especially on experiences of infertility and pregnancy loss.

Fordham-NYPL Research Fellows in Jewish Studies
Ephraim Shoham-Steiner, from Ben Gurion University, will join us for the full academic year as a mid-term fellow to work on his project titled “The ‘Holy Community of Cologne’: New Perspectives on the Medieval Jewish Community.”  Cologne is one of the only Jewish communities in medieval Europe that received serious and meticulous archaeological attention. The Cologne Judenviertel (Jewish quarter) located at the heart of the city’s historical center in close proximity to the city hall (Rathaus) was excavated twice over the past 60 years. One of the earliest scholars studying Cologne was Adolf Kober (1879-1958), and Ephraim will study pertinent materials relating to him and by him that are held at the NYPL and the Center for Jewish History in New York.
Tamara Gleason-Freidberg, from University College London, will conduct research as a short-term fellow on a project titled "'Our Golden Chain is Broken': Responses to the Holocaust in the Bundist Journal Foroys from Mexico (1941-1947)."  Tamara will explore the variety of texts about the Holocaust that appeared in Foroys, a Yiddish journal published by a group of left-wing activists who had founded the association Kultur un Hilf in 1941 as a Mexican branch of the Jewish Labour Committee, which had been established in New York City.  During her time at the NYPL, Tamara will focus on texts published in Foroys between 1941-1947, with a special focus on articles and poems that tried to explain the significance of the annihilation of Eastern European Jewry, analyzing the specifically Jewish Mexican context of these Yiddish publications.
Zohar Segev, from the University of Haifa, will work on a project titled “Philanthropy, Politics, and the Shaping of a Nation: The Nathan Straus Papers in the NYPL.”  Nathan Straus is most known for his co-ownership of Macy’s and his promotion of the pasteurization of milk in the USA and in Palestine. The projects Straus initiated and funded in Palestine exemplify the dramatic transformation in the reciprocal relations between US Jews and Jewish communities in Europe and Palestine during the interwar period. Zohar's research at the NYPL, which holds the Nathan Straus Papers, will examine the full scope of Straus’ philanthropic work in Palestine. 
Sharon Weltman, from Louisiana State University, will focus on a project titled “Elizabeth Polack: British Melodrama and Jewish Emancipation.”  Elizabeth Polack was the first Anglo-Jewish woman playwright, and perhaps the first Jewish woman dramatist in any language. Her melodramas appeared in print and on the London stage from 1835 to 1838.  But very little is known about her. Sharon aims to fill that gap, recovering forgotten plays and investigating how a Jewish woman found an audience in London’s theater scene when Jews had almost no civil rights, were typically reduced to antisemitic stereotypes on stage, and when women playwrights faced serious obstacles to production and publication. Polack’s use of melodrama in the context of a decades-long fight for Jewish emancipation helped bring Britain to the condition of a modern state where all adults hold equal rights under the law.
Associate Fellows in Jewish Studies
Emmanuel Bloch's research analyzes the concept of Tsniut, understood as modest female dress, in the halakhic realm, demonstrating that Tsniut underwent a process of halakhization in the middle of the twentieth century and shedding light on the social context surrounding this metamorphosis.  His work uses the concept of Tsniut to explore how Jewish law changes (including the strategies employed to generate new halakhic rules) and as a lens through which to study the internal dynamics of twentieth- and twenty-first century Orthodoxy.
Ayelet Brinn is an American Jewish historian with an expertise in gender and popular culture (and a past Rabin-Shvidler Post-Doctoral Fellow at Fordham and Columbia). Her research explores the role of the Yiddish press in mediating between American and Jewish cultural spheres. Her current project, titled ""Tailors, Old Jews, and Women: Gender, Mass Culture, and the Rise of the American Yiddish Press," investigates the crucial role that questions of women and gender played in the development of the American Yiddish press.  
Yehudah B. Cohn is currently finishing a book titled Immanuel of Rome: Hebrew Sonnets from the Early Renaissance, an annotated translation into English of Immanuel of Rome’s Hebrew sonnets. The aim is to render these Hebrew sonnets in iambic pentameter - the classic meter of the English sonnet - while retaining the rhyming scheme of the originals. The notes will focus on the allusions in the Hebrew, whether to the Bible, rabbinic literature or earlier medieval works.
Dana Fishkin's project, titled “Between Rome and the Adriatic: Immanuel of Rome and the Relationship Between Jews of Rome and the Marches in Medieval Italy,” examines the work and life of Immanuel of Rome, a well known polymath, poet, exegetist, best known for Mahbarot Immanuel (Immanuel’s Compositions), a miscellany of rhymed prose tales interspersed with metric poetry. The Mahbarot contains an encyclopedic range of content, including the earliest known Hebrew sonnets and a Hebrew version of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Ben Ratskoff, whose dissertation is titled "Waltzing with Hitler: Black Writers, the Third Reich, and Demonic Grounds of Comparison, 1936-1940," examines how Black writers in the United States and French Empire represented Nazism in real-time, in journalistic writing, poetry, and novels. His research focuses on the intersections of Black Studies and Jewish Studies, with particular interest in the relationship between antisemitism, white supremacy, and colonialism. 
Eli Rosenblatt studies the Jewish Atlantic world less as a geographic space and more as a coherent system of exchange and interaction, where Jewish bodies, texts, ideas, theologies, pathologies, commodities, and technologies were regularly exchanged among the four continents of North and South America, Europe, and Africa. He places this Jewish Atlantic world in the context of the Black Atlantic world. He is completing a book manuscript on Yiddish literature in its colonial contexts, as rooted in the Jewish Enlightenment and covering the major aspects of Yiddish cultural production in the Black Atlantic world, and beginning to work on his second book project on the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Paramaribo, Suriname after the abolition of slavery in 1863 until World War II.
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