This Week’s Events in Jewish and Israel Studies

TUESDAY, Feb. 28, 2012:

Jewish and Israel Studies and the Mansfield Freeman Center invite you to a Tuesday lecture “Reshaping Collective Consciousness: Hebrew and Chinese Narrative on the Holocaust and Nanking Massacre (1960-1980)” by Zhong Zhiqing, PhD., Professor, Oriental Literary Studies, Institute of Foreign Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

This presentation will survey how memories of historical trauma such as the Holocaust and Nanking Massacre were transferred into Hebrew and Chinese national literatures during the post-Holocaust and post-Nanking Massacre period. The focus will be upon how literature functions in reconstructing the national past and in the reshaping of collective consciousness. In both the Hebrew and Chinese contexts, the heroic myths created during the formative years of the statehood were eventually broken; in the 1960s in Israel and in the 1970s in China respectively. Historical landmarks during this period such as the Eichmann Trial, the Six Days War, the Yom Kippur War and Lebanon War in Israel and the Cultural Revolution in China will be shown to have brought about a dramatic change in narratives of collective memory of historical trauma.  Tuesday, February 28, 4:30 pm, at the Mansfield Freeman Center
Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06459

THURSDAY, March 1, 8 pm:

The Ring Family Israeli Film Festival: “Intimate Grammar” — a film adaptation by director Nir Bergman, based upon the renowned author David Grossman’s book, will be the fifth film screened in The Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival on Thursday, March 1 at the Goldsmith Family Cinema at 8 p.m. This film explores the metaphoric and emotional field of grammar through a 12 year old boy, Aharon, who refuses to grow up. Film critic Laura Blum will deliver a talk entitled The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up as well as conduct a question/answer session after the screening.

The film is 110 minutes and has English subtitles. Admission is free.

JIS co-sponsored event:

THURSDAY, March 1, 7 p.m. Center for African American Studies

Jennifer Knust, “A Biblical Sex Scandal? Noah, Ham, and the Curse of Canaan”

The story of Ham’s encounter with Noah’s nakedness, and the curse that followed, offers a particularly notorious example of what today we might call a “sex scandal.” Though the specifics of Ham’s infraction are far from clear, the shame that was then affixed to whomever was designated as one of his descendants is not. Adapting the insights of affect theory and addressing larger biblical notions of sexual morality and kinship, Jennifer Knust will consider the way that the Canaanites became disgusting objects, and the effect this interpretation has had on understandings of sex, race, and gender.


New Semester, New Courses

Everyone is back on campus. Most students settling into their classes. Jewish and Israel Studies is offering seven courses, five of which are taught by our core faculty: from Hebrew taught by Professor Dalit Katz, to a course on Jews in China, to a course on Middle Eastern Politics, to Israeli Films, and the capstone seminar.  Here are some highlights of the courses–for events check back here in a few days:

HEST 239 “Israel on the Road” with Dani Menkin: In this class, students will engage in analyzing in depth the making of Israeli filmmaker Dani Menkin’s award winning films. There will be behind-the-scenes discussions on the “journey of the filmmaker” versus the “journey of the characters”; discussions of other international award winning road trip films; reading and reviewing Dani’s script-in-progress co-written with best selling other and writer, Eshkol Nevo.

HIST 308 “The Jewish Experience in China” with Professor Vera Schwarcz: A historical and analytical overview of the Jewish presence in China from the silk road trade through the Holocaust, as well as the rebirth of Jewish identity among the Chinese Jews in Kaifeng today. Students will be encouraged to do comparative readings on Jewish survival and assimilation in different cultural contexts ranging from India to Europe.

RELI 204 “Judaisms” with Professor Annalise Glauz-Todrank: This course will examine varieties of Jewishness in its contemporary and historical forms. We will focus on topics and texts that provide a focal point from which to discuss significant religious, historical, and cultural components of Jewish traditions. The course texts draw on several types of literature, including philosophical and theological writing about God, Yiddish short stories, American graphic novels, ethnographic studies of Jewish communities, personal narratives, and critical histories. This wide array of texts is intended to introduce students to Jewish history, thought, practice, stories, and identities from different gendered, geographical, and cultural perspectives.

RELI 396 “Performing Jewish Studies,” the JIS capstone seminar, with Professor Magda Teter: Jewish studies is broad in terms of disciplinary approaches and diverse in the ways it conceives its subject matter. This course will focus on the historical roots of the field of Jewish studies, models that advance theories and methods of Jewish studies, and on how such studies are being differently forged and performed in different disciplines, including Jewish history, Jewish literary studies, anthropology, sociology, and religious studies. For each of these areas of study, the seminar will examine a classical seminal work as well as outstanding recent ones that are on the frontiers of knowledge.

Amos Oz Speaks at Wesleyan

In a special event on the eve of Homecoming/Family Weekend, the internationally lauded novelist and journalist Amos Oz will give a public lecture on campus.  The talk, titled “Israel Through Its Literature, is scheduled for Thursday, November 3, at 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

Amos Oz, Israel’s best known writer, is the author of novels, novellas, short stories, children’s books, literary and political essay collections, and the moving memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness. Oz’s most widely acclaimed novel, My Michael (1968), was an immediate artistic and political sensation. It has been published in over 30 countries and in 1975 was made into a popular film. Among many other titles received with admiring reviews and heavy sales are The Hill of Evil Counsel (3 novellas), In the Land of Israel (essays on the Lebanon War), and novels such as To Know a Woman and The Same Sea.

One of the founders of the Peace Now movement, Oz has written extensively about Arab-Israeli relations and for over forty years has championed dialogue and campaigned for mutual recognition between Israel and a Palestinian state.  He is a long-time teacher and currently Professor at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba.

Amos Oz is the recipient of numerous awards for literary and humanitarian activity, including the Prix Femina (1998) and Knight of the Legion of Honor (1997) in France; the German Friedenspreis (1992), Goethe Prize (2005), and Heine Prize (2008); and the Israeli Prize for Literature (1998).

Arrangements for this appearance were made through the B’nai B’rith Lecture Bureau. The event’s sponsors are the Rosenberg Family Fund for Jewish Student Life, Wesleyan Writing Programs and the Annie Sonnenblick Fund, the Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture Fund, Jewish and Israel Studies, the Wesleyan Jewish Community, and the College of Letters.

New Semester, New Beginning

Students and faculty are back on campus and a new and exciting year is upon us.  Jewish and Israel Studies will offer an exciting array of courses and events.  The events will be open to public and at the same time, as always, tightly linked to our courses. Here are some highlights:

Shimon Adaf


September 19, Shimon Adaf, award winning Israeli poet and novelist, will present: “Behold the Present, If you Must: Questions Asked by Young Israeli Writers Nowadays”, 8pm, Usdan 108

November 1, Jewish and Israel Studies Open House, USDAN 108, Noon. Lunch will be served.

November 3, Amos Oz, internationally acclaimed, award-winning Israeli writer, novelist, and journalist, will speak on “Israel Through Its Literature,” 8 pm, Memorial Chapel

November 9 , Philip P. Hallie Memorial Lecture: (COL) Jan Gross, Professor Norman B. Tomlinson ’16 and ’48 Professor of War and Society at Princeton University, will speak on “On the Periphery of the Holocaust: Opportunistic Killings and Plunder of Jews by Their Neighbors.” 4:15 pm, COL Lounge, Butterfield C.

November, 10, Vivian Mann, Professor of Jewish Art and Material Culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary, “Islamic Jewish Art”, 8pm, Russell House.

November 17, Jolanta Dylewska, internationally acclaimed director and filmmaker, will present her compelling documentary “Po-lin: Shreds of Memory,” 8 pm, the Goldsmith Family Cinema

November 30, Rachel Rubinstein, Associate Professor of American literature and Jewish Studies at Hampshire College, will give a JIS lecture. She is the author of Members of the Tribe: Native America in the Jewish Imagination, published in 2010, 8 pm.

Nevo Eskol-Homesick

December 6, Eskol Nevo, an award-winning Israeli novelist will talk about his new book Homesick, 8 pm at Russell House.


We hope to see you at these and other events this semester!

Jewish and Israel Studies WESeminars during Commencement Weekend

Please join us for three Commencement Weekend WESeminars sponsored by Jewish and Israel Studies Program:

Friday, May 20 at 1:30 p.m: Objects Tell Stories: Community Partnership and Scholarship at Wesleyan

Location: 8 Broad Street, Nester Center of the Congregation Adath Israel

During the spring semester, students in Professor Magda Teter’s class on east European Jewish history have been exploring studying history through objects. This was possible thanks to a new partnership developed between Wesleyan and the local congregation Adath Israel. The congregation houses a small, but impressive, collection of Judaica. Students in this class examined, researched, and curated an exhibition using objects related to East European Jewish history. The seminar will showcase the students work by taking participants on the tour of the exhibition and will aim to highlight the exciting experience such collaboration with a local community can bring. Two students will share their stories.

Saturday, May 21 at 1:30 p.m: What Good Is A Red Tent If You Hate Camping? Reflections on 21st Century Jewish Motherhood.

Location: Kerr Lecture Hall(Shanklin 107).

Ayelet Waldman ’86, novelist and author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace, will discuss the perilous imbalance of contemporary motherhood, with a particular emphasis on the pleasures and challenges of being a Nerf-spined, guilt-ridden Jewish Mother in an iron-willed, Tiger Mother world.

Introduction: Dalit Katz, adjunct assistant professor of religion and of Jewish and Israel Studies. Presenter: Ayelet Waldman ’86 is the author of Red Hook Road, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Daughter’s Keeper and the Mommy-Track Mysteries


Saturday, May 21 at 3:30 p.m, Love and History: Screening and Interactive Discussion with Michele Ohayon, Award Winning Documentarian.

Location: Tishler Lecture Hall (Room 150), Exley Science Center

In this seminar, film director Michele Ohayon will present segments from her award-winning documentary Steal a Pencil for Me (2007), as well as segments from her college graduation film, Pressure, which won the Israeli Best Film Award in 1984. Both films are love stories, framed within specific historical contexts. The first film tells the story of Jack and Ina who fell in love while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Pressure is one of the first dramatic films on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is based on a true a story.

Michele Ohayon will conduct a question/answer session with the audience, and walk through the process of depicting history in film.

Introduction: Dalit Katz, adjunct assistant professor of religion and of Jewish and Israel studies. Presenter: Michele Ohayon P’14, award-winning director and producer, whose feature length documentary Colors Straight Up won various awards, including the Golden Spire Award for the Arts at the San Francisco Film Festival, and was nominated for an Academy Award.


A New Partnership between Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives and the Congregation Adath Israel in Middletown

Join us to celebrate a new partnership between the Adath Israel Congregation and the Olin library at Wesleyan.

Over the last year, Wesleyan University’s Special Collection and Archives, Jewish and Israel Studies Program, and the Congregation Adath Israel have been working on developing a new partnership. As a result, rare books from Adath Israel will be loaned to Special Collections & Archives in Olin library for research by students and faculty, in particular in Prof. Magda Teter’s Jewish history classes. On May 11, we will officially sign the long-term loan agreement. Prof. Magda Teter, the Director of Jewish and Israel Studies Certificate Program at Wesleyan, and Suzy Taraba, the Head of Special Collections, will speak about the books and how they will be used and cared for in Special Collections & Archives.

A printer's mark of Gershom Bak of Prague. A book "Sefer ha-magid" published later in the printshop in Prague in 1675 is one of the books to be transferred to Special Collections and Archives
A Printer’s Mark of Gershom Bak, a Jewish printer from 16th-century Prague


The event will also be an opportunity to share the results of student research based on objects from Adath Israel’s Museum.

Location: May 11, 6:30 pm, Congregation Adath Israel, 8 Broad St., Middletown CT,

Sponsor: Olin Library and Congregation Adath Israel
Contact Information: Suzy Taraba (, x3375) or Magda Teter (, x5356)

Light refreshments will be served.

Mogulesco-A Tale of the Yiddish Theater

After a very busy semester of Jewish and Israel Studies events, our almost last event is on Sunday, May 8: Mogulesco-A Tale of the Yiddish Theater, a production of Music 297 class, written by Mark Slobin, directed by Joshua Margolin ’11, music direction by Amanda Scherbenske.With student and faculty actors.


Location :    World Music Hall, 3 pm

Sponsor :    Music Department
Admission :    $5 general public; free admission for Wesleyan students
Event URL :
For more information :, 860-685-3355


Please join us for this student-faculty performance.

Showcase of Student Projects in Jewish and Israel Studies

The semester–nay the year–is almost over.  Just one more week of classes is left.  It is a crunch time, but also a time to celebrate students’ achievements.  Since 2010 we have showcased students’ projects in Jewish and Israel Studies.  Some students will indeed graduate with the Jewish and Israel Studies Certificate, but some of our students are engaged in research and creative projects contributing to Jewish and Israel Studies without the certificate.

On Tuesday, May 3, 2011, at 4:30 pm I hope you will join me for a celebratory reception of our students’ achievements.

Rachel Tecott (GOVT) will share her findings on “Israeli Counterterrorism Decision-Making: The Causes and Costs of A-Strategic Incoherence.”  This presentation is based on Rachel’s honors thesis in Government, in which she demonstrates a fallacy of the two conventional wisdoms that Israeli counterterrorism is effective, and that Israeli counterterrorism is the product of rational, unitary action.  Her evidence includes interviews with key Israeli counterterrorism decision-makers (including several Major Generals, National Security Advisors, and senior-ranking Israeli Intelligence officers).

Daniel Hymanson (FILM) will present his short film “Slothman” – Daniel’s honors thesis project for the film studies department.  It tells the story of a boy named David and his encounters with sloths, the Chicago Bulls, a newt, and his mother. The film’s opening scene was shot at Adath Israel in Middletown.

A screen shot of "Judah" from Seth Alter's computer game "Divided Monarchy"
A screen shot of “Judah” from Seth Alter’s computer game “Divided Monarchy”


Seth Alter (HIST and JIS) will demonstrate his new educational video game “Divided Monarchy” that simulates ancient Israel in the Iron Age. The game comes with serious academic research historical and archaeological material. Every in-game component to “Divided Monarchy” has been included in accordance to modern scholars’ understanding of biblical society and culture.


All this on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm in Allbritton 103.


On Tuesday evening, our student Ross Shenker (THEA and JIS) will share his capstone project in a very special event Inside The Playwright’s Studio: An Evening With Donald Margulies

Donald Margulies
Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies


Join Pulitzer Prize Winning Playwright Donald Margulies and Ross Shenker ’11 for a look inside the playwright’s studio. Professor Margulies is the acclaimed author of the plays “Time Stands Still,” “Brooklyn Boy,” “Dinner With Friends,” Sight Unseen,” “Collected Stories,” and others. He has received a Lucille Lortel Award, an Outer Critics’ Circle Award, two American Dramatists’ Guild Hull-Warriner Awards, one Tony Award nomination, five Drama Desk Award nominations, two Pulitzer Prize nominations, and one Pultizer Prize. His works have been performed on and off Broadway and at major theaters across the United States, in Europe, and around the world.

Presented by the Jewish and Israel Studies Department. This event is in partial fulfillment of Ross Shenker’s Senior Project entitled “Embedding The Self In One’s Art: How Donald Margulies Draws Upon Contemporary Jewish-American Identity In His Playwriting.”

Usdan Center, Taylor Room, 8pm

Reception to follow next door in Andersen Meeting Room-110


Screening of “Farewell to My Country” at the Frankel Memorial Lecture

On April 28, the long-awaited Frankel Memorial Lecture will include a screening of  “Farewell to My Country” a documentary by director Andrzej Krakowski about the 1968 exodus of the Jews from Poland.

"Farewell to my country" a documentary by Andrzej Krakowski about the 1968 exodus of the Jews from Poland 1968 was a turbulent year across the world. But in Poland, it became the last chapter of the centuries-old history of the Jewish community there.  That year, following student demonstrations, the Polish communist government incited anti-Zionist sentiments that led to the expulsion of Poland’s last remaining Jews, effectively ending the history of what was once the largest Jewish settlement in the world. FAREWELL TO MY COUNTRY tells the story of the silent elimination of the remaining Jewish community by the communist regime.  Using rare and never-before-seen footage, the film intimately reveals the experience  of emigrants by way of the communists’ state-sponsored persecution.

Joining us for the evening will be the director of the film Andrzej Krakowski, a filmmaker and a professor of film studies at City College, NY. Andrzej Krakowski is a producer, director, and screenwriters of many films, film series, and documentaries.  Among films with which he was involved in his many capacities are “The Triumph of the Spirit” with William Defoe, and “Eminent Domain” with Donald Sutherland.  He is also a producer of a TV Series “We are New York.”
April 28, The Goldsmith Family Cinema, 8pm

Books for the Season

Spring brings new flowers, new leaves, warmth, and in May the end of the semester.  But it is also a season of Passover and Easter, a season of celebration and devotion, at times, even of commemoration of sometimes painful events marring centuries of Jewish-Christian relations.

There are books that could enrich this season, bringing history closer–some of them taken from syllabi of courses in Jewish and Israel Studies at Wesleyan.

Yosef Yerushalmi, Haggadah and HistoryYosef Hayim Yerushalmi’s Haggadah and History (JPS, 1997).  Through the history of the printed Haggada, Yosef Yerushalmi, the late distinguished professor of Jewish History at Columbia University, takes the reader — and the viewer, since the book is splendidly illustrated — through recent centuries of Jewish history.  For the haggadot were adapted to new tastes, cultures, and places.  The book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1975.

But how did the Haggadah develop? There are different interpretations.Israel Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb"


In his provocative book Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (U of California Press, pbk, 2008), Israel Yuval, a historian from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, traces the development of the Haggadah to a dialogue between early Christianity and Judaism in late antiquity and the medieval period, arguing that Christian Easter rituals were crucial in shaping the Haggadah.

Miri Rubin "Gentile Tales"

The Passover and Easter seasons sometimes ushered violence.  Jews were accused of seeking the consecrated communion wafers Christians received during the Easter season. The so-called “host desecration” accusation became a means for creating sacred spaces and affirming Catholic dogmas.  Miri Rubin’s lavishly illustrated Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (Penn Press, pbk 2004) sketches the spread of this anti-Jewish tale across Christian Europe from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, revealing the mental world of medieval Europeans.

Although some have argued that the host desecration accusations ended with the Reformation, Magda Teter’s book Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation (Harvard University Press, 2011) demonstrates that in Poland this Passover/Easter-time accusation became wide-spread precisely after the Reformation.

And although these accusations ended before the modern era, Passover and Easter were times pregnant with tension and potential for violence.  Edward Judge’s Easter in Kishinev: An Anatomy of a Pogrom (NYU Press, pbk 1995) documents the dynamics surrounding the notorious pogrom in Kishinev in 1903.  The pogrom led Hayim Nahman Bialik, the renowned Hebrew poet, to pen his moving poem “In the City of Slaughter.”

Samuel Kassow, "Who Will Write Our History?"Spring is also the season of commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  Samuel Kassow’s Who Will Write Our History?: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto (Vintage, 2009, first published in 2007 by Indiana University Press).  The book tells the story of Emmanuel Ringelblum, a Polish Jewish historian from Warsaw, who established a secret organization with a code name Oyneg Shabes in the Warsaw Ghetto charged with documenting Jewish history and Jewish war experience for posterity.  Preserved in tin boxes and milk cans, thousands of documents afford us a better understanding of Jewish experience during WWII as experienced at the time.  The New Republic called Kassow’s book one that “may well be the most important book about history that anyone will ever read.”