New Book by Professor Magda Teter

A new book by Professor Magda Teter has just been released by Harvard University Press: Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation.

Magda Teter, Sinners on Trial

From Harvard’s website:

“In post-Reformation Poland—the largest state in Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world—the Catholic Church suffered profound anxiety about its power after the Protestant threat. Magda Teter reveals how criminal law became a key tool in the manipulation of the meaning of the sacred and in the effort to legitimize Church authority. The mishandling of sacred symbols was transformed from a sin that could be absolved into a crime that resulted in harsh sentences of mutilation, hanging, decapitation, and, principally, burning at the stake.

Teter casts new light on the most infamous type of sacrilege, the accusation against Jews for desecrating the eucharistic wafer….Recounting dramatic stories of torture, trial, and punishment, this is the first book to consider the sacrilege accusations of the early modern period within the broader context of politics and common crime. Teter draws on previously unexamined trial records to bring out the real-life relationships among Catholics, Jews, and Protestants and challenges the commonly held view that following the Reformation, Poland was a “state without stakes”—uniquely a country without religious persecution.”

The book has been praised as “innovative,” “magnificent,” “with meticulous attention to new archival sources and graceful narrative style.”

Jeremy Zwelling Retires

After more than 40 years at Wesleyan.  Professor Jeremy Zwelling is retiring this year.  When Professor Zwelling arrived at Wesleyan in 1967, the University, like many others in the country, had no program in Jewish Studies.  The field as a whole was just beginning to develop.    The Association for Jewish Studies (the AJS) was not founded till two years later, 1969.   But Jeremy Zwelling had a vision: to bring to Wesleyan Jewish Studies at its best, focusing on highest quality scholarship and cultural progamming.  Over the decades, the field of Jewish studies has matured–the AJS now has over 1800 members– and so has the Program at Wesleyan.   We now have eight core faculty contributing to the program, and five additional faculty affiliated with the program.   We offer a wide range of courses in several departments.  JIS at Wesleyan is one of the most active programs contributing academic and cultural events to a broader Wesleyan and Middletown Communities.

Last year, there were seven public events organized by JIS in the fall alone, some within classes taught in JIS.  They included lectures and film showings.  One of the films was shown within the Middle Eastern Film Series, co-organized by Dalit Katz.   In the Spring, we had the Ring Family Israeli Film Festival, organized by Dalit Katz.  It included five new Israeli films, followed by a speaker.  The JIS also coordinated two speakers within the Middle Eastern Studies Speaker Series.  In April we had the annual Frankel Memorial Lecture.  All this in addition to four academic public lectures organized within the JIS curriculum. Please, check this blog for announcements of events and news about the Program.

To be sure, Jeremy Zwelling’s retirement marks a turning point, a beginning of a new era.  But Jewish and Israel Studies is strong and will continue to flourish.  Since December 2009, Magda Teter has been the Director of Jewish and Israel Studies at Wesleyan.  Jeremy Zwelling, though now retired, has promised to remain an active participant of the Wesleyan and Middletown community.

For a report on the event honoring Jeremy Zwelling on May 2, 2010, see Olivia Bartlett’s article in Wesleyan Connections.

Slobin and Teter Appointed to Endowed Named Chairs

Two Jewish and Israel Studies faculty have been appointed to named chairs.

Mark Slobin has been appointed the Richard K. Winslow Professor of Music. Slobin is an ethnomusicologist whose research interests span the music of Afghanistan and central Asia, the music of eastern European Jews in Europe and North America, general theory of ethnomusicology, and ethnomusicology of film. He has served as President of the Society for Ethnomusicology, as President of the Society for Asian Music, as Editor of Asian Music, and as Series Editor of American Musicspheres (Oxford University Press). His awards include the the Seeger Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology (1969), the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award (1983 and 2001), Lifetime Achievement in Jewish Studies from the Foundation for Jewish Culture (2006), and Honorable Mention (with Chana Mlotek)—the Curt Leviant Award in Yiddish Studies from the Modern Languages Association (2008). He has been awarded grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucius Littauer Foundation, and the International Research and Exchanges Board. He is author of more than 40 articles and author or editor of 18 books, most recently Music at Wesleyan: From Glee Club to Gamelan (forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press); Folk Music: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010); Global Soundtracks: Worlds of Film Music (Wesleyan University Press, 2008); American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots (University of California Press, 2002); and Fiddler on the Move: Exploring the Klezmer World (Oxford University Press, 2000). He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Magda Teter has been appointed the Jeremy Zwelling Associate Professor of Jewish Studies. Teter is a scholar of Jewish history and early modern Europe, focuses on the multifaceted topic of Jewish-Christian relations, especially in the religious and cultural history of Poland. Her work has been supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, YIVO Institute, and the Yad Ha-Nadiv Foundation (Israel), among others. In 2002, she was a Harry Starr Fellow in Jewish Studies at Harvard University, and in 2007-2008, an Emeline Bigelow Conland Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies also at Harvard University. Her first book, Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland: A Beleaguered Church in the Post-Reformation Era (Cambridge University Press, 2006) was awarded the Jewish Studies Publication Prize by the Koret Foundation. She is also author of From Bread to Blood, from Sin to Crime: Sacrilege and Jews after the Reformation (Harvard University Press, forthcoming) and editor, with Adam Teller, of Early Modern Poland: Borders and Boundaries, in Polin, v. 22 (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2009). She is author of more than 15 articles in English, Hebrew, and Polish, and has delivered more than 35 conference papers. She serves on the editorial board of The AJS Review, the Sixteenth Century Journal, and Polin. She received an M.A. from the School of Oriental Studies at the University of Warsaw, Poland, and her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

See the formal announcement here:

Faculty News

On December 10, 2010 at a conference “Jews in Polish Society: Insiders, Outsiders”organized by the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies and the Polish Cultural Institute and held at the Polish Embassy in London, UK, the 22nd volume of the series “Polin” dedicated to the study of Jews in Poland was launched.

The volume, entitled Social and Cultural Boundaries in Pre-Modern Poland, was co-edited by Professors Magda Teter (Wesleyan), Adam Teller (University of Haifa), and Antony Polonsky (Brandeis University).  The section on pre-modern Poland, edited by Teter and Teller, includes twelve essays by prominent scholars of Jewish history, among them Elisheva Carlebach and Moshe Rosman, and also an essay by Professor Teter “‘There should be no love between us and them’: Social Life and the Bounds of Jewish and Canon Law in Early Modern Poland.”

Polin 22The book is now available for sale where books are sold.

New Visiting Faculty in Jewish Studies

Wesleyan’s Jewish and Israel Studies Certificate Program welcomes Loren Spielman as our visiting professor in Jewish Studies in 2009-10. Loren Spielman comes to Wesleyan with a Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Ancient Judaism.

He will be teaching courses ” Jewish Attitudes to Entertainment and Leisure in the Ancient World” (RELI 219) in the fall, and Introduction to Rabbinic Literature, along with a seminar in his specialty in the Spring semester.

Please join me in welcoming Loren Spielman to Wesleyan.

MLA Prize in Yiddish-Mark Slobin Receives Honorable Mention


New York, NY-2 December 2008-The Modern Language Association of America today announced it is awarding its fourth Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies for an outstanding scholarly study in the field of Yiddish to Gabriella Safran, of Stanford University, and Steven J. Zipperstein, of Stanford University, for The Worlds of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Intellectual at the Turn of the Century, published by Stanford University Press.  Chana Mlotek, of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and Mark Slobin, of Wesleyan University, will receive honorable mention for Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive, published by Wayne State University Press.  The prize is awarded each even-numbered year and is awarded alternately to an outstanding translation of a Yiddish literary work or an outstanding scholarly work in English in the field of Yiddish.  Safran and Zipperstein will each receive a certificate and a check in the amount of $500. Mlotek and Slobin will each receive a certificate.

The Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies is one of sixteen awards that will be presented on 28 December 2008 during the association’s annual convention, to be held this year in San Francisco.  The members of this year’s Leviant Prize Selection Committee were Joseph Landis (Queens Coll.); David G. Roskies (Jewish Theological Seminary); and Nina Warnke (Univ. of Texas), chair.  The selection committee’s citation for the winning title reads:

Gabriella Safran and Steven J. Zipperstein’s  scrupulously edited, multidisciplinary volume represents the fullest exploration of S. An-sky’s complex life, work, and legacies to date. It includes a wide range of essays by leading scholars of their fields, a translation of an early Russian manuscript of The Dybbuk, and a CD with some of An-sky’s field recordings and modern recordings of judiciously rendered songs that An-sky collected and created. With its wide spectrum of scholarly perspectives it makes a significant contribution to the fields of Yiddish and Jewish studies and will be a fundamental resource for any scholar of An-sky and Russian-Jewish culture at the turn of the last century. This ambitious volume raises the bar for future multidisciplinary collections.

Gabriella Safran is an associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University.  She received her BA from Yale University and her PhD from Princeton University.  Her publications include Rewriting the Jew: Assimilation Narratives in the Russian Empire, which received the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures, the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages’ Best Book in Literary or Cultural Studies award, and a National Jewish Book Award.  She is the coeditor, with Lazar Fleishman and Michael Wachtel, of Word, Music, History: A Festschrift for Caryl Emerson and, with Benjamin Nathans, of Culture Front: Representing Jews in Eastern Europe.  Her essays have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Prooftexts, Modernity/Modernism, Russian Review, and Slavic Review.  In 2007, she received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Steven J. Zipperstein is Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University.  During academic year 2008-09, he was Harvard University’s Gerald Weinstock Visiting Professor of Jewish History, and this year he is Schuyler Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Before coming to Stanford, Zipperstein taught at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and at UCLA.  His first book, The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History, 1794-1881, won the Smilen Prize, and his second book, Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism, won the National Jewish Book Award.  He is also the author of Imagining Russian Jewry: Memory, History, Identity and Rosenfeld’s Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing, which will be published in 2009. He has coedited four volumes, including, with Jonathan Frankel, Assimilation and Community: The Jews in Nineteenth-Century Europe.  He is coeditor of the journal Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society.  He is president of the Conference on Jewish Social Studies and has received the Judah L. Magnes Gold Medal from the American Friends of the Hebrew University and the Koret Prize for outstanding contributions to Jewish life.

The selection committee’s citation for the honorable mention reads:

Ruth Rubin’s singular dedication to fieldwork over a lifetime, and her commitment to keeping it simple, in the spirit of the culture bearers themselves, produced a lasting and authentic corpus. Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin deserve praise for this meticulously edited work of Rubin’s manuscript. They avoided the pitfall of hagiography: where her theoretical or metahistorical pronouncements were out of date, they admit as much. Where Rubin showed her particular strength, they applaud her. The song texts and melodies can and will be mined by scholars for linguistic, ethnomusicological, and historic purposes and for gender, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives.

Chana Mlotek is the music archivist at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and an editor for the Yiddish Forward.  She is editor or coeditor of Perl fun der yidisher poezye, Favorite Yiddish Songs (Mir trogn a gezang), Pearls of Yiddish Song, Songs of Generations, Yomtevdike teg: Songbook for the Jewish Holidays, Twenty-Five Ghetto Songs (25 Geto-lider), and We Are Here: Forty Songs of the Holocaust.  She is also coeditor of YIVO Bibliography, Volume 2 and the YIVO journal Yidisher Folklor and compiled A List of Fifty-Five Yiddish Records and Index of Five Hundred Recorded Songs.  Mlotek is the recipient of life achievement awards from the Milken Archive of Jewish Music and Jewish Theological Seminary and the Workmen’s Circle.  She received the Performing Arts Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Atran Prize of the Congress for Jewish Culture, and awards from the New York Folklore Society, YIVO Klezkamp, and Klezkanada.

Mark Slobin is a professor of music at Wesleyan University, where he has taught since 1971.  He received his BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Michigan.  He is the author or editor of fifteen books, including Fiddler on the Move: Exploring the Klezmer World and Tenement Songs: Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants, both of which received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award.  Chosen Voices: The Story of the American Cantorate was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.  His most recent book is Global Soundtracks: Worlds of Film Music.  He has been president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and of the Society for Asian Music.

The MLA, the largest and one of the oldest American learned societies in the humanities (est. 1883), promotes the advancement of literary and linguistic studies. The 30,000 members of the association come from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, as well as from Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.  PMLA, the flagship journal of the association, has published distinguished scholarly articles for over one hundred years.  Approximately 9,500 members of the MLA and its allied and affiliate organizations attend the association’s annual convention each December.  The MLA is a constituent of the American Council of Learned Societies and the International Federation for Modern Languages and Literatures.

Established in 2000 by the family of Fenia and Yaakov Leviant, the award honors those writers who have published an English translation of Yiddish literary works and scholars who have written a cultural study or critical biography in the field of Yiddish or edited a work on Yiddish folklore or linguistics.  Previous winners of the prize are Joseph Sherman (2002), Dov-Ber Kerler (2004), Amelia Glaser (2006), and Goldie Morgentaler (2006).