Annual Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture

The Annual Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture was delivered on April 18 by Roger Cohen, New York Times Paris Bureau Chief, who worked for the Times as a foreign correspondent, foreign editor, and an Opinion columnist between 2009 and 2020. Roger Cohen’s work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a 2023 Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award as part of The Times teams covering the war in Ukraine. As foreign editor, he oversaw post-9/11 international coverage in a year that The Times won seven Pulitzers. He is the author of five books, including a family memoir entitled “The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family” and the recent “An Affirming Flame: Meditations on Life and Politics.” In 1995, he won the Overseas Press Club of America Burger Human Rights Award for his investigation of torture and murder at a Serb-run Bosnian concentration camp. In 2017, he was awarded the Society of Publishers in Asia prize for Opinion writing for a series on Australian mistreatment of refugees. He won the same award in 2018 for a piece about the Rohingya crisis in Burma. In 2021, Mr. Cohen received the Légion d’Honneur from the French Republic – France’s highest order of merit – for his work over four decades.

Roger Cohen was introduced by Wesleyan president, Michael Roth, who reviewed his memoir The Girl from Human Street. The title of Roger’s presentation was “Over the Edge: A Story of Israeli and Palestinian Failure”. The lecture was fully attended and a lengthy conversation with Roger Cohen followed with several thought-provoking questions presented by a very engaged audience.

The lecture was sponsored by Emil Frankel and the Center for Jewish Studies. It was organized by Dalit Katz, the Center’s Director. I hope you will join us for our annual Frankel lecture next year.

17th Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival 2024

The 17th Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival has concluded with a THREE New England Premieres and TWO Connecticut Premieres. Each film illuminated a different subject matter and varied in subject, tone, and format: from a futuristic film, The Future, to a film based upon historical events, Golda, to secrets hidden within a community, Seven Blessings and a Tel Aviv style romance in Elik and Jimmy. Each film was introduced by a faculty member from a different department and two films concluded with a Q/A session with the films’ creators after the screenings.  Ma’ayan Ripp, the film director of The Other Woman discussed her film with the audience and Ronen Ben Tal, the film producer of Seven Blessings shared with the audience the movie creative process.  Gudis Schneider, the film director of Elik and Jimmy joined us via Zoom in a taped interview.

The film festival, sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies and the Ring Family and  co-sponsored by the College of Film and the Moving Image and the Wesleyan Film Series, hosted 451 attendants from the Wesleyan community as well as the general communities. I look forward to bringing you the best of Israeli films next year, Dalit Katz, founder and festival Director.

Trauma and Recovery: The Role of Literature in Emotional Healing

Due to the ongoing war in Israel, I am writing to let you know about changes to the next presentation in the series the 21st Annual Contemporary Israeli Voices.

The next presentation will be given by Ayelet Goshen-Gundar. In addition to being a writer, Ayelet works as the chief psychologist at Eliezer mental health clinic in Shalvata hospital. She is considered an emergency worker, and she is helping the survivors in the South of Israel. Her presentation will be on the same original date, Thursday, October 19, but there are a few changes.

The presentation will be offered via Webinar. The presentation time has moved from 8:00PM to 4:30 PM to account for the time difference between the States and Israel.

The webinar link is

Ayelet’s new subject is “Trauma and Recovery: The Role of Literature in Emotional Healing” to account for the recent situation in Israel.

There will be no changes to our next presentation on October 26 at Daniel Family Commons at 8:00 PM.  It will be presented in person by another Ayelet, Ayelet Tsabari. The title of her talk is Memoir, Fiction and What’s in Between. B ’Shalom, Dalit Katz

Statement on the Situation in Israel

The Center for Jewish Studies strongly condemns Hamas’ attack on the State of Israel and especially the targeting of non-combatant civilians. The war has already senselessly claimed innocent victims on all sides. We send our prayers and support to all members of the Wesleyan community whose families, friends, and colleagues were affected.

Despite of the fact that the war is ongoing, and that cultural life is on hold in Israel, the Contemporary Israeli Voices series will go on. Now more than ever, it is important to learn about and honor Israeli culture and voices.

B’Shalom, Dalit Katz

The 21st Annual Contemporary Israeli Voices 2023

On behalf of the Center for Jewish Studies, I would like to give you a heads up about the 21st Annual Contemporary Israeli Voices, 2023 fall series and invite you and guests to join us.

The series this year will feature the internationally renowned Israeli writer, Etgar Keret, as well as other, female, Israeli writers who write in Israel and outside of Israel and explore questions of identity, belonging and personhood.

The series will be inaugurated with a talk by Maya Arad, the author of eleven books of Hebrew fiction, as well as studies in literary criticism and linguistics. Maya is a writer in residence at Stanford University’s Taube Center for Jewish Studies. Maya’s presentation is entitled Happy New Years? Reading Between the Lines. The presentation will focus on Maya’s latest novel The Good Year and the Wesleyan audience will get to be introduced to its English translation before it comes out officially. Happy New Years is an epistolary novel with a twist: it is comprised of fifty annual letters, spread over five decades, each a year apart. The letters are written by Lea, a young immigrant who strives to achieve the American dream.

The event will take place on Thursday, October 5, at 8:00 PM at Daniel Family Commons (45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown).

The second event will be presented by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen who is one of the most unique and prominent writers in Israel. Ayelet will present her latest novel The Wolf Hunt (The title in Hebrew is Relocation). Her presentation is entitled Relocation: A Clash of Cultures. Her book follows an Israeli family on their transatlantic move to the San Francisco Bay area and explores the fault lines in a community, a school, and a family, as an Israeli mother begins to suspect her teenage son of committing a terrible hate crime.

The event will take place on Thursday, October 19, at 8:00 PM at Daniel Family Commons.

In the third presentation entitled Memoir, Fiction, and What’s In Between acclaimed Israeli author Ayelet Tsabari, will speak of her approach to writing fiction and memoir, about finding the truth in fiction and the artifice in memoir, and about making herself into a literary character in her memoir, The Art of Leaving. Her memoir in essays, The Art of Leaving, won the Canadian Jewish Literary Award.

The event will take place on Thursday, October 26, at 8:00 PM at Daniel Family Commons.

To conclude the series, the internationally renowned writer, and a frequent Wesleyan visitor (and one time professor) Etgar Keret will captivate the audience with his Heroic Stories about (his) Dead Mother. In his presentation Keret will speak about his attempt to come up with the stories that capture his late mother: like Maria in West Side Story and like Thanos from the Avengers. In his very Keret way, he ends up with a series of very short stories, snapshots that are mostly a few paragraphs long, that give glimpses of her heroic life from childhood in the Warsaw Ghetto to raising a Sabra family in Israel. Keret’s new book of stories Fly Already won the prestigious Sapir Prize.

The event will take place on Thursday, November 9 at 8:00 PM at Daniel Family Commons.

All events are free and open to the public. More information can be found at

I hope that you will join us and look forward to welcoming you, Dalit Katz, curator of CIV series, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies.

Jeremy Zwelling Remembered by Jewish Studies

With a heavy heart Jewish Studies mourns the loss of its founder, Jeremy Zwelling, associate professor of religion, emeritus, who passed away peacefully in the presence of his family on May 8. Jeremy Zwelling was a devoted teacher and real Mensch beloved by students, faculty and alumni.

Jeremy Zwelling received his bachelor’s degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and his MA and PhD from Brandeis University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1967, where he taught for 43 years until his retirement in 2010.

May his memory be a blessing. Shalom Haver.

Zwelling Remembered for Teaching Jewish Studies at Wesleyan for 43 Years

Professor Ethan Kleinberg Publishes New Book

Congratulation and Mazal Tov to Professor Ethan Kleinberg whose book , Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic Turn: Philosophy and Jewish Thought will be published this October in the Cultural Memory in the Present Series from Stanford University Press.

In this rich intellectual history of the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic lectures in Paris, Ethan Kleinberg addresses Levinas’s Jewish life and its relation to his philosophical writings while making an argument for the role and importance of Levinas’s Talmudic lessons.

Pairing each chapter with a related Talmudic lecture, Kleinberg uses the distinction Levinas presents between “God on Our Side” and “God on God’s Side” to provide two discrete and at times conflicting approaches to Levinas’s Talmudic readings. One is historically situated and argued from “our side” while the other uses Levinas’s Talmudic readings themselves to approach the issues as timeless and derived from “God on God’s own side.” Bringing the two approaches together, Kleinberg asks whether the ethical message and moral urgency of Levinas’s Talmudic lectures can be extended beyond the texts and beliefs of a chosen people, religion, or even the seemingly primary unit of the self.

Touching on Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition, Kleinberg provides readers with a groundbreaking investigation into the origins, influences, and causes of Levinas’s turn to and use of Talmud.




The last event in the 14th Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival featured a groundbreaking collaboration between Israeli and Japanese artists. On Thursday, March 11 at 4 PM the movie OUTSIDE: A COVOID FAIRY TALE, based on a story written by the internationally acclaimed short story writer, Etgar Keret,  was screened. The story Outside was recently published in the New York Times. The movie, based on the story, is a unique collaboration between Etgar Keret and choreographer Inbal Pinto. Following the screening, we had a Zoom conversation with Etgar Keret who read another story published recently in the New York Times. The event concluded with a Q/A with the audience.

Etgar Keret is a frequent visitor of the Center for Jewish Studies. As the Silverberg Distinguished Scholar in Residence, he taught a very popular creative writing course entitled From Idea to Plot. Movies based on his stories such as Total Love, $9.99, Wrist-cutters, Jellyfish and What Kind of Animal Are You were screened  at  Wesleyan University in the Jewish Studies annual series Contemporary Israeli Voices and The Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival.

Here We Are (2020), Connecticut Premiere

The second film in the Fourteenth Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival was Here We Are (2020). The Connecticut Premiere screening of the film Here We Are was followed by a conversation with the film’s director, Nir Bergman, who joined us from Israel via Zoom.

Here We Are (2020) was nominated for NINE Ophir (Israeli Oscar) prizes, was chosen for the Cannes 2020 Official selection, has been screened in more than 30 international film festivals and won several awards. We have previously screened two other films directed by Nir Bergman in our past Israeli film festivals: Broken Wings in 2006 and Intimate Grammar in 2010.

Here is a short description of the film:

Aaron has devoted his life to raising his son Ur. They live in a gentle routine, away from the real world. However, Uri is autistic, and now as a young adult it might be time for him to live in a specialized home. While on their way to the institution, Aaron decides to run away with his son and hit the road, knowing that Uri is not ready for separation. Or is it, in fact, his father who is not ready?

Valley of Tears, conversation with series’ writer and creator, Ron Leshem

The Fourteenth Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival, 2021 will be inaugurated with a free screening of the first episode of the hit series, Valley of Tears, followed by a conversation with the writer and creator of the series, Ron Leshem. The presentation is scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2020, 6:00 PM. A Zoom link for watching Valley of the Tears will be available 48 hours before the presentation. To get the Zoom link for the free watching as well as the presentation link, please register on our website. It might be easier to register to all events at one time. The website also contains trailers to all events.

 Directed by Yaron Zilberman, the same director of the movie Incitement  screened in last year’s film festival, this 10 episodes series, currently streamed at HBO Max, is inspired by the true events of the 1973  Yom Kippur War. This harrowing drama series focuses on the universality of heroism and sacrifice through four intertwined stories; a journalist searching for his estranged, newly-enlisted son; a commander and an intelligence analyst forced to flee their base near the Syrian border; three friends and Black Panthers activists on a tank crew facing political and personal conflicts; and a female officer who remains on the frontlines, despite orders to evacuate. Through its magnified, unflinching lens, Valley of Tears reveals the tension, anxiety, and trauma of a fateful war.

Ron Leshem, the creator of Valley of Tears is back by popular demand. Last semester he talked about the success of Israeli TV shows in Hollywood. On Thursday he will talk about  Valley of Tears. He is an award-winning screenwriter and author and the winner of the Sapir Prize, Israel’s top literary award. Leshem was the co-creator and the writer of the Israeli TV show Euphoria (HBO). He was a producer of the successful Israeli TV show Chatufim adapted into the American hit TV show Homeland. Ron Leshem also wrote the movie script for Incitement, which won the Israeli Academy Award.