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

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


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.

The Fourteenth Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival

On behalf of the Center for Jewish Studies and with the co-sponsoring of the College of Film and the Moving Image, it is my pleasure to announce the 14th Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival, 2021. This year the festival, which goes virtually for the first (and hopefully the last) time, will feature the best and the most recent work by leading Israeli and international figures. The festival will be inaugurated by a multimedia presentation by Ron Leshem, the creator and writer of the successful TV show, Valley of Tears. Ron Leshem is back by popular demand from people who missed his talk last semester about the success of Israeli TV shows in Hollywood. Ron Leshem is the writer and creator of the Valley of Tears which plays now on HBO Max. His multi-media presentation is scheduled for Thursday February 25 at 6PM. A link for a free viewing of the first episode of Valley of Tears will be available to those who register on our website 48 hours before the talk. The registration website for all events is

Following this opening event, I am delighted to present a CT Premiere of the movie Here We Are. A description and a trailer is available on our website. The link to a free viewing of the film as well as the link to the talk is available 48 hours before the talk which is scheduled for on March 4 at 4 PM. The talk is scheduled earlier than usual because the film’s director, Nir Bergman, will be joining us from Israel (thanks to Avner Shavit, the visiting scholar of the Center for Jewish Studies). This is a feel good movie necessary for anyone who needs to keep the spirits up.

Finally, again back by very popular demand, the internationally acclaimed writer and winner of the prestigious Chevalier de Arts award, Etgar Keret, is returning once again to Wesleyan. On March 11 at 4 PM we will screen a short movie “Outside”, a COVID Fairy Tale, based on a short story Etgar Keret first published in the New York Times Magazine, as well as conduct an international live on line conversation with him. Please registrar on our website to get a link to attend this event.

The Film festival is curated by Dalit Katz, and sponsored by the Ring Family, The Center for Jewish Studies and the College of Film and the Moving Image.

Why Hollywood Loves Israeli TV shows

Due to the pandemic, The 18th Annual Fall Series Contemporary Israeli Voices, 2020  (curated by Dalit Katz) has moved online with two live multi-media presentations with Q/A sessions with the audience. The theme for the series this year was the success of Israeli artists in Hollywood. The series was inaugurated with renowned actress Ayelet Zurer who talked about Acting and the Brain’s Plasticity. Zurer spoke about her acting in American movies such as Angels & Demons and Man of Steel as well as acting in Israeli movies and the successful TV show Shtisel. The presentation included screenings of video trailers from her work. In the second presentation, which coincided with the official release of the trailer of the much anticipated TV show Valley of Tears, writer and scriptwriter, Ron Leshem, talked about Why Hollywood Loves Israeli TV Shows. Each presentation was followed by a Lunch and Learn meeting in which Hebrew students conversed with the speakers in Hebrew.  All presentations were opened to the public and were well attended. The Wesleyan community eagerly anticipates welcoming Ayelet Zurer and Ron Leshem again in the near future, hoping for in person  visits to our campus.

EPC Unanimously Approved a Revised Minor in Jewish and Israel Studies  

On February 2020, the Education and Policy Committee, the committee in charge of Wesleyan’s academic curriculum, approved unanimously the Center for Jewish Studies’ proposal for a Revised Minor in Jewish and Israel Studies. This new multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary minor explores various academic areas such as Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish letters and Israel Studies. Courses counted for this Minor are offered by Jewish and Israel core and affiliated faculty, Jewish and Israel distinguished visitors and other Wesleyan faculty.  Student theses with Jewish and Israel relevance across the disciplines as well as study abroad courses and Hebrew courses will be counted towards the five required courses for the Minor. The requirements for completing the Minor will be updated and listed in the Center for Jewish Studies website as well as the Registrar’s catalog. Students can declare the new Minor at the same time they declare their Majors. Students who are currently taking courses in Jewish and Israel Studies as well as faculty expressed their enthusiasm and support of this innovative new minor. Please contact the Director of the Center for Jewish Studies, Dalit Katz, for additional information.


Winners of the Best Jewish Studies Project Contest

The committee for the Best Jewish Studies Projects Awards has chosen two winners for the Best Jewish Studies Award: one in the creative category and one in the academic category. For the best creative project, the winner is Shayna Dollinger’s Abayudaya Radio Show. In this remarkable radio podcast, Shayna explores the Abayudaya, the unknown Jewish community in Uganda. The podcast moves elegantly and smoothly between Shayna serving as a journalist and the community’s rabbi whom she interviews. While exploring the subject, Shayna does not shy away from confronting controversial questions about the difficulties of Aliya (immigration to Israel) that members of the community face in light of the unfair and possibly racist attitude of the Israeli religious authorities and the establishment. For the best academic paper, the winner is Noah Kline’s paper on Memory in the Spotlight. Relaying on interviews with Spiegelman and other sources, Kline offers a fascinating analysis of Art Spiegelman canonical comic Maus that expands into existential and philosophical questions regarding truth and memory. While the issue of preserving the private Holocaust experiences of Spiegelman’s father from Auschwitz through graphic narration is brought to light by Kline in a thorough way, he explores  deeper questions: What is memory and does it represent the truth? How can we describe the reality of one person’s experience and translate it into a work of art? Is it possible to create a meaning out of someone else memories? Kline did a great job in this piece by articulating his philosophical questions while providing answers and suggestions for answers leaning on the multilayered complex work of Spiegelman.