NC Jewish Studies Seminar


The NC Jewish Studies Seminar offers a stimulating and exciting forum for academic engagement on Jewish history, culture, and religion.  Since its inception in 2001 under the name Duke-UNC Jewish Studies Seminar, the seminar has brought together faculty, graduate students, and internationally renowned scholars to discuss cutting edge work in Jewish Studies.  Meetings are held monthly, and papers are distributed in advance for all to read. The Seminar is a collaborative partnership of Duke, NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest, with participants coming from universities and colleges across North Carolina.  Closely coordinated with the NCSU and UNC-Chapel Hill public lecture series in Jewish Studies, the seminar enriches the scholarly climate in the area and strengthens the Jewish Studies programs in the local universities.

Fall 2017- Spring 2017 Seminar Dates and Speakers:
(Unless otherwise noted, all seminars will meet on Fridays over lunch from 12:15-2:15PM on Duke’s East Campus. Contact for parking for those coming from outside of Duke. Duke faculty and students are encouraged to use the East-West campus bus.)

Friday, September 15, 2017: Carr 229

Joshua Friedman (Duke University): 'Traditional Ambiguities: Yiddish, Religiosity and the Secular in the American Jewish Identity Industry'

Joshua Friedman is a Perilman Postdoctoral Fellow at the Duke University Center for Jewish Studies. He is a cultural anthropologist with an ethnographic focus on the American Jewish non-profit sector. His general research interests deal with postindustrial transformations to American economic life, and their effects on the politics, practices and boundaries of ethnoreligious communities in the United States. In his dissertation “Yiddish Returns: language, intergenerational gifts, and Jewish devotion” he explores an analytically provocative but heretofore overlooked relationship between culture, religion and economy: the impact of wealth concentration among American financial elites on the practices of Yiddish language activists and culture producers in the United States.

Abstract: Yiddish Farm is a space of competing traditions. Located in Goshen, New York, the organization brings together secular and frum (pious) Jews within an immersive, halokhe (Jewish law)- observant environment. This religious breadth stems from two factors: Yiddish Farm’s background as a nonprofit, Jewish identity program targeting mostly 20-30 something American Jews, and its goal of building connections between secular Yiddish activists and native Yiddish-speaking Hasidim. These dynamics have yielded a space that affords participants opportunities to link Yiddish discursive practices and religious discursive practices in ambiguous, ambivalent and emergent ways. Indeed, at Yiddish Farm, ambiguity has itself become a Jewish practice, one that often underwrites people’s practices of Jewish self-making and Yiddish Farm’s activist agenda of Yiddish community- building.


Friday, October 20, 2017: Friedl 225

Zvi Ben Dor Benite (NYU)


Sunday, November 5, 2017. 3:00-5:00PM

Paula Fredriksen (Boston University)


Friday, December 1: Friedl 225

Guy Ben Porat (Brown)


Friday, January 19, 2018: Friedl 225

Beth Holmgren (Duke)


Friday, March 23, 2018: Friedl 225

Nathan Kurz (Birkbeck, University of London)


Sunday, April 8, 2018. 3:00-5:00PM

Giacomo Todeschini


Sunday, April 15, 2018. 3:00-5:00PM

Elisheva Carlebach (Columbia)


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