The NC Jewish Studies Seminar (NCJSS) 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 NCJSS 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. To read an example of a past seminar, see this blog post from scholar and novelist David Halperin, which also includes video of panelists.
Seminars will take place Sunday afternoons hybrid @ 3:30pm ET / online only @ 2:00pm ET
Location: Hybrid events will take place in Seminar Room 240 at the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, 2204 Erwin Road Durham, NC 27708. Attendance is limited to vaccinated university faculty and students of sponsoring institutions. Community members are welcome to attend via Zoom.
Fall 2021 – Spring 2022 Seminar Dates and Speakers
Pratima Gopalakrishnan, Duke University: “Structuring Labor Relationships in the Ancient Jewish Household”
- August 29, 2021; 3:30 pm Eastern time (Hybrid)
The concept of mezonot (often translated as “maintenance”) in rabbinic texts refers to the food allowance provided to household members labeled as dependents. Although mezonot later becomes synonymous with a form of benevolent support, this paper explores the earlier legacy of this concept as a non-monetary compensation provided in the context of domestic labor exchange, whether between husband and wife, father and child, or employer and laborer.
Pratima Gopalakrishnan is the Perilman Postdoctoral Associate in Jewish Studies at Duke University. She is an historian of labor and gender in late ancient Jewish society. Her current research focuses on the relationships that govern the exchange of work and support within the household.
Elke Morlok, Center for Jewish Studies, Heidelberg: “Jewish Enlightenment between Tradition, Natural Sciences and Kabbala”
- September 12, 2021; 2:00 pm Eastern time (Zoom only)
This lecture will explore the unique case of the maskil Isaac Satanov (1732-1804) and his harmonious combination between Jewish tradition, natural sciences and kabbalistic ideas as exemplified in his treatise Imre Bina (Words of Understanding), printed in Berlin in 1784. We will discuss the variety of his sources, his hermeneutical strategies in interweaving the different corpora, and his intellectual and pedagogic aims. Complex figures like Satanow and his contemporary Salomon Maimon challenge our widespread perception of the Jews’ entrance into modernity via rationalism, assimilation and secularization; therefore, we must question those parameters and chose our methodological approach(es) with great care.
Elke Morlok is the Lilli and Michael Sommerfreund Visiting Professor at the Hochschule fuer Juedische Studien in Heidelberg. She completed her doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Moshe Idel at the Hebrew University Jerusalem on “Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla’s Hermeneutics” (published in 2011 with Mohr Siebeck). Her habilitation (second book) at Frankfurt University on “Kabbala and Haskala. Isaac Satanov (1732-1804) between Jewish erudition, modern physics and Berlin Haskala” will be published November 2021 with De Gruyter. She has published various articles on Jewish mysticism, Christian Kabbalah, gender issues in Jewish studies, Gershom Scholem and Jewish Enlightenment.
Menachem Keren-Kratz, independent scholar: “The Satmar Rebbe’s Va-Yoel Moshe: The Most Influential Anti-Zionist Text in Modern Jewish History”
- October 10, 2021; 2:00 pm Eastern time (Zoom only)
Menachem Keren-Kratz holds a DMD (The Hebrew University, 1985). He completed a PhD in Yiddish literature (Summa cum Laude, Bar-Ilan University, 2009) and an additional PhD in Jewish history (Tel-Aviv University, 2013). His last published book is a biography of the Satmar Rebbe titled The Zealot: Satmar Rebbe – Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum (Zalman Shazar Center, 2020, in Hebrew). Over sixty of his articles, both in Hebrew and in English, were accepted for publication in academic and semi-academic publications including numerous peer-reviewed academic journals.
Beth Berkowitz, Barnard College: “Appetite for Udders: The Return of the Repressed Mother in Babylonian Talmud Hullin 109a-110b”
- November 21, 2021; 3:30 pm Eastern time (Hybrid)
Freud described the animal udder as an “image intermediate between a nipple and a penis.” Because the udder hangs down from the undercarriage of the cow, it appears to the human eye like a penis. Freud invokes the udder in two case studies, Dora and Little Hans, and it inspired him as he developed his theory of castration anxiety. In this paper I begin with Freud’s view of the udder as a helpful point of entry into classical rabbinic discussions of the udder. Joining recent efforts to recover maternal visibility in the narration and production of Jewishness, I look to the animal mother as an even more occluded yet still powerful figure.
Beth A. Berkowitz is Ingeborg Rennert Chair of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Barnard College. She is the author of Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures(Oxford University Press, 2006; winner of the Salo Baron Prize for Outstanding First Book in Jewish Studies); Defining Jewish Difference: From Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Animals and Animality in the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Her area of specialization is classical rabbinic literature, and her interests include critical animal studies, Jewish difference, and Bible reception history. She is currently working on a project entitled What Animals Teach Us about Families: A Study of Four Biblical Laws and Their Afterlives that offers an interpretive history of the four “animal family” laws of the Pentateuch.
Shatzmiller Fellows of Jewish Studies Seminar, Duke University
- December 5, 2021; 2:00 pm Eastern time (Hybrid)
Semih Gökatalay, PhD candidate, UC San Diego: “The Levant Fair and the Promotion of Tel Aviv as an “All-Jewish” City in the Interwar Period”
Semih Gökatalay is currently a Ph.D. candidate in history at University of California, San Diego. His dissertation is a political and economic history of the modern Middle East during the transition from the Ottoman Empire to nation-states. It explores the development of private and indigenous interest groups in the Middle East vis-à-vis state authorities and international capitalist classes.
Oskar Czendze, PhD Candidate, History Department, UNC; Graduate Fellow at the Center for Jewish History in New York: “In Search of Belonging: Galician Jewish Immigrants Between New York and Eastern Europe, 1890-1938”
Oskar Czendze is a PhD Candidate in the History Department and a TEP Fellow at the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. In 2021-22, he is a graduate fellow at the Center for Jewish History in New York. His research focuses on the cultural and social history of Jews in East Central Europe and the United States, Jewish migration and questions of memory, belonging and place in the modern era. Among his recent publications is “Between Loss and Invention: Landsmanshaftn and American Jewish Memory in the Interwar Era,” Dubnow Institute Yearbook 17 (2018): 35-56.
Leor Jacobi, Post-doctoral Fellow, Bar-Ilan University & Humboldt Stiftung Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Mainz: “Signals in the Noise: Girona Bookbinding Fragments as Unique Codicological Units”
Leor Jacobi is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Bar-Ilan University. Leor’s interdisciplinary research interests, publications and talks range over Rabbinic Literature and Medieval Art and he has given presentations in Europe, America, Israel, and Abu Dhabi. He is currently the recipient of a Humboldt Stiftung Fellowship at University of Mainz, Germany, researching Manuscript fragments extracted from Medieval book- bindings in Girona, Catalonia. Leor is based in Jerusalem and can often be found loitering at the National Library of Israel.
Eli Sperling, Duke University: “The Jewish National Fund: Land Purchases in Palestine, Fundraising in America, and Hebrew Musical Culture”
- January 16, 2022; 3:30 pm Eastern time (Hybrid)
In July 1942, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) published the first of five separately themed Zionist songbooks produced for an American Jewish audience, under the title Classified Palestine Songs. The songbooks were published following the historic 1942 Biltmore Conference, which offered the first consensus platform for defining communal American Jewish efforts to help Zionists in Palestine and were part of a greater body of JNF propaganda, educational and fundraising materials developed for American Jewry during the Yishuv period.This paper explores the use of Hebrew music from Palestine in the JNF’s greater efforts to build a robust donor base and spheres of support amongst American Jewish communities during the during the pre-1948period, both crucial to the success of the Zionist enterprise in the later years of the British Mandate. By the conclusion of WWII—contrasting the decimation of Europe, European Jewry and the associated fundraising markets—American Jewry donated to the JNF at higher rates than the rest of the Jewish diaspora combined. Simultaneously, the JNF contributed to the development of Hebrew national culture and transnational Zionist engagement in America during the decades prior to Israel’s establishment and beyond. The JNF were central in establishing still operational frameworks for American Jewish engagement with Zionist institutions during the pre-1948 period, in part through activities like singing Hebrew songs and donating to Zionist land interests in Palestine.
Eli Sperling has traveled and conducted research extensively throughout the Middle East, spending significant periods of time in Israel, Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula. He holds an MA in Middle Eastern history from Tel Aviv University and received his PhD from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in September 2019. From 2012-2020, Eli served as the Senior Academic Research Coordinator at Emory University’s Institute for the Study of Modern Israel, where he also taught as a guest lecturer at the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies in 2019-2020. His current research focuses on the proliferation and use of Hebrew music from Palestine in the American Jewish community between in the pre-1948 period. He investigates how this music played a role in a greater process through which varying aspects of Zionist though, engagement and national culture became enmeshed in American Jewish life. Since June 2020, Eli has served as a Postdoctoral Associate in Duke University’s Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Center for Jewish studies.
David Koffman, York University, Toronto: “No Better Home? The History of Canadian Jews’ Intersections with First Nations History”
- February 13, 2022; 3:30 pm Eastern time (Hybrid)
David S. Koffman is a cultural and social historian of Canadian and U.S. Jewries. He holds the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry and an associate professor in the Department of History at York University in Toronto. His first book, The Jews’ Indian: Colonialism, Pluralism, and Belonging in America, won a 2020 Association for Jewish Studies’ Jordan Schnitzer Book Award. His newest book project, an edited volume entitled No Better Home?: Jews, Canada, and the Sense of Belonging, was published by the University of Toronto Press in early 2021. He serves as the Associate Director of York’s Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, and as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Canadian Jewish Studies / Études juives canadiennes.
Sam Brody, University of Kansas: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Jews and Economies”
- March 13, 2022; 3:30 pm Eastern time (Hybrid)
Samuel Hayim Brody is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas. His research is in modern Jewish thought and its many and varied interactions with philosophy, political thought, and economic thought. His first book, Martin Buber’s Theopolitics (Indiana University Press, 2018), was a National Jewish Book Award finalist and the winner of the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association of Jewish Studies. He holds an MA from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Glenn Dynner, Sarah Lawrence College: “A Higher Education: The Hasidic Revival in Interwar and Nazi-Occupied Poland”
- April 10, 2022; 3:30 pm Eastern time (Hybrid)
The post-WWI period saw an extraordinary revival of Hasidic education in Poland, from heder reform, to extensive yeshiva construction, to formal female education. The institutionalization of ostensibly “higher” education aimed to subvert both Polish mandatory public schooling and new secularist Jewish educational projects. During the Holocaust it continued underground in Ghetto yeshiva bunkers, symbolically repudiating Nazi dehumanization. Hasidic devotional education was thus not only a spiritual-intellectual practice but a political one; producing what Stuart Hall would term a “culture of resistance.” The resulting pedagogical revival calls into question prevailing framings of 20th-century Hasidism as beset by anti-intellectualism, crisis, and decline.
Glenn Dynner, PhD, is Professor and Chair of the Religion Department at Sarah Lawrence College; Editor of the journal Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies; and a Guggenheim Fellow. He is author of “Men of Silk”: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society (Oxford University Press, 2006), and Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor & Life in the Kingdom of Poland (Oxford University Press, 2014). He is currently working on a monograph entitled Higher Education: The Hasidic Revival in Poland on the Eve of the Holocaust.
Shatzmiller Fellows of Jewish Studies Seminar, Duke University
- April 24, 2022; 3:30pm Eastern time
Jonathan Homrighausen, PhD candidate, Duke University & Adjunct Faculty, College of William & Mary
“Scribal Midrash and Typological Interpretation in Esther Scrolls: Or, What I Learned Hanging Out with Haman’s Ten Sons”
Neri Ariel, LLD, JD, 2nd PhD, Bar-Ilan Law School
“The Laws of Justice in Judgment: A Comparative Study of Medieval Adjudication Between Judaism and Islam”
Yael Attia, PhD Candidate, Department of Jewish Studies, University of Potsdam
“Jewish Studies, Postcolonial Studies: An Encounter with Albert Memmi”
Robin Buller, Post-doctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley
“Everyday Ottomans: Sephardi Immigrant Daily Life in Interwar Paris”