Events 2011 – 2012

Africans, African Americans, and the Abrahamic Religions Symposium

April 19-20, 2012

On April 19 and April 20th, BU’s African American Studies Program presented the Africans, African Americans, and the Abrahamic Religions Symposium on the 9th floor of Photonics on BU’s campus. This symposium explored the impact that the Abrahamic Religions  have had on Africans and their descendants in the Americas from the period of the slave trade until the present day.  An outstanding group of scholars from the United States, Europe, Latin America and Israel  examined topics such as the Ras Tafari movement in Jamaica, Black Judaism in the 1930s, Nigerian Pentacostalism and the “Black church”.  The symposium  featured panels on the interaction between Christianity and African Traditional Religions in the Caribbean and South America and a discussion of the three faiths in modern American life by representatives of each one.

Speakers included Tudor Parfitt (University of London), Professor of Modern Jewish Studies, Albert Raboteau (Princeton University), Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion, and Lamin Sanneh, (Yale University), D. Willis Professor of Missions and World Christianity.

For more information see the African American Studies website, and attached schedule.

Holocaust Remembrance at BU

April 11-29, 2012

This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) began in the evening of Wednesday, April 18th and ended in the evening of Thursday, April 19th. In honor of the event, Boston University hosted a series of educational events in addition to remembrance activities.

April 11th A lecture by Sydney Handler, a Holocaust survivor and BU Alum, in the StuVi Student Atrium at 7 pm

April 18th Poetry reading by Barbara Hyett on the second floor of Hillel at 7 pm

April 19th all-day annual Reading of the Names of the victims of the Holocaust on Marsh Plaza.

Holocaust Remembrance Day Poster

A Story of the Deaf Holocaust

April 2, 2012

Little information is known about deaf Jewish life in Germany and Eastern Europe during the 1940’s and the Holocaust. Students joined Ph.D candidate Mark Zaurov (University of Hamburg) as he spoke on his research and findings of deaf Jewish life in WWII Germany. The event was co-sponsored by the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies and the Deaf Studies Program in the School of Education here at Boston University. Professor Michael Grodin of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights and Family Medicine & Psychiatry responded to Mark Zaurov’s proposal of a deaf Holocaust memorial.

The event was held on Monday, April 2nd from 6:30-8:30 p.m. In Hillel House (213 Bay State Road).

See photos from the event here.

Avram/Ibrahim Miari’s Play In-Between

March 24, 2012

CFA’s TheaterLab@855 was transformed into a caleidoscope of scenes from the life of Avram/Ibrahim Miari, the author and performer of a one-person play he calls “In Between” that held an audience of about 80 students and community members spell-bound for 90 minutes. In scenes that evoked many different emotions and left no one indifferent Miari compellingly brought to the stage what it means to live as a Jew and an Arab in Israel today, to find one’s path between deeply divided communities, and to find love and intimacy where mutual suspicion and contempt are the rule. The play unfolded on two levels: at Ben Gurion Airport where the security guard (Miari) interrogated the unlikely traveler (Miari) using a suitcase belonging to Sara, his American Jewish fiancé, and in the narration of encounters between Miari, Sara, and his Muslim family back in Acco/Acca. Trained in Haifa as well as at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts theater program, Miari used techniques honed by Grotowsky, including over-life-sized puppets and just a few stage props, music, dance, and lighting, to mesmerize the audience and make others feel what it means to be seen as “not Jewish enough, not Muslim enough, not Arab enough.”

The show was presented by the Jewish studies faculty initiative The Other Within.

For a pre-show review by Susan Seligson (BU Today) see

Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni on Pius XII and Jewish Vatican Relations

March 22, 2012

On Thursday, March 22nd, Rabbi Riccardo Shmuel Di Segni, M.D., Chief Rabbi of Rome since 2001, introduced an audience of about 100 students and community members to the long-standing debate on the Vatican’s policies in the 1930s and 40s when Italy introduced racial laws and Jews were deported to death camps. Dr. Di Segni, a trained physician who serves as the chairman of the radiology department at the San Giovanni Hospital in Rome, vice president of the Orthodox Conference of European Rabbis and the Italian government’s National Council for Bioethics, gave a knowledgeable introduction to the long and complicated relationship between the Church and the Jews.

The event was sponsored by the Jewish Cultural Endowment at Boston University, The Florence and Chafetz Hillel House, the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, the Catholic Center, and the Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights department at the School of Public Health.

An Israeli and a Palestinian Woman Speak at BU

February 16, 2012

On Thursday, February 16th at 5 p.m., the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic studies hosted a conversation with Ella Kraus and Reem Ghunaim. Ella, a Jewish Israeli woman from Sderot (near the Gaza strip),  and Reem, an Muslim Arab woman from Tulkarem (in the northern region of the Palestinian West Bank), shared their experiences living through the  Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as their motivations for and  efforts towards ending it. As activists, both women work within  their respective communities towards a negotiated two-state solution  based on the 1967 lines and previous bilateral agreements that will  guarantee an end to the occupation and all forms of violence, resulting  in a viable independent Palestinian state living in peace and security  with Israel. Through leadership training, public lectures and town hall  meetings, Ella and Reem engage their fellow citizens creating a  self-sustaining grassroots network committed to breaking the status quo.

The Daily Free Press covered the event here in the February 21st issue.

Activists in Boston

Department of Religion Presents its 16th Annual Lecture

February 27, 2012

Join Professor Anthony T. Grafton (Princeton University, Henry Putnam University) on Monday, February 27, 6pm, in the Photonics Colloquium Room as he discusses the story of cultural contact between early Christians and Judaic texts in his lecture “Jewish Books and Christian Readers in Early Modern Europe”.

Italian Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 29, 2012

In honor of Italian Holocaust Remembrance Day, Boston University and  the  Consulate General of Italy in Boston, in collaboration with the  American Jewish Committee and the Consulate General of Israel  to New England, hosted a commemoration of Italian Holocaust  Remembrance Day in the Photonics Center, Room 206 on January 29, 2012.

It featured a presentation by Prof. Nancy Harrowitz, Department of Romance Studies, a film “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” by Vittorio De Sica, a presentation by special guest Dr. Paola Bassani, and a round table discussion.

“Sex Segregation in Israel: Where Do You Sit?” Film & Lecture Special Event

January 23, 2012

The National Center for Jewish Film co-presented “Sex Segregation in Israel: Where Do You Sit?” Film & Lecture Special Event on Monday, January 23, 2012, featuring Boston University professor Pnina Lahav.

The event featured Black Bus by filmmaker Anat Zuria (Purity and Sentenced to Marriage), a film which follows the lives of two young women who choose to leave their close-knit Haredi communities in Israel. The screening was followed by a lecture by Boston University constitutional law, political and civil liberties and foreign affairs professor Pnina Lahav on “The Woes of WOW: The Women of the Wall as a Metaphor or Israel-Diaspora Relations”.

The event was hosted by the Hadassah Brandeis Institute and the National Center for Jewish Film at the Wasserman Cinematheque at Brandeis University.

EWCJS-library transformed into chamber music space

December 8, 2011

On Dec 8, the wood-paneled library at 147 BSR transformed into a performance space for a Boston-area premiére of Jonathan Berger’s “Bridal Canopy,” performed by the BU-CFA affiliated Arneis Quartet. A select group of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and friends of the Elie Wiesel Center present at what acting-director Michael Zank called an “informal salon,” was treated to an extraordinary musical moment, the likes of which the former Weld-family residence may have experienced in the late 19th-century, but not in recent memory. Peter Zazofsky, master-violinist and member of BU’s Muir String Quartet, and others commented on the acoustic quality of the space and fell in love with it at first sight: this place was made for chamber music!

The evening was introduced by Prof. Abigail Gillman (MLCL) who shared her enthusiasm for Sh. Y. Agnon, the author of the story “The Bridal Canopy” on which the composition is based. Hakhnasat Kallah, as the story is called in Hebrew, was the first novel published by the 1966 Nobel laureate. As Gillman showed, the ironic tale of the hasid Reb Yudel alludes to great figures in the western canon, such as Cervantes’ Don Quixote, while rendering a yiddish-speaking world, replete with subversive intertextual connections to Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash, in modern Hebrew. While thereby being meticulously and authentically “Jewish,” Agnon creates an utterly human tale that appeals to every reader.

The Stanford University-based composer explained how he used the often surprising twists and turns in Agnon’s tale of a wandering Jew into musical ideas and gave the audience a few pointers of what to listen for in the four movements of the piece. The center-piece of the evening was a transformative performance of music that proceeded from a starkly dissonant opening that, according to Berger, attempted to create the perhaps ugliest noise a string quartet can produce, to a fast-paced sequence of different moods with moments of metallic character. With the second movement, the music becomes more conciliatory, wavering between the humorous and the haunting, to culminate in a requiem for Galicia, the world of Czaczkes from Buczacz, the original home of Agnon, who while shedding his original name nevertheless immortalized the world from which he had hailed.

The Arneis Quartet had been the first group to perform this technically challenging piece at a festival in China, but played it twice this week in Boston, and the musicians were enthusiastic about the fact that, at the Elie Wiesel Center’s salon event, they were finally able to move from focusing on the technical aspects to really bringing the music to live. The space helped: it felt as if the library itself were a musical instrument.

See images of the event on our Facebook page here.

informal salon

Spinoza, the arch heretic, and modern Jewish thought…

December 7, 2011

… was the theme at the heart of Prof. Bienenstock’s IPR lecture on December 7 at 5pm (BU School of Law Barristers Hall 765 Commonwealth Avenue First Floor). The Jewish reception of the apostate philosopher and “father of radical enlightenment” underwent dramatic changes from complete rejection, to Mendelssohn’s abashed appreciation, to Ben Gurion’s apotheosis of this “Other Within.” Prof. Bienestock  showed how much even Hermann Cohen and Franz Rosenzweig, who are associated with a renewal of Jewish theology “after modernity,” were really indebted to and entangled with Baruch/Benedict Spinoza.

A Sister Act: Sarah and Susan Silverman @ BU

November 8, 2011

It was fabulous! The SMG Auditorium was nearly full on this November 8, 8pm, event. To get a flavor of our “conversation about growing up Jewish in New Hampshire and making the best of it,” moderated by Dean Virginia Sapiro, check out the lovely article in the Free Press. For an archived version of the event, see HERE.

sarah silverman


Three Encounters with Elie Wiesel Returning to BU

September 29, 2011

After undergoing open heart surgery last summer, Nobel laureate, playwright, and award-winning writer Elie Wiesel returned to Boston University to resume his annual series of three lectures. This year’s lectures were among the best attended ever, and Prof. Wiesel astounded his audience with the energy and wit he brought to the customary table-talk. The first lecture, on the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac (“Why I love Isaac”) can be viewed HERE. The Daily Free Press reports on Prof. Wiesel’s the third lecture, on choosing between good and evil, HERE. In a report on the last lecture, of November 21, the independent BU online magazine The quads Allen Lesser laments the hype that surrounded the event and that, in his view, may have obscured Prof. Wiesel’s message. Beyond the lecture series and looking at the coming year, Prof. Wiesel  has expressed eagerness, his health (and his physicians permitting), to return to teaching the classes he has offered at BU for over thirty five years.