Events 2013 – 2014

BU JS Faculty/Graduate Student Research Forum with Thomas Meyer

April 30, 2014


From Kirchhain to Annapolis: Leo Strauss’s Intellectual Biography, by Thomas Meyer.

Note from Michael Zank, Director: This was a fabulous conclusion to this year’s BUJS Faculty/Grad Student Research Forum. Thomas Meyer, who served as visiting professor at the EWCJS this spring term and taught two classes through the Religion Department (thank you, David Frankfurter), offered as the crowning achievement of a productive semester a précis of his intellectual biography of Leo Strauss. The well-attended talk offered a new take on this complex author/thinker, who is reviled by some as the evil genius behind the neocons and revered by others as one of the thinkers of the twentieth century that one ought to take seriously. — Thomas Meyer offered a measured, informed, and ingenious alternative reading of Strauss as someone whose cryptic writings were an extended dialogue with books and hence always about the thinker himself. We thank Thomas for this exquisite lecture and for his work at BU this semester and hope he will return soon.

Leo Strauss’s story has yet to be told. Almost forty years after his death, Strauss (1899-1973) has unquestionably become one of the most controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. Yet no comprehensive biography exists of the founder of arguably the most successful intellectual movement in the American academy. True, literature devoted to him fills proverbial libraries, “bad guy/good guy” tales about him constantly surface, and ever more complicated academic discussions of his work are followed with curiosity and bemusement by the broader public. Yet, whoever wants to understand fully what drove the last great intellectual adventurer of the previous century to provoke again, in a wholly new, radical way, the old battle of the “ancients against the moderns,” must first grasp the relationship between the broader course of historical events and Strauss’s individual development—that is, his intellectual biography. Lecture by Professor Thomas Meyer.


Spring 2014 Undergraduate Jewish Studies Party

April 23, 2014

A year-end spectacular with a faculty face-off on latke v. hamantashen; games and prizes; LIVE MUSIC; pizza and ice-cream. Thank you to all of the amazing students and #KolEchadBU for a fantastic evening in the spirit of Jewish studies!

JS Party flyer_Horizon

Pictures from the event may be viewed here.


Omri Boehm on Avi Shavit’s My Promised Land

April 2, 2014

About forty students attended this conversation with Omri Boehm to discuss the moment in Israel’s founding years when decisions of ethnic cleansing were made, sometimes on the spur of a moment, that led to the Palestinian refugee problem and enabled Israel to survive its war of independence and consolidate the territory allotted by the UN partition plan of 1947. Omri Boehm, an assistant professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research who grew up in the Galilee walked us through Avi Shavit’s widely-acclaimed book, My Promised Land, offering his own take on what it might mean for Jews and Arabs to coexisted in Israel/Palestine. (The event took place April 2, 6pm, at CAS 326.)


Omri Boehm’s review of Ari Shavit’s book appeared in the LA Review of Books.

Pictures from the event may be viewed here.


BU JS Faculty/Graduate Research Forum with Giuseppe Veltri

March 26, 2014

Giuseppe Veltri shared with the BU JS Faculty and Graduate Student Research Forum his new project on Jewish theological skepticism. Veltri, an eminent historian of Jewish philosophical literature from the Septuagint to Soloveitchik, gave us a tour de force from the famous oven of achnai episode (לא בשמים היא) to a conception of halakhic obligation without g-d. Much like Elie Wiesel, Veltri ended on a midrashic note: if humans are skeptical of god, isn’t it because God is skeptical of us humans?

Veltri Talk

Giuseppe Veltri is a professor of Jewish Studies in the Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. He is a renowned specialist on early modern Jewish thought and since 1997 has held the chair of Jewish Studies at Halle. In this lecture, Prof. Veltri will speak on Jewish theological skepticism.


BU JS Faculty/Graduate Research Forum with Israel Bartal

March 17, 2014


At this Research Forum, Professor Israel Bartal (Hebrew University/Rutgers University) discussed his new findings on the British Mission’s activity in the Russian Empire, 1816-1820. His talk on “’Who Are You Benjamin Nehemiah Solomon?’: British Missionaries in the ‘Pale of Settlement’, 1816-1820” offered a new perspective on Russian-Jewish historiography.

Note from Michael Zank, Director: Israel Bartal was the speaker at today’s BU Jewish Studies faculty/graduate student research forum (BUJSForum, for short). It is hard to describe this. You can find professional bios of Professor Bartal online, but they won’t give you the faintest impression of the personality, the range, the finesse and stupendous knowledge of this scholar. Imagine a Yiddish speaking Oxbridge don; or imagine one of those tv cooking shows (Hell’s kitchen) with a little old man, with matted hair and not a smidgeon of self-regard, amusedly cooking up a firework from archival finds. The subject sounded inauspicious (“British missionaries in the 19th century Russian Pale of Settlement”), but after just a few words we were immersed in this strange world of transgressive Jews, where you could no longer tell a Maskil from a Protestant missionary or Lubavicher’s from Czarist spies, a world where Crimean Tartars were hired by Anglican linguists to convert Karaites, Jews were trained in Greek to translate the New Testament into Yiddish, and the Czar was preferable to Napoleon because he was a man of God. Go Jewish studies!


Savyon Liebrecht in Residence

March 24 – April 2, 2014

The EWCJS and Israeli Stage were proud to host award-winning author and playwright Savyon Liebrecht for a two-week residency including lectures and performances – all for free!

savyon_print.pdf-03March 24th at 1PM: “Writing about the Shoah: A Conversation with Savyon Liebrecht” at Boston University’s Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies (RSVP required).

March 26th at 7PM: The Leon and Alice Newton Lecture by Savyon Liebrecht at Boston University’s Hillel

March 27th at 7PM: Dear Sigmund and Carl at Brandeis University’s Spingold Theatre + Q&A

March 28th at 11AM: “Writing about the Holocaust,” a lecture by Savyon Liebrecht at Brandeis University’s Schusterman Center for Israel Studies*

March 29th at 2PM: Dear Sigmund and Carl at Babson College + Q&A

March 30th at 7PM: Freud’s Women at Boston University’s Boston Playwrights Theatre + Q&A

March 31st at 8PM: Dear Sigmund and Carl at Babson College + Q&A

April 2nd at 4PM: “The Creative Process,” a lecture by Savyon Liebrecht at Emerson College


2014 Inaugural Leo Trepp Lecture: Susannah Heschel on “Joy and Obligation”

March 4, 2014

On Tuesday March 4, the Elie Wiesel Center inaugurated a new lecture series named for Leo Trepp (1913-2010), a rabbi and teacher who fled Nazi Germany and was active in the Boston area before settling in California. The first Leo Trepp lecture was delivered by Professor Susannah Heschel (Dartmouth College) who introduced the audience to her father, A. J. Heschel (1907-1972) who grew up in a Hasidic family in Warsaw and, even as a highly modern and socially engaged conservative Jewish theologian never forgot the “religious nobility” of his origins. Preceding the lecture, Gunda Trepp and Rolf Schuette, the Consul General of Germany to New England, shared reminiscences of Leo Trepp who was among the few distinguished rabbis who, after the Shoah, were invested in rebuilding Jewish communities in Germany.

The lecture was held at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4, at the Florence & Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University (213 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215).

Leo Trepp AdScreen Shot 2014-02-21 at 3.41.07 PM[1][1]

Pictures from the event may be viewed here.

Videos of the lecture may be found in the Archived Videos & Lectures tab of our site.


Jewish Studies and Religion 2014 Course Sampling

February 26 and March 5, 2014

CouseSamplingMiniLectureSeriesTEMPFree kosher dinner and lively introductions to a range of Jewish studies and Religion courses by faculty, what better way to get a taste of Jewish studies at BU.

Find out what taking a class with BU Jewish Studies and Religion faculty can teach you by joining this second of two course samplers.

Meet with professors to discuss Fall 2014 courses that count toward concentrations in MENA, Jewish Studies, and Religion. None of the courses have pre-reqs, and all 100- and 200-level courses fulfill undergrad humanities requirements.

RSVP here or by emailing Sarah Leventer (Graduate Assistant to the EWCJS):


BU JS Faculty/Graduate Research Forum with Abigail Gillman

February 13, 2014

Professor Abigail Gillman (MLCL)”Before the Law: Decoding Jewish Parables from the Torah to Kafka.”



Israel and Nation Branding: A lunch talk with Ido Aharoni

January 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 1.43.05 PM

On Monday, January 27, Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni visited the Boston University Hillel House to discuss ongoing issues affecting the Israeli state in domestic and international spheres. The Consul General opened his talk by reflecting on the life of an Israeli consular officer who endeavored to promote American involvement in Israel discussions, especially among American youth to whom there is ample opportunity for engagement. He went on to present an innovative approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict which concentrates less on territorial disputes, the traditional foundation for two-state negotiations, and more on ideological discontent between Arabs and Israelis, which Israel believes the core of the conflict. Mr. Aharoni stressed the need to reevaluate the world’s framework in how we, as an international community, view Israel to better reflect the reality of the state’s self-portrayal. He concluded the luncheon with a Q&A session.


Salon Event: “Manischewitz It’s Not: Jeff Morgan and the Art of Kosher Wine”

January 23, 2014

On Thursday, January 23, over forty guests convened in the library at 147 Bay State Road, to taste Peter Paul and Covenant wines. Jeff Morgan gave a talk on “Manischewitz It’s Not: Ruminations of a Kosher Vintner.” With this event, we resumed our “salon” series which was started two years ago, when we featured Jonathan Berger’s “Bridal Canopy,” performed by the Arneis Quartet.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 2.09.48 PM

For more on Jeff Morgan, Covenant Wines, and Peter Paul Wines see the following links:

Wines and Vines and “Napa Maker of Kosher Wines Says His Faith Came Through The Vine” (NYTimes)

Pictures from the event may be viewed here.


BU JS Faculty/Graduate Research Forum with Elly Moseson

December 4, 2013

FacGraLundec4-page-001 (1)

“They are truly his own powers”: Prayer and the Unconscious in the Circle of the Baal Shem Tov, by Elly Moseson.

Our final Fall 2013 faculty/graduate student luncheon featured a presentation by DRTS PhD student Elly Moseson on his research “The Unconscious in Early Hasidism: A Study in Text and Methodology.” This colloquium was for faculty and graduate students affiliated with the Center for Judaic Studies. The luncheon seminar was held from 12:30-2PM on Wednesday, December 4th in the Elie Wiesel Center 2nd floor library.

The only graduate student presentation in our Fall 2013 Faculty/Graduate Student Lecture Series, Elly Moseson, DRTS, spoke about prayer and the nature of unconscious thought in the circle of Baal Shem Tov texts. He offered thought-provoking perspective into the philosophy of from where unpremeditated thoughts originate and what metaphysical implications they may reveal.

Elly’s ambition is to write a biography of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism. In the course of his research, he’s found fascinating reflections, perhaps going back to the Baal Shem Tov himself, on “alien thoughts” that arise in prayer and that “truly his own powers,” i.e., the action of an unconscious mind.


2013 Yitzhak Rabin Lecture: Ethan Bronner on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

November 19, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 4.19.57 PMOn Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 5pm at the BU Hillel House, Ethan Bronner delivered the 2013 Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Lecture on the journalistic challenges of covering the Middle East conflict. Mr. Bronner, who served as the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times from 2008 to 2012, spoke about his years on the job, especially the challenges of covering two such competing narratives. He mixed personal anecdote with policy analysis to bring the audience behind the scenes of being a foreign correspondent.

The Consulate General of Israel to New England was represented by Acting Consul General Nudelman-Perl. The event was part of International Education Week, a university-wide celebration of BU’s global engagement. The Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Lecture series has been made possible by the generous support of Mr. Jonathan Krivine (BA English).

Note from Michael Zank, Director: Thank you, Ethan Bronner, for a first-person account of the subtleties involved in being an honest and impartial voice. It reminded me a lot of what we do (or try to do) in our classrooms. “The one who tries to represent the grey area, between black and white, gets pushed back from all sides.” Indeed! — Thanks also to Jonathan Krivine, whose generous support made the Yitzhak Rabin lecture series possible, and whose genuine concern for the future of Israel (and for honesty in reporting) was heart-warming.


Film Screening: Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Ethnic Solidarity

November 12, 2013

Hannah Arendt JPG

On November 12, EWCJS hosted a screening of Margarete von Trotta’s film on Hannah Arendt, whose book on Eichmann in Jerusalem (On the Banality of Evil) rubbed many people the wrong way. In a spellbinding performance, Barbara Sukowa brought to life a heroic intellectual who refuses you allow her vision to be blurred by considerations of ethnic solidarity, raising the question whether it is always the right thing to speak the truth as one sees it.

The film was followed by a very engaging discussion with BU faculty Abigail Gillman (MLCL) and Pnina Lahav (LAW).

 A brilliant new biopic of the influential German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist, Hannah Arendt challenged the world to reassess its perceptions. Arendt’s reporting on the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann in The New Yorker—controversial both for her portrayal of Eichmann and the Jewish councils—introduced her now-famous concept of the “Banality of Evil.”


Alumni Weekend Symposium

October 27, 2013

The Bible has a firm place in the western canon and college humanities. But is the Bible a Jewish text? What other Jewish texts may help us challenge our students to open their minds and confront the complexities of the human condition? Must a moral ideal, such as prophetic messianism or the prohibition of idolatry, shed its particularity in order to become a universal maxim? What is the relation between Jewish literary traditions and western civilization? Join us for a discussion and text-study symposium with leading scholars from BU and other distinguished institutions to explore these questions and more.

AlumniWeekendSymposium2013final JPG[1] copy

Invited Panelists:

Boston University

Prof. Alicia Borinsky (Romance Studies)

Stephen Esposito (Classics; Core Curriculum)

Prof. David Frankfurter (Chair, Religion Dept.)

Prof. Abigail Gillman (MLCL; Core Curriculum)

Prof. Diana Lobel (Religion)

Prof. Stephanie Nelson (Classics; Director, Core Curriculum)

Visiting Lecturers

Prof. Lesleigh Cushing (BU Alumna; Colgate University)

Prof. Robert Gibbs (University of Toronto)

Prof. Susannah Heschel (Dartmouth College)

Prof. Leah Hochman (BU Alumna; University of Southern California)

Prof. Naomi Seidman (Graduate Theological Union)


Film Screening: Harsh Justice in “The Law in These Parts”

October 19, 2013

The Law in These Parts

Last Saturday night (Oct. 19), an engaged group of students, faculty, and guests gathered for a screening of The Law in These Parts, a documentary on the Israeli military administration of the West Bank. It was followed by a discussion with the director, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz. The documentary explores a little known story regarding the relationship between political and military rule in Israel over the past 40 years. Through interviews with Israeli judges, prosecutors and legal advisors the filmmaker exposes a challenging predicament in Israel that has not been publicly discussed until now, namely, whether a modern democracy can impose a prolonged military occupation on another people while retaining its core democratic values?

A quote from one of the film goers on Saturday night:

“This was indeed a very unsettling film with great insights not only into politics but also the theory of law (beyond practice). A great documentation of “the instrumental conception” of law. But it is also a great tribute to Israelis who seek justice and engage in bearing witness.”

For one of many appreciative reviews of this self-reflective documentary film, see this article by Kenneth Turan of the LATimes.

Abigail Jacobson, EWCJS Visiting Professor of Israel Studies, led the discussion. The BU School of Law and the Jewish Law Student Association co-hosted the event. (Thank you, Jared!)

Click here to learn more and watch the trailer.


Ivan Jablonka Lecture: Writing History in the First Person

October 17, 2013

On October 17, Ivan Jablonka, Professor at the University of Paris XIII and author of the prize-winningHistoire des grands-parents que je n’ai pas eus spoke (in English) on History and the First-Person Singular A Holocaust Meditation. This event, organized by Prof. Mehlman in conjunction with Romance Studies, was co-sponsored by The Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, The Center for the Study of Europe, and Cultural Services of the French Consulate.


BU JS Faculty/Graduate Research Forum with Ursula Reitemeyer

October 10, 2013

ReitmeyerTalk JPG

Holocaust Memorialization in a Reflexive Modernity, by Ursula Reitemeyer.

Our second Jewish Studies faculty/graduate student luncheon was devoted to exploring the differences between the “work of memory” required of institutions devoted to the production of a reflexive modernity (a modernity aware of its limits) and “cultures of memory” as a matter of conventional wisdom orHalbbildung. Our guest, Prof. Reitemeyer (Universität Münster), a philosopher of education and a Feuerbach specialist, cautioned against simplistic and all-too-convenient approaches to the past. An advocate of a “negative dialectic” as the last best hope of rationalism, Reitemeyer laid out a compelling argument for a critical approach to higher education.

The event took place on October 10, 2013, at the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies.


BU JS Faculty/Graduate Student Research Forum with Christina von Braun

September 19, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 3.39.14 PM

Four public universities representing several German states have come together to create a new Center for Jewish Studies, housed in Berlin and directed by Christina von Braun, a distinguished professor at Humboldt Universität and a scholar of gender and Jewish studies. In her talk at the Elie Wiesel Center, held on Tuesday, September 17, Prof. v. Braun kicked off our Faculty/Graduate Student Luncheon Series by giving an overview of this astounding development, as well as an introduction to her research on the history of money. Pictures from the event can be found here.

Over twenty faculty and graduate students were in attendance, as well as guests representing the Psychoanalytical Society of Boston. Our next faculty/graduate student luncheon is scheduled for October 10, at 12:30, with special guest Prof. Ursula Reitemeyer (Universität Münster). Reitemeyer, a professor in the Philosophy of Education and a specialist on the philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach, will lecture on Holocaust memorialization in the context of a reflexive modernity.




For more information on past and future events, visit our calendar, email us at, or call 617-353-8096.