News and Events

Community Participation #3

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

Our final week of the retrospective includes more messages from those impacted by the work of Elie Wiesel, including words from Mayor Marty Walsh and former President Barack Obama.

#1 Professor Stephen Esposito, Associate Professor of Classical Studies and First Semester Core Curriculum Coordinator at Boston University. “Some 60 years ago, Elie Wiesel, at the age of 28, wrote the following 115 words, which were to become the most renowned and powerful passage in all of Holocaust literature. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that butchered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.” (Night, p. 34, trans. Marion Wiesel, 2006) That haunting seven-fold refrain, “Never shall I forget…” was to become the motto of Prof. Wiesel’s life. And so in honor of the dead and the living Elie bore witness. More than anyone in the past generation Wiesel spoke truth to power, and he did so with astonishing results — from Auschwitz and Buchenwald to the Soviet Jews, from the Cambodian Boat People to the victims of violence in Dafur, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Argentina. I met Prof. Wiesel some 22 years ago and over time we became friends. For over a decade he invited me to teach in his classes and together we studied numerous Greek tragedies that he loved – Antigone, Oedipus, Prometheus Bound. Team-teaching with Elie Wiesel was by far the greatest privilege and joy of my B.U. career. Those classes together also turned out to be the most intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. For over 20 years Prof. Wiesel lectured to students in Boston University’s Core Curriculum –on Genesis, on Exodus, on Job. And then, of course, he held court to thousands of listeners in those remarkable presentations every Fall in the Metcalf Auditorium. Students were always at the center of his world. He loved to question students and to be questioned by them. Somehow I felt especially at home with Professor Wiesel when he invited me to speak to his students about my own specialty, Greek tragedy. Those plays often focus on themes that permeated Wiesel’s life: memory and mystery, suffering and solitude, friendship and ferocity.. In his presence I often felt as if I were being transported to the sacred center of the world, to a place where fierce Nobility and benevolent Blessing stood side by side. The students, too, felt it, especially in those last years—their teacher’s voice ever softer and more oracular, the wisdom of eight decades carved into his face ever more deeply, the wizened eyebrows highlighting the sunken eyes that had seen the unseeable—and survived. Like the ancient figure of Oedipus, whom Sophocles wrote so beautifully about 2,500 years ago, Professor Wiesel spent his life daring to pry open the clenched fist of the past, daring to reveal the wrath, the rage and somehow, through his relentless questioning, to summon forth redemption. Thank you, Elie, for the fierce courage in the face of despair, for the never-ending fight to find the words to tell THE story. Thank you for not surrendering, for remembering your sister, your mother, your father, and your people. Thank you for carrying the torch so bravely, for holding such a steadfast beacon to the smoke-filled darkness of night, for helping us to keep our souls on fire, for teaching us what our children and our children’s children must not forget.”

#2 Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston. “Early in his life, Elie Wiesel experienced the worst of humanity. But through his perseverance, he showed the resilience of the human spirit. I remember reading his powerful memoir, Night, when I was a young student in Boston. Today, I am still moved by his strength and compassion. Elie was a man who dedicated his life to improving the lives of oppressed people all over the world. Between his time spent teaching about the horrors of the Holocaust as a professor at Boston University, and his work campaigning for victims of oppression in places like South Africa, Nicaragua and Sudan, Elie remained steadfast in his commitment to the human rights and freedoms deserved by everyone. I’m proud that Boston was the welcoming home of this great man. As a City and nation founded by immigrants, Boston must continue its work to embody the ideals of compassion and stewardship so well represented in the work of Elie. We continue to strive to match the ideals and virtues modeled by Elie, and I am grateful for he brought, and what he taught, to Boston.”

#3 An excerpt from former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power’s foreword to the commemorative edition of Elie Wiesel’s Night to be published this month by Hill and Wang. “Arguably no single work did so much to lift the silence that had enveloped survivors, and bring what happened in the ‘Kingdom of Night’ out into the light, for all to see. And yet. Injustice was still rampant. Genocide denial against the Armenians, the horrors of his lifetime — Pol Pot, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria in his later years. He lived to see more and more people bear witness to unspeakable atrocities, but he also saw that indifference remained too widespread. Amid all the pain and disappointment of Elie’s remarkable life, how is it that the darkness did not envelop him, or shield him from the sun? How is it that the light in Elie Wiesel’s gaze was every bit as defining as his life’s experiences? ‘What is abnormal,’ Elie once told Oprah Winfrey, ‘is that I am normal. I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life — that is what is abnormal.’ Elie raged against indifference to injustice, to be sure, but he also savored the gifts of life with ferocious zeal. ‘We know that every moment is a moment of grace,’ he once said, ‘every hour is an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them.’ Maybe it was because Elie had such a strong sense of purpose on his journey—to help those who could still be helped. A duty to his neighbor. To the stranger, the stranger that he once was. He called it his 11th commandment: ‘Thou shalt not stand idly by…. You must speak up. You must defend. You must tell the victims,… ‘“You are not alone, somebody cares.’” ….As our nation goes through difficult days, Night is a book that is firmly ingrained in that small canon of literature that kids and young adults read when they are growing up in America. Alongside Atticus Finch and Scout, one of the narrators that will have an early shot at shaping our children’s moral universe is 16-year-old Elie. So, while the void is enormous — above all, for Marion, Elisha, and the rest of the family — and the void is enormous for our world, I too am filled with profound joy knowing that my 7-year-old boy and my 4-year-old girl — like Elie’s grandkids, and their children after them — will wade into big questions for the first time with Elie Wiesel as their guide. That they will be less alone for having Elie with them. That Night will be one of the works that lay the scaffolding for their moral architecture. All because Elie Wiesel was optimistic enough to keep going — and to find the strength to shine his light on us all.”

#4 Professor Abigail Gillman, Associate Professor of German and Hebrew, and last year’s Interim Director of the EWCJS. “What I miss now are the ‘Three Encounters with Elie Wiesel,’ the trio of lectures that I attended at the 92nd Street Y in New York City long before hearing them in Metcalf Hall. What we experienced on those evenings was not studying, but learning: the restless ‘turn it and turn it’ described in the Mishnah.  Each lecture wove together scholarship, wisdom, memory. Professor Wiesel managed to present the Torah and the Talmud as Great Books with universal relevance.  His words drew us into the Jewish textual universe as to a place he had actually visited, whether through anamnesis, or by the power of his imagination; the insights we left with were psychological, ethical, humanistic.  I miss listening to his voice—the musicality, the familiar cadences; the parentheses, humble thank-you’s to his students and to the police officers; the never-ending questions and what ifs; the irrepressible joie de vivre. The good news is that the lectures were recorded. The video recordings can be found on both the 92nd St. Y and the BU Howard Gotlieb Center websites, for anyone to study—and to learn from.”

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The Office of Barack and Michelle Obama-Elie Wiesel-9.6.17_Page_2

Community Participation Week #2

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

Our community participation continues this week, with more messages about Elie Wiesel’s impact in the lives of so many.

#1 Sonari Glinton, Business Desk Correspondent at NPR West, penned this thoughtful and moving piece about his professor Elie Wiesel following his passing. Read his NPR piece here: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/07/14/484558040/forgetting-isnt-healing-lessons-from-elie-wiesel

#2 Ariel Burger served as Professor Wiesel’s teaching fellow here at BU from 2003 to 2008. Upon hearing of his passing Burger wrote a moving tribute to Wiesel and spoke of their last meeting together. Read his piece here: http://forward.com/opinion/344194/my-last-meeting-with-elie-wiesel/

#3 Prem Krishna Gongaju, Student Life Advisor at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts and former student of Wiesel. “Professor Elie Wiesel was my teacher, my mentor during my 3-year study at Boston University School of Theology. I sat at his feet in his Literature of Memory classes, learning to take baby steps upon the ashes and embers of Auschwitz stoked by the searing memory of this man, the Lazarus of our history and humanity; I sat at his soot-stained feet overwhelmed by the stench of human depravity, and I was overjoyed by the bouquet of extraordinary hope exuding from his Hasidic soul. He was gentle, he was kind, he was caring. And a sage. His sublime words nudged the slumbering students to a slow awakening to the past, what’s happening at present, and an informed glimpse into what is to come in this world of human/inhuman affairs. His voice was soothing and reassuring. His delivery of message was achieved effortlessly, without strain in his voice and constraint of his conscience. His was a small, still voice, a sort of suspiration from among the reeds stirred by the flaming flurry of recollection by the riverbed of memory. He taught us to keep the river of memory from turning into the Lethe by man’s apathy and indifference. His face. The whole world knows his face: a face furrowed by the claws of man’s cruelty to man, a face smeared with sadness and sorrow, and yet a face capable of beaming hopes against hope upon the upturned faces of his students. And to the world. But I never saw him laugh in the classroom. Professor Wiesel occasionally called on me in our Literature of Memory class, which was conducted in a somewhat seminar-like fashion, especially when his deep-set eye noticed me in a quandary due to some conflicting nature of the topic in question, putting me in an enviable position among my fellow classmates, for to be called upon by Prof. Wiesel was considered a mark of honor. On one such rare occasion, I had to coach my statement against the accepted political norm of the State of Israel, on the delicate issue of Palestinian homeland. Thus I coached my question in answer to the question of the lesson of the day, as logically and succinctly as I could at the time: How couldn’t there be a Palestine for the Palestinian? For I am a Nepali because there is Nepal, my homeland. Suddenly, a hush fell over the entire class, and I experienced what perhaps might have been one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life during those milliseconds of silence. Then Prof. Wiesel put me and the entire class at ease by not taking me to task for what might have sounded to my younger classmates as an impudent remark. He was sagacious and kind to address the issue in question by delineating the principle of separating the Jewish and Palestinian humanity from the school of prevailing political thoughts as well as the Israeli Government’s stance. To my mind, he thus bore witness to the suffering of the Palestinians sans Palestine. One occasion in particular stands out from among the rest of my teacher-student relatedness with Prof. Wiesel. I had given a satchel full of his books to be made holy by his autograph to his then secretary, Ms. Martha. After a few days she had me make an appointment with Prof. Wiesel for retrieving the said books from his office, and also for a brief tete-a-tete, which he occasioned in order to get to know his students, individually.
Our visit went swimmingly well at first. Handing me back my satchel, he offered to gift me any and all of his books in the future, with a gentle wave of his hand toward the two towering bookcases bulging with his tomes. My joy knew no bounds at his generous offer, for I loved books more than bread. Then I remembered something. During the course of his sharing an anecdote, both poignant and humorous, with the students, he touched on his lean days as a roving reporter. This event occurred in one of the airports in India. He and this Indian gentleman happened to strike up a conversation while waiting to catch their respective flights. At the end of a long confabulation, the Indian gentleman handed him a card with a personal note, who, as luck would have it, turned out to be none other than a big executive officer of a certain airline corporation. Because of the telling instruction on the note, Prof. Wiesel noted with a muted but rare chuckle, he could fly in and out of India on that airline anytime–free of charge. However, in his very next breath he added, “But I flew only when I was hungry.” And I was happy to know later that he got to see Kathmandu, my hometown, on one of his famished flights. Then he touched on something to the class, a salient point of which had been stuck in my craw ever since, but which would remain unsaid in public for the rest of my life. It’s strictly between a teacher and his pupil. After I revealed what was on my mind, Prof. Wiesel got up and so did I. We both slowly fell into each other’s embrace. And we sobbed. Elie Wiesel’s name is writ upon the linings of my lungs. I will remember my teacher as long as I live. And I will never forget his teachings: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” And “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

#4 Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “Elie Wiesel led by example, both in words and in deeds. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he “swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation,” that “we must always take sides” when faced with injustice, and that “neutrality helps the oppressor” and “silence encourages the tormentor.” Professor Wiesel taught us that we must unequivocally stand up to racism, bigotry, and hate because they are an assault on our collective humanity. He emerged from the pain and suffering that he endured during the Holocaust to inspire us to choose hope over fear, action over indifference, and unity over division. I reflected on the life and work of Elie Wiesel when I visited Yad Vashem, where I wept as I looked up at the faces of the victims of the Holocaust. That powerful moment underscored the need to vigorously combat anti-Semitism. Today, we must be true to Professor Wiesel’s memory and never abandon our responsibility to confront hate in all its forms. Elie Wiesel’s legacy commands us to work tirelessly to bridge our divides and to bring people together, and I will forever be humbled by his extraordinary work and teachings.”

#5 Dr. Menachem Rosensaft, Columbia University Law professor and founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, grew up with Professor Wiesel as a friend and mentor. Read his tribute to him here: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/206702/remembering-elie-wiesel-a-tribute-from-a-friend-and-disciple

Judaism WAS a Civilization: Towards a Reconstruction of Ancient Jewish Peoplehood.

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

On the afternoon of December 4, 2017, Professor Jonathan Klawans (BU Department of Religion) spoke at the fall semester’s BUJS Research Forum. Elie Wiesel Center Director Michael Zank introduced Professor Klawans to a large and engaged audience of scholars and students. Klawans presented his sabbatical research on Mordecai Kaplan and Jewish antiquity with his talk “Judaism was a Civilization: Towards a Reconstruction of Ancient Jewish Peoplehood.”

Klawans spoke not just on how we think about Jewish antiquity, but also the particular frames that scholars use to shape that thinking. By using the work of Mordecai Kaplan, who wrote about American Jewish identity as well as Jews of the Second Temple period in the 19th century, Klawans argues that we should embrace anachronism. The terms we use to study ancient people did not exist when those ancient people were alive, he argues, and that defining Judaism as solely a “religion” in a Protestant sense (absent from race or ethnicity) ignores the nuance in how Jews have identified themselves. Kaplan encouraged the use of the term “peoplehood” in order to understand Jewish identity as a “social heritage.” Klawans argues that this utilitarian term allows us to study Jewish history with a flexible way of categorizing.

This terminology opens up the usefulness of primary sources when looking at early periods of Jewish life, and the context of folk art and traditions that have been associated with certain groups of Jews. The study of Jewish peoplehood releases the baggage, Klawans claims, of terms like “nation” or “religion.”

The event concluded with a Q&A session about Klawans’ research and how he plans to expand these definitions in his upcoming book.

 

 

 

Modern Mediterranean Identities: Catholic Pasts and Futures in France

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

The Modern Mediterranean Identities series reconvened on November 17, 2017 in the EWCJS library, this time focusing on “Catholic Pasts and Futures in France.” Professor Zank welcomed the audience over lunch, and thanked Professor Kimberly Arkin for her continued work to make the series possible.

Professor Arkin introduced Professor Elayne Oliphant, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at NYU, and her respondent Cornell Professor of History Camille Robcis. She also thanked the audience as well as the staff of the Elie Wiesel Center for continuing to host and support this series. 

Professor Oliphant began her presentation by explaining the framework of her research, arguing that permeable ideas about what makes a space “public” allows for nuance in how the French understand Catholic ideas. She challenges the idea that France has moved past the Catholic Church as a guiding social force, and claims that the idea that the culture is “vanishing” highlights how Catholicism is in fact still privileged in France. Catholicism has become part of, as she puts it, “French architecture” as it has become a part of the “ambiance” despite the widely held conception that French society encourages laïcité (secularism).

In the 19th century, churches were designed and built with support from the state, and they have become part of an imagined past of the people of France and what they have believed. Catholicism in France maintains a historical image of being crucial to French life, which Oliphant argues makes it an unmarked, privileged category despite being a religion.

Camille Robcis responded to Oliphant’s paper by complimenting her focus on the “unacknowledged privilege” of Catholicism rather than statistical numbers. Robcis questions the use of the word “infrastructure” to describe Catholicism as ambient rather than “norm” or “ideology”. She also highlights Oliphant’s point about marriage as a social structure, and she argues that marriage became a social and legal agreement (and therefore more secular) to ensure that the state could survive. Both scholars discussed how French society negotiates the Catholic influences on marriage with currently changing norms around gay marriage and national identity. Catholic traditions in public life, they argue, impact the people of France regardless of race, class or religious affiliation.

The event concluded with further discussion about this blend of secularism and religious tradition in political and social life.

The 4th Annual Trepp Lecture: Reimagining Rabbis

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

This was the first EWCJS event to be streamed live on Facebook. You can watch the livestream of Rabbi Anisfeld’s keynote speech here and the full panel here.

On October 26th, the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies hosted the fourth annual Leo Trepp Lecture at Boston University. The Leo Trepp Lecture Series honors Rabbi Leo Trepp (1913-2010), a revered German-American rabbi and philosopher who was exiled from Germany after brief internment during Kristallnacht. He became a much-beloved advocate of Jewish dialogue and engagement as a rabbi, first in Boston and then in Tacoma, Washington and Berkeley, California. His many publications include History of the Jewish Experience and The Complete Book of Jewish Observance. Basic RGB

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld set the tone for the following discussion. She started with the analogy that rabbis are “doorways” to Jewish life; therefore, it is imperative for rabbis to realize that how they respond to people seeking connection to Jewish life can either open or close that door. She suggested that rabbis should emphasize authentic, human encounters in their day-to-day relationships in order to foster Jewish life in their communities. She continued by saying that she believes that rabbinic work in 21st century North American context also means retrieving a rich, emotionally resonant Jewish “language” that has been lost. The shared vocabulary, literature, and rituals that link Jewish communities to one another and the past has been diminished in the North American Jewish experience. This “cultural repair” can only occur, she argued, if rabbis have an answer to the question: “Why be Jewish?” Wrestling with this question enables rabbis to establish human connection and to respond with authenticity to their community members.

This theme of relationship-driven change continued into the panel discussion. Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold (Congregation Shaar Hashomayim of Quebec) started by asking the question, “How do we engage Jewish institutions in the 21st century?” As one of the first Orthodox women to be ordained as a maharat, she spoke from her own experience when she said that Jewish institutions such as the synagogue and the rabbinate itself are rapidly shifting and changing. Although some of these institutions might resist change, she argued that leaders cannot force change. Leaders must first build relationships and trust before change can occur. The second panelist, Rabbi Suzie Jacobson (Temple Israel of Boston), followed by emphasizing that she also prioritizes relationships in her work. She does not position herself as an all knowing repository of knowledge with her community, but rather, as a seeker also wrestling with the questions of the world, including the question posed by Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld: “Why be Jewish?”

Rabbi Elie Lehmann of BU Hillel ended the panel discussion by reflecting on his experience working at a university. He remarked that many of the questions that Jewish undergraduates ask him, on the surface, might not seem like “Jewish” questions. They ask him what classes they should take, what careers they should pursue, or who they should date. Rabbi Lehmann argued that these questions should also be part of their Jewish questions as well, and a rabbi can help them respond to these questions. His aim therefore is to provide access to Jewish life. This means being present and listening to the concerns of undergraduates and helping them to participate fully in Jewish community.

The lecture and panel sparked a robust discussion with the audience. Because of the wealth of experience on the stage, audience members asked very practical questions like how to navigate discussions surrounding the State of Israel while working with college students. Another audience member asked about how to welcome non-Jewish spouses or partners into Jewish life. The panelists responded by drawing on their own experience, sharing anecdotes from their work in their own communities on how rabbis can respond to the unique challenges of the 21st century.

Photos by Lauren Andrea-Lucia Hobler

“The Land Beyond the Mountains” Film Screening with Nir Baram

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

The Elie Wiesel Center screened journalist Nir Baram’s documentary The Land Beyond the Mountains, based on his book A Land Without Borders, to a packed audience of students and faculty in CAS 226 on Monday, October 30.  EWCJS_NIR_eFlyer_10-30-17

The film follows Baram as he travels throughout the West Bank, meeting people with a variety of opinions about how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He interviews a member of Hamas, Israeli homeowners, Israeli and Palestinian political activists, and even Baram’s own father, a left wing politician. Through these conversations, Baram attempts to get to the truth of what life is like in this contentious stretch of land, which encompasses both beautiful neighborhoods and slum-like housing conditions that coexist along the border wall. While at the beginning of the film Baram seemed to believe in the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution, by the end of the film he questioned whether the conflict could be really be resolved by these means. The Palestinians he spoke with want to draw attention to their displacement in 1948, while Israelis on the whole want to negotiate around the borders designated in 1963. Baram argues that this difference in conversation, and miscommunications between the Palestinian activists and the Israeli government, makes the conflict more difficult to solve. He ends the film highlighting the grassroots work of groups like Two States One Homeland; it is the people of the West Bank organizing and speaking together that will, in his opinion, bring the conflict to an end.

Baram answered audience questions following the screening, discussing how he adapted his written work into the medium of film and how his viewpoint altered over the course of making the film. He also talked about a few of his subjects, including the Hamas member with whom he keeps in touch, and of his optimism that the conversation can be shifted in a way that promotes justice.

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Baram answering audience questions following the screening.

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The audience at the screening, which included Hebrew Program faculty Mira Angrist, Professor Abigail Gillman of Religion and Professor Michael Zank.

Modern Mediterranean Identities: Jewish Futures in the Mediterranean World

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

At 3pm on Monday October 2, a group of students, faculty, and scholars from a variety of disciplines met in the library of the Elie Wiesel Center for the first forum in the 2017-2018 iteration of the Modern Mediterranean Identities series. After some socializing over refreshments, EWCJS Director Michael Zank welcomed the audience in attendance before introducing the series’ organizer Professor Kimberly Arkin who introduced each member of the panel.MMID_JFMW_8-5x11_25(release)

Dr. Naomi Davidson (University of Ottawa) presented her work on “Our Beautiful Algerian Communities,” an analysis of Algerian Jews and how their relationship to the future changed in the decade following Algerian independence in 1962. Her work looked at primary sources, including letters and historical records, with an aim at understanding how Jewish Algerians who immigrated to France understood their relationship to the Jews who remained in Algiers. Dr. Mary Lewis of Harvard offered a response to Davidson’s work, followed by a discussion period where Davidson and Lewis took questions from the audience.

Dr. Abigail Jacobson (Hebrew University) shifted the topic from Algerian Jewish communities to Jewish peoples living on the West Bank, specifically the communities of Sephardi and Oriental Jews living in Haifa throughout the 20th century. Her work observes the immigration of members in these communities during periods of unrest, and how these communities interacted with other Jews as well as Muslims throughout the Middle East. Dr. Michelle Campos (University of Florida) offered a response to her analysis, and the panel wrapped up that evening with further audience discussion.

Love and Borders: A Lecture by Israeli Writer Dorit Rabinyan

By Lauren LeBlancJune 1st, 2018

On October 19th and 20th, Israeli writer Dorit Rabinyan visited Boston University for a two-day residency, where she visited several Jewish Studies classes during the day and gave a public lecture in the evening at the Elie Wiesel Center. At 7pm on the 19th, Ms. Rabinyan spoke about her third novel All the Rivers, which was written following an eight-year hiatus from writing and came to be at the center of a political scandal.

To welcome the audience, Professor Michael Zank gave a few opening remarks to introduce Ms. Rabinyan, thanking Professors Abigail Gillman, Mira Angrist and Nahum Karlinsky who had hosted Ms. Rabinyan in their classes. He introduced her talk as an illuminating reflection on “the agony and exhilaration of writing,” and spoke about how her novel All the Rivers balances a compelling love story with the complexities of politics.rabinyan_flyer

Ms. Rabinyan began the evening by remarking upon the importance of literature in encouraging empathy. “We taste what it is to be someone else,” she said, which we cannot do in a storytelling medium like film or television. She then went on to explain that All the Rivers transformed from a work of art into a political statement when the Israeli Ministry of Education removed the book from high school reading lists.

The love story at the center of the book between an Israeli Jewish woman and an Arab Palestinian man in New York came from Ms. Rabinyan’s own experience in 2002 when she met secular Palestinian artists while living in Brooklyn and formed close relationships that radically changed the way she thought about her home in Israel. Israelis, she argues, are not encouraged to empathize or get to know their Palestinian neighbors, and that this lack of understanding prevents the conflict from ever moving toward peace. Tribalism and isolation helped the Jewish people survive in diaspora, and Ms. Rabinyan respects these instincts while suggesting that Israeli people would benefit from rejecting the fear of losing their Jewish identity. Her book became an immediate bestseller following the controversy in Israel, yet according to Ms. Rabinyan she “would rather trade a stable democracy for more sales of my books.”

Her words inspired a lively discussion about how literature and politics collide and about her particular attitude toward the Israeli government’s charges of her book as “dangerous and assimilationist.” All the Rivers focuses on a specific love story between two young people living away from home in the United States, and Ms. Rabinyan discussed why she chose to set her romance far away from the center of the conflict in order to comment on how different one’s country of origin looks when outside of it.

The evening concluded with Ms. Rabinyan signing copies of her book and mingling with attendees over refreshments.

Photos by Lauren Andrea Lucia Hobler

End of the Year Celebration and Performance by EL ECO with Guillermo Nojechowicz

By Lauren LeBlancMay 31st, 2018

At 7pm in the EWCJS Boardroom, Room 201, students, friends and family gathered to celebrate the end of the semester and to honor the achievements of students in Jewish Studies and in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Professor Zank opened the event with a musical performance accompanied by EWCJS employees and graduating seniors Blake Dickler (QSB ’18) and Sophie Collender (COM ’18).Basic RGB

Following the performance Professor Zank distributed merit awards in to a number of students:

  • Deni Budman, Jesslyn Katherine, and Danielle Asbel each received the Brooks Family Scholarship for Excellence in Jewish Studies
  • Leigh Crossett, Samantha Gagne, and Matthew Guenoun each received the Levine, Martin Family Scholarship for Excellence in Holocaust and Genocide Studies
  • Talya Laver, Frances Gould, and Sophie Bartholomew each received the Henry J. and Carole Pinkney Research Scholarship
  • Tayla Laver and Frances Gould also received the David V. Karney Israel Travel Scholarship, as did Emma Berman

The awards ceremony also honored students for excellence in their study of Hebrew, presented by Professors Abigail Gillman and Mira Angrist. Matan Zamir, a representative from the Israeli Consolate, witnessed the ceremony and congratulated all the students on their achievements. The ceremony concluded with a performance of Bashanah Hab’ah by Professor Zank, Blake and Sophie. You can watch that performance here.

EL ECO took the stage following the awards ceremony, performing two different musical sets at 8pm and then at 9:40 pm. The Elie Wiesel Center library was packed with friends and fans of jazz, and the acoustics made it possible to hear the music clearly throughout the building.

 

“In Her Own Time” Screening with Executive Producer Jonathan Bernstein

By Lauren LeBlancMay 31st, 2018

Our final film screening of the year brought Executive Producer Jonathan Bernstein to BU to discuss both The Chosen and In Her Own Time. In Her Own Time was screened in CAS 326 the following Tuesday, making this a two part film series exploring Orthodox Jewish life in both fiction and in documentary film.

In Her Own Time is a documentary following the work of anthropologist Dr. Barbara Myerhoff in Los Angeles, specifically her fieldwork in the Fairfax community of Orthodox Jews in the 1980s. She did this work while also battling a cancer diagnosis, and the documentary focuses as much on her life as it does on her subjects of study. She received acclaim for her work on communities that were personal to her while overlooked by other anthropologists; she chaired the anthropology department at the University of Southern California and founded the Center for Visual Anthropology. Myerhoff and the director of In Her Own Time Lynne Littman also won an Academy Award for their documentary short Number Our Days, about the elderly Jewish community of Venice, CA. In Her Own Time recounts her life and work, and shows Myerhoff in a personal light as she finds support from the Fairfax community during this difficult time in her personal life. Littman took over the production of In Her Own Time when Myerhoff succumbed to her illness in 1985, and the documentary came out a year later.

Jonathan Bernstein was on hand to discuss he work on the production of this film as well as The Chosen and the Woody Allen film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But were Afraid to Ask (1972).