Category: News and Events

A tribute to Elie Wiesel

July 15th, 2014 in News and Events

We call it Take a Teacher, Make a Friend. The essays and a poem by Elie Wiesel, here translated for the first time, are written by twenty-four out of the hundreds of students Elie Wiesel taught during his distinguished career at Boston University of nearly forty years. Center director Michael Zank and graduate assistant Leanne Hoppe, a graduate student of poetry and creative writing here at BU, collated and edited the contributions and designed this token of appreciation for our colleague, on the occasion of his eighty-fifth birthday. Copies of this first, limited edition will be on sale on September 22, when Elie Wiesel returns to BU for a conversation with Alan Dershowitz.


Visiting Professor Thomas Meyer in the NY Times

April 7th, 2014 in News and Events

MARCH 30, 2014: Elie Wiesel Center visiting professor Thomas Meyer was recently quoted in the NY Times as he offered insight into the revived debate on the question of German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s anti-Semitism. Heidegger’s recently published “Black Notebooks,” which until now have remained restricted from the public, offer clarification for some scholars and perplexity for others. Professor Meyer suggests the notebooks demonstrate a closer relation between Heidegger’s thought and Nazi policy than previously acknowledged; he points to a 1938-1939 passage where Heidegger reinforces the “inner necessity” of National Socialism and its significance in the realm of intellectual consideration.

Thomas Meyer focuses on modern German philosophy and the history of ideas. He has published broadly on Ernst Cassirer as well as on Jewish philosophy and theology of the 20th Century. Currently he is working on an intellectual biography of Leo Strauss. He received his Doctorate in 2003 and his Habilitation in 2009, both from Ludwig Maximilians-University. Since then, he has held visiting professorships in Zurich and Graz. He taught at the University of Chicago (2011-12), Vanderbilt University, Nashville (2012-13), and Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem (2013).

Read the full article here:

The philosopher Martin Heidegger, circa 1933. Credit Corbis

The philosopher Martin Heidegger, circa 1933. Credit Corbis

Environmental studies in Israel, across political boundaries: Arava Institute

April 3rd, 2014 in News and Events

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is an environmental academic and research program in southern Israel, and the only institution which brings together students from around the world, from countries such as America, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan to cooperatively study the region’s environmental challenges. Accredited by Ben-Gurion University, the Arava Institute houses academic programs,research centers, and cross border initiatives on a range of environmental and social justice concerns.

At the Arava Institute, coexistence is a way of life. The student body consists of about one third each of participants from North America and Europe; Israel (Arabs and Jews); and Jordan and Palestine. The motto of the Arava Institute, “Nature Knows No Borders,” reflects its guiding ideology that environmental problems can only be addressed in a regional context and from a cross-border, cooperative perspective.

The Arava Institute offers a one or two-semester study abroad program. The academic program is interdisciplinary with a trans-boundary approach to the environmental challenges of the region and the world. Students can choose from a rich and varied range of courses in environmental sciences, policy, and ethics. Field studies and outdoor expeditions across the region complement the curriculum. The Arava Institute also offers an internship program.

Students live in dormitories with students from the Middle East, America, and around the world. The Arava Institute is located on Kibbutz Ketura, a traditional Israeli living community.

To learn more, visit the Arava Institute website at
Or contact Sarah Rubin in the Boston-based student outreach office at or (617) 266-7100

This summer, study Primo Levi and The Holocaust in Italy

March 5th, 2014 in News and Events

This summer in Padua, Professor Nancy Harrowitz will introduce students to Primo Levi whose writings give us a glimpse of what it was like to experience a Nazi concentration camp. Prof. Harrowitz’s course is part of Boston University’s Padua Summer Program in Italy. Students take 2 courses in this 6 week program. There are many offerings including art history and history, and language classes including Beginning Italian. No knowledge of Italian is necessary for participation in the program. There is some financial aid available. The deadline for applying has been extended to March 20th.

This is a unique opportunity to study one of the most important writers of the Holocaust in a beautiful and historical northern Italian town not far from his birthplace.
Levi has contributed some of the most provocative and influential writings on the Holocaust. In confronting this catastrophic event, he employed a variety of interdisciplinary approaches: scientific, literary, theological and philosophical. The course discusses these perspectives within the broader context of the Holocaust in Italy, including the writings of Giorgio Bassani and Elie Wiesel. Trips to Levi’s hometown of Turin and to Bassani’s home in Ferrara are included, as are films based on the works of both authors. Taught in English.

Savyon Liebrecht in Residence

March 5th, 2014 in News and Events

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

Savyon Liebrecht was born in Munich in 1948. She moved to Israel with her parents—Polish survivors of the Holocaust—in 1950; indeed, the challenges facing the children of survivors figure prominently in her fiction, above all perhaps in her debut collection of stories Apples from the Desert (1986). Liebrecht studied literature and philosophy at Tel Aviv University.

Liebrecht has an uncanny ability to describe and understand the inner and outer lives of women. As one critic has noted, her female protagonists—heroines and narrators, grandmothers, mothers, daughters and wives—are able to “win by opening themselves to the other,” across national, class, and religious boundaries. Her short fiction, novellas, novels and plays have been translated into German, Italian, English, French, Chinese, Estonian, and published in anthologies around the world. She has won numerous awards, among them the Alterman Literary Prize for Apples from the Desert (1987), the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature (1992,1999), and the Playwright of the Year Award (2004 and 2006).

Two of Liebrecht’s plays will be performed on the BU campus this semester: Freud’s Women (upcoming at the BU Playwrights’ Theater on March 30, 2014) and The Banality of Love (on April 28, 2014, in commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day).


March 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

Produced in partnership with: Babson College, Boston University (Jewish Cultural Endowment, Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, The Hebrew Program, Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature), Brandeis University (Center for German & European Studies, Schusterman Center for Israel Studies), CJP, Emerson College, Goethe-Institut Boston and StandWithUs.

Jewish Studies and Religion 2014 Course Sampling

February 10th, 2014 in News and Events

Free 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. Join us Wednesday, March 5, at 6pm at the Hillel House.

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

Where: BU Hillel House, 213 BSR, 2nd Floor
When: March 5th, at 6pm.

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):

2014 Course Sampling
March 5th
2nd floor Hillel House lounge


EWCJS publication in honor of Elie Wiesel named 2013 National Jewish Book Awards finalist

February 6th, 2014 in News and Events

A volume of essays in honor of Elie Wiesel’s eightieth birthday was named finalist for a 2013 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Anthologies and Collections. The volume was edited by Alan Rosen and Steven T. Katz, the founding director of the EWCJS, and contains essays originally presented at a conference at Boston University in 2008.

Review from the Indiana University Press:

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, best known for his writings on the Holocaust, is also the accomplished author of novels, essays, tales, and plays as well as portraits of seminal figures in Jewish life and experience. In this volume, leading scholars in the fields of Biblical, Rabbinic, Hasidic, Holocaust, and literary studies offer fascinating and innovative analyses of Wiesel’s texts as well as illuminating commentaries on his considerable influence as a teacher and as a moral voice for human rights. By exploring the varied aspects of Wiesel’s multifaceted career—his texts on the Bible, the Talmud, and Hasidism as well as his literary works, his teaching, and his testimony—this thought-provoking volume adds depth to our understanding of the impact of this important man of letters and towering international figure.


EWCJS faculty and graduate students at the AJS in Boston (2013)

December 10th, 2013 in News and Events


Elie Wiesel Center faculty and graduate students participated in the 2013 Conference of the Association of Jewish Studies (AJS) . BU faculty and graduate students chairing and presenting included:

Dr. Abigail Gillman, Associate Professor of German & Hebrew (program page 57)

Dr. Nancy Harrowitz, Chair of Romance Studies, Associate Professor of Italian (program page 68)

Dr. Simon Rabinovitch, Assistant Professor of History (program page 56)

Dr. Abigail Jacobson, Professor of History (MIT), Visiting EWCJS Professor (program page 41)

Elly Moseson, GDRS, Graduate Student (program page 69)


The conference was held December 15-17, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts at the Sheraton Boston. For more information, see the AJS website.

Professor Abigail Jacobson seeks to present all views in a volatile discussion

November 18th, 2013 in News and Events

BU Today writer Rich Barlow reports on the dynamic discussion taking place in EWCJS Professor Abigail Jacobson’s classroom.

Whoever said college is an ivory tower isolated from worldly concerns never took Abigail Jacobson’s class on The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

During a recent session on the history of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Jacobson put a 15-minute chunk of discussion off the record for a visiting reporter as she and students exchanged personal views in a conversation so animated that all 17 people in the room seemed to be talking simultaneously at one point. Such are the passions that this real-world tragedy arouses in students around a table on Bay State Road. For Jacobson, creating a free zone for free expression, where students hear and exchange divergent views, is the goal.

“I’m trying really, really hard to expose the students to the different stories and to the different perspectives of this conflict,” Jacobson said in an interview. An Israeli who has worked as a mediator with Israeli and Palestinian youth here and in her home country—invaluable experience during classroom exchanges like the one mentioned above, she noted—Jacobson is a visiting professor from MIT, through BU’s Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies. This is the first time at BU she’s taught the class, which is being offered by the College of Arts & Sciences history department.

Read the full article here at the BU Today website.

A Message From the Director

July 11th, 2013 in News and Events

We have a saying in German that says, neue Besen kehren gut. Roughly translated, it means that it is easy to sweep when using a new broom, though I am not exactly a “new broom.” As some of you know, I’ve been on the faculty of the Department of Religion at Boston University since 1994, when I started as “staff” in Judaic studies when my courses were first advertised. In those days, CAS was still CLA and our digs were on the 5th and 6th floor of the School of Theology building, right next to the University Professor’s program, where one sometimes caught a glimpse of some of the illustrious and talented people John Silber had assembled over the years. (I said hello to Saul Bellow once, which pleased me no end; Henderson the Rain King was one of the first books I read in English, back in 1979, when I traveled in Israel for the first time and began the odyssey that led me here where, this summer, I am assuming the responsibilities of director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies.)

An odyssey for me: from Heidelberg to Brandeis via the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; from theology to philosophy and a doctorate in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies; from studying for the Protestant ministry to serving as a professor of Jewish thought and religion. An odyssey for Jewish or Judaic studies as well?

What are Jewish or Judaic studies and how (in what contexts and interconnections) are we pursuing them here at BU? How do we fit in the landscape of Jewish studies in the greater Boston area, the Association for Jewish Studies, and the international community of scholars? What role can we play?

I have found BU an environment where neither faculty nor students are easily pigeon-holed. One of the largest research universities in the United States with a diverse, international student body, BU has been a hospitable place for someone like myself who is not easily classified. I strive to return the favor by creating a welcoming and open environment that fosters inquiry, not advocacy. Bridging gaps, encouraging different voices, reaching out and bringing people together are in my intellectual DNA.

BU has been hospitable for Jewish studies more generally. Over the past twenty years, BU has added faculty, helped with fundraising, dedicated one of its major buildings, helped expand the library, and supported our work in many other ways in the expectation of creating one of the finest Jewish studies programs in the country. The ball is in our court.

My goals for the next three years are ambitious but simple:

•   Make 147 BSR a hub of advanced Jewish studies;

•   Boost Israel studies;

•   Make Jewish studies relevant to the wider community on and off campus.

A center of advanced studies

I will devote much time and energy on thematic, research driven work that draws on faculty expertise and supports faculty by hosting visiting scholars, doctoral and post-doctoral fellows, conferences, exhibitions, conferences, and publications.

A center of Israel studies

We will seek to secure a full-time position in Israel studies that connects our Center with other fields and disciplines, including history, anthropology, international relations, Hebrew language and Middle East studies.

A center of Jewish studies

In conjunction with other units and universities, we will create a vibrant center of intellectual and academic exchange and a source of inspiration for anyone interested in the rich tapestry of Jewish religion and culture, history and literature, society and politics, from ancient to modern times.

A broom, new or old, is merely a tool; it really depends on who does the sweeping. Our building, gifts and endowments are a testimony to the friendship between John Silber and Elie Wiesel and to the generosity of their friends who, along with other supporters, have built a wonderful legacy. Faculty and graduate students will be the ones generating the ideas and the intellectual energy that will drive our programs. My task will be to put our assets in motion toward the bright future of Jewish studies at BU. This is not to be accomplished single-handedly or overnight. I expect to make mistakes and to be corrected. I can’t do it alone. But I can’t wait to get to work.

In fact, I’ve already started. In the fall we will have Ethan Bronner, the former NYT Jerusalem bureau chief, as the next Yitzhak Rabin Lecturer on campus; in conjunction with Alumni Weekend, we will host a small symposium on Jewish literature and the Humanities; a first longer-term theme, spear-headed by Prof. Zatlin (History) and involving an exhibition and conference on the dispossession of the Jews of Germany in the 1930s, is in planning for 2014-15. And that’s just for starters.

Make sure to check in with us regularly and keep our events on your calendar. Take classes with us and support us if you like what you see.

I’ll see you at “147,” the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies!


Michael Zank

Director, EWCJS


Boston, July 12, 2013