Center Announcements

The Power of Poetry: April 15, 2017

Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life Writer-in-Residence Joan Seliger Sidney will be participating in a poetry reading on April 15, 2017, at 4:30 pm at Metro Cafe in Hartford. The reading supports multiple sclerosis patients, and funds raised at the event will support the Mandell Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford.

Please visit the St. Francis Foundation for more details

New Fall Course Offering! Anthropology of Jewish Cultures

James Barnett Professor of Humanistic Anthropology Richard Sosis will be teaching a new course this fall entitled Anthropology of Jewish Cultures. The course is being developed by Professor Sosis and Assistant Professor and Director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights Sarah Willen, recent awardees of the course development grant offered by the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life. Credits earned from the course may be applied toward the major or minor in Judaic studies.

Anthropology of Jewish Cultures (ANTH 3098) will meet this fall from 2:00-5:00 pm on Wednesdays.

About the Course:

Abraham Joshua Heschel once poetically remarked that the Bible is not human theology but rather “God’s anthropology.” God, so to speak, has not been alone in studying Jewish life. In Western culture, Judaism has been characterized by its minority, outsider, and marginal status.  Not surprisingly, given anthropological interest in studying “the other,” anthropologists have produced an extensive literature aimed at understanding Judaism and Jewish experiences. The primary goals of this course will be to engage this literature by exploring the diversity of Jewish cultures and examining how influential anthropological theorists (e.g., Mary Douglas, Roy Rappaport, Alan Dundes, and Melvin Konner) have sought to explain the variation and commonalities of these cultures.

The course will place considerable emphasis on Jewish folk traditions as they’ve emerged cross-culturally and their tension with, as well as occasional acceptance by, rabbinic institutions.  Moreover, anthropological efforts to document these traditions, such as Ansky’s ambitious Jewish Enthnographic Program, will be discussed.  Students will be exposed to the rich ethnographic literature on Jewish cultures. These ethnographic writings will be used to explore various topics, communities, and movements within Jewish culture including: Haredim, Ethiopian Jewry, Yiddish culture in Europe and the U.S., chavurah communities, Sephardic communities in Muslim cultures, the Ba’al Teshuvah movement, women’s status within Jewish cultures, and secularization among Jewish communities.

The course will conclude by briefly examining how rabbinic writers, including Mordechai Kaplan, Neil Gillman, and Jonathan Sacks, have drawn upon anthropological data and theories to interpret Jewish teachings and provide visions for the development of Jewish life.

Fourth Annual Interfaith Film Series Sponsored by the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding

The Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding, Inc. (CCIU) invites you to attend the Fourth Annual Interfaith Film Series to be held at the Wadsworth Atheneum on two Sunday afternoons in March and on the first Sunday afternoon in April, 2017. Learn more by visiting their website:

Fourth Annual Interfaith Film Series Poster

Events Canceled for Thursday, February 9

Due to tomorrow’s winter storm warning, the UConn Storrs campus will be closed to all but essential employees. We regret to announce that the Center for Judaic Studies’ events scheduled for Thursday, February 9, have been canceled. This includes the performance of The Forbidden Conversation by Gili Getz and the 12:30 faculty colloquium with Dr. Yossi Chajes.  

We will do our best to reschedule these events in the near future.

Stay safe and warm!

Jeffrey Shoulson
Director, Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

Center for Judaic Studies at UConn Issues Statement in Response to Executive Order on Immigration

In response to the recent executive order on immigration, the UConn Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life would like to share the following statement with our students and friends:

Since its founding in 1979, the Center for Judaic Studies has distinguished itself as a home for high-level academic and intellectual engagement. Core and affiliated faculty offer courses in ancient and modern Jewish history, literature, and culture, Holocaust studies and anti-Semitism, Israel studies, contemporary Jewish Studies, and all levels of Hebrew and Arabic language, literature, and civilization. Our students, like the UConn students generally, represent the rich diversity of religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds that have characterized and contributed to the history of the United States.

We believe the free and open exchange of ideas by people from diverse backgrounds forms the bedrock of academic and intellectual engagement. Whether we are teaching ancient or modern culture, we are committed to frank and fearless inquiry, to the honest interrogation of texts and to an appreciation for what they can teach us about ourselves and others, about human dreams and human failings, about the struggle we all share to find and make meaning that is about more than ourselves.

The Center for Judaic Studies rejects all forms of racial, religious, and national discrimination. We welcome students of all backgrounds, of all faiths, from all countries to join us in study.

Shalom Aleichem. Aleikum as-Salaam. Peace be upon you.

Nehama Aschkenasy

Anne Berthelot

Margaret Breen

Maha Darawsha

Arnold Dashefsky

Susan Einbinder

Lewis Gordon

Donna Hollenberg

Sara Johnson

Stuart Miller

Sherri Olson

Mark Overmyer-Velazquez

T. A. Perry

Bandana Purkayastha

Frederick Roden

Jeffrey Shoulson

Grae Sibelman

Joan Sidney

Richard Sosis

John Thames

Sarah Willen

Sebastian Wogenstein

Faculty Meet and Greet: March 7, 2017


Have you ever wondered what the Center for Judaic Studies does? Have you wanted to come to one of our events but were too shy or didn’t know where they were? Do you just want to eat some pizza? On March 7, faculty and staff from the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life will be hosting a meet and greet in the Student Union, room 303, from 3-5PM.

We hope that you will join us during this casual walk-in event, get to know some of our faculty, and find out about our upcoming events and courses for the fall 2017 semester! We will have pizza available to all students who stop in. We hope to see you there!  If you have any questions, email our graduate student at, or call our office at 860-486-2271.

Remembering Mandell “Bill” Berman

Bill BermanJewish communal activist, philanthropist, and founder of the North American Jewish DataBank Mandell “Bill” Berman, z”l, passed away at the age of 99 on December 21, 2016.  Bill Berman was a singular supporter of social science research on American Jewry and a generous supporter of UConn’s Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life.



From the Berman Jewish DataBank:

Berman Jewish DataBank mourns the passing of Mandell “Bill” Berman, z”l

December 23, 2016

The Berman Jewish DataBank sadly announces the passing of Mandell “Bill” Berman, the Jewish communal activist and philanthropist whose foresight and generosity led to the creation of the North American Jewish Data Bank 30 years ago and to its permanent endowment under its current name at the Jewish Federations of North America in 2013.

Bill was among his generation’s greatest supporters of research in the American Jewish community. He believed strongly in the value of producing and sharing knowledge. In addition to the DataBank, he funded major national surveys of the U.S. Jewish community, research and evaluation in Jewish education and for programs helping children with disabilities, scholarships for students to pursue their studies, and fellowships for academic and applied researchers to conduct their work. He also played a major role in creating the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, with which the DataBank closely collaborates.

Additionally, Bill’s volunteer and philanthropic leadership extended to many communal organizations. Among these were the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Hillel, The Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Education Service of North America, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Meyers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. He also supported a wide range of civic, educational and charitable organizations in his native Michigan.

Bill is survived by his wife, two children and three grandchildren.

The DataBank is proud to carry Bill Berman’s name and hopes that our work will serve as a lasting legacy to his vision. May his memory be a blessing to his family, his community and to all of us who benefited from his kind and generous spirit.

Center for Judaic Studies Partners with Middle East Studies to Bring Compelling Speakers to Campus

The Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life has coordinated with UConn’s Middle East Studies Program to bring two well-known speakers to the Storrs campus this spring to discuss the relationships between American Jewish groups and Israel. 

Gili Getz Actor and photographer Gili Getz will perform “The Forbidden Conversation,” an autobiographical one-man play exploring the difficulty of having a conversation about Israel among American Jews.  The performance will be followed by an open discussion about the challenging conversations between family, friends, and community concerning the future of Israel, the American Jewish community, and ways to process fundamental differences and disagreements. It takes place on Thursday, February 9, at 7:00 pm in the Konover Auditorium at the Dodd Research Center. 


On MDov Waxmanarch 9 at 7:00 pm,  Dov Waxman, professor of political science, international affairs, and Israel studies at Northeastern University will present “Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel.” Professor Waxman will describe how the conflict over Israel among Jewish groups in America has developed and what it means for the future of American Jewish politics.  The event takes place in the Konover Auditorium at the Dodd Center and is also sponsored by the Department of Political Science. Professor Waxman will be available after the presentation for a book signing.


Both events are free and open to the public. 

More information can be found on our website:

Gili Getz to Present the Forbidden Conversation on February 9, 2017

Professor Dov Waxman to Present “Trouble in the Tribe” on March 9, 2017

Spring 2017 Course Offerings in Hebrew and Judaic Studies (HEJS) Announced

Spring 2017 Course Flyer

Registration for Spring 2017 courses is only a few weeks away!  Course topics in Hebrew and Judaic Studies (HEJS) include Jewish Magic, Holocaust in Theater and Film, Ethiopian Jews in Ethiopia and Israel, and Palestine under the Greeks and Romans.  

Literary offerings are also available, including Jewish American Literature and Culture and Selected Books of the Hebrew Bible.

Introductory course, Literature and Civilization of the Jewish People, is being offered for honors credit and fulfills CA1 and CA4. Biblical and Modern Hebrew language courses are also available.

Jewish Playwriting Contest Accepting Submissions

Jewish Plays Project

Submissions of full-length plays on contemporary Jewish themes are due October 15, 2016, for the 2017 Jewish Plays Project. The top 10 finalists will have portions of their plays performed in various cities in front of a panel of judges who will determine the winner. Center Director Jeffrey Shoulson will serve as a judge this spring when finalists compete at Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford. To date, 18 Jewish Plays Projects have gone on to production in New York, London, Tel Aviv, and many US cities.

ABOUT THE JEWISH PLAYS PROJECT: The Jewish Plays Project puts bold, progressive Jewish conversations on world stages. The JPP’s innovative and competitive development vehicle invests emerging artists in their Jewish identity; engages Jewish communities in the vetting, selecting and championing of new voices; and secures mainstream production opportunities for the best new plays.

Visit the Jewish Plays Projects to find out how to submit your work!