Author: Joscha Jelitzki

UConn Brain and Behavior in Tel Aviv, Israel, Summer 2020

UConn Brain and Behavior in Tel Aviv is a summer study abroad program that provides students the opportunity to pursue their studies in Psychology, Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, PreMed, or PNB in Israel. The program is led by Dr. Etan Markus (UConn Psychology) together with colleagues at Tel Aviv University. Participants will take a UConn psychology class supplemented with a second, Tel Aviv University, course focused on regional history and/or culture as well as organized activities, tours, and an Israeli dinner/cooking class.

All coursework and activities will be conducted in English.  

There will be an information session on Monday, February 24, 5:00-6:00 pm in Bousfield 162. 

Learn more at the program website:

TAU Summer Flyer



Two Notable Fellowships Available in the Field of Jewish Studies

Apply now for two fellowships available from Columbia University and from the JDC!

  1. The Rabin-Shvidler Fellowship at Columbia University and Fordham University
    Eligible: post-doctoral scholars in all fields of Jewish Studies
    Deadline for submission: December 31, 2019
  2. 2020 JDC Archives Fellowship Program
    Eligible: senior scholars, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and independent researchers
    Deadline for submission: January 21, 2020

Atina Grossmann Presents “Shelter from the Holocaust: German Jewish Refugees in Iran and India”

On November 7, 2019, Professor Atina Grossmann, historian from the Cooper Union, presented "Shelter from the Holocaust: German Jewish Refugees in Iran and India" for the UConn Center for Judaic Studies annual Kristallnacht remembrance lecture. The event was made possible in part by the Center for Judaic Studies Frances and Irving Seliger Memorial Endowment Fund. In expression of the Center's solidarity with the Jewish community in Halle, Germany, which suffered a terrorist attack on Yom Kippur, it was a partner event of the Jewish Culture Days in Halle. In case you missed the event, or want to re-listen to it, please find our video recording below. Apologies for the disturbing noise; it disappears after the first five minutes.

Grossmann Vid Image

Director Patt Featured in UConn Today

Dr. Patt lecturing

Christine Buckley from UConn Today interviewed Dr. Avinoam Patt, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, on the question of Jewish Humor. The phenomenon of many Jews being funny was explained by Patt through the position of the immigrant: As a coping strategy humor can bridge cultural differences and signal harmlessness to the majority of society. But there is also a specific epistemology to that position: From the margins, one is more likely to gain critical insights into society, which then takes the form of a joke. In his notion of Jewish humor being primarily an exilic feature, Patt transcends the particularism of Jewish humor to more universal questions of being a minority and the quest for identity.

Dr. Patt became the Center's Director in August 2019, and so Buckley's piece further uses the opportunity to offer a nuanced biographical portrayal of him, linking his academic interests to his personal experiences. Patt shares what it was like to grow up as the son of two Israeli parents in Houston, Texas, how he entered the field of Jewish Studies, and where he finds intersections between his current two main interests, Holocaust Studies and Jewish Humor, which "might seem incongruous" at first. As the new director, Dr. Patt set himself the goal of expanding the Judaic Studies section at UConn, while also strengthening the Center's outreach program beyond the borders of the campus.

The piece appeared in UConn Today on October 28, 2019, and can be read online in full length here.

Celebration and Reflection at UConn Book Launch

Sarah Willen speaking at panel discussionWith her latest book published just this June, the panel discussion on October 17, 2019, presented and celebrated Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins (UPenn, 2019) by Sarah Willen, Associate Professor for Anthropology at UConn. Her study examines the gerush, a deportation campaign by the Israeli government in 2002, and the effects on its subjects, non-Jewish migrant workers from the Philippines, Ghana, Columbia, and Ukraine. The panel discussion took place between the days of the Sukkot holiday, which centers around the very instability and precariousness of human existence and spaces for dwelling, as Willen remarked.

The event was sponsored by the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, the UConn Human Rights Institute, and the Middle East Studies Program. Director Avinoam Patt (Judaic Studies) and Director Kathryn Libal (Human Rights) gave warm and personal notes of welcome and introduction. The three panelists who spoke before Willen included Tally Amir, a PhD sociologist from Harvard, Heide Castañeda, a PhD anthropologist from the University of South Florida, and Jennifer S. Hirsch, a professor for Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia. In her comments, Amir brought a Human Rights legal perspective to the panel, focusing on dignity in Israeli judicial activism. Castañeda reflected on the links between indignity and indignation, pointing to the parts of Willen’s book that feature the perspectives from Jewish Israeli activists, who organized solidarity and protest against the gerush. Hirsch used her position as Willen’s former teacher to laud her work, praising her book as “timely and timeless.” Hirsch further pondered on the freedom of the social sciences to address the pressing questions of our time and named Willen as an outstanding example of scholarly ambition and courage.

Sarah Willen speaking at panel

All the speakers highlighted the somehow surprising timeliness of the publication. Despite the research going back 18 years and the distant geographical context, Willen’s findings bear special relevance to and critical insight into the current American discourse on immigration. The author herself admitted that she could not have imagined the future priority of the matter when starting her research. In her concluding remarks, with support from Hannah Arendt, Willen linked her study to the universalist Jewish values that the different Israeli activists shared and pledged herself to anthropology’s goal to make “the strange familiar and the familiar strange.”



Johannes Heil (Heidelberg) on pre-Rabbinic Western Jewish Textual Tradition

Headshot Heil

Talk by Prof. Johannes Heil: Patrologia Judaica? Exploring the pre-Rabbinic Western Jewish Textual Tradition

Wednesday, November 20, 1:15-2:15 pm
Humanitites Institute Conference Room
4th-Floor Babbidge Library

This event is free and open to the public. Kosher lunch will be provided.

About the talk:
Professor Johannes Heil, President of the Hochschule für jüdische Studien Heidelberg (Academy for Jewish Studies), presents a lecture which challenges the assumption of the widespread decline of Jewish diasporic culture after 70 C.E., which is based on limited archaeological and epigraphic evidence. This lecture focuses instead on the textual culture of Western diasporic Judaism during the centuries before the reception of Rabbinic Judaism, roughly from the 4th to the 9th century, and paints a different picture of a vibrant Jewish culture in Western Europe.

An event of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, co-sponsored by the UConn Humanities Institute, the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, and the Medieval Studies Program. If you require an accommodation to participate, please contact Pamela Weathers at 860-486-2271 or

Reflections on the Work of Philip Roth by Dr. Sondra Melzer 11/21


Image Philip Roth

Sondra Melzer: Reflections on the Work of Philip Roth

November 21
12:30 pm
MPR, UConn Stamford

Philip Roth, 1933-2018, was an American novelist and short story writer. In her talk, Dr. Sondra Melzer will discuss Roth's focus on Jewish life throughout his storied career, the writings of which made him one of the most celebrated writers of his generation.

Dr. Sondra Melzer completed her PhD at NYU. She is the author of The Rhetoric of Rage: Women In Dorothy Parker. She spent 39 years as a public high school teacher, was an instructor at the University of Connecticut, and ran the Sacred Heart University Education Program. In 2017, upon completing 60 years of teaching, she was named Professor Emerita at Sacred Heart University.

The event by the UConn Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life is free and open to the pubic. If you require an accommodation, please contact Stamford Coordinator for Judaic Studies Professor Fred Roden at or 203-251-8559.

Director Avinoam Patt invited to Provost’s Distinguished Speaker Series in 2020

Professor Avinoam Patt

Dr. Avinoam Patt to Lecture on Holocaust Remembrance in the Provost's Distinguished Speaker Series

It is an honor to announce that our Director Avinoam Patt is invited to lecture at the Provost's Distinguished Speaker Series, which "provides an opportunity for our most recently-inducted Board of Trustees Distinguished Professors and Endowed Chairs to share advances in their expertise and engage thought-provoking discussions." [Learn more about this series and its speakers.]

Save the Date: February 26, 2019, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Dr. Patt's lecture will address the topic of "Trauma, Testimony, and Time: Remembering the Holocaust in the 21st Century."

The event is free and open to the public. It takes place at the Konover Auditorium in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on the Storrs Campus. A reception will follow in the Dodd Lounge with light refreshments. If you require an accommodation to attend, please notify

About the speaker:

Avinoam J. Patt, Ph.D. is the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies and Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of Finding Home and Homeland: Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust (2009); co-editor (with Michael Berkowitz) of a collected volume on Jewish Displaced Persons, titled We are Here: New Approaches to the Study of Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany (2010); and is a contributor to several projects at the USHMM including Jewish Responses to Persecution, 1938-1940 (2011). Most recently, he is co-editor of a new volume on The Joint Distribution Committee at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism (2019), Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust (2020), and Understanding and Teaching the Holocaust (2020). He is currently completing a new book on the early postwar memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Exhibition on Display in the Dodd Research Center – Trailblazer: Connecticut Jewish Women Making History

Exhibition FlyerThis new exhibition from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford is on display at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on the Storrs Campus between October 4 - 30, 2019. The exhibition is accessible Monday through Friday, between 8.30 am and 6 pm.

About the exhibition:

To celebrate the centennial anniversary of women's suffrage, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life present Trailblazer: Connecticut Jewish Women Making History. This exhibition celebrates the successes and contributions of women in history in the United States and around the world. This traveling exhibition - developed and curated by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford - highlights the stories of 12 female pioneers, teaching us what it meant, and what it means to be a Trailblazer.

From women's rights activists to artists, journalists, and health and education reformers, these pioneering women overcame obstacles of gender, social class, and religious identity to make changes that continue to impact our lives today. Some of these women include Beatrice Fox Auerbach, Esther Rome, and Rebecca Affachiner.

This exhibition was partially funded by a grant from the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Fund/Koopman Share at the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford and the generosity of individual donors. It debuted in the Mandell Jewish Community Center on September 3, 2019.