Author: Pamela Weathers

July 23: Responding to the Trauma of Children at Our Borders

The Center for Judaic Studies will be co-sponsoring a Community Teach-In on Monday, July 23, at 6:30 pm. “Responding to the Trauma of Children at Our Borders” will be held at B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom (180 Still Road, Bloomfield, on the corner of Mountain Road on the West Hartford/Bloomfield line).

The program is free and open to the entire community and will feature mental health experts, educators, students and child survivors.

This event is sponsored by B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom/Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning; Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford; Charter Oak Cultural Center; Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford; Farmington Valley League of Light; Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford; and UConn Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life. 

Faculty Book Release: Black Death: Plague and Commemoration Among Iberian Jews by Professor Susan Einbinder

Susan EinbinderMany congratulations to our colleague Susan Einbinder whose book After the Black Death: Plague and Commemoration Among Iberian Jews was recently released. Professor Susan Einbinder (Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Comparative Literature) will be teaching "The Black Death" and "The Jewish Middle Ages" in the upcoming fall semester. A few seats are still open for both classes. This is a great opportunity to study with one of the leading scholars in the field. 

From the publisher:

In After the Black Death, Susan L. Einbinder uncovers Jewish responses to plague and violence in fourteenth-century Provence and Iberia. Einbinder's original research reveals a wide, heterogeneous series of Jewish literary responses to the plague, including Sephardic liturgical poetry; a medical tractate written by the Jewish physician Abraham Caslari; epitaphs inscribed on the tombstones of twenty-eight Jewish plague victims once buried in Toledo; and a heretofore unstudied liturgical lament written by Moses Nathan, a survivor of an anti-Jewish massacre that occurred in Tàrrega, Catalonia, in 1348.

After the Black Death Book Cover Susan EinbinderThrough elegant translations and masterful readings, After the Black Death exposes the great diversity in Jewish experiences of the plague, shaped as they were by convention, geography, epidemiology, and politics. Most critically, Einbinder traces the continuity of faith, language, and meaning through the years of the plague and its aftermath. Both before and after the Black Death, Jewish texts that deal with tragedy privilege the communal over the personal and affirm resilience over victimhood. Combined with archival and archaeological testimony, these texts ask us to think deeply about the men and women, sometimes perpetrators as well as victims, who confronted the Black Death. As devastating as the Black Death was, it did not shatter the modes of expression and explanation of those who survived it—a discovery that challenges the applicability of modern trauma theory to the medieval context.



Faculty Book Release: American Jewish Year Book 2017, co-Edited by UConn Professor Arnold Dashefsky

American Jewish Year Book 2017 Now Available:

Includes the Impact of the 2016 Presidential Campaign

and the most Recent Population Statistics


The 2017 volume of the American Jewish Year Book, published by Springer and supported by the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the University of Connecticut and the Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami, has recently been released. Included in this volume of the annually published Year Book are topical review articles, population studies, and extensive lists detailing the numerous North American Jewish institutions, periodicals, academic resources, and major events.

“The Jewish Place in America’s Religious Landscape” by Alan Cooperman and Becka A. Alper of the Pew Research Center examines the similarities and differences between Jews and other religious groups in the US in terms of demographics, religious beliefs and practices, and political views. The authors find that while Jewish retention rates remain high, other religious groups in the US are seeing a rapid rise of disaffiliation rates. According to the authors, "overall…American Jews as a whole appear to be relatively stable as a share of the overall US population, though likely growing in absolute numbers. Furthermore, based on the demographic characteristics of Orthodox Jews briefly discussed here and in the 2013 report, 'A Portrait of Jewish Americans,' the share of Orthodox Jews may be growing as a percentage of the US Jewish community. As such, the profile of American Jews could shift somewhat, particularly in regards to religious beliefs and practices, social and political views, and demographic characteristics."

Bruce A. Phillips of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles, thoroughly investigates one of the most controversial and important topics in the Jewish community today in “Intermarriage in the Twenty-First Century: New Perspectives.” The debate over in-reach/outreach is explored, and multiple approaches, from the sociological to the economic, are used to examine the behavior.  Phillips challenges "the 'damage assessment' narrative by finding that the percentage of Mixed Ancestry respondents who identify as Jewish in any way has actually increased from childhood to adulthood. Beyond the impact of Jewish socialization experiences" Phillips argues "that this phenomenon is influenced by larger trends in American society in which mixed race identities are increasingly accepted and even embraced. Single Ancestry respondents are apparently finding ways to explore their Jewishness outside of religion. Given that Mixed Ancestry will be the norm as Jewish children become adults, learning more about how they identify both through quantitative and qualitative research, particularly in the context of the newly emerging sub-field of 'mixed race studies,' should be a priority for the sociological study of American Jewry. Such a conclusion points to the valuable insights gained from contemporary social science research in understanding the trajectory of the future of American Jewish life."

Two year-in-review articles focus on US affairs and the international arena. Both examine the implications of a Trump presidency with Miriam Sanua Dalin (Florida Atlantic University) exploring the topic through a domestic lens: "The tensions within the American Jewish community that became more apparent in the struggles over the Iran Deal and the presidential election of 2016 remain and continue to divide American Jews within families, friendship circles, congregations, and community organizations. How these internal conflicts are managed in the coming years bears further scrutiny."  Mitchell Bard (The American–Israeli Cooperative Enterprise) assesses the implications for US-Israel relations: "In Washington’s toxic partisan environment, Republicans and Democrats found at least four issues on which they could agree, all related to Israel; first, strengthening the US-Israel relationship; second, taking a stand against UN bias against Israel; third, opposing boycotts of Israel; and, fourth, imposing new sanctions on Iran."

American Jewish Year Book 2017 coverChapters on population studies for the United States, world Jewry, and Canada provided by Ira Sheskin and Arnold Dashefsky, Sergio DellaPergola, and Charles Shahar round out the review articles. Based on an aggregation of over 900 local estimates, the US population article by Sheskin and Dashefsky estimates the Jewish population at 6.85 million while DellaPergola estimates it at 5.7 million and provides a world Jewish population of 14.5 million. Differences in defining the criteria an individual must meet to be counted as Jewish account for the varying figures. Since the US census does not ask a question on religion, relying on sample surveys provides multiple estimates of the US Jewish population. The corresponding Canadian population figure, based on the 2011 census, is 391,665.

Since 1899, the Year Book has served educators, scholars, lay leaders, and members of the Jewish community as an inestimable resource that preserves an invaluable annual record of North American Jewish life. Thousands of chapter downloads from the publisher’s website attest to the endurance of its legacy. According to Springer, for the 2012-2017 volumes, 25,100 chapters were downloaded. In addition, Google found about 439,000 references to the Year Book; Google Scholar found 6,350 references in the scientific literature; and Wikipedia has 283 references to the Year Book.


Pamela Weathers

University of Connecticut

Timothy Snyder Presents The Holocaust as History and Warning

On April 16, 2018, Timothy Snyder (Yale) presented "The Holocaust as History and Warning" for our I. Martin and Janet M. Fierberg lecture in Judaic Studies and Annual Academic Convocation on the Holocaust. The lecture was filmed by UCSpan and was co-sponsored by the American Studies Program, the History Department, the Human Rights Institute, the Humanities Institute, the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.


Susannah Heschel Presents on Human Dignity in Judaism

On April 26, 2018, Dr. Susannah Heschel presented "Human Dignity in Judaism" at Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford, CT. The event was made possible by the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life Gene and Georgia Mittelman Lecture in Judaic Studies, Charter Oak Cultural Center, UConn Hartford, the Humanities Institute, and the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages.

In this talk, Heschel explores the themes of human rights and dignity within Jewish religious texts and how they relate to the modern human experience.

2018 Undergraduate Student Award Winners

The Center for Judaic Studies is proud to announce our 2018 undergraduate award winners for Hebrew and Judaic Studies. The awards were presented at the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages annual student award ceremony. 

The Cohen Henes Award
Carmi Mandelkern

The Frances and Irving Seliger Memorial Award
Jacqueline DeMuyt
Maria Grishanina
Amanda Jones
Bryan Mendoza
Everett Schramm
Gabrielle Sharbin
Simon Walker

The Sylvia and Leo Dashefsky Award for Excellence in Hebrew Studies
Jake Bavarsky
Grant Zitomer

Adane Zawdu Awarded Predoctoral Fellowship

Adane Zwadu

With the support of the Graduate School, the Center for Judaic Studies has awarded Center Graduate Assistant Adane Zawdu a predoctoral fellowship for his summer research. Congratulations, Adane!

Adane, who teaches Ethiopian Jews in Ethiopia and Israel, was awarded the fellowship in recognition of his excellent work in Judaic Studies this year.  For the second consecutive year, Adane organized a panel discussion at UConn for students in his class to present their final papers. The theme of the 2018 Borderlands Graduate Symposium was “Cartographies of the Body: Subversions, Surveillance, Crossings.” 

Daniel Hershenzon Awarded 2018 NEH Grant

Daniel Hershenzon

Congratulations to affiliated faculty member, Daniel Hershenzon (Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages) for receiving a 2018 NEH Grant. The grant was awarded for Daniel's project, "Jewish Manuscripts in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Between Piracy, Redemption, and the Spanish Inquisition." His research will lead to the publication of a book-length study of religious artifacts and piracy in the early modern western Mediterranean.