Center News

The Talmud, the Rabbis, and History | Fall 2020 Online Graduate Course Open to Advanced Undergraduates

The Talmud, the Rabbis, and History

University of Connecticut

JUDS 5397.001/CLCS 5301.001


Professor Stuart S. Miller                                            Fall 2020                                           W 3:30 – 6:15 (Meets Online)

Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor.


This course is a unique introduction to Talmudic narrative and related writings of the ancient rabbis of Roman Palestine and Sassanian Babylonia.

The aim is to gain both an appreciation for the ways Talmudic writings inform history and why they continue to fascinate not only scholars of Judaism and rabbinic law, but also philosophers, theologians, legal and literary theorists.

Some discussion will be devoted to the unique discourse of the ancient rabbis and especially to “midrashic thinking.” Of late Talmudic literature has been of great interest to scholars of American juridical thinking, for example, the Yale legal scholar, Robert Cover, the author of the influential Narrative, Violence, and the Law. We will examine how his work has had an impact on legal thinking. We will also take a detour into the work of Emmanuel Levinas to understand better why Talmudic writings have generated much interest among philosophers and theologians.

Usually thought of as works of religious law, the two Talmuds, that of Babylonia and the lesser known “Talmud of the Land of Israel,” are a treasure trove of information about the rabbis’ times, their neighbors, and, of course, their outlook on life. Seminar meetings will be devoted to discussion of diverse Talmudic and “midrashic” passages. Students will gain knowledge of the overall rabbinic corpus, the modes of rabbinic discourse, and the challenges they pose for scholarly inquiry.

Although the rabbis were primarily interested in articulating their program for sanctifying daily life, they reveal much about their lives and times (first through fifth centuries C.E.) and especially about their perspectives towards other Jews and non-Jews among whom they lived. Special attention, therefore, will be devoted to the rabbis’ perception of history, and especially their relations, interactions, and attitudes towards others, including women, apostates, heretics, Samaritans, Romans/pagans, Zoroastrians, and Christians.

For more information, contact Stuart Miller at

Statement from Centers, Institutes, and Programs on Racial Injustice and Ending White Supremacy

We, the faculty and staff of the interdisciplinary Centers, Institutes, and Programs, stand together to express our shock, our heartbreak, and our outrage at the horrific and senseless killing of George Floyd and the ongoing violence against Black people.


George Floyd, David McAtee, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Kathryn Johnston, Ayiana Stanley-Jones, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland. Too many to list and too many to forget.


Each of these names represents a human being, dehumanized, rendered invisible, a Black life cut short by brutality and wanton violence.


We cannot look away. We cannot remain indifferent. We cannot be silent.


We must expose and confront the deep, pervasive, systemic issues that continue to fuel one tragedy after another. We must work together to bring real change. As academic units and programs of the university founded on principles of social justice and human rights we reaffirm our commitment to educating the next generation of healers and freedom fighters. The vision of change, which this crisis on top of a catastrophic pandemic calls for, is a broad, systemic, and intergenerational strategy. We recognize that broad societal change cannot be legislated alone, but must be cultivated community by community, day by day.  To that end, we reaffirm our commitment to creating communities of accountability; implementing actions that dismantle the status quo of white supremacy; and amplifying the voices and experiences of people of color.


As a first step, we encourage you to join us in programs that will bring communities into conversation including tonight’s AACC Town Hall Meeting, presented by The H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center:

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Racism in the African-American Community

Thursday, June 4, at 6 PM


We also encourage you to read the public statement on anti-black violence from the Africana Studies Institute:


We stand together with communities of color across the country as they yet again are subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system. We support our students, from the African American, Asian American, Puerto Rican and Latin American, Women’s and Rainbow Centers, and Native American Cultural Programs, and all who are struggling to demand recognition of their rights and transformation of the conditions in which they live.  We are not silent. We are not indifferent. We are implicated and, therefore, responsible. We will not stand idly by while the blood of our community members cries from the ground.


“Justice is not a natural part of the lifecycle of the United States, nor is it a product of evolution; it is always the outcome of struggle.”


― Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter To Black Liberation


You are not alone. We are with you.


In solidarity,


African American Cultural Center

Africana Studies Institute

American Studies Program

Asian American Cultural Center

Asian and Asian American Studies Institute

Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

El Instituto (Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies)

Human Rights Institute

Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center

Rainbow Center

Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Women’s Center

Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program


Local Synagogues Provide Online Programming

Several UConn Judaic Studies affiliated faculty members will be providing classes for local synagogues organizing online programs. You can find their full schedule below!

Beth David Synagogue, Beth El Temple, Temple Beth Hillel, Congregation Beth Israel, Temple Beth Torah, Congregation B'nai Tikvoh Sholom, The Emanuel Synagogue, Congregation Kol Haverim, Temple Sinai and Young Israel of West Hartford invite the entire community to a:

Beginning the week of April 20th, and running for 9 consecutive weeks, we are pleased to present each week a class by a member of our local academic community. We thank them for their participation in this program and hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity to study with them.

All classes will be accessible on Zoom by clicking on the following link or using the call-in number below.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 934 142 286

Password: lectures

One tap mobile
+19292056099,,934142286# US (New York)

Dial by your location
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
Meeting ID: 934 142 286

Find your local number:

Questions? - E-mail Rabbi Howard Rosenbaum at or leave a phone message at (860) 920-5686.

All classes will begin at 7:30 PM

Wednesday, April 22nd
Dr. Avinoam Patt, Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies and Director, Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, University of Connecticut
"Yom Ha-Shoah Veha-Gevurah: On Jewish Heroism, Martyrdom, and Sacrifice"

Wednesday, April 29th
Dr. Jeremy Pressman, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Middle East Studies, University of Connecticut
"Camp David, 40+ Years Later: Strategy, Peace, Autonomy"

Monday, May 4th
Dr. Joshua Lambert, Academic Director, Yiddish Book Center and Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts
"Sholem Aleichem's Motl the Cantor's Son and How We Think about Immigrants"

Thursday, May 14th
Dr. Ron Kiener, Professor of Religious Studies, Trinity College
"Jewish Imagination in a Time of Pandemic: Apocalypse, Messianism, and Lament"

Wednesday, May 20th
Dr. Deena Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, 
Hartford Seminary
"Divine Love and Punishment in Deuteronomy and Beyond"

Tuesday, May 26th
Dr. Sarah Willen, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Connecticut
""Love the stranger": Migrant Workers, Asylum Seekers, and Israeli
Activists in Tel Aviv"

Tuesday, June 2nd
Dr. Sara Johnson, Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, University of Connecticut
"Not Lost in Translation: The Greek Bible from Aristeas to the Rabbis"

Monday, June 8th
Dr. Sam Kassow, Charles H. Northam Professor of History, 
Trinity College
"David Ben Gurion and the Making of the Jewish State"

Thursday, June 18th
Dr. Stuart Miller, Professor of Hebrew, History, and Judaic Studies and Academic Director, Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, University of Connecticut
"Separating out the Facts: The Origins of Christianity and the History of Judaism"

2020 Student Award Recipients in Hebrew and Judaic Studies

The Center for Judaic Studies is proud to announce our 2020 student award recipients in Hebrew and Judaic Studies. Center for Judaic Studies awards are made possible thanks to the continued support of our donors. Through their generosity, we are able to support and recognize the achievements of our students.
Graduate Students in Judaic Studies, Joscha Jelitzki and Matheus Rinco, received LCl graduate student awards in the HEJS section. 

Undergraduates in Judaic Studies received the following awards:

The Cohen Henes Award

in recognition of outstanding scholarship in Hebrew and Judaic Studies

Emma Barnes
Tiera Everitt 
Natasha Sibirzeff

The Frances and Irving Seliger Memorial Award

in recognition of excellence in Holocaust studies

Zoe Blevins
Julia Markfield
Xiao Xin Xie

The Sylvia and Leo Dashefsky Award

in recognition of excellence in Hebrew

Alex Breinan
Rachel Fein
Doron Feller
Jacob Goldberg

A Letter to the UConn Community | April 2020

The Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish life joins other Centers and Institutes at UConn in signing the letter below to stand in solidarity against all acts of racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and hatred now and always.

A Letter to the UConn Community

From: Asian American Cultural Center, African American Cultural Center, Rainbow Center, Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center, Women’s Center, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, El Instituto, Africana Studies Institute, Human Rights Institute, Dodd Center, Center for Judaic Studies, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, American Studies Program, International Student & Scholar Services, and Office for Diversity and Inclusion

As the concerns about the COVID-19 virus rapidly increase on a daily basis, we want to acknowledge how this pandemic is impacting members of our community differently.

  • There has been a rise of incidents of anti-Asian racism in our local community, our state, our nation and worldwide. Asian and Asian Americans have been subjected to verbal and physical attacks, cyberbullying, discrimination against their businesses, and xenophobic portrayals. We would like to firmly state that such acts of hate will not be tolerated in our community. Such acts only further perpetuate the cycle of violence and fuel white supremacy. We encourage those who have experienced bias of any kind to report the incidents at
  • Going home is not safe for everyone. For some family, partners, and/or guardians may be abusive. For support around gender-based violence, please visit the Title IX website at
  • Going home is not an option for everyone. Many of our International students are facing travel restrictions that preclude them from leaving and/or returning to the US. We encourage you to participate in the University’s Town Hall on April 14th to share your concerns and suggestions.
  • We would like to acknowledge that many folx may be isolated from supportive networks during this time of physical distancing. For many LGBTQIA+ students, returning home may have required concealing one’s true identity in order to survive in a space with family members/others who are not affirming/safe. Connecting to positive resources, people, organizations, and leaders at this time can be helpful. Visit the Cultural Centers’ websites to learn about the different opportunities for support available to you.
  • As the concerns about the COVID-19 virus keeps rapidly changing, more and more anti-immigrant sentiment keeps also growing. Unfortunately, a political narrative of a “foreign threat” has accompanied information about the spread of the virus. This anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic speech is wrong and dangerous. The political environment of the pandemic has given rise to hateful conspiracy theories and disinformation meant to scapegoat Asians and Jews, along with Israel and China internationally. We stand in solidarity with our international students, our Asian American students, our undocumented and DACAmented students. In particular, we acknowledge our undocumented and DACAmented students who continue to face the threat of deportation while negotiating the constraints of the pandemic. As if these conditions were not difficult enough, the Supreme Court is poised to rule on the DACA case in the upcoming months, putting additional strain on our DACAmented friends, peers, and family members.Additionally reports can be made to the following websites:

Students have shared with us how vulnerable and targeted they are feeling. We are aware that many of our students are facing unemployment, limited access to health care, and other hardships. We also understand that these experiences, coupled with isolation, may manifest in mental health related concerns as well.

We would like you all to know that you do not need to navigate these difficult times alone and that we will stand and work with you to get through this together. If you find yourself feeling disconnected or not supported in your current living arrangements, please reach out to us.

You all are citizens of UConnNation, and in this nation, we do not discriminate, we do not use a narrative of hate, we are citizens that stand in solidarity with one another. Now is the time for us to be safe, be compassionate and empathetic towards each other, particularly those who have been affected by the COVID-19 virus and be engaged citizens. We would like to remind each and every individual that they are valued and needed in this world.

The Cultural Centers staff are available to discuss any COVID-19 concerns you may have.
Asian American Cultural Center Website
African American Cultural Center Website
Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center Website
Rainbow Center Website
Women’s Center Website

On-campus resources and updated information about the COVID-19 virus, can be found at

Degrees Offered in Judaic Studies at UConn

Hebrew and Judaic Studies Degrees at UConn

Did you know you can earn the Bachelor of Arts, minor, Master of Arts, or PhD in Judaic studies at UConn?  Courses in the Judaic studies program are taught by exceptional faculty and cover a broad range of periods, disciplinary approaches, and regions. Graduate students can apply for assistantships that provide full tuition funding and living stipends.

Why pursue Judaic studies? The interdisciplinary field of Judaic studies allows students to become informed on human rights, the humanities, literature, history, and the social sciences from the perspective of the Jewish experience.

Find our fall course offerings at:

UConn Center for Judaic Studies Event Cancellations | Spring 2020

March 12, 2020

Tayere Chaverim (Dear Friends)!

As you likely already know, UConn has suspended all in-person classes from March 23-April 6 (and perhaps beyond). We will begin online classes when the students complete Spring Break on March 23. Likewise, the Mandell JCC in West Hartford has also decided to cancel upcoming public programs to minimize person-to-person transmission of the virus.

This means we will need to reschedule all of our upcoming public programs (listed below). While this may be disappointing, if these disruptions help slow the spread of the virus then it will certainly be worth it. We have postponed all Center programs between now and April 6. We will make a determination on programs scheduled for late April in the next few weeks.

As Moses said to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:7) and as members of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement would greet one another in Hebrew: Chazak ve-Ematz (be strong and courageous!)

Zay gezunt un shtark (Be healthy and strong!)



  • March 12, 2020 at 7:30 PM Holy Silence Film Screening and Post Film Discussion at the Mandell JCC with Director Avinoam Patt; Steven Pressman, Emmy-nominated writer, producer, and director; and Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • March 18, 2020 at 7 PM | Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert, How Yiddish Changed America; co-sponsored with ALEPH, Jewish Hartford European Roots, and the Mandell JCC | Mandell JCC, West Hartford
  • March 23, 2020 at 7 PM | REEL Israel - A Panel Discussion at the Mandell JCC with Director Avinoam Patt, Prof. Jeremy Pressman, and Tom Wainrich, Mandell JCC Israel Program Coordinator
  • March 25, 2020 at 11:30AM | Yiddish Tish
  • March 30, 2020 at 7 PM | Stand-up Comic MODI; co-sponsored with UConn Hillel and the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | UConn Hillel House, Storrs Campus
  • April 1, 2020 at 7 PM | Ferne Pearlstein and Robert Edwards, The Last Laugh. Film screening and book launch with Avinoam Patt, ed, Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust; co-sponsored with University of Hartford Greenberg Center and the Mandell JCC | Mandell JCC, West Hartford
  • April 20, 2020 at 5 PM | Christopher Browning, "Holocaust History and Survivor Testimony 75 Years After Liberation"; Annual Academic Convocation on the Holocaust and UConn Judaic Studies 40th anniversary event; co-sponsored with UConn Hillel, the Human Rights Institute, the Humanities Institute, the Neag School of Education, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center  | UConn Student Union Theater, Storrs Campus
  • April 22, 2020 at 12 PM | German-Jewish author Olga Grjasnowa, Germany's Struggle with Cultural Diversity; with German Studies, Global Affairs, and the Human Rights Institute | Room 236, Oak Hall, Storrs Campus
  • April 28, 2020 at 5:30 PM | Legacies of European Jewry: The Second Generation and Beyond | Panel discussion at UConn Stamford
  • April 29, 2020 at 11:30AM | Yiddish Tish

Please visit our programming page to stay up-to-date on event information.

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.

Avinoam Patt presenting “ALEPH” in Jewish Ledger

Prof. Avinoam Patt was featured this week in Connecticut's Jewish Ledger, launching the community learning program titled "ALEPH: Institute of Jewish Ideas." The first year's theme is "Home and Exile", which will be opened by Deborah Dash Moore's talk this Sunday. The overall purpose of the program is to bring together different members and organizations of the community. [Read more]

Associate Professor Avinoam Patt Appointed Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies

The endowment by Doris and Simon Konover to the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life has made it possible for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to recruit an outstanding scholar and researcher, Associate Professor Avinoam Patt, to serve as the next Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies. The appointment was approved at the June 26 meeting of the UConn Board of Trustees.

Professor Patt will join the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages and serve as the Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life beginning in Fall 2019. He comes to the University of Connecticut from the University of Hartford, CT, where he has served since 2007 as the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modem Jewish History, the co-Director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, and the Director of the Museum of Jewish Civilization.

As the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies and Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, Professor Patt will increase awareness of Jewish heritage in the University community, the state, and beyond. He will provide creative leadership for the Center and will develop its programs, as well as contribute to associated interdisciplinary programs.

In 2008, the Board of Trustees appointed Professor Arnold Dashefsky as the inaugural interim Chair. Upon Professor Dashefsky's retirement, the College launched an international search and recruited Professor Jeffrey Shoulson to succeed him and to serve in this role from 2012 to the present.