Center News

Director Avinoam Patt featured on WNPR

Have a listen: Our director Prof. Avinoam Patt was featured today on the WNPR radio show "Where We Live," hosted by Lucy Nalpathanchil, talking about Holocaust analogies among anti-vaccine politicians.

The episode can be found here:

Prof. Patt's article on the same topic in the Washington Post from June 19th can be found here: 

Joscha Jelitzki reports from Germany’s Trial Against the Man Behind the Halle-Attack 2019

The solidarity banner pinned across the street from the court in Magdeburg reads:
“We remember the victims of the October 9, 2019, attack”


One Year After the Attack in Halle, Germany

On Yom Kippur 5780 / 2019 a neo-Nazi attempted to carry out the largest anti-Semitic mass murder in Germany after 1945. Now he is on trial. A visit in the courtroom. 

The terrorist attack in Halle followed those of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) between 2000-07, and preceded that of Hanau on February 19, 2020. Ideologically and aesthetically the Halle attacker aligned himself with the white supremacist shootings in Utøya/Oslo 2011 and Christchurch 2019. On October 9, 2019, the 27 year-old attacker of Halle drove to the local synagogue, because he counted on the high-attendance of Yom Kippur. His plan was to throw explosives over the synagogue wall and to shoot the subsequently exiting congregants. When ineffective, he started shooting at the wooden door of the synagogue which, miraculously, did not give in. All of the 52 people davening inside survived, but when a 40 year-old passer-by confronted the shooter in front of the synagogue, he executed her. Her name was Jana L. 

The attacker fled the scene by car and drove to the Turkish-owned Kebab diner, “Kiez Döner Bistro,” where he opened fire, killing the 20 year-old guest Kevin S. When fleeing again, he intentionally run over another passer-by, Abdi I., a Somali living in Germany, who was seriously injured.

Less known is the third crime scene, which was the subject of the court hearings on September 23. In Wiedersdorf, six miles East from Halle, the attacker attempted to hijack a new car for his escape. He entered the premises of Jens and Dagmar S. and demanded their car at gunpoint. One after the other, they refused to hand over the keys to him, upon which he shot Jens in the neck and Dagmar in the hip. Across the street he succeeded in obtaining a car from a car workshop, after threatening the three men present. The attacker was apprehended by police eventually, some 25 miles from Halle.

The trial is conducted by the Higher Regional Court Naumburg in Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, and opened on July 21. The attacker is charged with two counts of murder and 68 counts of attempted murder. 

A group of some twenty visitors from Berlin happened to be at the Yom Kippur service, who came to pray with and support the small congregation of Halle. Among them were a number of U.S. American citizens, and the attack gained extensive media coverage also in the U.S. Head of the delegation were the two rabbis Rebecca Blady and Jeremy Borovitz who run Beit Hillel Berlin.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020, was the 15th day of the proceedings in Magdeburg. The courtroom and the building at large were heavily secured by police. Like everything else at the moment, the courtroom is also affected by Covid-19: plexi-dividers separating all the parties present, obligatory face masks, and social distancing is practiced as much as possible. Summoned to testify for that day were the five witnesses of the third crime scene. 44 media outlets, chosen by lot, were allowed a seat; with about 30 citizens the ranks of the audience was almost filled. To me as a legal layman, it was a surprise to see that the proceedings were largely comprehensible, and little time was spent on the back and forth of legal formalities.

Jens S. testified how a day like any other was interrupted by a stranger at his gate, demanding his car while pointing a pistol at him. He was shot in the neck when turning away from the intruder. He called for his spouse to stay inside the house, but she was already about to enter the courtyard. The scene repeated itself when Dagmar S., too, refused to hand over the keys and was shot subsequently. Jens’ voice dutifully detailed the events in question, but more so it spoke of the trauma he endured, the trauma of getting shot and of not being able to protect his loved-one. Dagmar described the perpetrator as a “wimp” and “mama’s boy,” which, I imagine, must have greatly insulted the attacker and his ideal of hyper-masculinity. Jens and Dagmar S. stated that their lives had not been the same since the attack.

The three men at the car workshop handed over the keys to a taxi immediately, and took cover inside the garage. After the attacker left, Kai H., the owner of the place, hastened to render first-aid to his neighbors. Daniel W. had the incredible presence of mind to remember that he had not yet turned off the taxi software in the car stolen. Thus he was able to track the car with his mobile phone. He then took the car of his brother - the third person present - to follow the attacker until he met police forces.

All five witnesses accused the police officers of acting unprofessionally and reluctantly, and of responding to the victims with disbelief and no empathy. The survivors from the synagogue voiced equally harsh criticism - the officers seemed to have had no idea of how to talk and attend to traumatized victims. The Halle police had not been aware of Yom Kippur, even though the local Jewish community had sent them their annual holiday calendar.


The neo-Nazi attacker spoke out twice during the proceedings. Acquaintances of his had previously described him as sophisticated and forbidding, and that largely matches my impressions. In his first statement, regarding the shooting of Jens and Dagmar, he asserted that he didn’t intend to shoot them, but that obtaining a new car was necessary for his escape. He explained his reasoning in a tone so matter-of-factly that it became apparent that shooting someone in the neck was the necessary means for his ends. 

He also contested having ever turned his back on Jens and Dagmar, because “turning your back on the enemy means being incapacitated.” Media had reported that a certain scene of online war gaming was part of his radicalization. The way he expressed that logic made it seem psychologically as if he navigated his attack in a first-person shooter mode. He said that he did not intend to kill the two, but even that sentence sounded matter-of-factly and not remorseful. No explicit apology was offered.

Pictures from inside his car showed various para-military equipment: pistols, ammunition, rifles, hand grenades, a helmet, and a video-camera. In his second statement, he seemed happy to be granted the opportunity to speak as an expert on the technicalities of his weaponry, giving detailed accounts of their various functions.

When thinking about his statements it must be kept in mind how invested he was in the staging of his appearance from the start: he uploaded an announcement and a manifesto online, live-streamed the attack via an iPhone attached to his helmet, had created a playlist for the video, and spoke live to his virtual audience. We thus need to be sensitive to the attacker’s continuing interest in a certain public appearance. Nonetheless, I found myself perplexed that he didn’t utter a single word of ideology, or content, that is - it was all about technique and efficiency. (The reference is historically largely inadequate, but I did have to think of Hannah Arendt sitting in trial and not knowing what to make of Eichmann.)


The judge Ursula Mertens was impressive in her demeanor: She remained apolitical throughout, yet she showed sympathy with the sufferings of the witnesses beyond the professional protocol. She asked every single witness about how that trauma had impacted their lives, and how that experience still surfaces in their professional and everyday lives. Thus the victims were publicly acknowledged as aggrieved human beings beyond the legal aspect.

Signs of solidarity came from other parties as well: The Jewish Congregation of Halle sent a voucher for a weekend hotel stay to Jens and Dagmar S. Anti-fascist groups are jointly putting up a booth across the court on every day of the trial to inform the public, serve tea and cookies, and to remember the victims publicly. More importantly, they are monitoring and logging the entire lawsuit.


Here is my personal take-away of that visit:

  • Lawsuits are generally public and it is worth going. The restoration of justice needs the public. It is an important signal to the aggrieved party to see that the public is taking an interest. Plus, one learns so much even in a one-day visit.
  • A court room can affect society far beyond the legal realm: If the judge in their tone, timing, and compassion allows for it, the harm and the pain of the aggrieved becomes acknowledged. A person who fell victim to a crime can choose to enter the stage as a plaintiff, which is empowering. It can also be the place of different parties forming an alliance of solidarity.
  • Fatality is the hard currency of public memory. We try to remember people who were killed and to listen to the bereaved. That day I realized that I wasn’t aware enough of the people who were injured physically or psychologically, about their scars and traumas. I hadn’t even heard about the third crime scene because of that, and I hope we as a society will do better in the future.


Survivors of the attack aired a [joint statement] in July which urges media coverage to deny the attacker his desired attention by not mentioning his name. I wish to respect that in this article.

To read more: Rabbi Jeremy Borovitz gave an account of the happenings inside the synagogue shortly after the attack to the [Forward]. Please read [in this interview] what it means for Rabbi Rebecca Blady to be the granddaughter of Shoah survivors and a plaintiff in the Halle trial. The blog [Prozess Report Halle] provides you with extended reports, documents, and testimonies from the trial, also in English. Radio Corax is producing [20-minutes summaries] of each day of the trial in German. [This short video] by Deutsche Welle captures the feeling of two Jews in Berlin one year after the attack.


Also across the streets: Pictures of the two people murdered, flowers, a wreath, and a candle.
In German, Turkish, Russian, and Hebrew, it reads “In memoriam of all the victims of right-wing violence”


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.