Center News

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.

Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life Announced

We are delighted to announce that Professor Avinoam Patt has accepted the position as Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life. He will begin the directorship in August 2019.

Professor Patt comes to UConn from the University of Hartford, where he has been the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History and co-director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies. He has also served as the Director of the Museum of Jewish Civilization at the University of Hartford. Previously, he worked as the Miles Lerman Applied Research Scholar for Jewish Life and Culture at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Professor Patt is an accomplished scholar in the fields of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies and has published extensively on Jewish responses to the Holocaust, Jewish Displaced Persons in postwar Europe, and American Jewish Fiction. He is co-editor of a newly published volume, The Joint Distribution Committee at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism, and author of a forthcoming book on the early postwar memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, The Jewish Heroes of Warsaw (to be published by Wayne State University Press).

We know you share our enthusiasm and that of the other members of the search committee, Sara Johnson, Jacqueline Loss, and Frederick Roden (with special thanks to Pamela Weathers, our administrator) in congratulating and welcoming Avinoam Patt.

Sebastian Wogenstein (Interim Director)

Stuart Miller (Academic Director)


Joint Statement from the Directors of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, the Asian American Cultural Center, the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, and the Human Rights Institute

The horrific attack on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch have left us heartbroken.  We stand in solidarity with the victims and their families, the people of New Zealand, and our Muslim neighbors here and around the world.  We stand against the malignant forces and repugnant ideologies of white supremacy, Islamophobia, and ethno-nationalism, which appear to have incubated and catalyzed this crime.

That many of those who worshiped at these mosques had fled violence and persecution in their home countries deepens the sorrow we feel for this tragedy.  That they sought asylum and were welcomed to New Zealand by Muslims and non-Muslims alike heartens us with hope that the community of Christchurch will respond to hatred and division with love and unity. 

The people of the United States and Connecticut are all too familiar with such senseless acts of violence, and our hearts go out to our Kiwi friends as they begin to reflect and rebuild.  As directors of programs at UConn rooted in a commitment to the fundamental human rights of all people, we pledge to continue our efforts to address violent racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia, and join President Herbst in rededicating ourselves to building “a world where all people can live together in peace.”

Glenn Mitoma
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Angela Rola
Asian American Cultural Center

Sebastian Wogenstein
Interim Director
Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

Stuart Miller
Academic Director
Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

Kathy Libal
Human Rights Institute

Molly Land
Associate Director
Human Rights Institute

Faculty Position: Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies & Director of the Center for Judaic Studies

The Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut invites applications for the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies at the advanced associate or full professor level.

The holder of the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies will serve as Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life. The successful candidate will spearhead the Center’s interdisciplinary Judaic Studies program ( on campus and in the community, and contribute through research and teaching to further the development of the Hebrew and Judaic Studies section of the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (


Minimally qualified candidates will possess a Ph.D. in a related field; equivalent foreign degrees are acceptable. We seek a candidate with distinguished scholarly accomplishments of national and international recognition, whose research and teaching focus on the Jewish experience in the modern era and who has a vision for advancing our undergraduate and graduate programs in close collaboration with the Center’s Academic Director.


The successful candidate should have experience in organizing events that attract students, faculty, and members of the broader community. The director will work with UConn’s programs in Human Rights; Middle East Studies; Africana Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; the NEAG School of Education; and with interested faculty across the disciplines to further enhance the diversity of the program.

The successful candidate should demonstrate excellence in teaching and strong managerial, communication, and public relations skills as well as a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The director reports to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and oversees all personnel, financial, and administrative functions of the Center, including the work of a program assistant, graduate assistant, and student workers.

Effective fundraising and outreach are vital to the future of the Center, and the incoming director should be experienced and prepared to invest time and energy in these endeavors.


This position is a full time, tenured 10-month appointment and applicants must meet University requirements for appointment at the rank of Associate or Full Professor.  Rank and salary will be commensurate with the candidate's qualifications and experience.

The operations of the Center of Judaic Studies include programming at the main campus in Storrs and the regional campuses in Hartford and Stamford. The director will work with the coordinator of Judaic Studies at the Stamford campus and engage with partners in the Greater Hartford area to offer cutting-edge programming for students, faculty, and the community at these campuses.

The position is based at the Storrs campus. Candidates may have the opportunity to teach at the campuses at Hartford and Stamford.


Select “Apply Now” to submit the following on Academic Jobs Online: cover lettercurriculum vitaeteaching statementresearch and scholarship statementvision statement for Center leadershipcommitment to diversity statement, and the names and contact information of three referees who have agreed to write in support of your application if requested.

For search-related inquiries, please contact Ms. Pamela Weathers, Program Assistant at the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life (, 860-486-2271).

It is preferred that applications are received by January 10, 2019, and evaluation of applicants will continue until position is filled.

Employment of the successful candidate will be contingent upon the successful completion of a pre-employment criminal background check.  (Search 2019185)

This position will be filled subject to budgetary approval.

All employees are subject to adherence to the State Code of Ethics, which may be found at


The University of Connecticut is committed to building and supporting a multicultural and diverse community of students, faculty, and staff. The diversity of students, faculty, and staff continues to increase, as does the number of honors students, valedictorians and salutatorians who consistently make UConn their top choice. More than 100 research centers and institutes serve the University’s teaching, research, diversity, and outreach missions, leading to UConn’s ranking as one of the nation’s top research universities. UConn’s faculty and staff are the critical link to fostering and expanding our vibrant, multicultural, and diverse community. As an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, UConn encourages applications from women, veterans, people with disabilities, and members of traditionally underrepresented populations.

Jewish Hartford: European Roots

Jewish HartfordThe Jewish Hartford: European Roots project hosted by UConn Global Affairs explores, documents and shares the rich diversity of European Jewish life before the Holocaust and its enduring legacy in our region.

With broad participation from the Greater Hartford Jewish community, the project supports lectures, field trips, adult learning, youth education, and other programming about Jewish life in Europe, discovering and connecting with this unique heritage.

The Jewish Hartford: European Roots project is generously funded by the Konover Coppa Family Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford and is housed at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

Learn more on the Jewish Hartford: European Roots website


Image credit: Reconstructed vault and bimah in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw. Photo shared by Magdalena Starowieyska, Dariusz Golik - Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-alike - Poland (CC BY-SA 3.0 PL)

Joint Statement from the Directors of the Center for Judaic Studies, Human Rights Institute, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

A Message from the Directors of
the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life,
the Human Rights Institute,
and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

We are deeply saddened by the murder of eleven congregants at the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and we condemn the antisemitism, racism, and hatred of refugees and migrants that motivated this and similar acts of terror.  We are also appalled and outraged by the recent surge of politically motivated violence aimed at prominent critics of President Donald Trump. As scholars of human rights and directors of programs with ties to some of the individuals and communities under attack, we express our solidarity with those targeted and reaffirm our commitment to building a more just, equitable, inclusive, and peaceful society.

These acts of violence are the responsibility of the individuals who conceived, planned, and perpetrated them.  In the days and weeks to come, we will undoubtedly learn more about the attacks on the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Synagogue and on George Soros, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and others.  We recognize, however, that, like last year’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the more recent racially-motivated murders of two African Americans at a grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, these events occur in the context of a pervasive environment of incendiary and hateful rhetoric.  Such rhetoric has often been amplified by, and sometimes originated with, the President, who has openly and proudly declared himself and those around him nationalist. We call on our leaders to reject unequivocally the path of political demonization and racial demagoguery and to join with others in building a shared culture of mutual respect and dignity.

If we want such a call to be heeded, we need substantive pressure from our elected officials and the broader society. 

The Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, the Human Rights Institute, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center see it as part of their mission to understand the nature and impact of antisemitism, racism, hatred of migrants and refugees, sexism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry; to educate for tolerance and mutual respect; and to foster a more inclusive democratic culture here at UConn and beyond.  We will continue to work with our partners on campus and beyond to support and defend those targeted with hateful rhetoric or deeds, among them our prominent partner George Soros, communities and organizations like the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Synagogue and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), and our weary neighbors walking toward the southern border.

On Wednesday, November 7, the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life will commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, with a lecture on “Antisemitism in Contemporary America” by Dr. Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.   Next semester, on April 4-5, the Human Rights Institute will hold a conference on “Human Rights and the Politics of Solidarity” in partnership with the Open Society Foundations.  We invite you to join us in this and other work, and we express our steadfast solidarity with all our partners, friends, and neighbors as we work together toward a more just future for all.

Glenn Mitoma
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Sebastian Wogenstein
Interim Director
Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

Stuart Miller
Academic Director
Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

Kathy Libal
Human Rights Institute

Molly Land
Associate Director
Human Rights Institute

Joint Statement of UConn Centers, Institutes, and Programs

As leaders of centers, institutes, and programs at the University of Connecticut dedicated to advancing critical understanding of social justice and human rights, we are fully committed to the aim, outlined in the university’s mission, of helping students grow intellectually and become contributing members of society. We pursue this work with full consciousness that many of our programs were created in the wake of social justice movements that sought recognition not only of the rights of marginalized peoples, but also of the obligation on the part of higher education to embrace diversity, cultivate civic responsibility, and promote equity and justice. Our centers, institutes, and programs support research and teaching in fields of knowledge that would not exist but for hard won protections of First Amendment values and academic freedom, and we strive to create robust, rigorous, and responsible intellectual communities among faculty and students of different backgrounds, opinions, and orientations. Critical and productive scholarly inquiry requires environments that foster diverse viewpoints and free and responsible exchange, even – and especially – when those contributions challenge orthodox thinking, wherever on the political spectrum it may be situated.

The invitation to author and media personality Ben Shapiro has provided us an opportunity to reflect on these histories and current objectives of our centers, institutes, and programs, and to reaffirm our essential roles in promoting the university’s core mission of enhancing the social, economic, and cultural well-being of our students and the wider community. We reject the claims of Mr. Shapiro, and those of like-minded individuals and organizations, that our programs are illegitimate or unnecessary university endeavors, and that challenging systemic oppression and seeking more just societies constitutes “brainwashing.” Freedom of expression and academic freedom are essential to promoting diversity of thought and opinion of all members of the community and enable us to engage productively in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Broad participation in these pursuits, however, requires not only speaking but also listening – not only “free speech” but also responsible efforts to understand the speech of others. We urge all members of the community to demonstrate our commitment to these values both in this week and beyond.

The following links showcase our centers, institutes, and programs, and indicate some of the ways in which we are working to promote – through efforts such as the Initiative on Campus Dialogues ( and the metanoia Together: Confronting Racism ( – open and mutually respectful exchange on the burning issues of today. Only through such sustained, painstaking, at times uncomfortable work can we hope to advance our collective understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Africana Studies Institute

American Studies Program

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

Humanities Institute

Human Rights Institute

Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program

Sebastian Wogenstein, Interim Director, Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

Samuel Martinez, Interim Director, El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean and Latin American Studies

Glenn Mitoma, Director, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Melina Pappademos, Interim Director, Africana Studies Institute

Michael P. Lynch, Director, Humanities Institute

Alexis L. Boylan, Associate Director, Humanities Institute

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Director, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute

Kathryn Libal, Director, Human Rights Institute

Molly Land, Associate Director, Human Rights Institute

Micki McElya, Director, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program

Christopher R. Vials, Director, American Studies Program

Farewell Wishes to Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy

The Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at UConn extends warm wishes to Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy on her retirement.  We offer her heartfelt thanks for her invaluable work in establishing the Center for Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies at UConn-Stamford! 

A Message from Nehama Aschkenasy

Nehama AschkenazyProfessor (Em.) of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, UConn
Founding Director (Em.), Center for Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies, UConn Stamford

Dear Friends, Supporters, and Students,

I’m now officially retired from my position as Professor and Director. This is a bitter-sweet moment; it’s tough to build from the ground up, but it is tougher to let go. The Talmud says that “the baker should not attest to the quality of his own dough.” I am the proverbial “baker” in this case, but, as I’m writing not only for myself but for all our loyal friends, and especially the founders of our Center, I’ll take this opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments.

Over thirty-seven years ago a group of visionary community leaders embarked on a collaborative effort with the local campus of the University of Connecticut, and founded the Center for Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies. Since its inception, our Center has had a dual mission: to develop and expand credit courses in all areas of Judaic Studies within the undergraduate curriculum and establish a forum for public discourse, in courses, seminars, and conferences, where both our regular students and community members would learn and discuss topics of current issues or of Jewish scholarship with the best and the brightest of today’s scholars, writers, and policy analysts.

On a personal note, I have had the privilege of working with some of the best individuals who advocated for us and made it financially possible for the Center to accomplish our phenomenal success. Reviewing the breadth of our offerings through the years and the caliber of guest speakers who addressed our groups, I am proud and also awed! Some of these speakers were already well known at the time, such as the late CHAIM POTOK and DR. IRVING HOWE, but I dare say that we also “discovered” junior scholars who then went on to brilliant careers, such as Political Scientist DR. SHIBLEY TELHAMI, (now the Anwar Sadaat chair at the University of Maryland, but then a young scholar only beginning to make his mark in the academic community), DR. FAWAZ GERGES (currently at the London School of Economics, who recently published a study of ISIS), and RON CHERNOW, the prominent, best-selling biographer (currently of “Hamilton” fame, who discussed at the time his book on the Jewish banking family, the Warburgs). We were fortunate to study with the brilliant orator, historian DR. HOWARD SACHAR, who was our guest speaker several times; we had the pleasure of learning from the internationally-acclaimed Israeli writer AMOS OZ, the renowned theologian DR. SUSANNAH HESCHEL of Dartmouth College, and, recently, DR. BRUCE HOFFMAN of Georgetown University, one of the foremost experts on contemporary terrorism. We also hosted twice the MOST REV. DR. DAVID JAEGER, member of the Roman Rota, the Vatican’s Supreme Court, who shared with us his vast knowledge as a theologian and unparalleled experience as peace maker. AMB. DR. DANIEL KURTZER, currently Professor of Middle East Policy at Princeton University and former U.S. Ambassador to both Israel and Egypt, addressed our audiences twice in recent years. And in our 2017 Annual Kuriansky Conference, we all enjoyed tremendously the knowledge and oratory of the renowned legal scholar, Dr. Jeffrey Rosen.  Our topics have been varied and fascinating, from interfaith dialogues on women in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, or on the meaning of “A Just War” in the three Abrahamic religions, to various issues related to the Middle East and contemporary Israel, to discussions of “Jews and Capitalism,” Jewish mysticism, and a variety of themes in history, from Jewish revolts in ancient Palestine to life in the East European Shtetl, to episodes of resistance and heroism during the Holocaust.

Our credit courses introduced the wealth of the Judaic texts and history to students who came from a diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds, focusing on the great contribution of Judaism to Western civilization and the meaning of studying a religion, a culture, and a people’s history in the context of secular academia. Our college-age students learned of the ethics of social justice advocated in the Judaic masterworks, of the tolerance and respect for other views and creeds enfolded in Judaic teachings, and of the highs and lows of the Jewish historical experience. We have been pioneers in introducing courses in Holocaust, the Bible as literature, and the Bible’s impact on the literary history of Western civilization, on women in Judaic literary tradition and in Jewish religion, and of contemporary Israeli literature with a special angle, studying these contemporary works in the context of Middle Eastern literature, society, and politics.  

In one of Amos Oz’s stories, the protagonist reflects back on his life’s ambitions, and concludes that all he would leave are “footprints on the water.” I hope and pray that my life’s work, and the tireless efforts of our friends through the years, will amount to real footprints on solid ground, and that our Center will continue to flourish in future years.

Warm regards to all,