Faculty News

Professor Arnold Dashefsky Featured on the UConn360 Podcast

Professor Arnold Dashefsky was featured on the July 10, 2019, episode of The UConn360 Podcast. Professor Dashefsky discussed the recent release of the American Jewish Year Book 2018, which he has co-edited with Professor Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami since 2012. The American Jewish Year Book was first published in 1899 and is considered the annual record of the North American Jewish communities.

Listen to the episode: https://uconn.edu/uconn360-podcast/episode-37-special-celebrity-guest-the-good-boy-of-uconn/

For decades, the American Jewish Year Book has been the premier place for leading academics to publish long review chapters on topics of major interest to the American Jewish communities. Each volume features 5-7 major review articles, including 2-3 long chapters written by leading experts on topics of contemporary interest.

The 2018 volume features a Forum on "American Jewry in the 21st Century: Grounds for Optimism or Pessimism." Contemporary assessments from more than 20 leading scholars are included. A review article on "Antisemitism in Contemporary America" by Tom W. Smith and Benjamin Schapiro is followed by several standard articles typically featured in the Year Book, including "American Jews and the Domestic Arena" by Steven Windmueller; "American Jews and the International Arena" by Mitchell Bard; "United States Jewish Population, 2018" by Ira M. Sheskin and Arnold Dashefsky; "Canadian Jewish Population, 2018" by Charles Shahar; and "World Jewish Population, 2018" by Sergio DellaPergola. 

For more information on the 2018 volume, visit the series publisher Springer's website.

Faculty Book Release: The JDC at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism by Associate Professor Avinoam Patt

Congratulations to incoming Director Professor Avinoam Patt whose new volume The JDC at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism (Wayne State UP) was recently released! Professor Patt will begin his tenure as Director at the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life in August 2019 at which time he will also serve as the next Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies. 

From the Publisher:

The JDC at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism traces the history of the JDC—an organization founded to aid victims of World War I that has played a significant role in preserving and sustaining Jewish life across the globe. The thirteen essays in this volume, edited by Avinoam Patt, Atina Grossmann, Linda G. Levi, and Maud S. Mandel, reflect critically on the organization’s transformative impact on Jewish communities throughout the world, covering topics such as aid for refugees from National Socialism in Cuba, Shanghai, Tehran, the Dominican Republic, France, Belgium, and Australia; assistance to Holocaust survivors in Displaced Persons camps for rebuilding and emigration; and assistance in Rome and Vienna to Soviet Jewish transmigrants in the 1970s. Despite the sustained transnational humanitarian work of this pioneering non-governmental organization, scholars have published surprisingly little devoted to the history and remarkable accomplishments of the JDC, nor have they comprehensively explored the JDC’s role on the ground in many regions and cultures. This volume seeks to address those gaps not only by assessing the widespread impact of the JDC but also by showcasing the richness and depth of the JDC Archives as a resource for examining modern Jewish history in global context.

The JDC at 100 is addressed to scholars and students of humanitarian aid, conflict, displacement, and immigration, primarily in Jewish, European, and American history. It will also appeal to readers with a more general interest in Jewish studies and refugee studies, Holocaust museum professionals, and those engaged in Jewish and other relief and resettlement programs.

Reviews

JDC at 100 Book CoverThis innovative volume uses the history of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee as a window onto the experiences of the Jewish people during the twentieth century. It provides a unique panorama onto far-flung Jewish communities joined together through a remarkable American-based organization with worldwide concerns.

– David Engel, Greenberg Professor of Holocaust Studies, professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies, professor of history, New York University

Few organizations have histories as important and powerful as the JDC. Its century of service make it worthy of a book as excellent as this one, which we can hope, will inspire many more scholarly projects. The JDC truly deserves to be the focus of research and attention.

– Hasia R. Diner, director of Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History

This remarkable collection of scholarly essays, based on the recently opened archives of the JDC, transforms our understanding of American Jewish rescue and humanitarian efforts, emphasizing the interwar and Holocaust years. Heroes, villains, murders, and mysteries fill these pages; so do grim details, poignant photographs, and trenchant analyses. A major contribution to twentieth-century Jewish history.

– Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University, author of American Judaism: A History

Based largely on the underutilized archives of the Joint Distribution Committee, these riveting accounts of that century-old institution tell dramatic stories of the rescue and support the JDC has provided to Jews from China to Cuba, Eastern Europe to Israel, and beyond. Firmly committed to avoiding politics, the JDC nevertheless has had to navigate tense, delicate situations and has done so with aplomb, discretion, and remarkable successes.

– Zvi Gitelman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Judaic Studies, University of Michigan

 
For more information, visit: 

Faculty Book Release: Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins by Associate Professor Sarah S. Willen

Sarah WillenWarm congratulations to our colleague Professor Sarah Willen whose book Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins will be available this August from the University of Pennsylvania Press. 

From the publisher:

"Sarah Willen's absorbing ethnography of Israeli criminalization and expulsion of migrants is disquieting and haunting by turns. Her essential and provocative treatment of how existential abjection leads to social mobilization bears lessons for observers of similar phenomena elsewhere in the world."—Samuel Moyn, author of Christian Human Rights

"Fighting for Dignity breaks new ground in anthropological studies of global migration by combining a sociopolitical approach with careful attention to the embodied experience of migrants in Israel; most importantly, even in the most dire or abject conditions, it is a story about dignity and flourishing, not one about suffering. This long awaited ethnography, based on nearly twenty years of research, is essential reading for anyone interested in how Otherness (both migrant and Palestinian) is created, lived, and challenged in Israel."—Miriam Ticktin, author of Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France

"Sarah Willen's compassionate ethnography of those excluded and expelled under the nationalist agenda of the Israeli state echoes Hannah Arendt's argument that the humanity of a persecuted people seldom survives the hour of their liberation, and may even entail visiting on others the injustices they themselves suffered in the past. Willen's moving and sobering documentation of the everyday lives of those on the margins of the state, and of Israelis actively working to preserve humanity in dark times, is not only a brilliant essay in existential anthropology; it is a wakeup call to the world."—Michael Jackson, author of Critique of Identity Thinking

In Fighting for Dignity, Sarah S. Willen explores what happened when the Israeli government launched an aggressive deportation campaign targeting newly arrived migrants from countries as varied as Ghana and the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, and Ukraine. Although the campaign was billed as a solution to high unemployment, it had another goal as well: to promote an exclusionary vision of Israel as a Jewish state in which non-Jews have no place. The deportation campaign quickly devastated Tel Aviv's migrant communities and set the stage for even more aggressive antimigrant and antirefugee policies in the years to come.

Fighting for Dignity book coverFighting for Dignity traces the roots of this deportation campaign in Israeli history and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and shows how policies that illegalize and criminalize migrants wreak havoc in their lives, endanger their health, and curtail the human capacity to flourish. Children born to migrant parents are especially vulnerable to developmental and psychosocial risks. Drawing on nearly two decades of ethnographic engagement in homes and in churches, medical offices, advocacy organizations, and public spaces, Willen shows how migrants struggle to craft meaningful, flourishing lives despite the exclusions and vulnerabilities they endure. To complement their perspectives, she introduces Israeli activists who reject their government's exclusionary agenda and strive to build bridges across difference, repair violations of migrants' dignity, and resist policies that violate their own moral convictions. Willen's vivid and unflinching ethnography challenges us to reconsider our understandings of global migration, human rights, the Middle East— and even dignity itself.

Sarah S. Willen is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the University of Connecticut. She is editor of Transnational Migration to Israel in Global Comparative Context.

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)

 

Professor Stuart Miller to Present Humanities Fellow Research Talk March 26, 2019

Academic Director of the Center for Judaic Studies Professor Stuart Miller will present Humanities Fellow research talk: "From Temple to Home to Community: The Survival and Transformation of Ancient Jewish Life in the Wake of Catastrophe." 

The talk will be held on Tuesday, March 26, at 4:00 pm with a light reception at 5:00 in the Humanities Institute Seminar Room (Babbidge Library, 4th Floor)

Daniel Hershenzon Wins Sharon Harris Book Award 2019

Daniel HershenzonCongratulations to affiliated faculty member Daniel Hershenzon who won the Sharon Harris Book Award for 2019 for The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018):  

The Harris Book Award Committee noted, “Prof. Hershenzon’s book is an illuminating study of the redemption of captives in the early modern Mediterranean. The Captive Sea traces the seizure of Christians and Muslims by pirates, their enslavement in hostile lands, and their occasional return through complicated systems of ransom. Deeply researched in Spanish archives, the book examines the flourishing of a slave system that differs from the Atlantic slave trade, and it shows the ways in which the trade in captives encouraged intercultural communication between Southern Europe and North Africa.” 

Read more at the Humanities Institute

Daniel Hershenzon Receives Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies Fellowship (2019-2020)

Daniel HershenzonCongratulations to affiliated faculty member Daniel Hershenzon who has received a Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies Fellowship for next academic year (2019-2020) for his research project entitled "Captive Objects: Religious Artifacts and Piracy in the Early Modern Mediterranean."

Captive Objects: Religious Artifacts and Piracy in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Captive Objects encapsulates how religious artifacts trapped in the maritime plunder economy became the contentious subject of conflicting claims by a host of actors. Religious artifacts—Korans and Bibles, prayer shawls, crosses, images of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and relics—circulated in their thousands in the early modern western Mediterranean, crisscrossing the boundaries between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This mobility was largely a byproduct of piracy to which 2 to 3 million persons from all sides fell fate between 1500 and 1800 and which intertwined Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Ottoman Algiers. Reconstructing objects’ trajectories and their involvement in human trafficking sheds new light on the experience of captivity and the practice of redemption, of both people and objects. More importantly, the project argues, the captivity of religious artifacts turned objects previously isolated in their respective realms into contentious objects that formed a distinct category and acted as religious boundary markers within and among confessions.

Faculty Publication: The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean by Professor Daniel Hershenzon

A serious, probing look at early modern Mediterranean slavery. Daniel Hershenzon locates new and highly personalized sources within the vast bureaucratic archives of Spain and then wields them to identify and theorize the expectations and logics of behavior that underlay the captives' struggles to obtain freedom.—James Amelang, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Congratulations to affiliated faculty member Professor Daniel Hershenzon on the recent publication of The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean (University of Pennsylvania Press).

From the Publisher:

 

The Captive Sea by Daniel HershenzonIn The Captive Sea, Daniel Hershenzon explores the entangled histories of Muslim and Christian captives—and, by extension, of the Spanish Empire, Ottoman Algiers, and Morocco—in the seventeenth century to argue that piracy, captivity, and redemption helped shape the Mediterranean as an integrated region at the social, political, and economic levels. Despite their confessional differences, the lives of captives and captors alike were connected in a political economy of ransom and communication networks shaped by Spanish, Ottoman, and Moroccan rulers; ecclesiastic institutions; Jewish, Muslim, and Christian intermediaries; and the captives themselves, as well as their kin.

Hershenzon offers both a comprehensive analysis of competing projects for maritime dominance and a granular investigation of how individual lives were tragically upended by these agendas. He takes a close look at the tightly connected and ultimately failed attempts to ransom an Algerian Muslim girl sold into slavery in Livorno in 1608; the son of a Spanish marquis enslaved by pirates in Algiers and brought to Istanbul, where he converted to Islam; three Spanish Trinitarian friars detained in Algiers on the brink of their departure for Spain in the company of Christians they had redeemed; and a high-ranking Ottoman official from Alexandria, captured in 1613 by the Sicilian squadron of Spain.

Examining the circulation of bodies, currency, and information in the contested Mediterranean, Hershenzon concludes that the practice of ransoming captives, a procedure meant to separate Christians from Muslims, had the unintended consequence of tightly binding Iberia to the Maghrib.

 

Faculty Book Release: Reading and Teaching Ancient Fiction: Greco-Roman, Early Jewish, and Christian Narrative. Co-Edited by Professor Sara Johnson

Reading and Teaching Ancient Fiction: Greco-Roman, Early Jewish, and Christian Narrative. Edited by Sara R. Johnson, Ruben Dupertuis and Christine Shea. Writings from the Greco-Roman World. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press (2018).Congratulations to Associate Professor of Classics and Mediterranean Studies Sara Johnson who recently co-edited Reading and Teaching Ancient Fiction: Greco-Roman, Early Jewish, and Christian Narrative. The volume, co-edited with Ruben Dupertuis and Christine Shea, was published by the Society of Biblical Literature Press and represents their third volume of research on ancient fictions.

From the Publisher:

This volume includes essays presented in the Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narrative section of the Society of Biblical Literature. Contributors explore facets of ongoing research into the interplay of history, fiction, and narrative in ancient Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian texts. The essays examine the ways in which ancient authors in a variety of genre and cultural settings employed a range of narrative strategies to reflect on pressing contemporary issues, to shape community identity, or to provide moral and educational guidance for their readers. Not content merely to offer new insights, this volume also highlights strategies for integrating the fruits of this research into the university classroom and beyond.

Features

  • Insight into the latest developments in ancient Mediterranean narrative
  • Exploration of how to use ancient texts to encourage students to examine assumptions about ancient gender and sexuality or to view familiar texts from a new perspective
  • Close readings of classical authors as well as canonical and noncanonical Jewish and Christian texts

Reviews

Laura Quick, Princeton University, in a review in Bryn Mawr Classical Review notes, "there will be much of interest here to students and scholars of Hellenistic and Roman literature. The joint goal of the project, both pedagogical as well as research-oriented, is an interesting take on the edited volume, making an important contribution to both the classroom and to our understanding of the various ancient texts under discussion. Indeed, many of the contributions reveal unexpected features in the various narratives, demonstrating the cogency of reading Jewish, Christian, and Greco-Roman literature in dialogue." Read the full review here.