Faculty News

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.

 

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

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

From the publisher:

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

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

 

 

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

American Jewish Year Book 2017 Now Available:

Includes the Impact of the 2016 Presidential Campaign

and the most Recent Population Statistics

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pamela Weathers

University of Connecticut

Daniel Hershenzon Awarded 2018 NEH Grant

Daniel Hershenzon

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

Stuart Miller Awarded Humanities Institute Fellowship

Stuart MillerMany congratulations to Stuart Miller on being awarded a Humanities Institute faculty fellowship for the academic year 2018/19. During the fellowship, he will be working on a volume devoted to the dynamics of Jewish life in the centuries following the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. titled From Temple to Home to Community: The Survival and Transformation of Ancient Jewish Life in the Wake of Catastrophe. The fellowship is indicative of his outstanding achievements as a scholar, and it showcases the cutting-edge research conducted in Judaic Studies at UConn. Mazal tov, Stuart!

Jeffrey Shoulson Appointed Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Affairs

Jeffrey ShoulsonMany congratulations to Jeffrey Shoulson on his appointment as Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Affairs. The appointment is testimony to his outstanding achievements as a scholar and administrator. We’re deeply grateful for his outstanding leadership of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life since his arrival at UConn in 2012, and we wish him all the best for this important new function within the university administration. Mazal tov, Jeffrey!

Professor Susan Einbinder Appointed Visiting Professor at Brown University, Hebrew University, and the University of Haifa

Susan EinbinderProfessor Susan Einbinder (Literatures, Cultures and Languages / Hebrew and Judaic Studies) will be Hirschfeld Visiting Professor at Brown University during the spring semester 2019 and Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, during the fall semester 2019. Professor Einbinder will also be a visiting scholar at Haifa University's Center for Mediterranean History for a month in the winter 2018/19.

Congratulations on being awarded these prestigious visiting faculty fellowships!

Professor Stuart Miller Appointed Leon Charney Visiting Scholar at Yeshiva University

Academic Director for the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish life, Professor Stuart Miller, was recently appointed the first Leon Charney Visiting Scholar at Yeshiva University's Center for Israel Studies (CIS). 

Dr. Steven Fine, Dean Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History and director of CIS noted “Stuart Miller is a leading historian of the Rabbis, world-renowned for his careful and meticulous analysis of both rabbinic literature and archaeology with the goal of really understanding the lives and words of the sages in Talmudic Israel.” 

Professor Miller, visiting scholar for the spring of 2018, will be conducting research for a new book with the working title, From Temple, to Home, To Community: The Survival and Transformation of Jewish Life in Roman Palestine in the Wake of Catastrophe.

Visit Yeshiva University's website to read their posting on the topic.  

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,

Nehama