Faculty 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.

Director Avinoam Patt invited to Provost’s Distinguished Speaker Series in 2020

Professor Avinoam Patt

Dr. Avinoam Patt to Lecture on Holocaust Remembrance in the Provost's Distinguished Speaker Series

It is an honor to announce that our Director Avinoam Patt is invited to lecture at the Provost's Distinguished Speaker Series, which "provides an opportunity for our most recently-inducted Board of Trustees Distinguished Professors and Endowed Chairs to share advances in their expertise and engage thought-provoking discussions." [Learn more about this series and its speakers.]

Save the Date: February 26, 2019, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Dr. Patt's lecture will address the topic of "Trauma, Testimony, and Time: Remembering the Holocaust in the 21st Century."

The event is free and open to the public. It takes place at the Konover Auditorium in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on the Storrs Campus. A reception will follow in the Dodd Lounge with light refreshments. If you require an accommodation to attend, please notify provost@uconn.edu.

About the speaker:

Avinoam J. Patt, Ph.D. is the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies and Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of Finding Home and Homeland: Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust (2009); co-editor (with Michael Berkowitz) of a collected volume on Jewish Displaced Persons, titled We are Here: New Approaches to the Study of Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany (2010); and is a contributor to several projects at the USHMM including Jewish Responses to Persecution, 1938-1940 (2011). Most recently, he is co-editor of a new volume on The Joint Distribution Committee at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism (2019), Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust (2020), and Understanding and Teaching the Holocaust (2020). He is currently completing a new book on the early postwar memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Yale University Conference “Rokhl Oyerbakh: The Bridge Between Wartime and Postwar Testimony” Nov. 3-4

Rokhl OyerbakhRokhl Oyerbakh: The Bridge Between Wartime and Postwar Testimony

Sunday, November 3rd, and Monday, November 4th, 2019
Yale University, New Haven, CT

 

Center Director Avinoam Patt and affiliated faculty member Samuel Kassow will be participating in an upcoming conference at Yale University hosted by the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University Library.

This November, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies will host the first ever international symposium dedicated to the legacy of writer, historian, and documentarian Rokhl Oyerbakh (Rachel Auerbach).

Rokhl Oyerbakh was a writer, essayist and a member of the Oyneg Shabes underground documentation project in the Warsaw Ghetto. As one of the only survivors of Oyneg Shabes, she helped recover the buried documentation after the war before emigrating to Israel. As a survivor-historian, Oyerbakh’s work to document first-person accounts of victims’ experiences continued after the war as Director of Yad Vashem’s Department for the Collection of Witness Testimony. She was responsible for curating survivor testimony for the Eichmann trial, and she played a prominent role as a survivor-advocate in the controversy surrounding Jean-François Steiner’s book Treblinka. These are but a few facets of Oyerbakh’s important contributions to our understanding of the survivor experience, and the history of the Holocaust.

Hosted by the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University Library, with keynote speaker Samuel Kassow, Charles H. Northam Professor of History, Trinity College

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, no registration required
 

WEBSITE: https://fortunoff.library.yale.edu/events/rokhl/
With questions, please contact Stephen Naron at stephen.naron@yale.edu.
 

Presenters and Speakers:
  • Leora Bilsky, Professor at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law, and Director of the Minerva Center for Human Rights, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • Dr. Boaz Cohen, Western Galilee College, Akko, Israel
  • Havi Dreifuss, Professor in Jewish history, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • Glenn Dynner, Chair of Religion Department, Sarah Lawrence College
  • Professor Dr. Efrat Gal-ed, Institut für Jüdische Studien, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Laura Jockusch, Albert Abramson Assistant Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University
  • Dr. Lisa M. Leff, Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Samuel Moyn, Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and Professor of History at Yale University
  • Avinoam Patt, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, University of Connecticut
  • Sharon Pucker Rivo, Executive Director, National Center for Jewish Film, Brandeis University
  • Sven-Erik Rose, Professor of German and of Comparative Literature, University of California, Davis
  • David Roskies, Sol and Evelyn Henkind Chair in Yiddish Literature and Culture, Professor of Jewish literature, Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Karolina Szymaniak, Assistant Professor at the Department of Jewish Studies, University of Wrocław, Poland 
About Fortunoff Archive at Yale University Library
 

In 1979, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project began collecting video-taped interviews of Holocaust survivors in the New Haven area. In 1981, the collection was donated to Yale University and The Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, part of the Yale University Library, opened its doors to the public the following year. The Fortunoff Archive has been working to record, collect and preserve Holocaust witness testimonies — and facilitate the work of researchers, educators and the general public — ever since.

The Fortunoff Archive currently holds more than 4,400 testimonies, which are comprised of over 12,000 recorded hours of videotape. Testimonies were produced in cooperation with thirty-six affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Israel, and each project maintains a duplicate collection of locally recorded videotapes. The Fortunoff Archive and its affiliates recorded the testimonies of willing individuals with first-hand experience of the Nazi persecutions, including those who were in hiding, survivors, bystanders, resistants, and liberators.

Testimonies were recorded in the language the witness preferred, and range in length from 30 minutes to over 40 hours (recorded over several sessions).

Prof. Susan Einbinder to Present “Jewish Physicians in Europe” on Sept. 26 for UConn CLIR Program

Susan EinbinderHow did Jews study medicine and who were their patients? What were their career options? What did they think of the great medical debates of their time, and what kinds of tensions characterized their professional and personal lives? How did they respond to the great pandemic of 1347-1352 known as the Black Death?

On Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, 1:15 to 2:45, Susan Einbinder, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages, UConn, will present "Jewish Physicians in Europe's Middle Ages" for UConn Extension's Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR). 

There is a fee to register: 
CLIR’s purpose is to provide intellectual stimulus for adults from all walks of life through informal classes and discussions. There are no academic or age requirements. Come join us in the Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus, with free parking and access for the mobility impaired. (GPS address: Witryol Place, Storrs, CT 06269)  For registration questions ONLY, contact Marilyn Diaz at marilyn.diaz@uconn.edu. For all other questions, email CLIR President Steve Kenton at clirpres@gmail.com. The CLIR schedule is also available on the Web at http://clir.uconn.edu

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 S 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)