Faculty News

Professor Stuart Miller Featured in CT Jewish Ledger

The Connecticut Jewish Ledger highlighted Professor Stuart Miller and the Judaic Studies Road Show presentation he provided on October 25 to nearly 100 participants at The Emanuel Synagogue.  The Road Show, entitled "Separating out the Facts: The Origins of Christianity and the History of Judaism,” focused on the beginnings of Christianity and its roots in Judaism as well as the reasons for the eventual parting of ways. Read the Ledger's article here.

Professor Miller's next Road Show presentation will be held at Temple Bnai Israel in Willimantic on November 12.  For more details, visit the event page.


Dr. Jeff Kaimowitz with Stuart Miller
At The Emanuel Synagogue: Dr. Jeff Kaimowitz, former rare books librarian at Trinity College (left) with Professor Stuart Miller. Photo credit: CT Jewish Ledger

Professor Sebastian Wogenstein Named Interim Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life

Sebastian WogensteinThe Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life extends a warm welcome to our newly appointed Interim Director, Professor Sebastian Wogenstein. Sebastian is an Associate Professor in the German section of the Literatures, Cultures, and Languages Department, a faculty associate of the Human Rights Institute, and a faculty member of Judaic Studies. He has published widely in the areas of human rights and literature, German-Jewish literature, and 20th/21st century German literature and theater. 

We offer our congratulations to former Director Jeffrey Shoulson in his new capacity as Interim Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Initiatives. His service and dedication to the Center were invaluable, and we wish him well in his new endeavor!

Professor Stuart Miller Speaks at the 125th Anniversary of the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society

Professors Nicholas Bellantoni and Stuart Miller examine the mikveh at Chesterfield, CT

Professor Stuart Miller, the Center’s academic director, spoke at the 125th anniversary celebration of the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society on Sunday, June 11. The society, formed in 1892, served the Russian Jewish farming community that settled in Chesterfield, CT.

Today, the Society works to preserve the site of that historic Jewish community. An expert in ritual baths in ancient Israel, Professor Miller helped lead an excavation in Chesterfield, in 2012, where a rare mikveh was discovered as well as the remains of a synagogue and creamery. The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information on the anniversary celebration, visit the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society at http://newenglandhebrewfarmers.org/nehfes-125th-anniversary-celebration/

You can also read about the excavation at Chesterfield in UConn Today.

Professor Arnold Dashefsky Interviewed by Connecticut Jewish Ledger

Founding director of the Center for Judaic Studies, Professor Arnold Dashefsky, was recently interviewed by the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. Professor Dashefsky spoke about the recent release of the American Jewish Year Book, which he co-edits along with Professor Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami. He discussed the Pew Research Center’s findings on Orthodox Jewry, which were reprinted in the Year Book, as well as the current trends in North American Jewish life.  Visit the Ledger’s website to read the article in full.  

May 3: Professor Roden to Discuss Latest Book for English Department’s Book Talk

Recovering JewishnessJudaic Studies affiliated faculty member Professor Frederick Roden will be discussing his latest book, Recovering Jewishness: Modern Identities Reclaimed (Praeger 2016) at a Book Talk sponsored by the UConn English Department.  The event takes place on May 3, at 1:30 pm, in the Stern Room, Austin Hall.

Also presenting at the Book Talk will be Professor Patrick Hogan who will discuss his latest work, Imagining Kashmir: Emplotment and Colonialism (University of Nebraska 2016).

Refreshments will be served.

New Fall Course Offering! Anthropology of Jewish Cultures

James Barnett Professor of Humanistic Anthropology Richard Sosis will be teaching a new course this fall entitled Anthropology of Jewish Cultures. The course is being developed by Professor Sosis and Assistant Professor and Director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights Sarah Willen, recent awardees of the course development grant offered by the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life. Credits earned from the course may be applied toward the major or minor in Judaic studies.

Anthropology of Jewish Cultures (ANTH 3098) will meet this fall from 2:00-5:00 pm on Wednesdays.

About the Course:

Abraham Joshua Heschel once poetically remarked that the Bible is not human theology but rather “God’s anthropology.” God, so to speak, has not been alone in studying Jewish life. In Western culture, Judaism has been characterized by its minority, outsider, and marginal status.  Not surprisingly, given anthropological interest in studying “the other,” anthropologists have produced an extensive literature aimed at understanding Judaism and Jewish experiences. The primary goals of this course will be to engage this literature by exploring the diversity of Jewish cultures and examining how influential anthropological theorists (e.g., Mary Douglas, Roy Rappaport, Alan Dundes, and Melvin Konner) have sought to explain the variation and commonalities of these cultures.

The course will place considerable emphasis on Jewish folk traditions as they’ve emerged cross-culturally and their tension with, as well as occasional acceptance by, rabbinic institutions.  Moreover, anthropological efforts to document these traditions, such as Ansky’s ambitious Jewish Enthnographic Program, will be discussed.  Students will be exposed to the rich ethnographic literature on Jewish cultures. These ethnographic writings will be used to explore various topics, communities, and movements within Jewish culture including: Haredim, Ethiopian Jewry, Yiddish culture in Europe and the U.S., chavurah communities, Sephardic communities in Muslim cultures, the Ba’al Teshuvah movement, women’s status within Jewish cultures, and secularization among Jewish communities.

The course will conclude by briefly examining how rabbinic writers, including Mordechai Kaplan, Neil Gillman, and Jonathan Sacks, have drawn upon anthropological data and theories to interpret Jewish teachings and provide visions for the development of Jewish life.

Faculty Book Release: American Jewish Year Book 2016, co-Edited by UConn Professor Arnold Dashefsky

American Jewish Year Book 2016  Includes Pew Study that Finds Commonalities between Orthodox Jewry and Evangelical Protestants

Arnold DashefskyThe 2016 volume of the American Jewish Year Book, co-edited by Professor Arnold Dashefsky of the University of Connecticut and Professor Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami, has been recently published by Springer. The publication is supported by the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut and the Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami. Included in this volume of the Year Book is the 2015 Pew Report on Orthodox Jews, “A Portrait of American Orthodox Jews,” as well as a response to the report from nine distinguished scholars and a rejoinder by Pew researchers.

The 2015 Pew report on American Orthodox Jewry represents an extended analysis of the data collected in the 2013 Pew Study, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.”  Pew, a nonpartisan research center that produces surveys on a myriad of topics, finds that while adult Orthodox Jews makeup only 10% of the American Jewish population, they represent a growing community due to their average younger age and high fertility rates. According to Pew, “if the Orthodox grow as a share of US Jews, they gradually could shift the profile of American Jews in several areas, including religious beliefs and practices, social and political views and demographic characteristics.” 

Despite the various sub-sects within the growing Orthodox community, Pew’s data find that politically and religiously, as a whole, the group more resembles white Evangelical Protestants than other Jewish groups based on the importance of religion in their lives and in that they are more likely to identify as more politically conservative than other Jews and are more than three times as likely to identify or lean Republican than other Jews.

If the divide between liberal and conservative Jews grows, significant policy implications in communal and political life could develop.  Unless dialog is cultivated and maintained across the spectrum of Jewish groups, a fractured community could come to distrust those with opposing views; and intolerance of differing viewpoints could be fostered, mirroring what we have recently seen in the wider American culture as the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath demonstrated.

American Jewish Year Book 2016Since 1899, the Year Book has served educators, scholars, lay leaders, and members of the Jewish community as an inestimable resource. Featuring chapters from eminent scholars on North American Jewish life as well as extensive lists detailing the numerous North American Jewish institutions, periodicals, academic resources, and major events, the Year Book preserves an invaluable annual record of Jewish life.

The 2016 volume includes topical articles on international affairs by Mitchell Bard, which summarizes and relates yearly events through the lens of the American-Israeli relationship, and an article on the diverse dimensions of American Jewish family life by Harriet Hartman.  Population studies for the United States, World Jewry, and Canada are provided by Ira Sheskin and Arnold Dashefsky, Sergio DellaPergola, and Charles Shahar, respectively.

Center Director Jeffrey Shoulson Speaks at Boston University on Early Modern Bibles

Professor Shoulson lecturesCenter Director Jeffrey Shoulson recently spoke at the Boston University Jewish Studies Research Forum and the BU Program in Scripture and the Arts on February 13, 2017.  The seminar entitled "Mapping and Unmapping Jewish History in Early Modern Bibles" examined the role played by maps depicting the Holy Land and other biblical locations—printed in Bibles as well as in other accounts of the region—in the construction of spaces construed as “Jewish."

Synopsis: Maps first appeared in printed Bibles nearly fifty years after the first illustrated, printed Bible was produced in 1483. In the century that followed, maps became an increasingly common supplement to the new Bible translations proliferating throughout Europe. Those Bibles that contained maps were overwhelmingly Protestant editions. Not surprisingly, the new emphasis Reformers placed on the literal/historical reading of Scripture sought and found support from the visual depictions of the geography of biblical texts. And nowhere was the spread and popularity of biblical maps during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries greater than in England. As the English Reformation progressed, the visualization of the Holy Land and its inhabitants functioned as a site for contested claims about a Jewish past and present that could be aligned with or distinguished from varieties of English Protestant identity.

Professor Susan Einbinder Elected Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America

Einbinder Susan 300x200The UConn Center for Judaic Studies extends a warm and well-deserved congratulation to faculty member Professor Susan Einbinder, who has been elected as a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, one of only a handful of senior scholars who are chosen for this prestigious honor every year.

Mazel Tov, Susan!

More information about the Fellows of the Medieval Academy of America is available here.