UB Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage Opens 2011 David Blitzer Lecture Series

Release Date: January 4, 2011 This content is archived.


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Allan Arkush

American historian Hasia Diner will present the first lecture of the 2011 David Blitzer Lecture Series on Jan. 31.

Jonathan Dauber

Lisa Silverman

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The 2011 David Blitzer Lecture Series presented by the University at Buffalo Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage in Jewish Studies will open on Jan. 31 and continue through April 4 with free public lectures on the UB North Campus and in Amherst's Temple Beth Tzedek by five leading Jewish scholars, philosophers and historians.

All events in the series, both on and off campus, are free of charge and open to the public.

The series will open with presentations by American historian Hasia Diner, PhD, who is the Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University and director of the Goldstein Goren Center for American Jewish History.

Her first talk, "No Generation of Silence: Postwar American Jews and the Memory of the Holocaust," will take place at 3 p.m. Jan. 31 in 120 Clemens Hall, UB North Campus.

Diner will address the creation of a memorial culture by American Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust and its destruction of European Jewish life. It is a culture, Diner says, that not only memorializes the 6 million who perished, but attempts to remake the world in light of this catastrophe.

At 7 p.m. that day, Diner will present the lecture, "Jewish Peddlers and the Discovery of New Worlds" at Temple Beth Tzedek, 621 Getzville Rd.

She will discuss how, from the middle of the 19th century into the first decades of the 20th century, peddling -- selling goods place-to-place or door-to-door -- helped many of the millions of Jews emigrating out of Europe and the Ottoman Empire to create new lives and new communities across the globe.

Diner is a specialist in immigration and ethnic history, American Jewish history and the history of American women. Her many books include, most recently, "We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence After the Holocaust, 1945-1962," which won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award for American Jewish studies.

She is currently editing a multi-volume reference work on the history of American women and is one of the co-editors of the "Dictionary of American History." Diner is a Guggenheim Fellow and has served as the chair of the executive committee of the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society.

She is president-elect of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, a member of the American Academy of Jewish Research and the Society of American Historians, a former Lilly Fellow at Radcliffe College and a fellow of Princeton's Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Research. She lectures widely to academic and community audiences.

The series will continue on Feb. 21 with talks by Lisa Silverman, PhD, assistant professor of history and Jewish studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Silverman's research specialties are modern German and Austrian Jewish history, Jewish cultural studies, Holocaust history and representation.

Her first lecture, at 3 p.m. in 120 Clemens Hall, is titled "Four Trials, Three Murders, Two Jews: Staging Anti-Semitism in Interwar Austria."

Her second talk will take place at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Tzedek, and is titled, "From Falling to Jumping: Phillip Halsmann and the Austrian 'Dreyfus Affair.'"

In both lectures, Silverman will address the sensational murder case against legendary Latvian-American portrait photographer Philippe Halsmann, who spent two years in an Austrian jail (1928-30), convicted of his father's bludgeoning murder, despite a lack of evidence. Known as "The Austrian Dreyfuss Affair," his was one of four famous trials of the era that served as stages upon which tensions between city and province intertwined with Jewishness to reveal a deeply engrained system of thought and legal practice used to shape contemporary interpretations of unexpected events in unstable times.

The second presentation also will examine the role that photography played in Halsmann's trials, from his evocation of an imagined "photograph" of his father's fall during his testimony to the hundreds of photographs of the head of murdered Max Halsmann that were displayed to the jurors. It will focus on the degree to which photographs allowed jurors to re-imagine an act of patricide that never happened and will reveal the integral links between the events of the trial and Halsmann's later career as a photographer.

Silverman is co-editor of "Interwar Vienna: Culture between Tradition and Modernity" (Camden House, 2009) and has published articles the journals Prooftexts, Austrian Studies, German Quarterly and the Journal of Modern Jewish History. Her book "Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars" is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

On March 7 the series' will host talks by Allan Arkush, PhD, professor of Judaic studies and history at Binghamton University.

The first, at 3 p.m. in 120 Clemens Hall, is "Making the Case for Secular Judaism." It will address claims by historians and scholars that there has been a rebirth of Jewish secularism in this country, something that literary critic Irving Howe thought had reached a dead end just a few decades ago.

At 7 p.m. in Temple Beth Tzedek Arkush will present a talk titled, "Defending the Idea of a Jewish State," in which he will address the new anti-Zionists who deny the legitimacy of a Jewish state.

Arkush is the author of the classic book, "Moses Mendelssohn and the Enlightenment" (SUNY Press, 1994), and many articles on modern Jewish thought and Zionism. He is currently a fellow in the Department of Religion at Princeton University and senior contributing editor to the Jewish Review of Books.

On March 28, the series speaker will be Jonathan V. Dauber, a native of Buffalo and assistant professor of Jewish mysticism, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University

At 3 p.m. in 120 Clemens Hall, Dauber will present the lecture, "New Perspectives on the Emergence of Medieval Kabbalah," in which he will argue that, in the early 13th century, the first Kabbalists adopted a philosophic ethos foreign to traditional Rabbinic Judaism that had taken root in Jewish communities in Languedoc and Catalonia under the influence of the newly available philosophical materials.

Dauber argues that this ethos, in which the act of investigating God was accorded great religious significance, spurred Kabbalists to actively develop and expand their traditions concerning the nature of divinity. His thesis serves as a corrective to the common view that the emergence of Kabbalah must be seen as part of a negative reaction to Jewish philosophy.

Also on March 27, at 7 p.m., Dauber will address an audience at Temple Beth Tzedek. This lecture, "Mysticism versus Rationalism: Kabbalistic Responses to Maimonides," is one in which he will demonstrate the complexity of the interaction between Maimonidean and Kabbalistic thought over the centuries.

Dauber's areas of research specialization include the various historical stages of Kabbalah. He is currently completing a monograph "Glorying in the Understanding of God": Knowledge of God and the Development of Early Kabbalah," on the development of Kabbalah as a literary tradition in the 12th and 13th centuries.

On April 4, Sergey Dolgopolski, PhD, assistant professor in the UB Department of Comparative Literature and the UB Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage, will speak on "The Talmud as Thought" at 3 p.m. in 120 Clemens Hall.

Talmud is the central text of mainstream Judaism. Dolgopolski will analyze and situate intellectual practices displayed in the late-ancient text of the Talmud within a broader context of philosophical and rhetorical disciplines and attitudes related to thought and memory.

He will lecture at 7 p.m. in Temple Beth Tzedek on "The Talmuds: From Ancient Israel to Medieval Spain to the United States."

Because the Talmud is formed of records of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history, Dolgopolski points out that there are as many Talmuds as there are cultural worlds in which the Talmud was envisioned, conceived and studied. This lecture will survey three important environments in which Jews were shaped by the Talmud and which shaped the Talmud in turn.

Dolgopolski holds a joint PhD in Jewish studies from UC Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union, as well as a doctorate in philosophical sciences from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He specializes in the interpretation of the Talmud and Jewish thought and philosophy, both classical and contemporary. His latest book is "What is Talmud? The Art of Disagreement" (Fordham U. Press, 2009) and he is finishing a monograph "Who Thinks, Speaks and Remembers in the Talmud?" in which he discusses thinking and remembering practices in Babylonian Talmud in the context of philosophical and rhetorical disciplines of thinking and remembering.

The David Blitzer Lecture series is funded by a generous donation by UB alumnus Wolf Blitzer. Additional support is provided by Hillel of Buffalo, Temple Beth Tzedek and the Marvin Farber Memorial Lectureship Fund (UB Department of Philosophy). For more information visit: http://www.jewishstudies.buffalo.edu or call 645-3695.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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