Cornell-NYC Center for Jewish History collaboration begins

By: Linda B. Glaser,  Cornell Chronicle
Wed, 09/07/2016

A new collaboration between Cornell’s Jewish Studies Program and the Center for Jewish History in New York City will launch Sept. 27 with a three-part lecture series featuring Cornell faculty members.

The talks will be held at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for center members and Cornell alumni, and can be purchased online.

The “Cornell Jewish Studies at the Center for Jewish History” program is spearheaded by Bruce Slovin ’57, the center's founder and former chair, who said, “We are privileged that Cornell’s Jewish Studies Program has selected the center as a platform to present some of its faculty’s recent work in Jewish studies, during the upcoming fall and spring semesters.”

“We’re delighted that Jewish Studies will be part of Cornell’s growing and diverse presence in New York City. There couldn’t be a better showcase for our faculty’s lively interest in Jewish culture than the Center for Jewish History,” said Jonathan Boyarin, Hendrix Director of Jewish Studies, the Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies in the Departments of Anthropology and Near Eastern Studies.

The Center for Jewish History in New York City provides a collaborative home for five partner organizations: the American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The partners’ collections comprise the world’s largest and most comprehensive archive of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel, with more than 5 miles of archival documents (in dozens of languages and alphabet systems), more than 500,000 volumes, as well as thousands of artworks, textiles, ritual objects, recordings, films and photographs.

The inaugural lecture on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m. will be delivered by Ross Brann, the Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies and a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, introduced by Gretchen Ritter '83, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences. His topic will be “An Intimate Rivalry: The Jews and Classical Islam.”

Jewish-Muslim relations in the pre-modern era are popularly portrayed as a precursor of conflict in the contemporary Middle East, Brann said. His lecture will offer a complex portrait of early Jewish-Muslim relations, characterized by the creative dynamics of minority-majority interaction.

The second lecture, Monday, March 20, 2017, will be given by Lauren Monroe, associate professor and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, on “The Joseph Traditions and the Genesis of Ancient Israel.”

Embedded in the Bible story of Joseph and his brothers is an older, independent tale of a certain Joseph the Hebrew, alone in Egypt, with no connections to Canaan or the family of Jacob, Monroe said. Her talk will offer a new perspective the evolution of this seminal biblical narrative and the evolution of ancient Israel itself as a polity that emerged in the wake of the Late Bronze Age in Canaan.

The final talk in the series, Monday, May 1, 2017, will be given by Kora Bättig von Wittelsbach, senior lecturer of Italian language in the Department of Romance Studies. Her topic is “Jewish-Italian Literature and the Long 20th Century.”

Many of the most important 20th-century Italian writers are Jewish, notes von Wittelsbach. Her talk will examine how these writers articulated the self against the background of historical events that have shaped the past hundred years.

For tickets to Sept. 27 lecture, go to

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences. 

This article was originally published in the Cornell Chronicle.