Jewish University for a Day

Spend an afternoon engaged in stimulating study and conversation. This celebration of adult Jewish learning features interactive sessions with top Jewish Studies scholar/teachers.
Visiting Scholars:
  • Dr. Benjamin Gampel, the Eli and Dinah Field Professor of Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary 
  • Dr. Stephen Garfinkel, Associate Provost and Assistant Professor of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary. 
  • Dr. Wendy Zierler, Associate Professor of Modern Jewish Literature and Feminist Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
  • A Keynote Address by Dr. Benjamin Gampel: “The Brilliant Career of Maimonides”
  • Two Break-out Sessions with over a dozen options taught by local and visiting scholars
  • Light Refreshments
Please click on the tabs for additional information about instructors and sessions. During the registration process, you will be asked to select your preferred break-out sessions.

Sunday, June 9, 2013
11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis Campus

General admission, $36
Seniors (62+), $25
35 and under, Free
No one will be turned away due to inability to pay.
For financial assistance, please contact Moshe Margolin at (908) 217-4003.
Online registration is open through Thursday, June 6, at 6:00 p.m.  After that point, please register at the door.

Conducted by the Institute for Jewish Learning of JTS, in cooperation with the Minnesota Context Partnership:
Adath Jeshurun Congregation, Bet Shalom Congregation, Beth El Synagogue, Beth Jacob Congregation, Mayim Rabim Congregation, Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, Minneapolis Jewish Federation, Mount Zion Temple, Sabes Jewish Community Center, Sharei Chesed Congregation, Shir Tikvah, Jewish Community Center of the Greater St. Paul Area, Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, Temple Israel (Minneapolis), Temple Israel (Duluth), Temple of Aaron, University of Minnesota - Center for Jewish Studies
Program Schedule

11:00 a.m. Check-in
11:30 a.m.
Keynote addresss
Dr. Benjamin Gampel, Jewish Theological Seminary
"The Brilliant Career of Maimonides"
12:35 p.m. Light Kosher Lunch
1:15 p.m. Break-out Sessions - Round 1
2:30 p.m. Intermission
2:45 p.m. Break-out Sessions - Round 2





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Round 1 Sessions (please see Bios tab for more information on instructors).

Laughing Hitler Away: German-Jewish Film Comedies About Nazism
This session will discuss the ways German-Jewish filmmakers confronted the challenge of Nazism and its heritage through comic reflections on racism, anti-Semitic violence and Hitler's leadership. As we will see, while they adhered to genres such as romantic comedy and slapstick farce, Jewish filmmakers in Germany have been very serious in their attempt to underscore the essence of Nazism and to imagine a German national community in which Jews could prosper. We will begin the discussion with early post-World War I comedies, which ridiculed anti-Semitism and advocated Jewish assimilation; we will then discuss the 1940s works of German-Jewish filmmakers in exile, which envisioned a German Jewish re-constitution of the defeated nation; and, finally, we will discuss post-World War II comedies about the heritage of Nazism in Germany. The class will demonstrate the ways Jewish artists and intellectuals utilized cinematic comedies to contemplate Jewish identity and its role in modern Germany.
Ofer Ashkenazi, University of Minnesota
If the Bible is Not Divinely Authored, Why Read It?
Modern Jewish religious thinkers strove to maintain traditional religious beliefs about scripture as divine authored with contemporary understandings of the Bible as a text composed by human hands. In this class, we'll explore some ideas they had about whether and how these seemingly contradictory notions could be reconciled and will consider the implications for our own understanding of Torah.
Mara Benjamin, St. Olaf College
The Prophet in Society
Who were the prophets of Ancient Israel, how did they function, and of what relevance are they to our lives today?
Stephen Garfinkel, Jewish Theological Seminary
Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls Revealed
Have you ever wondered what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why there is so much controversy surrounding them? This lecture will reveal what exactly they are, why they have become scandalous, and what they really contribute to our understanding of the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity.
Alex Jassen, University of Minnesota
God Bless America: The Influence of the Music of the Synagogue on the Broadway Musical and the Classic American Popular Song
While it is widely known that for decades professional American songwriting was an almost entirely Jewish business, the connection between traditional Jewish music and Tin Pan Alley is less widely understood. This connection, largely the work of composer Irving Berlin, will be explained and demonstrated with live and recorded examples.
Alex Lubet, University of Minnesota
Islam and the Jews
How did Islam define its relationship to Jews and Judaism? What was the relationship between theory and practice? During the first part of the session, we will consider some foundational Islamic texts, including traditions and histories of the Prophet Muhammad and the Pact of Umar. The second part of the session will be devoted to a discussion of political change in the modern period and how Muslims have defined (or redefined) their relationship to Jews and Judaism.
Daniel Schroeter, University of Minnesota
The Encrypted Sermons of Sabato Morais
At the time of the American Civil War, Sabato Morais, later to become the first President of the Faculty of Jewish Theological Seminary, was the rabbi of Mikveh Israel Congregation in Philadelphia and an outspoken opponent of slavery. Ten years ago, Professor David Cobin recovered several long-forgotten sermons by Morais, preserved in an antique shorthand, that were delivered in the months preceding and following the outbreak of the war. This session deals with how these "encrypted" sermons came to be transcribed, and what they indicate about Morais and his world.
Earl Schwartz, Hamline University
The Politics and Poetics of Prayer in Modernity: Exploring the Aleinu
The siddur has been, until recently, perhaps the most used and least studied of Jewish texts. Unlike the Bible and rabbinic texts, it has not been the primary subject of scholarship or the focus of voluminous commentaries. Of its significance, Adin Steinsaltz writes, "no other Jewish book contains, as does the siddur, the entirety of Judaism....[It] is like a garland, intertwining all the strands of Judaism and encompassing all fields of Jewish creativity in their variegated forms." All of life's moments are marked with things found in the siddur and it contains the poetry, theology, politics, pleas, joys and sorrows of the people throughout time. In this session, we will reflect on the place of the siddur and particularly the ways in which modern prayers have been a means to articulate, and ritualize the political and poetic sentiments of modern Jewish movements. As a case study, we will look, specifically, at the relatively short Aleinu and how the various ways in which it has been rendered and interpreted reflect concerns about the nature of God, the place of the Jewish people in relationship to both non-Jews and God, and the question of how redemption should be understood.
Shana Sippy, Carleton College
“And Rachel Stole the Idols”: The Emergence of Hebrew Women’s Writing
This session is based on the overarching theme of my first book, which deals with the emergence of Hebrew women’s writing. How can the episode of Rachel stealing her father’s teraphim in Genesis 31 be used as a metaphorical key to the experience of early women writers entering into a literary tradition from which women were almost totally absent from the biblical period to the end of the 19th century.
Wendy Zierler, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion

Round 2 Sessions (please see Bios tab for more information on instructors).

Liberalism and the Jewish Question
What compromises for Jewish identity and practice were (and indeed are) involved for Jews living in liberal democracies such as ours? Baruch/Benedict de Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise (1670) made a mark in the history of European political philosophy as the first work to tie general political concerns to the so-called “Jewish question.” We will examine key elements of Spinoza's proposal for a liberal, secularized state and the implications for modern Jews ever since.
Mara Benjamin, St. Olaf College
Jews, Christians, Muslims and the Holy City of Jerusalem
From the perspective of the contemporary conflict over Jerusalem, we will explore the history of the Holy City and discover how Judaism, Christianity and Islam understand the place of Jerusalem within their respective religious systems. We will observe how the historical claims of these three monotheistic religions mirror each other and that present-day struggles over the city have their roots in these religious truth assertions. All celebrations of the city and related acts of memorialization are part of the ideological attempt to link Jerusalem to these particular faiths and their adherents.
Benjamin Gampel, Jewish Theological Seminary
Moses: More Than a Man?
This session will explore Moses’ essential roles in Israel’s development in the Hebrew Bible. Is it possible he was so important that he was actually more than “the man Moses”? To what extent was Moses seen as divine?
Stephen Garfinkel, Jewish Theological Seminary
Midrash and the Art of Jewish Biblical Interpretation
Midrash represents the timeless process of Jewish interpretation of the Bible in order to renew its meaning and significance for new generations. In this session, we will focus on the interpretation of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32) in midrashic tradition.
Alex Jassen, University of Minnesota
Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan and Religion in the New Millennium
Arguably the greatest and most influential American artist in any idiom, Bob Dylan is both loved by and problematic for many Jews. In this session, we will explore Dylan's relationship to Judaism and other religions, primarily through his 2009 song "I Feel a Change Comin' On."
Alex Lubet, University of Minnesota

New Diasporas/New Homelands: The Mass Emigration of Jews from Muslim Countries
From 1947 to the early 1970s most of the one million Jewish inhabitants of the Middle East of North Africa left their countries of birth, the majority settling in the new State of Israel, with large numbers immigrating to France and other countries in Europe and North America. We will examine the many historical circumstances of their departure, dispelling some of the misconceptions about the reasons for this mass exodus.
Daniel Schroeter, University of Minnesota
The Jewish Communal Worker as Shaliah Mitsvah
In this session we examine the relationship between the functions of various Jewish communal service agencies in contemporary Jewish communities and the rabbinic construct of “shilihei mitzvah” - "agents for the sake of a mitzvah."
Earl Schwartz, Hamline University
Ritualizing Childhood
Jewish life is rich with rituals, a large percentage of which focus on childhood. In this class we will consider the ways in which the rituals of birth, education and maturation work to create Jewish subjects and subjectivities, Jewish children and parents. Employing insights from the fields of ritual and performance studies we will read examples of Jewish rituals of childhood, from the medieval to the modern and consider how Jews are made and who Jews are making.
Shana Sippy, Carleton College
Moondancing with Hava Shapiro
Hava Shapiro (1878-1943) was an important pioneering Hebrew short story writer, essayist, diarist, letter writing, and the first Hebrew feminist critic. This session will explore her forgotten legacy including the first feminist Hebrew manifesto, and one of the first Hebrew stories calling for greater religious participation by women.
Wendy Zierler, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Instructor Bios
Ofer Ashkenazi is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and a fellow at the Koebner-Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is the author of the books Weimar Film and Modern Jewish Identity (2012) and Reason and Subjectivity in Weimar Film (2010). He received his PhD from the Hebrew University in 2006. He has taught various topics in Israel, Germany, and the U.S., including history of the Holocaust, Israeli culture, German culture, film and European history. His research interests include German-Jewish culture, émigré culture, Zionism and the modern European peace movement.

Mara Benjamin is assistant professor of Religion at St. Olaf College.  She holds a Diploma in Jewish Studies from Oxford University (1996), and received her doctorate from Stanford University (2005). Areas of scholarly and teaching interest include Jewish textual traditions and practices, including biblical, rabbinic, and contemporary hermeneutics; modern European Jewish history and thought; and feminist theology. Mara’s first book, Rosenzweig’s Bible: Reinventing Scripture for Jewish Modernity (Cambridge, 2009), examines the theological and political stakes of the endeavor to reinvigorate Jewish intellectual and social responses to the Bible, focusing on the work of Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929).  Her current book project examines Jewish and feminist concepts of the obligated self and is entitled Parental Obligation, Power, and Care in Jewish Theological Perspective.


Benjamin Gampel, author and teacher, specializes in the Jews of the medieval and early modern world. He received his PhD from Columbia University and is the Eli and Dinah Field Professor of Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Gampel edited Crisis and Creativity in the Sephardic World (Columbia University Press; New Ed, 1998), which is an account of the international conference held in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon. At present, he is writing a book on the pogroms and forced conversions of 1391 in the Iberian Peninsula and the effects of those events on the course of Jewish history.


Stephen Garfinkel is associate provost and an assistant professor of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary. He also serves as chair of the Council on Graduate Studies in Religion. Dr. Garfinkel received a master's degree and rabbinic ordination from JTS and a PhD in Middle East Languages and Cultures from Columbia University.  Dr. Garfinkel's current research is focused on early popular perceptions of Moses as a divine figure. His essays published during the past few years include "Clearing Peshat and Derash" (in Hebrew Bible / Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation, edited by Magne Sæbø); and "The Man Moses, the Leader Moses" (in Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality, edited by Jack Wertheimer).


Alex P. Jassen is Associate Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He previously taught at the University of Minnesota, where he was the recipient of the university’s prestigious McKnight Land-Grant Fellowship. Dr. Jassen holds a B.A. in Jewish Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He has published widely on the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient Judaism and is a member of the international editorial team responsible for publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is the author of Mediating the Divine: Prophecy and Revelation in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple Judaism (Brill, 2007) as well as many articles in leading journals. He is the co-editor of Scripture, Violence, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity (Brill, 2010) and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ancient Judaism (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht). He served as academic advisor for The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Dr. Jassen is currently working on a book on religious violence in the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient Judaism.


Alex Lubet is Morse Alumni/Graduate & Professional Distinguished Teaching Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota, with additional appointments in Jewish Studies, American Studies, and Cognitive Sciences.  He holds degrees from the University of Iowa (M. A. and Ph. D.).  His research interests are disability issues in music, religion, and education, and American popular music, in particular Bob Dylan.  He is also a composer, multi-instrumentalist, storyteller, and theatre artist, whose works have received over 500 performances on 6 continents.  Lubet is the author of Music, Disability, and Society (Temple University Press, 2011).  One chapter considers the Halachic concept of kol isha from a disability perspective, along with the edicts against music under Islamic Sharia law as a disabling practice, under the Taliban.   Lubet is also contributing editor of Richard Wagner for the New Millennium:  Essays in Music and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), a collection that brings together musicologists and Jewish studies scholars to consider the legacy of the great composer and notorious anti-Semite.


Daniel J. Schroeter is the Amos S. Deinard Memorial Chair in Jewish History and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Minnesota. He previously held the Teller Family Chair in Jewish History at the University of California, Irvine, and the Melton Professorship in Jewish History at the University of Florida.  His books include The Sultan’s Jew:  Morocco and the Sephardi World (2002), and Merchants of Essaouira: Urban Society and Imperialism in Southwestern Morocco, 1844-1886. He is co-editor of  Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa (2011), and an editor of the Encyclopedia of the Jews in the Islamic World  (2010). His many publications focus on the history and culture of Moroccan Jewries, 17th-20th centuries, and the Jews of the Islamic World and the Sephardim of the Western Mediterranean, 17th-20th centuries.  He is currently working on two book projects, the first on the Jews living among Berbers in the Atlas Mountains and Saharan oases of Morocco, based on the photographs of Elias Harrus (1940s to 1960s), and the second on the Jews of Morocco during World War II.


Earl Schwartz is on the religion faculty and directs the social justice program at Hamline University. He is the author of Moral Development: A Practical Guide for Jewish Teachers, and co-author with Rabbi Barry Cytron of When Life Is In the Balance: Life and Death Decisions in the Light of Jewish Tradition, as well as numerous articles on Jewish Law, history and education. He has served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Law and Religion since 1996.


Shana Sippy teaches in the Religion department at Carleton College and has degrees from Columbia and Harvard. She specializes in articulations and representations of religious and cultural identity. Her work focuses on the making of Jewish and Hindu selves and communities in modernity, as well as the intersection of religious traditions with colonialism, social movements and globalization. She combines textual analysis with anthropological work on ritual, education, nationalism, and gender. Her current project focuses on the religious, cultural and political alliances between Jews and Hindus, Israel and India. Other projects have examined the adoption and re-visioning and re-interpretation of Jewish rituals and prayers in both traditional and progressive contexts.


Wendy Zierler is associate professor of Modern Jewish Literature and Feminist Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She received her MA and PhD from Princeton University. She is currently studying for an MFA degree in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Dr. Zierler was a research fellow in the English Department of Hong Kong University. She has also been a lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. She is the author of And Rachel Stole the Idols: The Emergence of Modern Hebrew Women's Writing, a Feminist Haggadah commentary in My People's Haggadah, To Speak her Heart, an illustrated anthology of Jewish women's prayers and poems, and The Selected Writings of Hava Shapiro, a collaboration with HUC-JIR colleague Carole Balin.


Parking Garage and directions to STSS

East River Road Garage

Address: 385 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Directions from the parking garage to STSS:
Exit East River Road Garage through the elevator
Take the Elevator to the Plaza Level and follow the sidewalk around the south-west (left) side of Coffman Memorial Union.  
Follow up the stairs and turn left to walk by the Weisman Art Museum.  
STSS is on the North side of the Washington Avenue bridge before crossing the river.

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