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Jewish Studies Program


Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship

The Solomon-Tenenbaum lectureship continues the Tenenbaum Visiting Lectureship in Judaic Studies which began in 1990. The Tenenbaum lectureship was given in memory of Samuel Tenenbaum's father, Meyer Warren Tenenbaum, and his mother, LaBelle Florence Tenenbaum.

2018 Lecture

Deborah E. Lipstadt, a scholar who won a famous legal battle over a Holocaust denier, will speak about modern anti-Semitism during the upcoming Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship in Jewish Studies on Jan. 28, 2018.

The lecture will be at 7 p.m. in the My Carolina Alumni Center’s ballroom, 900 Senate St., Columbia. A book signing will follow the talk.

Lipstadt’s visit to Carolina, which was rescheduled due to severe weather in the fall, comes at an important moment as the broader national conversation about how we understand history and our present continues, organizers say.

Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies, Lipstadt wrote “Denial: Holocaust History on Trial,” chronicling her 10-week trial in London after being sued for libel by David Irving for calling him a Holocaust denier. The book was adapted into the 2016 movie “Denial” featuring Rachel Weisz and Tom Wilkinson.

 

Tradition!

The Solomon-Tenenbaum Visiting Lectureship in Jewish Studies is presented annually to the University of South Carolina faculty and students and the larger community. Traditionally, a professor with an academic or personal background in the Jewish faith will speak on a topic related to the Jewish Studies program, and then participate in a panel discussion with a group of local or visiting faculty. 


Past Lectures

2017: Jon D. Levenson- “The Binding of Isaac in the Three ‘Abrahamic Traditions': The Jewish-Christian-Muslim Debate”

Dr. Jon D. Levenson
Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies
Harvard Divinity School

Lecture brochure [pdf]

The episode that Jewish tradition calls “The Binding of Isaac” and Christian tradition terms “The Sacrifice of Isaac” plays a major structuring role in each tradition. In examining the ways the two traditions have appropriated their common scriptural story, we can understand better both the similarities and the differences between the two traditions. The parallel text in the Qur’an, in turn, exhibits strong overlaps but also revealing differences from both the Jewish and the Christian sources and helps us understand both the strengths and the limitations of the claim that these three religious traditions constitute varieties of one “Abrahamic Religion.”

Professor Levenson’s work concentrates on the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, including its reinterpretations in the "rewritten Bible" of Second Temple Judaism and rabbinic midrash. In addition, one of his courses deals with the use of medieval Jewish commentaries for purposes of modern biblical exegesis, and another focuses on central works of Jewish theology in the twentieth century.

Professor Levenson has a strong interest in the philosophical and theological issues involved in biblical studies, especially the relationship of premodern modes of interpretation to modern historical criticism. Much of his work centers on the relationship of Judaism and Christianity, both in antiquity and in modernity, and he has long been active in Jewish-Christian dialogue.

His book Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (Yale University Press, 2006) won a National Jewish Book Award and the Biblical Archaeology Society Publication Award in the category of Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible published in 2005 or 2006. Choice, a publication of the American Library Association, listed Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton University Press, 2012) as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013. His new book is The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Princeton University Press, 2015). In all his work, Professor Levenson's emphasis falls on the close reading of texts for purposes of literary and theological understanding.

2016: David R. Blumenthal- “Salvador Dali’s ‘Aliyah: The Rebirth of Israel'”

David R. Blumenthal, Ph.D. 
Jay and Leslie Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies
Department of Religion, Emory University

Lecture brochure [pdf]

In 1968, Salvador Dali, the best-known surrealist painter of the 20th century, painted 25 gouaches to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. From the gouaches, 250 suites of 25 lithographs each were printed and sold as “Aliyah: the Rebirth of Israel.” What scenes did Dali pick to illustrate this theme? How accurate is his depiction? More interesting: What prompted Dali, a Spanish Catholic with right-wing nationalist views, to undertake a “Jewish” work? Were there other “Jewish” works? Equally as interesting: “Aliyah” is not very “dali-esque,” though it certainly bears his stamp. What is the role of this suite in Dali’s oeuvre? Professor David R. Blumenthal, owner, with his wife, of one of the suites, will give a slide lecture that discusses most of the individual lithographs and proposes answers to some of these questions. 

Dr. David R. Blumenthal is Jay and Leslie Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies in the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies and the Department of Religion at Emory University. He teaches and writes on constructive Jewish theology, medieval Judaism, Jewish mysticism, and holocaust studies. His previous published works include numerous scholarly articles, reviews, and eleven books including the two volume Understanding Jewish Mysticism(1978, 1982), God at the Center (Harper and Row, 1988; reprinted Jason Aronson, 1994, translated as Dieu au coeur, 2002), Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest (Westminster / John Knox, 1993), and The Banality of Good and Evil: Moral Lessons from the Shoah and Jewish Tradition (Georgetown University Press: 1999). His most recent book is Philosophical Mysticism: Essays in Rational Religion (2007). Professor Blumenthal is a member of the European Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Religion. He is also the winner of the Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Teaching. 

2015: David Nirenberg- "Does the History of Anti-Judaism Have Anything To Do with the Present?"

David Nirenberg, Ph.D.
Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought
Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago

Lecture brochure [pdf]

Dean Nirenberg will discuss how Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Christians and Muslims of every period, and the secularist of modernity have used Judaism in constructing their visions of the world. Do these former and modern ways of life have any relationship to each other? Do past forms of life and thought affect later ones? If so, how does past perception about Judaism influence the ways in which we perceive the world today?

In the 2015 Solomon-Tenenbaum Lecture, Dean Nirenberg will examine these important questions and will discuss what, if anything, the history of anti-Judaism has to do with the present.

2014: Nancy K. Miller- "My Memoirs Made Me Jewish: Family, Memory, and the Writing Self"

Nancy K. Miller 
Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature
City University of New York Graduate Center

Lecture brochure [pdf]

A decade after her father’s death, Nancy K. Miller learned that her father’s mother had bought a small parcel of land in Palestine during the British Mandate. This surprising revelation led Miller to discover how entangled her family roots were with the massive migration of Jews to the United States in the early twentieth century. In the course of her research, as she describes it in What They Saved (her first memoir), Miller realized that her ancestors’ legacy had shaped her life in ways she had never suspected. Even her student years in 1960s France, she saw, had been filtered through the Jewishness she thought she had left behind in Manhattan along with her parents. Breathless (her most recent memoir) chronicles the contradictions of that coming-of-age moment in Paris. “My Memoirs Made me Jewish” explores how memoir-writing enabled Miller to understand her Jewish identity in a way unknown to her before. With richness of content, passion, and humor, Miller leads us to a new appreciation of the importance of writing and of how the act itself of narrating can illuminate not only the history we’ve inherited but also our experience in the present.

Nancy K. Miller is the author or editor of more than a dozen books.  A well-known feminist scholar, Miller has published family memoirs, personal essays, and literary criticism. She is a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she teaches classes in memoir, graphic novel, and women’s studies.

Miller lectures widely, both nationally and internationally, and her work is anthologized in popular volumes on autobiography and collections of feminist essays. She also co-edits the Gender and Culture series at Columbia University Press, which she co-founded in 1983 with the late Carolyn Heilbrun.

After graduating from Barnard College, Miller moved to Paris to study French literature and complete a master’s degree. Several years later, Miller returned to New York to reinvent herself as an academic and writer.

Miller's memoirs:
Breathless: An American Girl in Paris (Seal Press, 2013)
What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past (University of Nebraska Press, 2011) 

Visit Miller's website.

2012: Todd Gitlin- "The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel and the Ordeals of Divine Election"

Todd Gitlin
Professor of Journalism and Sociology
Chair, Ph.D. Program in Communications
Columbia University

The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel and the Ordeals of Divine Election 

America and Israel share the deep—some would say sacred—idea that their nations were chosen, in perpetuity, to do God’s work. What unites the two allies in a “special friendship” is less a joint strategic interest than this lasting, burdensome, and inspiring belief that they were chosen by God. Both rivals and adversaries have adapted this idea for their own purposes. 

The Jewish people take as their origin God’s promise to Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation.” The idea of chosenness gave rise to the Jewish people, sustained them in exodus and exile, and, centuries later, animated even secular Zionists and coaxed them to embrace religious settlements on the West Bank. Seventeenth-century British settlers thought they were founding “God’s new Israel” in the New World. But the belief in divine election is far more than a fanciful idea; it’s a living force, sometimes dangerous, always enticing. Even when disguised by secular language, even when the meaning of divine election is disputed, the idea of a providential destiny operates behind our backs. This seductive idea was at work when Americans made a revolution against Britain, went to war with the Indians, expanded westward, built an empire, waged war in Iraq, and proposed messages of enlightenment to a benighted world. 

The Chosen Peoples digs deeply beneath the controversies of the moment to show how deeply ingrained is the idea of a chosen people—and yet how complicated it really is. Weaving together history, theology, and politics, The Chosen Peoples vividly retells the dramatic story of two nations bound together by a wild and sacred idea, and offers an unexpected conclusion: only by taking the idea of chosenness seriously, wrestling with its meaning, and taking on its responsibilities, can both nations thrive.

Todd Gitlin, an American writer, sociologist, communications scholar, novelist, poet, and not very private intellectual, is the author of fifteen books, including Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street, from HarperCollins. Before that, he published the novel Undying and (with Liel Leibovitz), The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election. Other titles include The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American IdealsThe Intellectuals and the FlagLetters to a Young ActivistMedia Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our LivesThe Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture WarsThe Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of RageInside Prime TimeThe Whole World Is WatchingUptown: Poor Whites in Chicago (co-author); three novels, UndyingSacrifice and The Murder of Albert Einstein; and a book of poetry, Busy Being Born. These books have been translated into Japanese, Korean, Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. He also edited Watching Television and Campfires of the Resistance. 

In 2000, Sacrifice won the Harold U. Ribalow Prize for books on Jewish themes. The Sixties and The Twilight of Common Dreams were Notable Books in the New York Times Book ReviewInside Prime Time received the nonfiction award of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association; The Sixties was a finalist for that award and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. 

He holds degrees from Harvard University (mathematics), the University of Michigan (political science), and the University of California, Berkeley (sociology). He was the third president of Students for a Democratic Society, in 1963-64, and coordinator of the SDS Peace Research and Education Project in 1964-65, during which time he helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War and the first American demonstrations against corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa. During 1968-69, he was an editor and writer for the San Francisco Express Times, and through 1970 wrote widely for the underground press. In 2003-06, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Greenpeace USA. 

He is now a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications at Columbia University. Earlier, he was for sixteen years a professor of sociology and director of the mass communications program at the University of California, Berkeley, and then for seven years a professor of culture, journalism and sociology at New York University. During 1994-95, he held the chair in American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

Meet Todd Gitlin.

2011: Burton L. Visotzky- "Sage Tales: The Power of Rabbinic Story and What it Can Teach Us Today"

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Ph.D.
Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies

Director, Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies
Jewish Theological Seminary


Sage Tales: The Power of Rabbinic Story and what it can teach us today: 
Great stories have the power to draw the heart. But certain stories have the power to draw the heart to God and awaken the better angels of our nature. Such are the classic tales of the Rabbis of the Talmud-colorful, quirky yarns that tug at our heartstrings and test our values, ethics, morality, and imaginations. Rabbi Prof. Visotzky draws on four decades of telling and teaching these legends in order to unlock their wisdom for the contemporary heart. He introduces us to the cast of characters, explains their motivations, and provides the historical background needed to penetrate the wise lessons often hidden within these unusual narratives. In learning how and why these old-told tales were spun, we will discover how they continue to hold value for our contemporary lives.

Dr. Burton L. Visotzky, is Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies and director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he joined the faculty upon his ordination as rabbi in 1977. Visotzky has served as visiting faculty at Oxford, Cambridge, the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow, Princeton University, and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He works in Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue in the U.S. and abroad, meeting with religious leaders in Warsaw, Rome, Doha, Cairo, and Madrid, among other places. He appears frequently on radio and television. Prof. Visotzky is the author of over 100 articles and ten books; most recently SAGE TALES; Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud (Jewish Lights, 2011).

More information on Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky.

2010: Jonathan D. Sarna- "Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews: An Untold Story"

Jonathan D. Sarna
Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History
Brandeis University

On December 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, General Ulysses S. Grant issued a sweeping order, General Orders #11, expelling “Jews as a class” from his war zone. It remains the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history. The order came back to haunt Grant in 1868 when he ran for president. Never before had Jews been so widely noticed in a presidential contest, and never before had they been confronted so publicly with the question of how to balance their “American” and “Jewish” interests. During his two terms in the White House, the memory of the “obnoxious order” shaped Grant’s relationship with the American Jewish community. Surprisingly, he did more for Jews than any other president to his time. How this happened, and why, sheds new light on one of our most enigmatic presidents, on the Jews of his day, and on America itself.

Dr. Jonathan Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Director of its Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s fifty most influential American Jews, he was Chief Historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life.



Financial Support

The University proudly acknowledges the benefactors, Melvin and Judith Solomon, of Charleston, and Samuel and Inez Tenenbaum, of Columbia, whose generosity has created a Jewish studies endowment which exists to support the lectureship, to enhance the library collection and, eventually, to establish a chair of Jewish studies. Others are invited to make gifts to enlarge the Jewish studies endowment. These gifts provide academic resources to study the Jewish experience from its beginnings to the present.