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The Maccabaean lecture

The Maccabaean lecture

The annual Maccabaean Lecture in Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies is endowed by the Society of Maccabaeans. The first Lecture was given in 1996 and since then we have had a series of distinguished experts on a variety of topics within the fields of Hebrew Bible and all areas of Jewish Studies.

The lectures are designed for students and staff within Jewish Studies and beyond, members of the Society of Maccabaeans, and other interested members of the public.

All are welcome!

The Maccabaean lecture 2019

The Maccabaean Lecture will be held on Monday 4th February 2019

'To Grasp the Hebraica Veritas: Different Hebrew Learning Approaches in Medieval England'

Professor Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies)

17.30 Refreshments - Council Room

18.00-19.30 Lecture - Council Room,
King's Building, Strand Campus

The event is free, but registration is required via Eventbrite (for security at King's) -

Thirteenth-century England witnessed an unprecedented intrest in the study of the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic commentaries among Christian scholars. In order to access these original texts, some scholars turned to their Jewish neihbours for instructions, others attempted to produce new paedagogical linguistic tools. This paper analyses different approaches to the Hebrew grammar developed and implemented by Christian Hebraists in medieval England, and seeks to indentify their sources of Hebrew linguistic knowledge.

Previous lectures

The Maccabaean lecture 2018

Reading Jewish Literature in Victorian England

Dr Nadia Valman (QMUL)

This lecture explores the beginnings of popular Jewish literature in Victorian England. Jews were all the rage for early Victorian readers, and historical novels by the Anglo-Jewish writer Grace Aguilar became beloved bestsellers. But Aguilar also aimed to boost the pride of Jewish readers and indirectly to shape the contemporary debate about Jewish political rights. As this lecture shows, Aguilar's writing deeply influenced nineteenth-century Jewish popular literature in France and Germany too, where it came to express the contradictions of the Jewish encounter with modernity.

Nadia Valman is Reader in English Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. She is the author or editor of nine books on Jews and British literature, including The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture (Cambridge University Press), the Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures (Routledge) and The Jew in Edwardian Culture: Between the East End and East Africa (Palgrave).

The Maccabaean lecture 2017

Israel Zangwill Our Contemporary: Ghetto — Melting Point — Zion

Professor Bryan Cheyette (University of Reading)

Israel Zangwill (1864–1926), a founding member of the Society of Maccabaeans, was the most famous Jew in Britain and America during his life-time. Although largely forgotten, he lives on in three main ways. His bestselling fiction, especially Children of the Ghetto (1892), profoundly changed the perception of migrant Jews; his notorious play The Melting Pot (1908) helped characterize modern America; and, as a Jewish territorialist, Zangwill challenged mainstream Zionism by putting "people ahead of land”. My talk will explore the extent to which Zangwill’s preoccupations — ghetto, melting pot and Zion — speak to us today. 

Bryan Cheyette is Chair in Modern Literature at the University of Reading. He is the editor or author of ten books, most recently Diasporas of the Mind: Jewish and Postcolonial Writing (2014) and volume seven of the Oxford History of the Novel in English (2016). He is currently working on a short introduction to the Ghetto for Oxford University Press and a longer book on Israel Zangwill.

The Maccabaean lecture 2015

An International Enterprise: Amsterdam's Jewish Book Trade in the Dutch Golden Age 

by Professor Shlomo Berger (University of Amsterdam)

The Amsterdam Jewish book industry thrived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This lecture will offer a portrait of printers and tradesmen, it will look at the role of Amsterdam books in local Sephardi and Ashkenazi life, and it will trace the circulation of Amsterdam books in Jewish communities and among Christian Hebraists in other parts of Europe as well as in Britain and Ireland. Through the lens of interesting Amsterdam books, it will depict the local and global dimensions of Jewish culture just before the inception of modernity.

Shlomo Berger is Professor of Yiddish Culture at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on early modern Yiddish and Ashkenazic cultural history. In 2013 he published Producing Redemption in Amsterdam: Early Modern Yiddish Books in Paratextual Perspective (Brill). At present, he is co-convener of the Oxford Seminar in Advanced Jewish Studies. During Hilary and Trinity terms he is also a Visiting Fellow at Brasenose College, Oxford. 

The Maccabaean lecture 2014

The 2014 Maccabaean lecture was held on Monday 03 March 2014

The Last Anglo-Jewish Gentleman - Redcliffe Nathan Salaman (1874-1955)

by Professor Todd M. Endelman (University of Michigan)

The communal hegemony of the Anglo-Jewish notability collapsed in the mid-twentieth century. One of its last representative figures was Redcliffe Nathan Salaman - plant geneticist, country gentleman, social historian of the potato, and Zionist. Salaman witnessed and acutely observed its demise, as well as the larger transformation of British Jewry in the twentieth century.

Todd M. Endelman is Professor Emeritus of History and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. A specialist in the history of Anglo-Jewry and modern Jewish social history, he is the author of The Jews of Georgian England, Radical Assimilation in English Jewish History, and The Jews of Britain, 1656-2000.  He recently completed a history of conversion and radical assimilation in modern Jewish history, which Princeton University Press will be publishing in 2014.  He is currently working on a biography of Redcliffe Nathan Salaman. 

The Maccabaean lecture 2013


The 2013 Maccabaean lecture was held on Tuesday 26 February 2013

Dreyfus Was Not Along: The Army as a Jewish Career in Modern Europe

by Professor Derek Penslar (Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies and Fellow, St Anne's College, Oxford / University of Toronto)

Chaired by Dr Adam Sutcliffe, King’s College London


The military was an important source and sign of Jewish social mobility in modern Europe. This talk will explore the social background and family lives of Jewish army officers and show how the presence or absence of Jewish officers illustrates the position of Jews in a country's society.  The focus will be on fin de siecle France, where the tragic figure of Alfred Dreyfus appears in a different light when placed against the background of hundreds of French-Jewish career officers, including dozens at the most senior ranks.

Professor Penslar is a comparative historian with interests in the relationship between modern Israel and diaspora Jewish societies, global nationalist movements, European colonialism, and post-colonial states.


The Maccabaean lecture 2012

The 2012 Maccabaean lecture was held on Wednesday 01 February 2012

"The Great Sir, Unique Among His People": Visions of Jewish Community in the Tributes to Sir Moses Montefiore

by Dr François Guesnet (University College London)

Chair: Dr Andrea Schatz (King's College London)

Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885) was undoubtedly one of the most prominent Jews of the nineteenth century. His advocacy for Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire, in Russia, Romania, Palestine, Morocco and elsewhere, spanning more than four decades, made him one of the best known Jews in modern history. A remarkable expression of this reputation are the thousands of tributes sent by Jewish communities, congregations, and associations from around the world to Ramsgate. In his lecture, Dr François Guesnet argues that by paying tribute to Sir Moses Montefiore, the authors of these remarkable documents evoked and advocated their vision of Jewish community. These visions were as multifaceted and complex as the personality of the addressee himself. The lecture is based on the project to digitise and transcribe the collection of tributes held at the Special Collections at University College London, a project sponsored by the Montefiore Endowment.

The Maccabaean lecture 2011

The 2011 Maccabaean lecture was held on 28 February 2011:

Kabbalah, Science and Moral Cosmopolitanism in Enlightenment Jewish Thought

by Professor David Ruderman (University of Pennsylvania)

Chair: Professor Marc Saperstein (Leo Baeck College London)

The lecture dealt with the history of a single book and its incredible reception among Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Book of the Covenant was first published by an eastern European Jew named Pinhas Hurwitz in 1797. It purports to be a mystical commentary on a classic kabbalistic text, but in reality is an encyclopedia of the sciences, a book of instructions on reaching the level of a prophet, and a work of moral guidance. In the latter case, the author strongly advocates that Jews need to love all non-Jews.
This best-selling book, published in 36 editions, offers a fascinating window into the processes of continuity and change in Jewish thinking at the dawn of the modern era: the dialectic between mysticism and science; between Jewish faith and modern philosophy; and between an internal notion of Jewish superiority and the demands of universal ethics.
Professor Ruderman has received the National Jewish Book Award in History 2010.

A list of previous Maccabaean lecture titles and speakers can be downloaded here (pdf).

If you wish to be added to the mailing list for notifications of these, and other related events in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies, please email, providing your email and/or postal contact details. 

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