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Jewish Studies seminars and events 2011-12

Summer Term 2012

Programme flyer (pdf)

Wednesday, 2 May
Biblical Studies & Jewish Studies: A Study Day
The Body as Cultural Entity in Biblical, Christian and Jewish Texts
10.00-17.00 Council Room (Strand Campus)

Tuesday, 8 May
The Annual Seminar with the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks
Responsible Capitalism
Chair: Dr Tamra Wright (London School of Jewish Studies)
15.00 K0.12 (Strand Campus)

Friday, 8 June
Biblical Studies & Jewish Studies: A Day Conference
Professor Philip Esler (St Mary's University College)
10.30-16.00 K0.16 (King's Building, Strand Campus)

Wednesday, 13 June
Book Launch
Contemporary Covenantal Thought: Interpretations of Covenant in the Thought of David Hartman and Eugene Borowitz
Dr Simon Cooper (London School of Jewish Studies)
Respondent: Dr Michael Harris (London School of Jewish Studies).
15.00 Small Committee Room (K0.31, Strand Campus)

Refusing to accept anything but ever-increasing levels of human responsibility within a religious framework, covenantal thinkers audaciously suggest that the covenant empowers humanity, as it binds and inhibits divinity. This is a reformulation of recurrent issues within the Jewish tradition. Hartman and Borowitz have attracted a considerable following, but few scholars have discussed them together. Dr Simon Cooper, who received his PhD in Jewish Studies from King's in 2010, sheds new light on the work of both by reading them in comparison with each other.

Lent Term 2012

Thursday, 26 January
A Joint Jewish Studies & Postcolonial Studies Seminar
Professor Aamir Mufti (UCLA)
Jewishness as Minority: Postcolonial Perspectives on the Limits of Enlightenment

17.30 River Room (Strand Campus)

Wednesday, 1 February
Maccabaean Lecture
Dr Francois Guesnet (UCL)
“The Great Sir, Unique Among His People”: Visions of Jewish Community in the Tributes to Sir Moses Montefiore

17.30 Tea & Refreshments

18.00 Lecture

Council Room (Strand Campus)

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.

Wednesday, 15 February

Professor Shmuel Feiner (Bar-Ilan University)
Religion and Secularisation in Modern Jewish History

17.30 Council Room (Strand Campus)

Changing practices in religious and everyday life, deistic attitudes, the critical voices of the Jewish Enlightenment, and Moses Mendelssohn's rejection of religious fanaticism demonstrate the significance of processes of secularisation for our understanding of the dramatic modern Jewish experience
. Shmuel Feiner`s paper, following his recent book The Origins of Jewish Secularization in 18th Century Europe (Philadelphia 2010, Winner of the 2010 Shazar Prize for the best book in Jewish History), will explore the issue from different perspectives in order to build a case for the history of Jewish secularisation. Looking at secularisation from his perspective as an Israeli historian in the midst of a Jewish "Kulturkampf", he will attempt torevise some of thenew narratives of Jewish modernisation.

Tuesday, 28 February
Dr Daniel Weiss (University of Cambridge)
Human Violence and Divine Violence in Walter Benjamin and in Classical Rabbinic Literature

17.00 Chesham Building, room 2E (Strand Campus)

This paper compares the ways in which Walter Benjamin and the texts of classical rabbinic literature draw a sharp division between the concepts of ‘human violence’ and ‘divine violence.’ While Benjamin’s anarchic undermining of ‘law’ might initially seem at odds with the rabbinic championing of halakhah, I aim to show that the two are brought into close relation by their shared insistence that only ‘divine’ judgment, and not ‘merely human’ considerations, can lend legitimacy to the notion of collective violence. The juxtaposition of Benjamin and the rabbis can thus serve to bring out elements of each that might otherwise be overlooked. As the texts of classical rabbinic literature do not speak in the idiom of systematic philosophy, Benjamin’s philosophical account of violence can illuminate some of their underlying conceptual assumptions concerning bloodshed and direct divine sanction. Likewise, the more explicit religious, messianic, and ritual formulations of the classical rabbinic texts can shed greater light on the theological resonances implicit in Benjamin’s account. Moreover, highlighting the similarities between the two accounts can also provide greater insight into the ways in which they ultimately diverge over the criteria for identifying true ‘divine violence.’

Michaelmas Term 2011

Wednesday, 2 November
Professor Marc Saperstein (Leo  Baeck College)

The Quality of Jewish Leadership in the Generation of the Expulsion from Spain
17.30 Council Room (Strand Campus)

Modern Jewish historians have often been rather critical of the leaders of Spanish Jewry in the years leading up to the Expulsion of 1492, as expressed by the following statement in a recent academic book: "An important  . . . characteristic of fifteenth-century Spanish Jewry was the almost complete lack of leadership." After analysing the nature of this critique and its underlying assumptions, this paper will discuss two figures who, it will be argued, are totally inconsistent with this attack: Don Isaac Abravanel and the lesser-known Rabbi Isaac Aboab.

Tuesday, 15 November - Thursday, 24 November

Dr Ronit Meroz (Tel Aviv University)
Reading the Zohar

A Joint UCL-King's Workshop (for students and staff)


Thursday, 8 December

Centre for Late Antiquity and Medieval Studies (CLAMS) & Jewish Studies
Cultural Mobility in Medieval and Early Modern Times: Sephardic and Ashkenazic Perspectives - A Roundtable

Participants: Dr Hilary Pomeroy (UCL), Dr Andrea Schatz (King's), Professor Julian Weiss (King's), Dr Sizen Yiacoup (University of Liverpool)
Chair: Dr Adam Sutcliffe (King's)
Council Room (Strand Campus)

  "Mobility" has recently been emphasised as a major feature of the beginnings of Jewish modernity, starting with the expulsion of Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula and new Sephardic-Ashkenazic encounters across Europe. At the same time, it is obvious that intellectual, cultural and social mobility was quite characteristic of the medieval world, too. This roundtable will explore and compare forms of mobility, migration and "cultural traffic" in medieval and early modern times and question common assumptions about the nexus between mobility and modernity.

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