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Jewish Studies

Jewish Studies research seminar


Jewish Studies will offer a one-day workshop in December - details will be posted soon.


Semester 2 

Wednesday 18 January 2017
Dr Adam Sutcliffe (King's College London)
17.00 Lecture
18.30 Refreshments
Virginia Woolf Building 3.01 (22 Kingsway)
Moses Mendelssohn’s Precarious Challenge to Rabbinical Authority: Spinoza, Cranz, and Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem

The paper will ask whether Moses Mendelssohn, the leading political thinker of the Jewish Enlightenment, envisioned a fully normalised place for Jews in his ideal polity, or whether his answers to questions of religious authority and political power remained rather inconclusive, pointing to challenges regarding emancipation and citizenship that continue to fuel debate today.

Adam Sutcliffe, Reader in European History at King's, specialises in the intellectual history of Western Europe, c.1650-1850, and also in the history of Jews, Judaism and Jewish/non-Jewish relations in Europe from 1600 to the present. He is the author of Judaism and Enlightenment (2003), a study of the philosophical and political significance of Judaism and Jews in European Enlightenment thought. He has also published a co-edited volume, Philosemitism in History (2011) and is the co-editor of the forthcoming seventh volume of the Cambridge History of Judaism, covering the period 1500-1815. His current research focuses on the relationship between religion, issues of religious difference and radical politics in Western European thought in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Wednesday 8 February 2017
Dr Piet van Boxel (Oxford)
17.00 Lecture
18.30 Refreshments
Virginia Woolf Building 3.01 (22 Kingsway)
The Index expurgatorius in Sixteenth Century Italy, a Counterproductive Tool against Heretics and Jews

The paper will ask how efficient ecclesiastical censorship and expurgation of Hebrew books were in sixteenth-century Italy. Due to lack of political power, the rapidly growing book production and distribution in sixteenth-century Europe, the competition among ecclesiastical Congregations and the changing papal policies towards the Jews, the implications of censorship on Hebrew books in the early days of printing are far from obvious and deserve further investigation.


Wednesday 22 March 2017
Professor Daniel Langton (Manchester)
17.00 Lecture
18.30 Refreshments
Virginia Woolf Building 3.01 (22 Kingsway)
The Doubting Jew: Some Observations on Jewish Engagement with Atheism

While much has been written about Jewish secularism, which might be described as practical atheism, there has been much less scholarly interest in Jewish theological engagement with theoretical atheism. This paper will consider the extent to which recent historical models for the emergence of Western atheism fit the Jewish experience. In particular, it will sketch out the hermeneutic atheist in Jewish thought, that is, the imagined disbeliever with whom religious Jews have wrestled. It will also present one case study regarding the influence of atheist discourse upon Jewish religious thought, namely, that of US Reform Judaism. It will be argued that care should be taken to avoid the mistake of subsuming the Jewish story into the more general Judeo-Christian tradition when considering the history of atheism.

Daniel Langton is Professor of the History of Jewish-Christian Relations and co-director of the Centre for Jewish Studies. He is the author of The Apostle Paul in the Jewish Imagination (2010) and Claude Montefiore: His Life and Thought (2002). He co-edited the Judaism section of the Springer Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions (2013) and recently completed a Leverhulme Major Grant project on Jewish engagement with evolutionary theory. He is currently working on a project entitled ‘The Doubting Jew’ as an AHRC Leadership Fellow.


Please also note the following lectures in February and March:

Thursday 16 February 2017
Maccabaean Lecture 2017
Professor Bryan Cheyette (University of Reading)
17.30 Refreshments
18.00-19.30 Lecture
Council Room, Strand Campus

Israel Zangwill Our Contemporary: Ghetto - Melting Pot - Zion

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. 

Free tickets available here.


Tuesday-Thursday 28 February - 2 March 2017
FD Maurice Lectures 2017
Professor David B. Ruderman (University of Pennsylvania)
18.00-19.30 Lecture
Old Committee Room, Strand Campus (Tue & Wed), Nash Lecture Theatre, Strand Campus (Thu)
Missionaries, Converts and Maskilim: An Entangled History of Christians, Jews, and Those In Between in 19th-Century Europe

Alexander McCaul (1799–1863), for many years Professor of Hebrew at King’s College London, was one of the most prominent figures in ‘The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst Jews’. In 1837, he published a formidable attack against the Talmud entitled The Old Paths, engendering considerable consternation and alarm among Jews when the work appeared in Hebrew translation two years later. Having spent ten years as a missionary in Warsaw, McCaul knew Jewish texts and Jewish life intimately.

During the course of his mission work, he succeeded in converting several fascinating figures, especially Stanislaus Hoga, a Polish Jew, who followed him to England to become the Hebrew translator of his polemical work. McCaul’s protégé would eventually become disillusioned with his teacher and forge a new understanding of Christianity based on a fusion with Judaism, an unexpected turn McCaul could never have imagined nor appreciated.

The Old Paths also elicited a series of long responses from Jewish intellectuals attempting to defend traditional Judaism from his stinging criticisms. The most significant of these responses was by the so-called “father of the Eastern European Haskalah” (the Jewish Enlightenment) Isaac Baer Levinsohn, who had previously criticized the rabbis and their restrictive Talmudic laws in calling for radical religious and educational reform. The irony that such an outspoken critic of the rabbis now felt obliged to defend them is at the heart of my study of McCaul’s critique and the Jewish response, which led to invaluable Jewish self-reflections on the meaning of newly constructed Jewish identity in the nineteenth century.

David B. Ruderman is the Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), where he was also the Ella Darivoff Director of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies from 1994 to 2014. Among his numerous influential publications are Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo-Jewry's Construction of Modern Jewish Thought (2000, Koret Award for the best book in Jewish History in 2001); Connecting the Covenants: Judaism and the Search for Christian Identity in Eighteenth-Century England (2007); Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History (2010, National Jewish Book Award in History in 2011); and most recently A Best-Selling Hebrew Book of the Modern Era: The Book of the Covenant of Pinḥas Hurwitz and its Remarkable Legacy (2014).

Free tickets available here.


Semester 1 

Wednesday 28 September 2016
Dr Shirli Gilbert (Southampton)
17.00 Lecture
18.30 Refreshments
Virginia Woolf Building 3.01 (22 Kingsway)
Holocaust Memory in Post-Apartheid South Africa

As South Africa negotiated its transition to democracy in the early 1990s, one of the historical analogies most frequently invoked was between the ‘twin atrocities’ of apartheid and the Holocaust. The genocide of European Jewry, and particularly the Nazi regime that perpetrated it, was perceived as a potent historical benchmark for understanding what had happened in South Africa, for envisioning justice and reconciliation, and for thinking about how apartheid might be historicized and commemorated. In my paper I’ll explore how the Holocaust has featured in South African public discourse following the collapse of apartheid. The Holocaust was integral to the conceptualization of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, and has become the cornerstone of human rights education in school and museum settings throughout the country. It has also paradoxically become one of the key conduits for the Jewish community’s re-integration into the new South Africa, despite the community’s emphasis on the Holocaust’s uniqueness under apartheid.

Shirli Gilbert is Associate Professor of History and Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at the University of Southampton. Her new book, From Things Lost: Forgotten Letters and the Legacy of the Holocaust, will be published in May 2017. She is also the author of Music in the Holocaust (Oxford 2005).


Wednesday 9 November 2016
Professor Anna Sapir Abulafia (Oxford)
17.00 Lecture
18.30 Refreshments
Virginia Woolf Building 3.01 (22 Kingsway)
Jacob and Esau and the Interplay of Jewish and Christian Identities in the Middle Ages


Wednesday 23 November 2016
Dr Yaron Peleg (Cambridge)
17.00 Lecture
18.30 Refreshments
Virginia Woolf Building 3.01 (22 Kingsway)
A New Jewish Diaspora? Israeli Writers Abroad



Also of interest may be the meetings of the Biblical Studies research seminar.

Co-convenors: Dr Andrea Schatz and Dr Jonathan Stökl 

Registration is only necessary if specified. All Welcome!

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