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Targum Studies in London, IOTS 2018

By uclhwis, on 15 April 2018

Download the Programme here, or read on below: IOTS-2018-Public

Hasidism and Modernity: the Hasid and the ‘Other’—by Naftali Loewenthal

By uclhwis, on 4 December 2016

Wednesday 7 December, 2016

Seminar Room, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London

Abstract: This paper is part of an extensive research project on Hasidism and Modernity, initially funded by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.  A number of articles in this project have been published, and updated versions of these and new material will be collected in my forthcoming book Hasidism Beyond Modernity: Studies in Habad Thought and History, to be published by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization.

The topic to be discussed concerns Habad perspectives on non-Jews and non-Jewish society.  It forms Chapter Three of the finished book.

The early hasidic ethos seems inclusivist, as regards its view of the Jewish community. The conventional religious stance against ‘sinners’ found widely in earlier Jewish sources is somewhat modified.  As Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi puts it in a passage recommending loving the sinner, with the goal to bring him back to proper religious observance, “and if not [if one’s efforts are not successful, and he does not improve], one has not lost the reward of the Command to love one’s fellow” (Tanya, Part 1, ch,32).  Thus he recommends loving the sinner in order to get him or her to improve their behaviour, and even if this result is not attained, he states that this love is appropriate.

The emergence of ultra-orthodoxy in the middle of the 19th century led to a new deliberately enclave and exclusivist stance for large sections of the traditionalist community. Despite this  some hasidic groups stood against this trend and maintained the original inclusivist ethos of Hasidism.  In the second half of the 20th century this is especially expressed by the Habad-Lubavitch group.  All this however is as regards the ‘sinning’ or secularized Jew.  What about the non-Jew?  How does Habad-Lubavitch view the non-Jew?

We will consider the background to this in the universalist/particularist features of medieval Jewish thought, typified by the universalist Maimonides and the particularist Judah Halevi.  Habad Hasidism is strongly particularist and emphasises the singularity of the Jew, following ideas expounded by Judah Halevi that the Jew has a ‘Divine quality’, unlike a non-Jew. At the same time Habad texts seem to recognise the spirituality of the non-Jew, following the pattern of Maimonides.  This double trend within Habad began in the early 19th century but was strongly emphasised in the late 20th century.

This combination of opposites typifies the Habad stance in the 20th century, taking it beyond the simple categories of modernity.


Moshe Halamish, “The Kabbalists’ Attitude Toward the Gentiles.”Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 14 (1998): 289-311 (in Hebrew).

David Novak The Image of the non-Jew in Judaism – the idea of Noahide Law 2nd edition, Oxford: Littman, 2011.

Svante Lundgren, Particularism and Universalism in Modern Jewish Thought, Academic Studies in the History of Judaism, Global Publications, Binghampton University, Binghampton N.Y, 2001

Elliot R. Wolfson, Open Secret, Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009) 224-264.



Teaching and Learning in Yiddish—by Helen Beer

By uclhwis, on 21 November 2016

Wednesday 23 November, 4pm,

Seminar Room, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London

Teaching and Learning in Yiddish: Some progressive pedagogical initiatives in secular Yiddish education in the 1920s and 30s (Warsaw and Vilne).
Initiatives in schools and higher education in Yiddish in the inter-war period were abundant and far-reaching. Within the framework of a centralised Yiddish schools organisation (CYSHO) and the YIVO (a research institution), various projects were brought to fruition which are modern, humane and enhance our cultural understanding.

Biblical motifs in the first Hebrew translation of “The Taming of the Shrew”

By uclhwis, on 14 November 2016

2 November 2016, Seminar Room, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London

This presentation investigates the earliest Hebrew rendition of a Shakespearean comedy, Judah Elkind’s מוסר סוררה Musar Sorera (The Taming of the Shrew), which was translated directly from the English and published in Berditchev in 1892. Elkind’s translation is the only comedy among a small group of pioneering Shakespeare renditions conducted in late nineteenth-century Eastern Europe by adherents of the Jewish Enlightenment movement as part of a strongly ideological initiative to establish a modern European-style literature in Hebrew and reflecting Jewish cultural values at a time when the language was still primarily a written medium on the cusp of its large-scale revernacularization in Palestine. The presentation examines the ways in which Elkind’s employment of a Judaizing translation technique drawing heavily on imagery from prominent biblical intertexts, particularly the Book of Ruth and the Song of Songs, affects the Petruccio and Katherine plotline in the target text. Elkind’s use of carefully selected biblical names for the main characters and his conscious insertion of biblical verses well known in Jewish tradition for their romantic connotations serve to transform Petruccio and Katherine into Peretz and Hoglah, the heroes of a distinctly Jewish love story. Hence, examination of Elkind’s work offers a unique and intriguing perspective on the translation of Shakespearean comedy.

Viktor Levi’s Ha-Mayyim Ha-Marim ve Ha-Me’arerim o la Agua de la Sotah, an anticlerical Judeo-Spanish novel published in Constantinople in 1889

By uclhwis, on 22 September 2016

In the latter 19th century, fiction began to appear in Judeo-Spanish or Ladino, the habitual language of Jews in the Balkans, Asia Minor and Greece. The heyday of the Ladino novel was between 1908 and 1914, and in the 1920s.

Usually these novelettes were either ‘blood and thunder’, crime and adventure  stories, or sentimental tales intended to appeal to women. A large proportion of them were translations or adaptations from popular novels in other languages, mostly French. Probably the greatest of the novelists was Elia Karmona, of Constantinople (1869-1932), one of whose novels I have transliterated from the text in the Rashi  typeface in which Ladino was printed, and translated into English.

Another novelist, as well as a journalist, editor and, translator, was Viktor Levi of Constantinople (1865-1940). His novel, the subject of this seminar, is original, both in that it is not a translation and that it is a fiction on a biblical subject and caused considerable outrage and demands for its suppression. I shall discuss it in the context of the conflict between progressive journalists and the Chief Rabbinate of Constantinople.



Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Making Jews Modern; the Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).

Olga Borovaya, Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles-Lettres and Theater in the Late Ottoman Empire, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).

Aron Rodrigue, ‘The Ottoman Diaspora; the Rise and Fall of Ladino Literary Culture’, in  David Biale (ed.) Cultures of the Jews (New York: Schocken Books,2002), 863- 885.

Michael Alpert, ‘The Ladino Novel’, European Judaism (London: Leo Baeck College, 43,2  [2010] ),  pp. 52-62.

Elia R. Karmona, La muz’er onesta (transliterated and translated as The Chaste Wife  by Michael Alpert, Nottingham, Five Leaves, 2009)

Hebrew Education on the Map: The State of the Field Internationally—by Rina Kreitman

By uclhwis, on 3 March 2016

Abstract: Institutional approaches to, and requirements of, foreign language may vary globally but can be  summarized as follows:

  1. Foreign language is a part of the requirements for any Bachelor’s degree (many American academic institutions use this model).
  2. Foreign language is required by a department or a program for a major (for example: German department may require varying degrees of knowledge of German. A Middle East department may require knowledge of Arabic, etc.)
  3. Foreign language is not required at all for graduating.

Tracks (2) and (3) may coexist in the same institution since students, who are not attending a specific program, may not have any language requirement.

Hebrew as a foreign language is offered in many institutions globally. In a system like (1) it is one of the languages offered by the college and students may select to take it just as they may select any other language such as Chinese, Russian or any other language. In such systems Hebrew has fared well but has  suffered a deline.  In a system like (2) Hebrew is usually and generally required by Jewish studies programs. In  such a system it may compete with Yiddish but usually only if the university offers Yiddish. In  most, but not all, institutions where (3) is the model, Hebrew may not be offered at all.

In this talk I will offer some data about enrollment in various Hebrew programs globally (US, UK and Australia) as well as strategies which various Hebrew programs adopt to increase enrollment in their midst. I will introduce approaches offered by different program coordinators to increase interest  in their programs and entice students to take Hebrew in academic settings.

We will further explore the different assets and tools at the disposal of coordinators globally and how they differ. For example, in Australia and the UK, the examination and entry system into college can be harnessed to boost numbers at the university level. Such a system, which barely exists in the US, cannot be used in the same way and thus, different approaches must be taken, as we will see  in the talk.

However, many languages with meager enrollments, which are not able to attract more students and grow, must take yet another approach. One of the new techniques adopted at Columbia University and currently shared by too few institutions is the shared electronic classroom. The shared electronic classroom is a new tool which involves exploiting current technology to deliver lectures to a wider range of students. This new technology can be integrated into all institutions and advance the  pedagogy of less commonly taught languages including Hebrew.


Bio: Rina Kreitman graduated with a B.A. from Tel Aviv University in 1999. She completed her M.A. (2002) and Ph.D. (2006) in Linguistics at Cornell University. Her research focuses on phonology, acoustic and articulatory phonetics, morphology and language acquisition. She continues to research and publish her linguistic work in various professional journals. She has presented in conferences such as Laboratory Phonology and at the Chicago Linguistics Society conferences among others as well as NAPH and AJS. She has taught Linguistics at Cornell University, Bar-Ilan University in Israel and at Emory University. She has taught Hebrew at Cornell University and at Emory University where she served as the coordinator of the program. Currently, she is the coordinator of the Hebrew program and a lecturer in the program at Columbia University in NYC.

In and Out of Women’s Luggage: Narratives of Women’s Migration in Modern Hebrew Literature—by Tsila Ratner

By uclhwis, on 28 February 2016

In our jointly written book on women’s material culture in Hebrew literature of the late 19th and turn of the 20th century in Eastern Europe,[i] Hannah Naveh (Tel-Aviv University) and I studied the ways by which generic objects associated with traditional Jewish women’s trousseaus realize their potential as ‘biographical objects’. We followed the representation of the trousseaux’ contents from the epitome of the normative and generic biography of women’s passage to marriage of the time to their emergence as sites of resistance as women characters attach to them individual biographical meanings. As such they problematize the attempt to blot out the desires and aspirations of women’s life in order to ensure compliance with the controlled and prescribed mould of proper femininity according to the social-cultural norms of the period.

Based on our research and using the same underlying principles, my current discussion shifts the focus from marriage to immigration/emigration. It looks at the literary representations of the material contents of migration luggage women characters carry with them in Hebrew literature of the same period. In the context of migration these luggage objects raise issues of integration: whether they integrate seamlessly into the new home or resist integration; of identity positioning: how they position the pre-migration identities in relation to the present ones and how they position women characters in relation to the dominant public discourse; and of mobility, on which successful immigration relies.

[i]Hannah Naveh | Tsila Abramovitz Ratner, Tzena, Tzena: In and about the Dowry Box, Tel-Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2015.

About the book:

While the father of a bride-to-be should show his worth in monetary value, the girl herself needs to demonstrate her value in terms of proper femininity. And this is epitomised in the dowry objects and in the promise they hold for future married life. Just as a girl is destined to marry, and just as a woman is destined for running a proper family home, so all she does and produce is meant to set up fine dowry objects before her wedding and to expand them during marriage. Alongside reflecting on the material dowry as an expression of the woman’s compliance with a model of femininity upon which she has been brought up, this book also deliberate on the literary representation of the symbolic meaning of dowry objects as an extension of women’s identity and an expression of desires and aspirations which cannot be easily contained in the regulatory discipline. The dowry is endowed with the girl/woman’s energies which generate products and representations of their identity, and these energies might initiate a process that escapes commodification and represents an individuality that shuns subjugation. As such the dowry facilitates thinking of possible frictions between the prescribed meaning of its objects and their personal meaning for the woman who owns them, produces them and uses them in the everyday of her marriage. The dowry and its objects are therefore extended tools to achieve, preserve and constantly verify a performativity of proper femininity. At the same time they are also an opportunity of personal expression which might prove to be problematic in the social framework of marriage.




The Limits of Refusal: Israel, Lebanon, and the Shadow of 1982—by Seth Anziska

By uclhwis, on 5 February 2016

Abstract: In revisiting an incident of refusal over the Mediterranean during Israel’s 1982 Lebanon War, my paper will piece together archives, interviews and memories between Jaffa and Beirut to explore how both Israeli and Lebanese society grapple with the legacy of extreme political violence. Drawing on a collaboration with the former Israeli air force pilot Hagai Tamir and the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari for the 2013 Venice Biennale, my presentation investigates the possibility and limitations of historical research across national borders in the post-1948 Middle East.

Bio: Seth Anziska is a Lecturer in Jewish-Muslim relations at UCL. His research and teaching interests include Israeli and Palestinian society and culture, modern Middle Eastern history, and contemporary Arab and Jewish politics. He received his PhD in International and Global History from Columbia University (2015) and his M. Phil. in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from St. Antony’s College, Oxford (2008). Seth is currently working on a book manuscript, provisionally entitled, “Camp David’s Shadow: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinian Question.” It examines the emergence of the 1978 Camp David Accords and the consequences of international diplomacy in circumscribing Palestinian self-determination. Recent publications include “The Consequences of Conflict Management in Israel/Palestine,” co-written with Tareq Baconi (NOREF Report: January 2016); and “Autonomy as State Prevention: The Palestinian Question after Camp David, 1978-1982,” Humanity, Special Issue on Transformative Occupation in the Middle East [forthcoming].

Further Reading: Seth Anziska “The Slow Repair of a Historical Rupture.” Ibraaz, Critical Forum on Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa, July 2013 (http://www.ibraaz.org/interviews/89); Sune Haugbolle, War and Memory in Lebanon (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Asher Kaufmann, “Forgetting the Lebanon War? On Silence, Denial, and the Selective Remembrance of the “First” Lebanon War, in Efrat Ben-Ze’ev, Ruth Ginio and Jay Winter (eds.), Shadows of War: A Social History of Silence in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Yaari, Israel’s Lebanon War  (London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1986); Akram Zaatrari, An Imagined Conversation with an Israeli Filmmaker Named Avi Mograbi (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012); Eyal Zisser, “The 1982 “Peace for Galilee War: Looking Back in Anger—Between an Option of a War and a War of No Option,” in Mordechai Bar-On (ed.), A Never-Ending Conflict: A Guide to Israeli Military History (Westport: Praeger, 2004).

Khazars in the Hungarian Jewish Imagination—by Prof. Michael Miller

By uclhwis, on 25 January 2016

Abstract: In 1884, Sámuel Kohn, rabbi of Budapest’s Great Synagogue, published A History of the Jews in Hungary: From Ancient Times to the Battle of Mohács, in which he propagated a new theory about the ancient origins of Hungarian Jewry.   Hungary’s Jews, he argued, were descended from the Khazar tribes who took part in the conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 896 C.E.  The Khazar hypothesis gained considerable acceptance in Hungarian scholarly and popular circles and became a key facet of Hungarian-Jewish identity, especially among self-defined “Hungarians of the Mosaic Persuasion.”  It is hardly a coincidence that Arthur Koestler, who popularized this theory in the 1970s and even claimed Khazar origins for all of Ashkenazic Jewry, was himself a native of Budapest.

This lecture is not concerned with the veracity of this hypothesis, which has been largely discredited, but rather with its creation, reception and popularization in Hungary during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Kohn’s theory not only captured the imagination of Hungary’s Jews but also informed the research agendas of a whole generation of Hungarian-Jewish historians, folklorists and orientalists who believed (or wanted to believe) that Jews and Magyars shared common eastern origins.  Popular publications touted the Khazars as evidence of a thousand-year-old symbiosis between Jews and Magyars, and even noted with some satisfaction that Jewish Khazars had arrived in the Carpathian Basin prior to Hungary’s adoption of Christianity.

Significantly, the Khazar narrative dovetailed with the general Hungarian quest for the origins of the Magyar people, a quest that inspired linguists and orientalists to travel to Tibet, Anatolia and Central Asia in search of kindred peoples.  This meant that in Hungary Jewish historians, folklorists, publicists and rabbis could point to the “oriental” and “immigrant” origins of Hungarian Jewry in order to underscore a sense of common, intertwined destiny with the Magyar people.  This lecture will explore the Khazar “myth of origin” in an effort to understand its resonance – and remarkable resilience –  in the Hungarian-Jewish historical imagination.  was published in 2011 by Stanford University Press and will be published in Czech by Lidové noviny in 2015.  He is now writing a history of Hungarian Jewry.

Bio: Michael L. Miller is Head of the Nationalism Studies program at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, where he also helped establish the Jewish Studies Program. He received his Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and his B.A. in History, Archaeology and Judaic Studies from Brown University. Miller’s book, Rabbis and Revolution: The Jews of Moravia in the Age of Emancipationwas published in 2011 by Stanford University Press and will be published in Czech by Lidové noviny in 2015.  He is now writing a history of Hungarian Jewry.

Why Aramaic in the Yerushalmi? Code-switching in Early Rabbinic Literature—by Willem Smelik

By uclhwis, on 4 January 2016

Please join us Wednesday 13 January 2016 at 4pm

for this lecture in the Institute of Advance Studies; Wilkins Building, seminar room 11


Abstract: To what extent the Jewish population of Roman Palestine in the first few centuries CE still spoke Hebrew in the context of contemporary multilingualism is an on-going debate. The attested existence of multiple dialects of any of the three main languages involved—Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew—and the diverse ways in which the Aramaic and Hebrew languages relate to one another in the extant literature and documents have so far been incompletely developed and understood. This presentation of research–in–progress is concerned with the linguistic reality of knowledge transfer as presented in the Talmud Yerushalmi, with particular attention to written code-switching between Hebrew and Aramaic. The results are significant for the way we understand vernacular language in the early rabbinic period and its written deposit, the textual unity of bilingual communication, the non-diachronic aspects of rabbinic code-switching, and the rabbinic perception of languages.

Bio: Willem Smelik works on Hebrew and Aramaic literature in Late Antiquity with special attention to the Jewish Aramaic translations of Scripture, Aramaic dialects, and multilingualism. Recent publications include Rabbis, Language and Translation in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Targum Studies in Munich, IOTS 2013 (edited with Robert Hayward in Aramaic Studies 11.2 [2013] and 12.1 [2014]), and ‘Justinian’s Novella 146 and Contemporary Judaism’, in Greek Scripture and the Rabbis (edited T.M. Law; Leuven: Peeters Press, 2012), pp. 141-163.

Further reading: The research to be presented here has not yet been published in any form, but some background information can be found in Rabbis, Language and Translation in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 100-138 and ‘The Languages of Roman Palestine’, in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Palestine (edited C. Hezser; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 122-141.