Gérard Étienne: Transnational memory from Haiti to Canada: Vaudou, Noirism, Judeity and Feminism

Natania Étienne

Wednesday, April 11 / 4:00 pm / Colby: Lovejoy 215

Gérard Étienne wrote some 30 works of literature and countless womens’ rights articles in Haiti, the United States, and Canada. 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of his death. Natania Étienne, his widow and a strong advocate for human rights and the freedom of speech, with pay him tribute. Sponsored by Jewish studies, African-American studies, and the French & Italian department.


Haifa: City of Steps

Nili Gold

Thursday, April 19 / 5:30 pm / Waterville: Congregation Beth Israel, 291 Main St.

Friday, April 20 / 5:00 pm / Rockland: Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, 50 Willow St.

Sunday, April 22 / 10:30 am / Portland: Temple Beth El, 400 Deering Ave.

Haifa: City of Steps is an intimate and revelatory journey through the author’s native city. With an expert hand, Nili Gold offers a guided tour through Haifa during its heyday in the 1920s and ’30s as an international port and cultural center through the 1948 war and the city’s subsequent decline. She weaves together urban, architectural landmarks and Haifa’s mountainous topography with literary masterpieces to elucidate how a childhood landscape is imprinted in memory. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro lauded Gold’s book on this subject as “beautifully written and impeccably researched… a true contribution to the literature of cities.” Nili Gold is Professor of Modern Hebrew Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Waterville event includes dinner for all participants with conversations facilitated by Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Arabic instructor Shada Diab, and Hebrew instructor Gahl Rinat. RSVPs appreciated by April 15 to liz.snider@colby.edu. The program is free and open to all.


Israel and the New American Jewish Novel

The Annual Lipman Lecture in Jewish Studies

Anthony Wexler

Thursday, April 26 / 7:00 pm / Colby: Diamond 122

Sunday, April 29 / 10:30 am / Portland: Temple Beth El, 400 Deering Ave.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has played an important role in the Jewish American imagination. But the Jewish state has come to mean very different things to different segments of the American Jewish community. Perhaps not surprisingly, many twentieth-century Jewish American writers steered clear of the topic, focusing instead on the Holocaust or on Jewish life in America. In the last five years, however, a new generation of Jewish American writers, including Nicole Krauss, Nathan Englander, Joshua Cohen, and Jonathan Safran Foer, have turned their attention to the relationships between American Jews and the State of Israel. What do these contemporary writers have to say about this fraught and complex connection? How do they imagine Israel’s influence on Jewish American identity today?


Fall 2017

Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza

Peter Cole and Adina Hoffman

Monday, October 9 / 1:00 pm / Colby: Lovejoy 208

One May day in 1896, a meeting took place between a Romanian-born maverick Jewish intellectual and twin learned Presbyterian Scotswomen who had assembled to inspect several pieces of rag-paper and parchment. It was the unlikely start to what would prove a remarkable saga, and one that has revolutionized our sense of what it means to lead a Jewish life. Based on their Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, which was named the best Jewish book of the year by the American Library Association, this talk by Peter Cole and Adina Hoffman will bring us inside the story of one of the greatest discovery of Jewish manuscripts ever made. Harold Bloom described Sacred Trash as “a small masterpiece,” and David Nirenberg, writing in the Nation, called it “a literary jewel whose pages turn like those of a well-paced thriller, but with all the chiseled elegance and flashes of linguistic surprise that we associate with poetry . . . Sacred Trash has made history beautiful and exciting.” Co-sponsored by the Jewish studies program, religious studies department, and Center for the Arts and Humanities.


Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City

Adina Hoffman

Monday, October 9 / 5:30 pm / Colby: Robins Room (Roberts Hall)

Tuesday, October 10 / 7:00 pm / Portland: Jewish Community Alliance, 1342 Congress St ($10/JCA members, $12/General Admission)

Please join us for a talk by award-winning essayist and biographer Adina Hoffman about her book. Till We Have Built Jerusalem is a gripping and intimate journey into the lives of three very different architects who helped shape modern Jerusalem.  A powerfully written rumination on memory and forgetting, place and displacement, the book uncovers multiple layers of one great city’s buried history as it asks what it means, in Jerusalem and everywhere, to be foreign and to belong. The Los Angeles Times called the book “brave and often beautiful,” and Haaretz described it as “a passionate, lyrical defense of a Jerusalem that could still be.” All are welcome and dinner will be served: please RSVP by Oct. 4 to Sherry Berard, saberard@colby.edu. Co-sponsored by the Jewish studies program, religious studies department, the Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.


From Perpetrators of Genocide to Ordinary Germans: The Transformation of Nazi War Criminals in Postwar Germany

The Annual Berger Family Holocaust Lecture

Hilary Earl, Nipissing University

Thursday, November 9 / 7:00 pm / Colby: Parker-Reed Room, SSW Alumni Center

Seventeen million civilians were killed during World War II. Of these, 6 million were Jewish—deliberately targeted by Nazi perpetrators in a European-wide campaign of mass murder. Murdering that many people required thousands of individual perpetrators. Very few of these men were ever fully prosecuted: only 185 were tried and sentenced in the thirteen Nuremberg trials between 1945 and 1949. For a variety of reasons, most of these men were released from prison in the 1950s before their sentences were complete. Using legal and archival sources, this talk explores the means by which convicted war criminals reintegrated into German society, their criminal pasts all but forgotten and ignored. It will assess the factors that enabled such men—perpetrators of genocide—to become ordinary Germans again.


Rescheduled to 2018-19

Where the Jews Aren’t: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region

Masha Gessen

October 18, 2018 

Masha Gessen is a journalist and the author of many books, including Perfect RigorBlood MattersEster and RuzyaWords Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy. Gessen’s most recent book, Where the Jews Aren’t, tells the story of an area once declared a Jewish homeland. It reveals the complex, strange, and heart-wrenching account of the dream of Birobidzhan—and the true history of Jewish people in twentieth-century Russia. Gessen regularly contributes to The New York TimesThe New Yorker, The Washington PostHarper’sThe New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, and Slate, among other publications.


Louis D. Brandeis, His Jewish Identity, and American Zionism

David G. Dalin

April 3, 2019 

In this talk, Dr. David Dalin will discuss Louis D. Brandeis’s Jewish identity, views on Zionism, and leadership of the American Zionist movement. Brandeis’s distinction of having been the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice is in some ways ironic, because his upbringing was the least Jewish of any of the Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court. His parents, well-educated German speaking Jewish from Prague, did not belong to a synagogue and never celebrated any Jewish holidays or the Jewish Sabbath. Nor did Brandeis when raising his own family. Although for the first half-century of his life Brandeis was a highly assimilated Jew who cared little about the religious observance of Judaism, by 1914 Brandeis had assumed the leadership of the American Zionist movement, becoming president of what today is the Zionist Organization of America. His mid-life “conversion” to Zionism, and his meteoric emergence as the preeminent Zionist leader in America, comprise an important chapter of Brandeis’s life and an enduring part of his Jewish legacy.

David G. Dalin is the author of Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court from Brandeis to Kagan: Their Lives and Legacies. Co-sponsored by the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, and the Jewish Community Educational Association of Bangor.