Chap Ernest Lapp Cam Ranh Bay 1967Warring for peace: American rabbis and the politics of protest in the 1960s

Wednesday, Feb. 24 / 4:00 pm / Lovejoy 215

Ronit Stahl, Washington University in St. Louis

The 1960s were a time of rupture, with the Vietnam War riveting and ripping apart the American nation. If Vietnam generated a “crisis of conscience” for many Americans, it created a particular conundrum for American rabbis. Abraham Joshua Heschel’s declaration that victory in Vietnam would mean “moral defeat” tested the rabbis and rabbinical students who donned uniforms to serve soldiers as military chaplains. To whom were rabbis obligated–individual conscience, the Jewish community, the American state, or conscripted servicemen? This talk examines how American rabbis grappled with the “crisis of conscience” generated by Vietnam and what it reveals about Jewish identities, politics, and obligations in the 1960s.


RothPhilip Roth and the Americanization of the Holocaust: From Anne Frank to Primo Levi

Wednesday, March 2 / 4:00 pm / Lovejoy 215

Anthony Wexler, Johns Hopkins University

Now more than seventy years in the past, the Holocaust is the defining event in Jewish American life. The survivors are dying, taking with them their memories and lived experiences of genocide. The personal testimony of these witnesses, which has been authoritative for American Jews’ understanding of the Holocaust, is running out. Artists, writers, and filmmakers have stepped in, taking over the work of keeping America’s “memory” of the Holocaust alive. But many have feared that this shift from survivor testimony to cultural commemoration will cheapen and distort the Holocaust’s true meaning. In this talk, I’ll consider how Philip Roth, the famous Jewish American novelist, reflects on this changing historical understanding. Why does Roth, over the course of his career, consciously leave behind a victim figure like Anne Frank, and turn instead to the Italian survivor, Primo Levi? And what kinds of Holocaust memory and Jewish American identity does Roth imagine for the coming world without witnesses?


Seeing & believing

The Lipman Lecture

Thursday, March 3 / 7:15 pm / Colby Museum of Art

Ori Gersht

Through the ages, the invention of new optical devices has shaped human perceptions of reality and redefined the physical as well as metaphysical boundaries of the world in which we live in.  Ori Gersht will contextualize his own practice in relation to technology, history, and art history.  He will locate the medium of photography within the context of art history and will discuss the relationships of photography with subjective memories, which are deeply inspired by his Israeli upbringing and his Jewish heritage. Gersht will discuss these ideas in relation to the notion of truth, and the fundamental human desire to anchor our existence in something that can be defined as objective.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Arts and Humanities, the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, the Colby Museum of Art, and the Jewish Studies Program.

Searching for the Promised Land

Thursday, March 3 / 1:00 pm / Lovejoy 212

Ori Gersht will discuss issues of representation and reality using photographs of 19th- and early 20th-century Palestine as well as his own photography of Israel and Eastern Europe. All are welcome to this open session of RE 182, “Jews, Judaism, and the Modern World.”

Ori Gersht is an Israeli fine art photographer who works and teaches in London.  His photography has been the subject of dozens of museum exhibitions around the world.


Once in a lifetimeOnce in a lifetime

Thursday, March 17 / 7:00 pm / Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville

Post-screening discussion facilitated by Audrey Brunetaux (French)

Anne Gueguen is more than just a high school history teacher: she actually cares about the troubled, inner-city students she’s supposed to educate. And this year, as always, Anne’s got a tough class. Frustrated by their materialism and lack of ambition, Anne challenges them, despite their unlikelihood of winning, to take part in a national high school competition around what it meant to be a teen in a Nazi concentration camp. Determined to push her students as far as they’ll go, Anne puts her own life on hold and uses all her creativity and willpower to grab their attention and get them motivated. As the deadline creeps closer, the kids start to open up to each other and believe in themselves. And while it may not resolve the challenges of their daily lives now, the collective project’s outcome could be the one thing that changes the rest of their lives and helps them find their way.

Presented by the Maine Jewish Film Festival in collaboration with Colby College, with financial support from the Berger Family Holocaust Fund.


Jews and tattoosJews and tattoos

Monday, March 28 / 5:00 pm / Parker-Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center

Rabbi Alan Lucas

Tattoos have become enormously popular but, according to popular lore, people with tattoos can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Really? Why was Judaism against tattoos, and are those concerns relevant today? Rabbi Lucas wrote a position paper on tattoos and body piercing for the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. He will review the traditional literature on the subject and lead a lively discussion on Jews and tattoos today.

Rabbi Lucas’s talk will be followed by dinner and discussion.  All are welcome, but RSVPs are requested for dinner (art@colby.edu).

Presented in conjunction with AR473, “Visual culture of tattooing.”


lucas-smReligious people and religious fanatics: What’s the difference?

Tuesday, March 29 / 12:00 pm / Beth El, Augusta

Tuesday, March 29 / 5:00 pm / Thai Bistro, 147 Main St., Waterville

Rabbi Alan Lucas

For much of the 20th century, there was a prevailing belief that religion was passé. Science and secularism contained the answers to the great challenges that confronted us.  But in the 21st century religion has returned as a dominant force in shaping and influencing the world.  For many, religious language–whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu–is a foreign way of thinking.  It is tempting to dismiss all religion by caricaturing its most excessive forms of expression.  What is religious thought? How is it different from other forms of accessing truth? How do we distinguish genuine religious passion from fanaticism?

Co-sponsored by the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, Congregation Beth El, and Beth Israel Congregation.

Can we talk about Israel anymore?

Wednesday, March 30 / 12:00 pm / Law Offices of Bernstein Shur, Portland

Rabbi Alan Lucas

The scene that is common to most college campuses depicts pro-Palestinian supporters in pitched battle with pro-Israel supporters. There is anger and protest but little or no constructive conversation. Speakers are shouted down rather than engaged. Even within the Jewish community there is polarization.  In many circles, to voice criticism of Israel is tantamount to betrayal. And others who are critical of Israel find it difficult to sympathize with the modern state at all. Like so many areas of contemporary discourse, we confront a wide and challenging chasm.  Can the distance be bridged? Are there ways to talk about Israel that make common discourse possible?

Co-sponsored by the Center for Small Town Jewish Life and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.


Rue des RosiersA Jewish street in Paris: Rue des Rosiers in the early 21st century

Monday, April 11 / 7:00 pm / Diamond 122

Joëlle Bahloul, University of Indiana

Rue des Rosiers is a street in the center of Paris that has been historically and culturally associated with the longstanding Jewish presence in the capital of France. At the beginning of the 21st century, it has been identified as the Parisian “old Jewish quarter.” It is displayed in most touristic guides as “Pletzl” (Yiddish for “little square”) and has now become a major tourist site for visitors in search of Jewish culture in France. Dr. Bahloul has conducted ethnographic research in this urban area for over two decades, and she will attempt to respond to the following questions: What makes a Jewish quarter in urban Europe? Is the Pletzl (as it is called by city Jews) mainly a touristic site or a “community” of Jewish residents and visitors? How is it a “global” Jewish place and not only a French or European one?

Co-sponsored by Jewish Studies, Religious Studies, Anthropology, French, and Interdisciplinary Studies.


israel-palestine_hpFoundational Zionist and Palestinian narratives: 1915-1949

Monday, April 18 / 4:00 pm / Diamond 122

Dorit Price, Resetting the Table

Note: This event is open solely to Colby students, faculty, and staff.

This program creates a framework for participants to discuss the birth of each people’s national aspirations, historical pain, and experiences of Israel’s founding. Participants gain understanding into the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the ways historical narratives continue to shape the negotiating table, and how mutual recognition might help pave a path forward.

Co-sponsored by the Jewish studies program, Colby Hillel, and the Pugh Center, with financial support from the Avi Schaefer Fund.


Fall 2015

When Jews were New Mainers

Sunday, Oct. 18 / 3:00 pm / Maine Jewish Museum, Portland

Kristin Esdale ’16 and Jocelyn Thomas ’16, with responses by Prof. Michael Connolly (St. Joseph’s University), Prof. David Freidenreich (Colby), Rabbi Rachel Isaacs (Colby), and Jo Israelson

What was it like to be one of the first Jews living in Maine?  Come learn about the ways 19th-century immigrants succeeded economically and culturally, laying lasting foundations for Jewish life in the state. Participate in a conversation about how the experiences of the first Jewish Mainers relate to those of other New Mainers and of Jews in Maine today.  Engage the “Welcoming the Stranger” exhibition by Jo Israelson as well as works of art by Colby students similarly inspired by moments in Maine’s Jewish immigration history, and learn about the ways art can speak to immigrant identities.

Presented by the Maine Jewish Museum in partnership with Colby College.  Jo Israelson was Compagna-Sennett Artist-in-Residence at Colby in Spring 2015, during which time she mentored student sculptors and historians while working on “Welcoming the Stranger.”


The Binding of Isaac and the Crucifixion of Jesus

Wednesday, Oct. 21 / 7:00 pm / Pugh Center, Colby College

The Compagna-Sennett Religious Studies Lecture

Prof. Jon D. Levenson, Harvard Divinity School

The episode that Jewish tradition calls “The Binding of Isaac” and Christian tradition terms “The Sacrifice of Isaac” plays a major structuring role in each tradition. In the Christian case, not only the scriptural story itself but its Jewish interpretations have influenced the presentation of Jesus in the New Testament to a degree that most Christians and most Jews do not recognize. In examining the ways the two traditions have appropriated their common scriptural story, we can understand better both the similarities and the differences between them and their common indebtedness to ancient Near Eastern rites and theologies.


LevensonWas Abraham the common father of Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Thursday, Oct. 22 / 7:00 / Temple Beth El, Portland

Prof. Jon D. Levenson, Harvard Divinity School

Today, one often hears Judaism, Christianity, and Islam described as “Abrahamic religions,” and it is beyond doubt that the figure of Abraham plays a key foundational role in each. It is also beyond doubt that the overlap in interpretations of the figure are not coincidental. A closer look at the role of Abraham in the classical theology of each tradition, however, and especially at the question of the identity of the community he is said to have fathered or modeled reveals significant differences that the convenient cover-term “Abrahamic religions” can lead us to miss. The responsible course is clear but not easy: to do justice to both the commonalities and the differences.

Presented by the Jewish Community Alliance in partnership with Colby College.  Suggested donation to the JCA: $10. RSVPs appreciated, as dessert will follow: email jca@mainejewish.org or call 772-1959.


“I am what I will be”: Trans Jewish theology

Thursday, Nov. 5 / 4:00 pm / Pugh Center

Prof. Joy Ladin, Yeshiva University

Transgender people are increasingly visible and active members of religious communities, and transgender experience and perspectives are beginning to challenge and change traditional understandings of God. Joy Ladin, the author of Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, will offer a personal introduction to the emerging discourse of trans theology. She’ll reflect on the Hebrew Bible’s portrayal of God and the human-Divine relationship through the lens of her own transgender experience before and after gender transition.

Students are invited to join Joy for dinner after the talk in the Hillel lounge.  Please RSVP by Nov. 4 to risaacs@colby.edu.

Co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program, the Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Bridge, and Colby Hillel.


 ninawouttextNina: A play by Lynne Conner

Monday, Nov. 9 / 7:30 pm / Strider Theater

Tickets are free; reserve yours in advance at: https://colbytheateranddance.tixato.com/buy

What makes for a happy life? The play focuses on the lives of two concentration camp survivors whose fifty-year friendship is being challenged by the death of a daughter. It explores and questions the nature and mysteries of human will and endurance. Ultimately, Nina is a journey into identity, loss, memory, and the power of female friendship.  Discussion with the playwright to follow.

Nina is the recipient of several awards, including the Gemini Theater New Play Festival competition, the Smith College New Play Festival competition, the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Award (finalist) and the Oglebay Institute Towngate Theatre Playwriting Contest (finalist).

Co-sponsored by the Theater & Dance Department, the Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the Jewish Studies Program’s Berger Family Holocaust Fund.


Food and American Jewish Tradition

Thursday, Nov. 12 / 9:30 am / Miller 241

Melanie Weiss, Beth Israel Congregation (Waterville) and Temple Beth El (Portland)

An open session of HI 283, “The Golden Diaspora: Modern American Jewish History.”


Marianne HirschImprobable images: School photos in Holocaust Europe

The Berger Family Holocaust Lecture

Thursday, Dec. 3 / 7:00 pm / Diamond 122

Prof. Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University

Despite severe interdiction on schooling and on photography in much of Nazi-occupied Europe during the years of the Holocaust, Jews established schools in ghettos and concentration camps, took photos of school classes with hidden and clandestine cameras, and archived these for the future.  This talk places these improbable images within the vernacular genre of school photos and reflects on the power of photography as a medium of memory, memorialization and resistance.

Marianne Hirsch’s work combines memory studies with feminist theory, particularly the transmission of violent histories across generations.  Her recent books include The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust. Hirsch is one of the founders of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference.