Events sponsored by the Jewish studies program are supported by the Bronstein Fund for Jewish Studies and Holocaust Studies. “Perspectives on Israel” events are made possible in part by the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project, directed by the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Support for the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project is generously provided by Legacy Heritage Fund Limited.

Spring 2014

Israel: Data and Debate

Rachel IsaacsRachel Isaacs, Colby College

Thursday, Feb. 27, Monday, March 10, Monday, April 7 / 6:00 pm (dinner provided) / Hillel Room, Pugh Center

A Perspectives on Israel event for students and teenagers

This series aims to provide students with the basic vocabulary of Zionism and Israeli history, a knowledge of Israel’s cultural gems, and a general understanding of major events in Israeli history. In addition to a basic introduction of Israeli history, we will also explore and debate the writings of Zionism’s founders.

Perspectives on Israel: A Mini-Course

David FreidenreichDavid Freidenreich, Colby College

Sundays, March 2 – May 4 / 10:00 am / Temple Beth El, Portland

A Perspectives on Israel off-campus event

This discussion-oriented course will examine diverse perspectives on the State of Israel, past and present. In the process, participants will gain a deeper understanding of Israel in its complexity.

Co-sponsored by Temple Beth El and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.

Recalling Jewish Calcutta

Jael SillimanJael Silliman, University of Iowa

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

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a thriving Jewish community in Calcutta. Today, there are three synagogues, two schools, a cemetery, and several trust funds to maintain this rich heritage, but there are barely twenty Jews left in Calcutta. Jael Silliman, a community member and scholar, is developing a digital archive that documents the Jewish contributions to the city and to the nation. The archive showcases their history, social and cultural life. Jael has also recently written a novel, “The Man With Many Hats,” that uses fiction to give the reader a sense of Jewish community life and what it was like to grow up Jewish in Calcutta. Drawing on her work in curating and developing the archive and her novel, the talk will provide vivid images and a compelling account of Jewish Calcutta.

Sponsored by the Jewish studies program and religious studies department.

Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World during the Holocaust–and Its Aftereffects and Echoes in Recent Years

Jeffrey HerfThe Berger Holocaust Lecture

Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland

Thursday, April 3 / 7:00 pm / Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond

A Perspectives on Israel event

Herf explores the intellectual, political, and cultural context in which German and European radical anti-Semitism was found to resonate with similar views rooted in a selective appropriation of the traditions of Islam. Importantly, he also shows how the anti-Semitism promoted by the Nazi propaganda effort contributed to the anti-Semitism exhibited by adherents of radical forms of Islam in the Middle East today.

Sponsored by Drs. Robert and Patricia (’62 P’96) Berger.

An Enduring Peace: Egypt-Israel Relations in Historical Perspective

John TurnerJohn Turner, Colby College

Monday, April 7 / 4:00 pm / Diamond 145

Click here to listen to this talk, as broadcast on MBPN radio.

A Perspectives on Israel event

The peace treaty of 1979 between Egypt and Israel is of lasting importance to the Middle East and the world. How was it achieved and why does it endure? Prof. Turner will give historical context for understanding the continuing interactions between the two countries.

Uncanny Returns: Literary Zionism and Modernism (Joyce, Spark, Roth)

Marilyn ReizbaumMarilyn Reizbaum, Bowdoin College

Wednesday, April 9 / 5:30 pm (dinner provided) / Wormser Room, Miller Library, Colby College

also: Thursday, March 27 / 7:00 pm / Faculty Room, Massachusetts Hall, Bowdoin College

A Perspectives on Israel event

In 1896, Max Nordau’s Degeneration lodged a diatribe against the modernist aesthetic, that its formal innovations were reflective of a pathological instability of its authors. Such a charge mirrored anti-Semitism’s vilified stereotype of the wandering Jew. Nordau would go on to to produce one of the underwriting tracts of Zionism, “Muscular Judaism,” which proffered a countertype of fitness. Zionism was one of several nascent nationalist movements in the period of Modernism’s development at the turn of the twentieth century, and after—championed, questioned and interpolated by several writers on the continent, Great Britain, and the United States. This talk will consider a few of these, including James Joyce, Muriel Spark and Philip Roth, all of whom would qualify for Nordau’s hit list of damnable authors.

Risky Genes: Genetics, Breast Cancer, and Jewish Identity

Jessica MozerskyJessica Mozersky, New School for Social Research

Thursday, April 10 / 4:00 pm / Lovejoy 215

Ashkenazi Jews have the highest known population risk of carrying specific mutations, known as the ‘Ashkenazi mutations’, in the high risk breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. While many populations have been associated with an increased risk of genetic disease, Ashkenazi Jews are the most prominent subjects of genetic research. This may seem paradoxical given their history of discrimination, which included claims of biological difference and inferiority. Using qualitative ethnographic data with high risk Ashkenazi women living in the UK, this talk will explore the ways in which genetic knowledge about hereditary breast cancer risk can actually reiterate collective identity. Genetic narratives about disease risk are related to the reproductive history of Ashkenazi Jews while simultaneously raising concerns about the consequences for future generations. Yet newer findings of supposedly ‘Ashkenazi’ mutations in other apparently non-Jewish populations highlight the complexities when population and medical genetics intersect.

Co-sponsored by the Science, Technology, and Society Program and the Jewish Studies Program.

Melting Away

Melting Away Drama

Friday, April 11 / 3:00 pm / Bowdoin Hillel, 30 College St., Brunswick

Post-screening discussion led by Rabbi Rachel Isaacs.

A heartfelt drama following the story of a family drawn into crisis after the parents discover their child is a cross-dresser and kick him out of the house. Years later, when the father is dying of cancer, the mother hires a private detective to track him down. Instead of a “son”, the detective finds a woman singing at a gay cabaret. Will parents and daughter manage to overcome the past?

Co-sponsored by Bowdoin Hillel; a collaboration with the Maine Jewish Film Festival.

Anti-Judaism and Its Implications: A Symposium

Anti-Judaism and Its Implications book coverSunday, April 27 / 10:00 am – 5:00 pm / Robinson Room, Miller Library

In Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (Norton, 2013), David Nirenberg seeks “to demonstrate how different people put old ideas about Judaism to new kinds of work in thinking about their world; to show how this work engaged the past and transformed it; and to ask how that work reshaped the possibilities of thought in the future.” Nirenberg traces the history of anti-Judaism across more than two millennia and argues that these ideas played crucial roles in the formation of Western thought itself. In the process, he makes a programmatic case for the importance of attending to transhistorical continuities and for the power of ideas to shape and constrain the agency of future generations. As Anthony Grafton observes, “Anti-Judaism is that rare thing, a great book, as much in its ability to provoke disagreement as in its power to shape future writing on the vast territory that its author has so brilliantly mapped.” This discussion-oriented symposium will explore implications of Nirenberg’s work through a series of roundtable conversations; panelists will circulate short papers in advance to fellow participants and registered attendees. To register, please contact David Freidenreich; the event is free and all are welcome. Click here for the full program.

Hosted by the Center for the Arts and Humanities, Jewish studies program, and religious studies department; co-sponsored by the New England/Maritimes Region of the American Academy of Religion, the Pugh Center, the Pugh Community Board, and the history department.

Why is the Israel/Palestine Conflict So Intractable?

David FreidenreichDavid Freidenreich, Colby College

Tuesday, May 6 / 9:30 am / Lovejoy 119 (an open session of “Jews, Judaism, and the Modern World”)

also: Wednesday, April 30 / 7:00 pm / Congregation Beth El, Bangor

and: Wednesday, May 7 / 7:00 pm / Congregation Beth El, Bangor: “Judaism in Secular Israeli Culture”

Perspectives on Israel events

The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority just failed to reach a negotiated resolution–again. What are the factors that make peace so elusive?

Israeli Food: History, Memory, Mitzvot… and Hummus

Melanie WeissMelanie Weiss, Temple Beth El / Beth Israel Congregation / Colby College

Sunday, May 4 / 12:00 pm / Temple Beth El, Portland

Thursday, June 19 / 5:30 pm / Beth Israel Congregation, Waterville

When you walk into a falafel shop or enjoy some delicious Israeli street food, you’re actually viewing a panorama of Jewish history, travel, and dietary laws (and you just thought you were there for the hummus!). Jews have lived around the world, adopting many cultures and creating diverse cuisines compatible with kashrut. All of these influences shape the complicated culinary experience that you can find on any major Israeli street corner. Join Mel Weiss in a multi-sensory exploration of some very common Israeli foods. Tasting will be a definite part of the program, so come hungry!

How the Six-Day War Affected Black-Jewish Relations in the U.S.

Rob WeisbrotRob Weisbrot, Colby College

Sunday, May 18 / 10:00 am / Beth Israel Congregation, Waterville

A Perspectives on Israel off-campus event

Prof. Weisbrot discusses the ways in which divergent responses to Israel’s victory strained an important domestic alliance.



The Maine Conference for Jewish Life

June 3-5 (Shavuot 5774) / Colby College

A pluralistic opportunity for superior Jewish learning and joyous celebration in central Maine. Living far from American’s major urban centers (and from one another), Jews in northern New England rarely gain access to the Jewish world’s finest scholars, cultural innovators, or the experience of being surrounded by a critical mass of other Jews. This conference will bring Jews from across the region together in order to gain familiarity with the jewels of Jewish civilization, convene with other Jews from around the state, exchange best practices for crafting successful rural Jewish lives, experience the benefits and challenges of celebrating in a pluralistic environment, and revel in Torah learning. Click here for more information.

Sponsors: Beth Israel Congregation (Waterville), Colby College, Documenting Maine Jewry, Jewish Theological Seminary, Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project (Association for Jewish Studies and Legacy Heritage Fund), Shaarey Tphiloh (Portland), Temple Beth El (Augusta), Wexner Foundation


Fall 2013

Will the Real Biblical God Please Stand Up?

Listen to the lecture, and view the slides.

Marc Brettler

The Compagna-Sennett Lecture in Religious Studies

Marc Brettler, Brandeis University

Monday, September 16 / 7:00 pm / Ostrove Auditorium

Who is God? Good question. Throughout history people around the world have been willing to sacrifice their lives, and end of the lives of others, in the name of the divine. But what does the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) actually say about what God is like and how the divine operates in the world? Come explore the many faces and facets of God presented in the Hebrew Bible, and how the multiple renderings of God might impact how we view the Bible as a whole.

Marc Zvi Brettler, the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University, is an award-winning teacher and author. He has written and co-edited numerous books, including The Jewish Study Bible and, most recently, The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously. 

This event, made possible by the Association for Jewish Studies Distinguished Lectureship Program, is co-sponsored by the religious studies department and Jewish studies program.

The Significance of Jerusalem in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Raphael JospeRaphael Jospe, University of Ariel

Tuesday, October 1 / 4:00 pm / Pugh Center

A Perspectives on Israel event

Jerusalem is the most contentious, complex, and volatile issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arousing deep emotions. What significance does the city have within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? Can the claims to Jerusalem of these religious traditions be reconciled?

Raphael Jospe is the former chairman of the Jerusalem Rainbow Group, the oldest Jewish-Christian dialogue organization in that city.

States, Regimes, Revolutions, Counter-Revolutions–How Can We Find Our Way in the Middle East of 2013?

Listen to the lecture

Ephraim HalevyThe Annual Lipman Lecture in Jewish Studies

Ephraim Halevy, Former Director of the Mossad

A Perspectives on Israel event

Wednesday, October 2 / 7:00 pm / Parker-Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center

Ephraim Halevy directed Israel’s national intelligence agency from 1998-2002 and has also served as chairman of Israel’s national security council. He played a pivotal role in bringing about Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan.

Sponsored by the Lipman Family; co-sponsored by the Jewish studies program and the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement.

A Shepherd’s Journey: The Story of Israel’s First Bedouin Diplomat

Ishamel KhaldiIshamel Khaldi, Counselor for civil society affairs, embassy of Israel, London

Monday, October 21, 2013 / 7:00 p.m. / Pugh Center

A Perspectives on Israel event

A Shepherd’s Journey is Ishmael Khaldi’s unique story of transformation from his modest village roots to his triumph as Israel’s first bedouin diplomat and voice of reason in the Middle East. Born into a traditional Bedouin family in a poor Bedouin village in northern Israel, Ishmael Khaldi’s road has not been an easy one. From his early days as a sheepherder to his schoolboy “fights,” his terrifying first forays into the mysterious New York subway system, and later, his remarkable friendships with Jews and Muslims, religious and secular, on two continents, Ishmael Khaldi’s life has been full of adventure and love, humor and pathos. This is a story that will inspire, educate and charm, told with authenticity and passion, as only a Bedouin can tell it.

Ishmael Khaldi, born and raised in a Bedouin village in Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Forces, Defense Ministry and the Israeli Police before being chosen to join the Foreign Ministry. He was Deputy Consul General in San Francisco from 2006-2009.

A Jewish Journey Between Genders

Joy LadinJoy Ladin, Yeshiva University

Thursday, October 31 / 4:30 pm / Pugh Center

Joy Ladin is the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution, and the first openly transgender person to be named to the Forward 50 list of influential or courageous American Jews. Ladin’s memoir, Through the Door of Life: a Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. Her writing on gender, Judaism, and literature has been widely published, and she has published six books of poetry.

Co-sponsored by the creative writing program, Jewish studies program, religious studies department, Pugh Center, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Hillel, and the Bridge.

Kirtan Rabbi at Colby College: Lecture, Prayer, and Performance

Rabbi Andrew HahnFriday, November 1st / 6-9 p.m. / Parker Reed Room

Rabbi Andrew Hahn, Ph.D., combines a variety of tools to introduce Jewish Wisdom to an increasingly global, religious village. Kirtan Rabbi’s music is characterized by great energy, passion and melodic flow.

If you would like to learn more about the Kirtan Rabbi go to

Sponsored by: CEC, Pugh Center, Bowdoin Hillel, Jewish studies, religious studies, music, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Colby Hillel, and Student Government.

The Zohar: Understanding the History and the Artistic Beauty of the Masterpiece of Kabbalah

Eitan FishbaneEitan Fishbane, Jewish Theological Seminary

Wednesday, November 20 / 2:30 pm / Lovejoy 103

The Zohar is, without question, the single most important work in the history of Jewish mysticism, and is arguably one of the most extraordinary texts in the entire history of Judaism. Authored in late 13th-century Spain and attributed to a rabbi of second century Palestine, the Zohar is a work of majestic beauty and seemingly boundless spiritual insight. Come join us in an exploration through the mysterious pathways of this revered and highly influential work of Kabbalah.

Co-sponsored by the Jewish studies program and the religious studies department.