Spring 2015

Moses in Babylon? Struggles for Power in the Middle East (or: Why Reading the Bible Matters, Even if You Aren’t Religious)

BabelAlison Acker Gruseke, Yale University

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

What do Bob Marley, Nebuchadnezzar II and the ancient Israelites of the Hebrew Bible have in common? In the 3rd millennium BCE, Sargon of Akkad created the world’s first empire and located his capital city on the bank of the Euphrates in what is now modern Iraq. Since his time, Babylonia has been a magnet for warriors, prophets, poets and priests in search of conquest or meaning. The talk focuses on a particular remnant of those journeys: a cuneiform tablet inscribed with the legend of Sargon’s birth, its links to the story of the infant Moses in his basket on the Nile, and the ways in which geography, religion and history contribute to the making of meaning in texts from past and present.

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

The Heartbeat Band

HeartbeatWednesday, March 4 / 8:00 pm / Page Commons

A Perspectives on Israel event; part of the Pugh Community Board’s SHOUT programming

Heartbeat, an ensemble of Arab and Jewish youth artists (ages 18-24), delivers a dynamic blend of Eastern and Arabic music, Western rock, hip hop, jazz, and reggae. Throughout the concern, the musicians will share personal stories of growing up amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, highlighting their creative effort to build positive social change from the ground up.

Zero Motivation

Screenshot from the film Zero MotivationSunday, March 15 / 7:30 pm / Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville

A Perspectives on Israel event; part of the Maine Jewish Film Festival

A unit of female Israeli soldiers at a remote desert base bide their time as they count down the minutes until they can return to civilian life. Post-screening discussion led by Rabbi Rachel Isaacs.

America, Nuova Terra Promessa: Italian Jews in the New Promised Land

Gianna PontecorboliGianna Pontecorboli

Tuesday, March 31 / 7:00 pm / Lovejoy 215

After the racial laws severely limiting the rights of the Jewish minority were first passed by Mussolini’s government in 1938, a small group of Italian Jews made their way to the United States in search of safety. The group included university professors, doctors, lawyers, scientists, journalists, artists and housewives. Many came from well-off families and were forced to completely re-establish themselves when they arrived in the “New World.” When she came to the US in the 1970s, the Italian journalist Gianna Pontecorboli, spurred by the memories of her own “American uncle,” began to look into this group of immigrants and to interview all the survivors she could find. Ms. Pontecorboli will discuss her research by presenting several video clips of interviews, followed by a short presentation of the important conclusions of her book, America: Nuova Terra Promessa (America: the New Promised Land), and a question and answer session.

Sponsored by the Center for the Arts and Humanities, the French & Italian Department, and the Jewish Studies Program.

The French and the Jews during the Holocaust: Persecution, Resistance, and Rescue

Wieviorka OlivierOlivier Wieviorka (École normale supérieure de Cachan, Paris)

Thursday, April 2 / 7:00 pm / Ostrove Auditorium

The Berger Family Holocaust Lecture

Although French Jewry was persecuted both by the German occupiers and the collaborating Vichy government, 75% of French Jewry were saved by the French — despite the great indifference of the Resistance movement and of the Free French. This lecture will deal with this paradoxical situation. After briefly recalling the anti-Semitic policy followed by the Vichy state, the lecture will deal above all with the attitudes of the French resistance movements and of the French population, showing both the prevalence of the anti-Semitic legacy of the interwar period and the shock created by the great rounds-up of Jews in 1942.

Stolen Borders: Jewish Illegal Immigration to the United States in the Era of Immigration Quotas

Libby GarlandLibby Garland, Kingsborough Community College, The City University of New York

Wednesday, April 8 / 4:00 pm / Pugh Center, Cotter Union

A “Migrations” event, co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts and Humanities

In 1921 and 1924, the United States passed laws to sharply reduce the influx of immigrants into the country. In this talk, Libby Garland will share some of the dramatic tales she has uncovered of Jewish immigrants who came to the United States despite the new laws. Some paid smugglers to sneak them over the border; others entered at major seaports with fake documents purchased abroad. Garland will explore the meanings such illegal immigration had for Jews and others at the time, as well as share some thoughts about how this history provides important perspective on present-day debates around immigration.

Understanding Israel through Graffiti

Shirel HorovitzShirel Horovitz, artist-in-residence

A Perspectives on Israel event

Monday, April 13 / 7:00 pm / Diamond 141

The southern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv are known for their graffiti–from tagging and images to political statements. Through the images and words on the walls of the city, we’ll explore the public conversation Israelis have regarding issues of gender, religion, minorities, environment, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more. This event is an opportunity to gain insight not only to the complexities of these issues but also to explore the relationship between the Hebrew language as content and form and the Israeli reality.

Shirel Horovitz’s residency is co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Goldfarb Center, Hillel, the Jewish studies program, the Pugh Center, and the Pugh Community Board, in collaboration with Beth Israel Congregation and Waterville Creates!

Maine Migrations, Past and Present

Maine Welcomes Our New Residents poster drawingSunday, April 26 / 1:15-6:30 pm / Diamond Building

A “Migrations” event, co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, the Jewish studies program, and the religious studies department

Click for more details

This conference will bring together folks who study, work with, care about, or are themselves members of minority communities that immigrated to Maine, both recently and many generations ago. We’ll explore common dynamics across diverse communities as well as the similarities and differences among their experiences in Maine. Eight thematic panels will examine such topics as the attractions of Maine, art and Maine’s immigrant communities, making a living as a new Mainer, and the children of new Mainers; each panel includes a presentation related to Maine’s Jewish history. The conference is open to all at no charge; registration is required for the (free) dinner and keynote address, as space is limited.

The Second Annual Maine Conference for Jewish Life

MJLC PosterJune 12-14 at Colby

Click for more details and to register

The Maine Conference for Jewish Life is 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 brings 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.

Fall 2014

Diversity on the Israeli Street: Sesame Workshop’s Rechov Sumsum Project

Sivan and AvigailWednesday, Sept. 17 / 4:00 pm / Pugh Center

A Perspectives on Israel event

Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has worked with local production teams to develop over 30 different adaptations of the acclaimed children’s media program, Sesame Street. This presentation and accompanying hands-on workshop offers participants a window into the process of creating Rechov Sumsum, the award-winning Israeli version of the series. A producer, an educator, and a project director, each of whom have been a part of the Sesame Street process for over 20 years, will walk participants through Sesame Workshop’s production methodology and its specific application in Israel. The presentation will include a screening of video content from the series’ decades-long history and will highlight the ways in which messages about the diversity of Israeli society are incorporated into program content and design. The presenters will also discuss evidence from research about the educational effects of the program and its focus on diversity. A post-presentation workshop will give students the opportunity to design diversity-oriented program content in a training activity similar to the type offered to international production teams. Students: to RSVP for the workshop, please email Kurt Nelson, preferably by Sept. 15.

Co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program, the Education Department, and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Image TM and © 2014 Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved.

Ancient Antisemitism Reconsidered

Judea Capta CoinAvi Avidov, Beit Berl College, Israel

Tuesday, Sept. 30 / 7:00 pm / Lovejoy 213

click here for the text of Dr. Avidov’s lecture

What is antisemitism and how long has it been with us? Given that the term itself is coinage from late 19th century, can we find validity in its applications to more or less similar phenomena in earlier periods? If we assume that some unique traits of this particular form of out-group hatred justify such a procedure, why have the Jews, of all people, remained at the at the receiving end in this unique and repeated fashion throughout the ages? Avidov, the author of Not Reckoned Among Nations: The Origins of the So-Called Jewish Question in Roman Antiquity, explains the emergence and persistence of antisemitism by focusing on structural similarities of the Jews’ position within the larger socio-political entities into which they repeatedly failed to integrate fully.

Sponsored by the Classics Department, the Religious Studies Department, and the Jewish Studies Program.

Exploring Women’s Testimony: Genocide, War, Revolution, the Holocaust, and Human Rights

Exploring Women's Testimony Event posterAn international symposium sponsored by Colby College, the University of Maine at Augusta, and the Human Rights Center of Maine

Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 8-10

This conference will examine gendered issues in relation to human rights abuses while exploring the works of memory and survival through women’s testimony. Guest presenters will share their unique perspective on those issues and analyze a variety of narratives through the lens of contemporary literature, art, film, and new media. Scholars, artists and social activists will initiate conversation about Afghanistan, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, Egypt, England, France, Rwanda, Uganda and the United States. Click here for conference highlights or the complete program.

Ethical Dimensions of the Israel/Palestine Conflict

David FreidenreichDavid Freidenreich, Colby College

Sundays, Oct. 12 – Nov. 2 / 10:30 am / Temple Beth El, Portland

A Perspectives on Israel event

As the recent war in and around Gaza once again demonstrated, the conflict over the Land of Israel/Palestine raises profound ethical questions which reasonable people of good will answer differently. This four-session discussion-oriented course will explore ethical dilemmas associated with Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, resistance to what Palestinians regard as Israeli occupation, Israeli responses to Hamas attacks, and the nature of Israel as a self-defined Jewish state. Come explore these dilemmas, reflect on your own responses to them, and gain a deeper understanding of why some people respond differently. Readings from diverse perspectives will be circulated in advance of each session.

The Battle for History: Israeli and Palestinian Narratives in War and Peacemaking

Gershom GorenbergThe Annual Lipman Lecture

Gershom Gorenberg

Wednesday, Nov. 5 / 7:00 pm / Parker-Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center

A Perspectives on Israel event

Palestinians and Israelis have strikingly different accounts of their history. Historian Gershom Gorenberg will explore how these narratives are created, how they fuel the conflict between the two groups, how they affect media coverage and campus debates, and how they can be addressed in peacemaking efforts.

The Second Annual Colby / Bates / Bowdoin / Beth Israel Shabbaton

Jew GrassFriday, Nov. 7 / 5:00 pm / Parker Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center

An evening of celebration and learning that features a festive dinner and a bluegrass Kabbalat Shabbat service — come sing traditional tunes to the twang of a banjo.

Saturday, Nov. 8 / 10:00 am / in front of the President’s House on Mayflower Hill

Join us for a prayer hike on the Colby campus, walking together while praying and sharing poetry. At 12:30 pm, come for lunch, followed by song and Torah study, at the campus apartment of Rabbi Rachel Isaacs.

All are invited, but RSVPs are required for meals. For more information or to RSVP, please email Rabbi Rachel Isaacs.

Sponsored by Colby Hillel and Beth Israel Congregation.

Pilgrimage in a Tourist Age: The Case of Birthright Israel

Shaul KelnerShaul Kelner, Vanderbilt University

Monday, Nov. 17 / 5:00 pm / Parker Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center

A Perspectives on Israel event

Since 1999, hundreds of thousands of young American Jews have visited Israel on an all-expense-paid 10-day pilgrimage-tour known as Birthright Israel. The most elaborate of the state-supported homeland tours that are cropping up all over the world, this half-billion-dollar venture seeks to deepen the ties binding the Jewish Diaspora to Israel. But unlike Jewish pilgrimages of millennia past, Birthright Israel adopts and adapts the practices of modern mass tourism. What happens when a state looks to tourism to create a new pilgrimage ritual for the 21st century? All are welcome to the lecture and the dinner/discussion that will follow; RSVPs to David Freidenreich by Nov. 12 are appreciated.

Memories of a Holocaust Survivor

Max SlabotzkyMax Slabotzky

Friday, Nov. 21 / 10:00 am / Miller 8

An open session of History 224: Germany and Europe 1871-1945. All are welcome.



A German Life: Against all Odds, Change is Possible

Bernd WollschlaegerBernd Wollschlaeger

Thursday, Dec. 4 / 7:00 pm / Diamond 122

Bernd Wollschlaeger is a board-certified family physician in private practice in Aventura, Florida. His book A German Life: Against All Odds Change is Possible describes his struggle growing up in Germany in the shadow of his father, a highly decorated WWII tank commander and Nazi officer. He eventually converted to Judaism, emigrated to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a medical officer. In 2013 he released his novel Samson’s Shadow and his book Stauffenberg and My Life in the Shadow of a Hero.

Sponsored by the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement

An Enduring Peace: Egypt-Israel Relations in Historical Perspective

Sadat on the cover of Time MagazineJohn Turner, Colby College

Thursday, Dec. 4 / 7:00 pm / Congregation Beth El, Bangor

Sunday, Dec. 7 / 12:00 pm / Temple Shalom, Auburn

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.

Exploring Israel’s Secular/Religious Divide through Popular Media

Srugim EventRachel Isaacs, Colby College

Sunday, Dec. 14 / 10:00 am / Temple Beth El, Portland

A Perspectives on Israel event

Using clips from some of Israel’s most popular dramas and comedies, Rabbi Isaacs will discuss social and political schisms in Israeli society. We will watch scenes from the internationally renowned drama Srugim, the beloved comedy Arab Labor, and the uproariously funny, What is this Nonsense with Adi Ashkenazi. Discussion to follow.

Events sponsored by the Jewish studies program are supported by the Bronstein Fund for Jewish Studies and Holocaust Studies and/or the Berger Holocaust Fund. “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.