EXTRA-MURAL LECTURES 1998-99

The Centre is offering a programme of extra mural lectures in 1998-99, reflecting the range of academic approaches to Jewish Studies within the Centre. Eight sessions will be held in South Manchester, on Monday evenings commencing October 19th 1998, and nine sessions will be held in North Manchester on Tuesday evenings, commencing January 19th 1999.

Monday evenings at 7.30 at Sha'are Hayim Synagogue, Withington (8 Queenston Road)

 

Oct 19 Sharman Kadish: The Architectural Development of the Synagogue: An Introduction (illustrated)

This illustrated lecture briefly explains the origins of the synagogue in the Bible and Jewish history. The plan of the synagogue, its liturgical arrangements and furnishings are presented, and the nature of synagogue art and symbolism examined. The audience is then invited to join a brief slide tour of synagogue architecture, form and style, throughout the ages: ancient, medieval and modern.

Dr Sharman Kadish is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester and Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Art & Design at De Montfort University, Leicester. She was born in London and studied at London and Oxford Universities and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of Bolsheviks and British Jews (Frank Cass 1992) [winner of a Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award in 1993] and 'A Good Jew and a Good Englishman': The Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade 1895-1995 (Vallentine Mitchell 1995). She also edited Building Jerusalem: Jewish Architecture in Britain (Vallentine Mitchell 1996). She is currently Project Director of the Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage in the UK & Ireland, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

 

Oct 26 Philip Alexander: How Important is Mysticism to Judaism?

Judaism has a powerful mystical tradition - the Qabbalah - which has influenced non-Jewish thought. For example, there is growing evidence that, through the Christian Qabbalists, the Qabbalah played a significant role in the birth of modern science. And the Qabbalah is now fashionable in Hollywood: Madonna and other movie stars are said to be studying it to find out the meaning of life. Yet the Qabbalah has been viewed with considerable suspicion within Judaism, and attempts have been made to keep it secret. Just what is the Qabbalah about? And why have the Rabbinical authorities seen it as dangerous? Has it really been, as the great Professor Gershom Scholem passionately argued, the driving force in Jewish intellectual history? These and similar questions will be discussed in my lecture.

 

Nov 2 Leslie Lancaster: History and Psychology of the Golem

Gershom Scholem wrote at the end of his study of the golem that the historian's task ends where the psychologists begins. The tradition of the golem, which suggests that a mystic might create an artificial humanoid, is first described in the Talmud and is elaborated in the mystical tradition. The whole concept of the golem has also presented a major stimulus to the imagination of both Jewish and non-Jewish writers and artists, and continues to cast a stimulating shadow in our own day, over such matters as genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. As Isaac Bashevis Singer has written, What are the computers and robots of our time if notgolems?

When examined historically we find that traditions about the golem show changes which parallel the changing worldview in Europe; the golem is in this sense a reflection of cultural change. Whereas in mediaeval times, the golem seems to have had no existence outside the magical ritual used in its creation, by the 16th and 17th centuries it is increasingly portrayed as a creature having an existence independent of its creator, even becoming large and uncontrollable. A critical trigger to these changes came with the entry of the golem idea into Christian circles in the early Renaissance, when Jewish mystical texts began to be translated into Latin. The large and uncontrollable golem was a product, on the one hand, of anti-Semitic tendencies and, on the other, of the beginnings of the scientific outlook. It is significant, therefore, that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein later became the definitive statement of the dark side to scientific advance.

The mediaeval golem ritual itself can be seen psychologically as activating various dimensions of the unconscious. The creation of the golem entailed magical and visionary practices which, in the terms employed by modern psychology, would have altered processes underpinning the self system of the mystic. Just as the creation of man represented a peak of divine creation, so thegolem ritual which reflected the biblical account of Adam's creation articulated the highest aspirations of human creativity. Thegolem might best be understood as a projection of the mystic's inner self, through which the mystic encountered the creative divine essence.

Les Lancaster is Principal Lecturer in Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, where he has recently established the Consciousness and Transpersonal Psychology Research Unit. He is a leading figure in the Transpersonal Psychology movement, which attempts to build a bridge between psychological and religious views of the person. He has taught Jewish meditation for some 20 years, and is author of the award-winning Mind, Brain and Human Potential and Elements of Judaism. 

 

Nov 9 Alex Samely: An Overview of the Sources of Rabbinic Literature, c.200-900 C.E.

Rabbinic literature in the narrower sense comprises the foundation books of talmudic Judaism: Mishnah, Gemara (Talmud) and the works of midrash. These books, written in Hebrew and Aramaic, were produced between the third and ninth century C.E. in Palestine and Babylonia and encapsulate the concepts and traditions of what became the dominant branch of Judaism until the nineteenth century. I shall give an overview of this extremely rich and ramified literature, and highlight some of the complexities that make the works of the talmudic period such a fascinating as well as difficult read.

Dr. Alexander Samely is Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Manchester and is an expert in Hebrew Manuscripts. His research at present centres on rabbinic midrash. He has published two books: The Interpretation of Speech in the Pentateuch Targums (1992) and Spinozas Theorie der Religion (1993).

 

Nov 16 Alan Unterman: Is it time for Jews to put the Holocaust behind them?

The shadows of Nazi genocide recede into the past yet, like the natural shadows of the day, they lengthen towards evening. As survivors grow older childhood memories become more distinct, so the horrors of the Holocaust engulf their thoughts. While the number of actual Holocaust survivors is diminishing, however, the number of those who feel a need to respond to the Holocaust seems actually to be growing. Many Jews, and some non-Jews, seem to be gripped by a collective Holocaust obsession.

The Jewish psyche is perhaps only just beginning to come to terms with the Holocaust trauma and one cannot expect a balanced response to attempted genocide. Belief in the uniqueness of the Holocaust for some Jews is almost a matter of faith, and those who deny the uniqueness of the Holocaust are regarded as heretics or traitors to Jewish peoplehood, since denying uniqueness can seem only one step away from denying the Holocaust itself.

If the Holocaust was not unique then the death of millions of Jewish individuals is on a par with other tragedies of war and persecution, where the victims were both Jews and countless non-Jews. There is an obvious temptation, therefore, to continue to emphasize the suffering and death of Jews under Hitler and the uniqueness of the Holocaust. This may, however, have reached a point of diminishing returns. Despite all the positive elements in 'Never Again' and 'Never Forget', such over-emphasis provides a merely negative basis for Jewish life, and can act as an obstacle to rebuilding Jewish consciousness in a post-Holocaust world.

Mourning more than is mandated can affect one's faith in the goodness of God as well as one's faith in the goodness of men, Jews and Gentiles alike. 

Dr. Alan Unterman is Minister of the Yeshurun Synagogue and part-time Lecturer in Comparative Religion. His major publications include Wisdom in the Jewish Mystics (1971); Jews: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (1976/1996); Judaism and Art(1980).

 

Nov 23 Norman Geras: Thinking about the Holocaust

Professor Geras dealt with four questions:

1. Is the Holocaust unique? The Holocaust was unprecedented, not in virtue of any single feature, but because of a combination of characteristics: (a) Total intent: the intention to destroy the whole people; (b) Modernity: the use of modern industrial methods and bureaucratic organisation; (c) Spiritual murder: depriving the victims of their humanity, making them show disrespect to what they held dear, using their remains as disposable material; (d) An end in itself: not e.g. to gain territory or other possessions; (e) Metaphysical justification: the Jews were the incarnation of evil. The Holocaust made death into a social system of a potentially long-lasting kind.

It was not however unique in the sense that nothing like it could ever happen again, nor because of the scale of suffering. It remains a ghastly possibility. It did happen and therefore it can happen. In principle it could be done to anybody.

2. Is the Holocaust comprehensible? (a) Some say that silence is the only appropriate response, but this plays into the hands of those who deny that it happened or would prefer to forget it. (b) Others say that it is wrong to try to understand, because of the danger of making it seem normal. (c) There is a limited truth in these responses: in face of suffering of such magnitude, a reverential silence is sometimes called for. It is however important to try and achieve whatever understandings we can, otherwise we would have learned nothing.

3. How can human beings bring themselves to commit such crimes? (i) One response is to say that the perpetrators must have been monsters. It may be true that they became monsters morally, but psychologically they were relatively normal. (ii) Studies have shown how ordinary people can be persuaded to do terrible things: (a) If they believe they have authorisation (Stanley Milgram). (b) Peer pressure to conform, even if they are given the chance to opt out (see the study by Christopher Browning). (c) Social distance can make people morally indifferent even to near neighbours geographically. (d) People may believe they are not responsible for things done in their professional capacity. (e) Routine (e.g. in running trains during the Nazi period) can accustom people to horror and it shields them from the realities of what they are involved in. (f) Finally, antisemitism - an age-old example of diminishing of the other - was undoubtedly a major factor, but it was not the only one.

Explanation of course does not excuse, but it is better that we should know rather than not know what many - though not all - people are capable of doing.

4. What is the responsibility of the bystanders? (a) Why did the Pope remain silent? (b)Why didn't the Allies bomb Auschwitz and the railway lines running to Auschwitz? (c) How could ordinary Germans and other Europeans allow this calamity to spread across a continent? (d) Why didn't more Germans try to obstruct the process, if only in small ways, e.g. losing files? (e) Why were so many countries closed to refugees?

The general question is: How much do we owe to others under threat or in dire distress? The problem is very much still with us. 'The righteous among the nations', those who went to the rescue of Jews in danger, showed how it is possible to live by a different code. 

Norman Geras is Professor of Government at the University of Manchester./ He is engaged in research in the holocaust, modern political thought, and Marxism. Hs major Publications include: The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg (1976); Marx and Human Nature(1983); Literature of Revolution (1986); Discourses of Extremity (1990); Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind: The Ungroundable Liberalism of Richard Rorty (1995); and The Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy after the Holocaust (1998)

 

Nov 30 Irene Lancaster: The travels of Abraham Ibn Ezra

This illustrated talk will examine the journeyings and accompanying written works of Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1164), who was born in Tudela, northern Spain and died in England en route up north. Born at a time when both Christian and Muslim crusades were raging, and when many Spanish Jews were either converting, or emigrating to North Africa and Israel, ibn Ezra made the surprise decision, in middle age, to travel through Italy, France and England in order to bring the learning of Sephardi culture to the Jews of Christian lands before it was too late.

We shall examine these journeys in detail, and discuss ibn Ezra's tremendous legacy, including his contribution to Hebrew poetry, biblical commentaries and science, as well as his prophetic visions, in which he correctly foretold the eventual downfall of the Muslims of Europe, the rise of the Jews of Christian Europe - and their eventual salvation in Israel. We shall ponder subtle changes in ibn Ezra's attitude to biblical study, dependent on where he was living, but his total and passionate adherence, at all times, to the wisdom of the Bet Din.

It is fitting that this talk should be taking place in the Manchester Synagogue most associated with the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish residents of this town. There were many Sephardi geniuses, but it can safely be said that ibn Ezra was the greatest Jew ever to set foot in this land.

Dr. Irene Lancaster is Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Jewish Studies, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester. Before moving to Manchester she taught Biblical and Modern Hebrew at the University of Liverpool, and has contributed to books on mediaeval and modern Jewish thought. In 1992 she gave the first series of Adult Education Lectures at the newly opened Bnai Akiva Bayit in North Manchester, entitled The Golden Age of the Jews of Spain, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews of Spain.

 

Dec 7 Bernard Jackson: On the History of Women's Rights in Jewish Law

This lecture reviews the history of women's rights in Jewish law, from the biblical period to the modern day, with particular reference to marriage, divorce and succession. Jewish law has come a long way in this area, sometimes as a result of external influences. In the Bible (where polygamy was acceptable), the wife was purchased, could be unilaterally divorced, and was excluded from inheritance if there were any male heirs in the same degree of relationship. Later, polygamy was banned (for Ashkenazim) and the woman's consent came to be required, to both marriage and (later) divorce; there are also indications, from the Cairo Geniza and Gaonic sources, that there was a period when the wife was able unilaterally to divorce the husband. This right later disappeared, and the problem of the agunah still lacks a conceptual solution. Equally, inequality in intestate succession remains, despite a valiant effort by Chief Rabbi Herzog to remedy the situation in the early days of the State of Israel. Rav Herzog recognised that the question was important not only on its own intrinsic merits, but also as a test of the ability of the halakhic authorities to make such modifications to Jewish law as would make it acceptable for application in a modern state. Recent attempts to find a solution to the problem of the agunah will also be reviewed in this context.

Professor Bernard Jackson is Co-Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Manchester, and specialises in the history of Jewish law.

 

Tuesday evenings at 8.00 p.m. at Mamlock House (142 Bury Old Road)

 

Jan 19 George Brooke: Biblical Interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls

The talk will outline five principal ways in which biblical traditions are interpreted and used in the scrolls found in the 11 caves at Qumran which date from the three centuries before the fall of the second temple and thus illuminate Jewish thinking in general at that time.

For legal interpretation the talk will consider how its focus is often on the suitable juxtaposition of two texts in order to clarify what the Law intended or to create new rulings which in effect update the Law for the contemporary user.

Poetic and liturgical use of scripture is characterized by allusory anthologisation. The flowers of biblical phraseology are plucked and woven into a new tapestry to create new prayers and poems which are redolent with tradition but in a fresh way.

The appeal to historical examples in scripture is often done to encourage a particular mode of behaviour. In this ethical use good and bad examples from scripture are applied in exhortation to encourage a particular attitude and way of life.

Prophetic texts are interpreted in a distinctive way akin to dream interpretation. Aspects of prophecies are identified with contemporary historical circumstances so that the prophecies are applied to current events in ways which the prophets themselves were never aware of. The key often rests with the insightful interpreter who is trained so rigorously that his interpretations are not arbitrary but recognized as authoritative.

Narrative interpretation involves taking the plain meaning of the text seriously and explaining in a variety of ways what may not be clear at first reading.

Bible interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls is a rich and varied phenomenon which in many ways anticipates later Jewish biblical interpretation.

George Brooke is Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis, University of Manchester and the 1999 President of the British Association for Jewish Studies

 

Jan 26 Michael Hilton: A Jewish view of Jesus (and early Jewish-Christian relations)

Over 300 published authors have contributed to the "Jewish background" to the life of Jesus. Interest among Jews began in the 1890s at the start of the modern interfaith movement. A broad consensus has emerged among non-Orthodox Jewish scholars of Jesus as a benign Jewish teacher. In many Gospel texts, Jesus quotes Torah or rabbinic law and then asks his disciples to go further than the law demands - to give away *all* their money to the poor, for example.

But only in the last twenty years have Jewish scholars really begun to understand how important the Gospels are for their insights into the history of Jewish practices and customs - over a century earlier than the earliest rabbinic texts. The Gospel texts give us for example, the earliest evidence for the reading of the prophets (haftarah) in the synagogue, crucial early evidence about the history of immersion as part of the rite of conversion, and indeed very early evidence about the use of the synagogue. Such evidence must be treated with caution because the Gospels were written in the diaspora and probably reflect Jewish life outside the land. Even after the "parting of the ways" debate and conflict between Jews and Christians continued to shape both faiths: my conclusion therefore is that the rise of Christianity is central to Jewish history.

Michael Hilton is Rabbi, North London Progressive Synagogue, and an Honorary Research Fellow of the Centre for Jewish Studies; he is the author of The Gospels and Rabbinic Judaism - A study Guide (1988); The Christian Effect on Jewish Life (1994).

 

Feb 2 Oliver Leaman: How important is ritual in Judaism: some philosophical views?

In his talk Professor Leaman will examine some of the explanations for following ritual which have been provided in the twentieth century by Jewish thinkers. In the first place he will consider what might be thought to be the paradox of ritual, namely, that it is acknowledged to be part of a changing tradition and yet should remain constant. Then he will discuss the concept of what it is to follow ritual properly, in the sense of what attitude we ought to take to the rules of ritual behaviour. Finally he will raise some issues about the compatibility or otherwise of modernity and ritual in religion.

 

Feb 9 Harry Lesser: Samson Raphael Hirsch and Modern Orthodoxy

Samson Raphael Hirsch was perhaps the greatest influence on the style of Orthodox Judaism that was dominant in Britain and Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This talk will consider the main features of this type of Orthodoxy in Hirsch's thought and in its later development - its acceptance of secular learning and of Enlightenment values, while holding that it was precisely Orthodox Judaism that embodied these values; its opposition to metaphysics and theology; its emphasis on moral values; its Romanticism; and its universalism.

 

Feb 16 Yaron Matras: Jewish languages as secret languages: the case of cattle traders' jargon in Germany

It is not uncommon for small communities that specialise in particular trades, especially itinerant trades, to form in-group or secret languages, often referred to in the literature as 'jargons'. Such jargons usually consist of a manipulated or camouflaged lexicon, intended to exclude outsiders from portions of the conversation.

In rural Jewish communities in Germany and adjoining regions (in Switzerland, Alsace, and the Netherlands), secret jargons are documented as early as the 18th century. They were common among Jewish hawkers, thieves, and cattle traders. The latter called their secret language 'Lekoudesch', 'Lechoudesch', 'Lotter-Lekoris', etc., all derived euphemistically from 'Loshn ha-Koudesh' ('the holy tongue', i.e. Hebrew).

'Lekoudesch' drew mostly on Hebrew-derived vocabulary that was accessible to community members via their religious education and familiarity with scriptures. In this sense it reminds us of Judeo-German and Yiddish. But there are some important differences: Hebrew-derived vocabulary is used that is not commonly employed in Judeo-German or Yiddish; furthermore, it undergoes creative processes of word formation unknown in the Hebrew sources. Finally, the Hebrew-derived vocabulary is enriched by a number of lexical items of other sources (French, Romani) adopted from other neighbouring secret languages of non-Jewish itinerants.

Once Lekoudesch became widespread in the context of the cattle trade, it was also adopted by non-Jewish traders and farmers who had extensive contact with Jews in the trade. In the early 1980s I was able to document the use of Lekoudesch among farmers in rural communities with a once significant Jewish population, in south-west Germany. Basing my observations mainly on a corpus or recordings collected there, I will discuss the formation process of Lekoudesch and the problems of reconstructing the original functions it once had.

 

Feb 23 Sophie Garside: Development of the Hebrew Language from the Haskalah to Modern Times

In the time I have, I can only touch briefly on some the major elements which contributed to the revival of spoken Hebrew and the development of the language to its modern state.

This lecture will, necessarily, be selective and I may not mention matters others think important.

I shall briefly take you through the different stages of the development of Hebrew from the period of the Haskalah, and concentrate in a little more depth on the various routes and methods which were adopted at the time of the revival to make Hebrew once again the vernacular of the Jewish people. I shall also talk briefly on the development of the language after the revival and its usage today.

We shall see, that although strictly speaking, there was no immediate transformation in the written form of the language, the Haskalah by its ideological nature, nevertheless, marked the beginning of the transformation to come. It was the cradle, from which grew and developed the language and literature of today.

Before I deal with the Haskalah, I will have to go back very briefly to reconsider the stages the Hebrew language has been through since the time of the Scriptures. 

 

Mar 2 Colin Richmond: James Parkes and the Jews: a hero ahead of his time

Professor Richmond will talk about the unknown Parkes and will consider: what made him the man he was; what got him into working against antisemitism and interested in matters Jewish; how he responded to the shoah; how prophetic was he [as well as far more knowledgeable and understanding than anyone else] in the 1930s; and why no one knows very much about him. In short, why he is not an English Hero.

Colin Richmond, an Honorary Research Fellow of the Centre, was until recently Professor of Medieval History at the University of Keele. His publications include papers on medieval English Jewry; he co-edited Belsen in History and Memory (1997) and is writing a biography of James Parkes.

 

Mar 9 Reuven Silverman: Aspects of the Contribution of Jews to Psychology

The Jewishness of those who made the greatest contributions to psychology and psychotherapy has often been minimised or dismissed as irrelevant. In the case of Freud and some of his foremost followers and critics it was both central to their identity and in some important respects, informed their theories. This is true of Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, and Viktor Frankl, who are the main subjects of this lecture.

In these examples, the ethos of the Jewish psychologist is that of the acculturated European Jew who stands at the margins of society and to a certain extent alienated both from his Judaism and from the wider host culture. The prototype was the philosopher Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza who bequeathed his holistic approach and his determinism to twentieth century psychology. He was simultaneously alienated from his Jewish roots and indebted to Jewish philosophy and mysticism.

Freud's exposure of the conflicts in the human psyche has been seen as a reaction to Antisemitism. The reductionist view of Freud as basing human motivation on sexuality, however, is shown to be an incomplete reading of his theory. It fails to take into account Freud's later concept of Eros. A correlate to the concept exists in Spinoza and parallels may be drawn from biblical and rabbinic Judaism.

Erich Fromm's vigorous critique of Freud and his admiration for the psychological aspects of Spinoza's philosophy combined with a wide eclecticism which included Marxism, Zen Buddhism and Hassidism. The result was a humanist psychology with a strong ethical and mystical characterology in his view of the individual in relation to society. Both Freud and Fromm developed theories of selfhood and identity which may be seen as responses to the equivocal situation of the Jew.

Abraham Maslow provides an example of the situation of an American-born Jew who struggled to make his way as a psychologist in an academic atmosphere which was not yet ready to receive Jews into that field. This is reflected in his theories of motivation and self-actualization which, despite his atheism, he believed to be driven by a Jewish consciousness.

The Holocaust experience as represented by Viktor Frankl is the most outstanding case of how positive therapeutic value may be derived from the encounter with absolute evil. Frankl, though secular, upholds the value of religion in a way similar to that of Fromm, but with a theoretical commitment to the spiritual conscience as part of the structure of the psyche. Frankl's logotherapy, or therapy of meaning, calls into question Freud's instinct theory, Fromm's socio-psychological determinism, and Maslow's self-actualization based on a hierarchy of needs. It presents a healing programme with the goal of self-transcendence, which takes place in the tasks of the moment, in some ways analogous to the concept of mitzvah.

Amongst the questions these examples raise is the central one: is the Jewish contribution to psychology and psychotherapy a challenge to Judaism or complementary to it ?

Rabbi Dr. Reuven Silverman, an Honorary Research Fellow of the Centre, is Rabbi of the Manchester Reform Synagogue and the author of Baruch Spinoza, Outcast Jew, Universal Sage (1991).

 

Mar 16 Bill Williams: Leadership in Anglo-Jewry

The aim of this session is to use the Manchester example to pose a series of questions around Jewish communal leadership in 20th-century Britain. How do "leaders" emerge in a voluntary minority society within which leadership is neither legally defined nor structurally determined? What expectations does a community have of its leader(s) and how are these discharged? And what, if any, is the relationship between the exercise of communal and of civic authority? Finally, is there anything about the changing make-up of Manchester Jewry which may bring about a revision of traditional notions of communal leadership?

Bill Williams is Part-time Lecturer in Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester and is engaged in research on Manchester Jewry, the impact of immigration and the Holocaust, and leadership in Anglo-Jewry, including a biography of Sir Sidney Hamburger shortly to appear. His major publications are: The Making of Manchester Jewry (1976); Manchester Jewry, a Pictorial History (1988).