Semester 1

Thursday 29 October 2009 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room: A112 Samuel Alexander Building 

Dr Hannah Holtschneider, University of Edinburgh
“Now you see it, now you don't: Representations of Jewishness in the Jewish Museum Berlin”

The central question occupying this paper is the representation of Jewish history and Jewish identifications in historical exhibitions. The permanent exhibition in the Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) provides a case study for an exploration of the visual devices used to portray specific versions of Jewish history and historiography. Entitled ‘2000 Years of German Jewish History’ the permanent exhibition in the JMB charts the development of Jewish life in German lands from antiquity to the present. The exhibition’s title suggests permanence and continuity, while the architecture of the museum building, the preface to the exhibition and its conclusion point to the instability of notions of ‘German Jewish’ history. This paper examines how the exhibition links the adjectives ‘Jewish’ and ‘German’, leading to an exploration of the attributes communicating the ‘Jewishness’ of Jews in the exhibition, including reflection on the religious dimensions of Jewish life.


Thursday 5 November 2009 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A112
Prof Philip Alexander, University of Manchester
“Enoch before Bruce, or, What was known in Europe about the Patriarch Enoch before the discovery of the Ethiopic Book of Enoch”

The Patriarch Enoch, despite the fact that so little is said about him in the Bible, has become one of the great counter-cultural heroes of European history, a figure invoked to validate all sorts of esoteric lore of which religious establishments disapprove. Many are under the impression that this illustrious counter-cultural career really only began after James Bruce, the “Abyssinian traveller”, brought back copies of the lost Book of Enoch from Ethiopia in the 18th century. In this paper I shall argue that actually quite a lot was known about the Enochic traditionsbefore Bruce, and already he was linked to arcane wisdom. I shall begin by surveying the entry under Enoch in Fabricius’, Codex Pseudepigraphus Veteris Testamenti, which conveniently brings together most of what was known about Enoch by the beginning of the 18th century. I shall then go on to examine the figure of Enoch in more detail in two areas, first, the thought of the Elizabethan Magus, Dr John Dee, and, second, the core myth of Royal Arch Freemasonry. I shall then trace the impact of Ethiopic Enoch from its first publication by Laurence in the early 19th century down to present day, when Enoch has acquired a considerable following in cyberspace. The paper will conclude with some reflections on the interaction of scholarship and popular culture.


Thursday 19 November 2009 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A112
Dr Renate Smithuis , University of Manchester
"How to exorcise the spirit of a dead husband and other useful magical recipes from the Cairo Genizah"

At the end of the first six-year phase of the AHRC Rylands Cairo Genizah Project, I would like to draw attention to our magical corpus of fragments, which I have been studying together with Professor Gideon Bohak. A striking find among this group of fragments is an exorcism text, which is meant to help exorcise the spirit of a dead husband. Although we know of a great number of dibbuk stories (sippure dibbuk) from the second half of the sixteenth century onwards, this text is, as far as we know, a unicum.


Thursday 3 December 2009 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A112
Penelope Junkermann, University of Manchester
"Targum and Midrash: The Case of the Song of Songs"

This paper will give a condensed version of my PhD thesis. It will consider the relationship between the Targum and Midrash Rabbah to the Song of Songs, two exegetical works dealing with the biblical book, often in very similar ways. This similarity has led to the idea that the Targum has used the Midrash as a source and is therefore dependent on and secondary to it. However, there are issues that arise in trying to establish the existence of literary relationships between two texts of Jewish literature from antiquity, which are often overlooked. This paper will draw attention to these issues, show how simple parallelism does not necessarily provide evidence of literary dependence, and question whether there is adequate evidence to posit a relationship between these two works


Semester 2

Thursday 4 February 2010 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A112
Rabbi Michael Hilton, London
"The Origin and Spread of Jewish Confirmation "

The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony known as "confirmation" is no longer called by that name in Britain, but is still popular in the USA. It began in the early 19th century in German Jewish day schools, which were the forerunner of what was to become the German Jewish Reform movement.
At an early date (Berlin 1817) girls were confirmed in synagogue. The ceremony, however, was not confined to Reform communities but spread by 1850 to mainstream Orthodox Synagogues, including those in Manchester and Birmingham. The Manchester links are particularly interesting, and will form an important part of the original sources we shall look at in the seminar.


Thursday 25 February 2010 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A112
Dr. Michael Berkowitz , London
Kodachrome and the Jewish Question:  Music, Science, and Showbiz, 1918-2008

In 2008, the Eastman Kodak Company, in Rochester, New York, announced the discontinuation of Kodachrome--one of the most popular consumer products of all-time.  In numerous reports on Kodachrome's demise, there was scant notice of a Jewish dimension to the story.  In contrast to the history of photography, which pays almost no notice of the ethnic-religious background of its principals, this lecture explores the significance of Jews in science of photography.  Leopold Godowsky, Jr (1902-1083), and Leopold Mannes (1899-1964)--both of whom were distinguished musicians in their own right, as well as the sons of illustrious, pioneering musicians--became progenitors of modern colour photography.  Their greatest impact was on the expansion of high-quality amateur photography through the creation of Kodachrome film and other technologies that substantially improved the sights and sounds of print and motion-picture film.  Although they reaped huge fortunes for these efforts, their roles have not been reflected in the historiography of the arts, photography or music--or modern Jewish history.   Mannes and Godowsky also aspired to capture for posterity a totality of human experience through sight and sound that in many respects foreshadowed developments of succeeding decades.  The combined influences of music and their lives as ethnic Jews--which included an ever-present focus on "show business"--played an immense and complex role in their scientific practice.   


Thursday 4 March 2010 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A112
Prof. Martin Goodman, Oxford 
"Toleration of Variety within Judaism: Some Case Studies"

To what extent have religious Jews over the centuries been prepared to tolerate within their communities theology and practices which they believe to be in error? The paper will look briefly at a number of cases of such toleration, examining the differences between cases as well as the similarities, and will look in greater detail at the cohabitation of Pharisees and Sadducees in the Jerusalem Temple before 70 CE.


Thursday 6 May 2010 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A112
Dr. Ed Kessler, Cambridge
"Jewish-Muslim Dialogue in the Light of Jewish-Christian Relations "

Interfaith dialogue, as we understand it today, has been taking place between Christians and Jews for nearly a century, but Jewish-Muslim dialogue is a more recent phenomenon. This talk begins with what Jews and Muslims have in common such as the challenge of being a minority community. Yet relations are overshadowed by the failure to address the impact of the Middle East conflict. For most Jews, the creation of the State of Israel is an ancient promise fulfilled - the ingathering of exiles, guaranteeing physical and spiritual security. Yet, many Muslims term the same events "The Disaster," a time when an Islamic society was uprooted and became a minority in a land that was once dar al-Islam. In Jewish-Muslim dialogue it is essential to be prepared for conflicting views.


Thursday 20 May 2010 from 4.00-5.30pm, Room A214
Eva-Maria Ziege, currently a visiting fellow of the Woolf Institute at Cambridge
'Arendt, Adorno, and the Study of Anti-Semitism'

Today, Hannah Arendt and Theodor W. Adorno are perceived as two of the most prominent public intellectuals who linked their reflections on the genocide of the Jews and antisemitism in the twentieth century to political and social theory in general. These reflections were also shaped by the way in which they positioned themselves, explicitly or by default, in the field of Jewish politics between Zionism, assimilationism, and cultural pluralism. While Adorno’s theory of antisemitism was firmly grounded in a Freudian-Marxist understanding of society, Arendt rejected the Hegelian philosophy of history as much as the „nonsense“ of Freud’s ideas. The similarities and distinctions between their approaches are thrown all the more sharply into relief when their positions are compared to other contemporary theories of antisemitism.