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Jewish Studies Events 2011-2012

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The Jewish Studies Program’s many co-curricular events this year have ranged widely.  They highlighted the heroism of a Harvard dean during the Holocaust and spotlighted the activism of poet Emma Lazarus, each a call to conscience in our own time.  They featured successful efforts at building relationships among Israeli and Palestinian young people through a visit by Barbara Gottschalk, a founder of “Seeds of Peace,” and co-sponsorship of the Boston Jewish Film Festival’s screening of “Deaf Jam,” about the friendship between a deaf Israeli immigrant teen and a Palestinian slam poet.  We also inaugurated a multi-year program plan on expressions of global Jewish identities, first with Professor Stephen Sadow’s exhibition of artists’ books containing artistic interpretations of fourteen Latin American poems and then with a panel of world-class experts on global Diasporas.

Stephen Sadow, professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at Northeastern University.

The Jewish Studies program co-sponsored two traveling exhibitions for which we provided associated programming:  first, “Deadly Medicine:  Creating the Master Race,” a gripping and heart-breaking exhibit about Nazi science created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and displayed at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, and later “Emma Lazarus:  Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience,” displayed at Northeastern’s Snell Library.

Current Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies at Northeastern Laurel Leff launched the Jewish Studies 2011-2012 program year with a lecture on “Fighting for Refugee Physicians:  A Harvard Dean’s Battle Against Prejudice and Protectionism in the 1930s American Medical Community,” about one Dean’s determined efforts to save the lives of his Jewish colleagues abroad by placing them in positions in the United States.  This project is a prequel to Leff’s acclaimed Buried by The Times:  The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, which exposed the press’s failure to adequately report on the genocide of European Jewry while it was taking place.

Having been selected to host a traveling exhibit that explored the life and legacy of Emma Lazarus—poet, critic, advocate for the poor, early feminist, and champion of immigrants and refugees—the Snell Library opened the exhibit with a program on “Issues of Immigration in Today’s America.”  Moderated by Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor and Director of Jewish Studies, the panel featured Silvia Dominguez, Northeastern University Assistant Professor of Sociology; Kitty Dukakis, social activist, author, and wife of former Governor of Massachusetts; Rachel Rosenbloom, Northeastern University Assistant Professor of Law; and Barbara Gottschalk, Executive Vice President of Seeds of Peace.

At Northeastern through the Humanities Center’s Artists and Practitioners in Residence program, Gottschalk also offered a week of lectures and workshops.  On the final day of her visit, several students from the groups “Students for Justice in Palestine” and “Huskies for Israel” met over breakfast.  Gottschalk presented some of the strategies used by Seeds of Peace for facilitating trust and open communication in their summer camp.  After a short video, she led the student-pairs in exercises that encouraged them to know one another better personally to foster understanding.  The meeting concluded with the students articulating a commitment to stay in communication and develop joint programs.

The Jewish Studies partnered with partnered with the  Cinema Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and ASL Programs to sponsor “Deaf Jam” at the Boston Jewish Film Festival.  “Deaf Jam,” by filmmaker Judy Lieff, profiles teen Aneta Brodski, who, while attending a school for the deaf in Queens, becomes introduced to the exuberant world of American Sign Language (ASL) poetry.  Lieff chronicles Aneta’s bold entry into Manhattan’s spoken-word slam scene, where Aneta, an Israeli immigrant, meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet. The two collaborate on a powerful duet that mirrors the complex worlds they share. Deaf Jam uses innovative film techniques to honor ASL as a three-dimensional language that exists in space, like dance.

Culminating months of hard work and planning under the direction of Jewish Studies professor James Ross, on November 17 the Jewish Studies Program presented “Perspectives on Global Diasporas:  A Multinational Conversation.”   Speakers included Khachig Tölölyan of Wesleyan University, editor of Diaspora magazine, who provided an overview and discussed the Armenian diaspora; Kim Butler of Rutgers University on the African diaspora, who focused on Brazil and Latin America and the Caribbean; Lok Siu of the University of Texas-Austin on the Chinese diaspora, with a focus on Panama; and William Safran of the University of Colorado-Boulder on the Jewish diaspora.

With great excitement, we are looking forward to upcoming lectures by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Art Spiegelman on March 27 and Michael Chabon on April 4, as well as a staged reading on March 28 of the play “Apples From the Desert” by Israeli Stage.  Click here for more information!