Our semester began with a lovely opening reception for Israeli artist Leor Grady’s exhibit “Before You: Works on Paper,”displayed prominently at Northeastern’s Gallery 360. The show’s works consist of two series of threaded drawings on paper: in one, bodies of water have been extracted from new and old maps of the Middle East, stripped of political borders and threaded into abstract shapes; in the other, gold threaded Hebrew texts have been extracted from Hebrew liturgy.
From the Middle East we moved west into Africa, hosting a launch party for Northeastern Professor Bill Miles’ latest book, The Jews of Nigeria: An Afro-Judaic Odyssey. Jews of Nigeria, Miles’ tenth book, is the first book to describe the newest and fastest-growing Jewish community in the world: the Igbos of Nigeria. Bolstered by customs recalling an Israelite ancestry but embracing rabbinic Judaism, the Igbos are also the world’s first “Internet Jews.”
The centerpiece of our fall program was a public lecture by Rabbi Capers Funnye, spiritual leader of Chicago’s Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation and Associate Director of Be’chol Lashon, whom we hosted for a two-day visit to campus. Speaking to an audience of community members, faculty, and students, Funnye explored his own experiences as a Jew of Color and his work with emerging Jewish communities in Africa in a lecture entitled “Exploring Diversity in American and Global Jewish Communities: An African-American Rabbi’s Personal Journey to Judaism.” He visited classes in Jewish Studies and African American Studies.
Finally, Jewish Studies partnered with the Department of History and the International Affairs Program to sponsor “Life in Stills” at the Boston Jewish Film Festival. “Life in Stills,” by Israeli filmmaker Tamar Tal, profiles opinionated and uncompromising 96-year-old Miriam Weissenstein, widow of a photographer who documented Israel’s defining moments, in her effort to preserve “The Photo House” and its nearly one million negatives.
The film also explores the emotionally complex relationship between Miriam and her grandson, Ben Peter. Director Tamar Tal and lead Ben Peter came to Northeastern and talked with students in Jewish Studies’ professor Gerry Herman’s film course.