WEEK OF JEWISH PHILOSOPHY
MAY 20, 21, & 22, 2014
The Week of Jewish Philosophy was a 3-day intensive series of lectures, seminars, and salons on themes of Jewish philosophy, religion, and theology, featuring visiting scholars, Dr. Leora Batnitzky (University of Princeton, Department of Religion) and Dr. Paul Franks (Yale University, Department of Philosophy), in conversation with three local scholars of Jewish Philosophy, Dr. Sarah Pessin (DU, Philosophy), Dr. Karin Nisenbaum (University of Toronto, Philosophy; 2013-14 CJS Visiting Scholar at DU), and Dr. Elias Sacks (CU Boulder, Religious Studies).
Helping us work through difficult concepts in classical Jewish texts of philosophy, and engaging us with original performance art, the Week of Jewish Philosophy offered a series of unique intercultural and diversity-enhancing learning opportunities for those interested in philosophy, religious studies, and inter-religious dialogue. The intensive series of events addressed core questions about Judaism, including questions related to Theology, Ethics, Covenant, Religion, Law, History, Methodology, and Praxis.
WEEK OF JEWISH PHILOSOPHY SCHEDULE
Tues. May 20 (6:30-8; Sturm Hall 286): German Idealism and Jewish Mysticism (public lecture by Paul Franks)
Wed. May 21 (12-3; Sturm Hall 286): Jewish Philosophy and Historicism in Jewish Studies (3-hour seminar led by Paul Franks)
Wed. May 21 (4-5): Memory, Trauma, Life: Evolving Doors Dance Performance at Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site (Project of Creative Writing program and Center for Judaic Studies, in partnership with the Departments of Philosophy, Theater, and Psychology, DU's Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning, and co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and Gender and Women's Studies)
Wed. May 21 (6:30-9; AAC Loft (340)): Roundtable on Methodology in Philosophical and Religious Thinking, featuring three 20-30 minute talks by: Dr. Karin Nisenbaum, Dr. Elias Sacks, and Dr. Sarah Pessin. Panelists include: Dr. Leora Batnitzky, Dr. Paul Franks, Dr. Carl Raschke, Dr. Janet Rumfelt, Dr. Jere Surber, and Dr. Ted Vial.
Thurs. May 22 (12-3; Sturm Hall 286): Strauss, Cohen, Maimonides: What is the History of Philosophy? What is Jewish Philosophy? (3-hour seminar/text study led by Dr. Leora Batnitzky)
Thurs. May 22 (6:30-8; MACC at the JCC): How Judaism Became a Religion (public lecture by Dr. Leora Batnitzky)
Co-Sponsors of the Week of Jewish Philosophy CJS, the DU/Iliff Joint PhD Program in the Study of Religion, the Department of Philosophy at DU, and the Department of Jewish Life and Learning at Denver's Jewish Community Center.
The week also included a special dance performance by Evolving Doors Dance Co. a project of the Creative Writing Program and CJS, in partnership with the Departments of Philosophy, Theater, and Psychology, DU's Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning, and co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and Gender and Women's Studies.
The Real Monuments Men and Women: Art Restitution Successes and Challenges
Presented by Prof. Elizabeth Karlsgodt
CJS affiliated faculty Beth Karlsgodt was this year's AHSS Livingston Lecturer. With over 500 reservations, Prof. Karlsgodt spoke to a sold out crowd on May 5, 2014. Who were the curators, architects and other art experts who joined Allied forces during World War II and rescued art that had been looted by the Nazis? Professor Elizabeth Campbell Karlsgodt will shed light on the men and women who inspired George Clooney's recent film, The Monuments Men. The film portrays the key role played by American art experts in the recovery of works that had been stolen by the Nazis across Europe, mainly from Jewish collectors, or sold by owners under duress. The dramatization, however, fails to address a few key aspects of this history: the importance of looting in the broader Nazi effort to eliminate Jews from European society; the crucial contribution of western allies to the art recovery program; and the role played by remarkable women. Come away with a better understanding of these courageous individuals and their work, while gaining a broader perspective of restitution successes in the early postwar years, and the ongoing challenge of returning Nazi-era art to rightful owners.
A Conversation with Comedian Michel Boujenah
CJS cosponsored with the Mizel Museum and Neal Sokol as they presented a North American exclusive: A laugh-out-loud conversation with comedy legend and French screen idol Michel Boujenah; May 4, 2014! Michel Boujenah is one of France's funniest and most talented comedic performing artists. For over 40 years, Boujenah, a Sephardic Jew originally from Tunisia, has delighted standing room only audiences around the world with his powerful and hilarious story-telling. Boujenah is best known to American audiences for his roles in the hit films Les Misérables (1995), Three Men and a Baby (1985) and his poignant award-winning directorial debut Father and Sons (2003).
This exclusive one-night-only appearance was arranged with the help of the acclaimed entertainment impresario and writer Charley Marouani.
62nd Annual Holocaust Survivor Memorial "Reflections of the Past and Present"
Holocaust Awareness Institute sponsors this annual community Memorial service in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, featured guests were 1st generation survivor Julius Diczek-Reich, second generation survivor Dean Rotbart, third generation survivor Talia Zall and Cantor Zachary Kutner. The Keynote Speaker was Rabbi Moshe Heyman, The Denver Kollel Experience.
Exploring Jewish Views of Justice: Religious, Academic, Activist
CJS cosponsored this April 24, 2014 panel conversation featuring three perspectives from a panel of leaders followed by small group conversations. 30 students and community members participated in the event. Panelists: Evan Weissman Warm Cookies of the Revolution, Sarah Pessin Director of the University of Denver's Center for Judaic Studies, Rabbi Steven Booth-Nadav Wisdom House Denver. This free event was made possible by a Limmud Jewish Learning Grant, an initiative of Rose Community Foundation. Co-sponsors: Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, DU's Center for Judaic Studies, Judaism Your Way, Keshet, Hazon, Jewish Voice for Peace, EKAR, Mizel Museum and E3Events.
CJS Co-Sponsored visit with Author/Journalist Masha Gessen
On April 23, 2014, Author/Journalist Masha Gessen spoke about her new book, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. Her new book is about the imprisoned Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot (the first book on this subject in English). She's done a lot of reporting from the Pussy Riot trial in August 2011 and also from the penal colonies where two of the women are still held. Masha Gessen is a prominent Russian-American journalist who publishes predominantly in English. She is the author of, most recently, A Man Without a Face - an award-winning and decidedly unauthorized biography of Vladimir Putin. Her other books include a half dozen titles including a number of books and articles about the Russian Jewish Experience, particularly Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace and Blood Matters -- a book on BRCA1 gene and the attendant exploration of Ashkenazi Jewish genetics. Gessen is also Russia's most prominent LGBT activist who has written extensively on LGBT issues in Russia. Gessen immigrated to the US with her family in the early 1980s, started her journalism career in the late 80s covering the AIDS epidemic and ACT-UP activism, moved back to Russia in 1991 - reported from Chechnya and other challenging places, and just recently re-immigrated to the United States after Russia passed a slew of homophobic laws (some thought to be aimed specifically at her and her family). During this recent re-immigration, Gessen has compared her current experience of leaving Russia as a gay person to the experience of leaving the Soviet Union for the first time as a Jew.
Sponsored by the Department of Languages and Literatures.
City of Greeley Holocaust Memorial Observances
Featured guest Speaker, Survivor Estelle Laughlin
HAI cosponsored this event on April 23, 2014, as part of the City of Greeley's Holocaust Memorial Observances. Only ten years old when Hitler invaded Poland, Estelle and her family soon found themselves amidst the hell that was the Warsaw Ghetto. Her frank, personal memoir of this harrowing experience is testament to her indomitable spirit and fierce determination to remain loving and compassionate even in the face of unimaginable evil. Co
Rwanda 20 Years Ago Today: A New Model for Victims in Mass Atrocity Prosecutions
The Holocaust Awareness Institute co-sponsored Rwanda Twenty Years Ago Today, an interdisciplinary endeavor of the Sturm College of Law International Programs, the Department of Anthropology, and the University Libraries on April 2, 2014 in the Anderson Academic Commons. The event featured a presentation by Fergal Gaynor, entitled: "A New Model for Victims in Mass Atrocity Prosecutions."
Fergal Gaynor, an ICC victim's representative, represents 25,000 victims of the election violence in Kenya. Distinct from the prosecutors or defense attorneys, Gaynor posits a new model where the victims' representative is able to advance the interests of the victims as a third and independent participant in the proceedings. Mr. Gaynor discussed this new and exciting innovation at the International Criminal Court and shared the challenges that are inherent in this new role. How would the Rwanda Tribunal have been different had the victims' had their own attorney? What are the disadvantages of this model? Is this a workable model in other types of criminal proceedings?
Looking Beyond Christianity in Colorado
Prof. Jeanne Abrams participated in DU panel on religion as part of the University of Denver's Religious Studies/Religious Life Speaker Series "Colorado's Diverse Religious Legacy: 1864-2014." This Faculty Panel featured Jeanne Abrams-University Libraries/CJS, Bonnie Clark-Anthropology and Christine Sheikh-Sociology, and was a featured event in the University's Sesquicentennial event schedule. The event took place on March 25, 2014.
Revolutionary Medicine: America's Founder in Sickness and in Health
Prof. Jeanne Abrams, Director the the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society, gave a talk on March 24, 2014 about the lives of George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, and Dolley Madison. In contrast to the usual lens of politics, their stories are told from the unique perspective of sickness, health, and disease in their era, opening a window into the practice of medicine in the 18th century. This talk was sponsored by The Center for Bioethics and Medicine at UCD, Anschutz Medical Campus.
Sarah Pessin on Divine Love at The Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMEMS)
Prof. Sarah Pessin presented "Divine Love in a Neoplatonic Key: Rethinking God (and the History of Ideas) from Greek, Islamic and Jewish Points of View" at the University of Colorado, Boulder on March 13, 2014. In the history of ideas, there have arisen a number of overly calcified assumptions about monotheisms vs. 'paganisms,' and about the theological distance between the proverbial Jerusalem and Athens. In this presentation, Prof. Sarah Pessin examined a case in point of how these sorts of underlying assumptions have led to centuries of misreadings of divine will and love in a particular Jewish medieval thinker, viz. 11th century Neoplatonist Solomon Ibn Gabirol. More broadly, she used the case of Ibn Gabirol to push us on what we think divine love is, and to push us on the extent to which the history of philosophy—perhaps under the tacit influence of a Christian lens—has presented us with unfairly weak and impious versions of Greek, Islamic, and Jewish Neoplatonic theologies.
Hebrew-Arabic Evening of Culture
On February 13, 2014, Prof. Sari Havis, Director of Hebrew Program, teamed up with Prof. Maha Foster, Arabic Lecturer to offer students an evening of cross-cultural celebration. Hebrew students and Arabic students came together to celebrate diversity and culture with food, music and dancing. This event was for registered DU students enrolled in Hebrew and Arabic.
RMJHS/BECK Archives Lowenstein Exhibit at Anderson Academic Commons
Through Winter Quarter 2014, Anderson Academic Commons displayed two large exhibit cases with text which focused on Henry Lowenstein's escape from Nazi Germany when he was a young teenager and going to England on the Kinderstransport. He lived in England 5 years and was later united with his family in the U.S. He went on to become an icon in Denver theater. His mother, Maria, was a trained artist, and we exhibited 12 of her paintings and drawings, some created during the Holocaust, some after her arrival in the U.S. While this exhibit was displayed, students from CJS affiliated faculty Beth Karlsgodt's course, European Culture in the World Wars, worked with archivist Thyria Wilson to examine documents and materials in the Lowenstein Collection to enhance their knowledge of European culture before and during WWII. Using primary resources of Holocaust survivor and Denver theater pioneer, Henry Lowenstein, the students worked on research projects as part of their final papers.
The Whipping Man at The Curious Theatre Company
The RMJHS theater party at the Curious Theatre on January 26th was a resounding success. The Whipping Man, which received rave reviews from the Denver Post and other media, is a thought-provoking drama, which explores the complexity of American slavery and its relevance for American of all faiths and ethnic groups. It is the story of a Jewish confederate soldier who returns to his home after the Civil War to encounter two of his family's newly freed ex-slaves, and together they navigate the horrors of slavery and the possibilities of a shared future. The performance was entirely sold out and marked the Fifteenth Annual Professor John Livingston Memorial Program. Dr. Livingston was a founder of the RMJHS and Beck Archives and taught American and American Jewish history at DU for over 25 years. Many audience members stayed on after the play for a lively talk-back with the actors. The RMJHS's longtime director, Dr. Jeanne Abrams, served as an historical consultant to Curious Theatre and worked with the actors to provide historical context for the play's theme. She was invited to join the actors in answering questions from the audience. All of the attendees praised The Whipping Man as a very powerful, extremely well-acted play.
"One Person Can Make a Difference", commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day
CJS co-sponsored with DU Never Again "One Person Can Make a Difference" featuring Jeannie Opdyke Smith in honor of International Holocaust Memorial Day. Jeannie Smith is the only daughter of Irene Gut Opdyke. As a teenager, Irene hid 12 Jewish friends in the basement of a Nazi major's house where she served as the major's housekeeper at great personal risk. After Irene died, Jeannie began sharing her mother's story. 75 students and community members came out to hear Jeannie share her mother's story. V
RMJHS Annual Meeting: Tour of Anderson Academic Commons and Colorado Jewish History Exhibits
On November 24, 2013, DU and RMJHS hosted the premiere showing of a series of 15 beautiful and thought-provoking panels From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America with a reception and Annual Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society. First created in 2004 for the 350th Anniversary of the American Jewish Community, and originally shared city-wide as a special exhibit at the Denver Public Library, these panels have now become an official part of the Beck Archives and DU University Libraries through a partnership with the American Jewish Historical Society, and it will reside here when it is not traveling. These amazing panels were desplayed at DU through the month of December at DU before they headed out on what is expected to be many traveling tours around the U.S.
Writing and Spirituality Panel and Workshop
When is writing a spiritual practice? Is poetry more spiritual than prose? How have different religious and cultural traditions viewed the connection between writing, memory, and identity? On Nov. 4, 2013, over 60 students, community members, staff and faculty joined us for a writing workshop and panel conversation about these and related themes featuring renowned founder of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg in dialogue with DU and Iliff faculty experts: Amy Erickson, Cathie Kelsey, Billy Stratton, Greg Robbins, Selah Saterstrom, M.E. Warlick, Nicole Willock. The panel was followed by a unique writing workshop led by Selah Saterstrom, Director of the University of Denver's Creative Writing Program.
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg visited DU as part of the MACC at the JCC's JAAMMFest Scholar in Residence series, sponsored by the Denver Jewish Learning Collaborative, of which the Center for Judaic Studies is a member.
11th Annual Fred Marcus Memorial Holocaust Lecture
Over 250 attendees enjoyed this fascinating lecture featuring Dr. Stephen Smith, executive Director of the Shoah Foundation. Dr. Smith spoke about the enormous amount of information the Shoah Foundation has archived with its 55,000 testimonies and the ways in which students, teachers, researchers and community members may locate almost any piece of information related to testimony. Additionally, Dr. Smith exhibited an amazing technology, New Dimensions in Testimony, in which a 3D image of a survivor can interact with a live person! CJS/HAI was proud to partner with the MACC at the JCC to have this lecture as part of the annual JAAMMfest, on Oct. 27, 2013.
Writing as Creation: From Human Being to Divine Desire in Ibn Gabirol
On October 23, 2013, Dr. Sarah Pessin (Philosophy and Judaic Studies, University of Denver) spoke about the unique theology of 11th century Jewish poet and philosopher, Solomon Ibn Gabirol to an engaged audience of 25 at the Kabbalah Experience. Based on her new book, Ibn Gabirol's Theology of Desire (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Sarah helped students consider the link between writing and divinity, and the connection between writing, divinity, and philosophical questions about ethics and existence in Ibn Gabirol's thought. As part of their journey, they learned about Jewish philosophical conceptions of self, the nature of divine love and creativity, and the complex theological interplay of language and silence in the human effort to draw closer to God, the author of cosmic meaning writ large. Dr. Pessin was featured as part of MACC at the JCC's JAAMMFest Author Talks.
Lillian Butler Hoffman: Denver's Pioneer of the Soviet Jewry Movement
On October 21, 2013, more than 40 people came to the special event created by Sheila Hoffman Bialek about her mother Lillian, and an informative exhibit about the CCCSJ from the Beck Archives. This event was presented by Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society and Beck Archives, Special Collections, University Libraries, and Center for Judaic Studies.
Between 1967 and 1991, over two million Jews left for freedom to Israel, the United States, and other western countries. Lillian Hoffman was one of the pioneers of the grass-roots effort that crossed all party lines in America to free Jews to practice their religion without State persecution. She was the longtime chair of the Colorado Committee of Concern for Soviet Jewry (CCCSJ). The campaign for freedom from tyranny, which culminated in the Jackson Vanik Act, became a model for effective activism. The event highlighted daughter Sheila Hoffman Bialek's film, speech and books which present Lillian's vital work as well as other primary sources from the Beck Archives.
As Seen on Israeli TV: Intercultural Encounter and Cultural Landscapes
CJS hosted visiting scholar Dr. Miri Talmon for a screening of Israeli television clips and a discussion of how Israeli culture is portrayed through media on October, 14, 2013. Over 50 students, community members, and faculty attended the screening and reception preceding the show. Here's what a few students had to say about the event: "The most important concept I learned from [Dr. Talmon] was the power of media. She depicted Israeli tv and movies which also portrayed Israeli culture. Media can be an insight to the culture." "[Dr. Talmon] has made me more excited about Hebrew class because the culture is so diverse. I am thinking of continuing the course longer than planned because of this." "Professor Talmon really emphasized the concept that Israeli culture is so misconceived and misunderstood; there isn't one culture present in Israel and that is something that is overlooked."
25 participants from all over the United States, Canada and Israel came to DU to learn the latest developments in teaching methodology and pedagogy, as well as advances in the application of technology to the teaching of language, in general, and of Hebrew, in particular. This year, October 2013, the sessions were offered by Miri Talmon, Israeli film Media Culture scholar and Head of the Communication and Film Studies Program at the Nazareth Academic Institute, Shmuel Bolozky, Associate Director of NMELRC and a Professor of Hebrew at the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and its Hebrew Program Coordinator, Vardit Ringvald, Director of the Hebrew Language Program at Brandeis University, Director of the Middlebury-Hebrew at the Center Institute for the Advancement of the Hebrew Language, and Yaakov Levy, Director of the CIS at the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis. Participants shared these thoughts with us: "the keynote talk was very valuable...and Prof. Ringvald raised relevant and valuable questions." "This is such a productive and important seminar!!"
Nora's Will/Cinco Dias Sin Nora
On October 10, 2013, CJS cosponsored a film screening of Nora's Will, a Mexican film from writer/director Mariana Chenillo, named Mexico's Best Film of 2009. When his ex-wife Nora dies right before Passover, José is forced to stay with her body until she can be properly put to rest. He soon realizes he is part of Nora's plan to bring her family back together for one last Passover feast, leading José to reexamine their relationship and rediscover their undying love for each other. This film screening was part of a larger series of events for Latino Heritage Month.This event marked the 4th consecutive year that the Center for Judaic Studies has worked with DULCCES (The University of Denver Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship) on programming during Latino Heritage Month.
University Church Network Gathering at The Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site
On July 17, 2013, University Park Methodist Church hosted a three-day gathering of the University Church Network to explore ways for campuses and university ministries to work together to cultivate dialogue and learning. The event featured a special interfaith gathering on July 17, 2013 at the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site.
"The gathering of United Methodists from across the country for an evening service at the Holocaust Memorial Social Action site was truly a blessing. As we embraced each of the four elements sculptured into the site, we found that the symbols also spoke deeply to our Christian traditions: The chai – life; the eternal flame as embodied in living human beings; the Kristallnacht lattice of human pain and struggle; and the Hineni, a commitment to live as the hands and feet of the God of Life. Thank you for having a vision for such a place of gathering!" - Rev. Paul J. Kottke, United Methodist University Church Network
"When we gathered as a group of one particular faith denomination at the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site, I was deeply moved once again by the pain and suffering that people have endured throughout the ages simply because of religious background. People of all faiths must commit to dialogue with each other, build relationships, eliminate barriers, and increase understanding of one another. Finding sacred spaces such as the Holocaust Memorial to gather together in peace will be critical for all our futures as people of faith."- Rev. Anne Mundt
Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions Conference
CJS co-hosted another successful annual gathering of scholars of medieval Islamic, Jewish and Christian Philosophy. Featuring scholars from around the world, this event was co-sponsored by CJS along with DU's Philosophy Department and the Marquette University Philosophy Department (with support from the Joint PhD. Program in Religious and Theological Studies and DU's Office of Graduate Studies).