Tag Archive for jewish and israel studies

Former Curator Feller Expert on Jewish Philosophy, Museum Studies

Yaniv Feller joined the faculty in 2017. He’s teaching religion courses this spring.

Yaniv Feller is the Jeremy Zwelling Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and assistant professor of religion. Feller specializes in Jewish philosophy, Jewish-Christian relations, post-Holocaust theology, material culture and museum studies. His current book project is titled “Leo Baeck and the Tradition of Dialogical Apologetics.” Prior to Wesleyan, Feller worked as an exhibition curator for the new permanent exhibition project at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

In this Q&A, Feller speaks about his time working at a renowned Jewish museum, the importance of incorporating the lives and histories of objects into his courses and woodworking. 

Q: You just joined the faculty at Wesleyan this year. What are you enjoying and how would you characterize your new academic home?

A: It is hard to believe that a semester has already passed—time flies by when you are having fun! Reflecting on the last couple of months, I realize that Wesleyan is indeed everything I hoped it to be: it is a passionate community of learners, and this is true of faculty and students alike. I obviously heard about how smart and engaged people at Wesleyan are, and it was a pleasure to discover that sometimes, positive reputation is more than justified.

Q: What courses are you teaching this spring?

A: I am teaching RELI 203, Jews and Judaism, and RELI 213, Refugees and Exiles: Religion in the Diaspora.

Q: Do you have a favorite course? (Or is that like asking a parent about a favorite child?) Is there one that seems particularly well received or apropos?

A: It IS a bit like asking for a favorite child. I like them all! I like to teach classes that examine Jewish history and philosophy as a springboard for larger theoretical questions, or ones that ask the theoretical questions through a series of case studies. Perhaps most relevant this semester is “Refugees and Exiles” in which we will examine contemporary discussions on refugees in light of philosophical, literary and historical perspectives. What do narratives about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, for example, have to teach us about today? More than you might suspect.

Sukkah Constructed to Celebrate Jewish Holiday

On Oct. 14, Wesleyan’s Jewish community constructed a sukkah near the Center for the Arts. The dwelling provides a shelter for students to celebrate the festival of Sukkot. For eight days, students study, socialize, mediate, eat, host events and occasionally sleep in the religious building.

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Filmmaker Fisher is Silverberg Scholar in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies

David Fisher is the Silverberg Scholar in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies. (Photo courtesy of David Fisher)

David Fisher teaches When Private Meets Public, a course focusing on Israeli documentaries. (Photo courtesy of David Fisher)

(Story by Lily Baggott ’15)

Last spring, filmmaker David Fisher presented his film, Six Million and One, at the Wesleyan Israeli Film festival. After viewing Fisher’s film and presentation, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies Dalit Katz subsequently invited the filmmaker to teach a course as a scholar in residence this spring. Currently the Silverberg Scholar in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies, Fisher teaches When Private Meets Public, a course focusing on Israeli documentaries.

“[In this course,] I’m trying to decipher with my students the development and consequently the success of the Israeli documentary films worldwide,” Fisher noted. “They learn how to interpret documentary genres and place them in their proper cinematic, artistic and political contexts.”

Fisher’s own work provides discussion material for his students.

“I use my own documentaries to help shed light on hidden corners of the Israeli society, such as cattle ranchers in the Golan Heights,” he said. “My critically acclaimed family trilogy, however, I use to discuss the universality of very personal films and how both private stories and autobiographical essays meet the public.”

Fisher’s films have won various awards and include Mostar Round-Trip and Love Inventory, which form a triology together with Six Million and One. He is currently working on two films, a National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored documentary on the revival of Yiddish and another film focusing on the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. The filmmaker served as Director General of the New Israeli Foundation for Cinema and TV and has served on various international film festival juries. Before coming to Wesleyan, he also taught courses at various institutions in America and Israel.

“Truthfully, I have always been more interested in the creation of documentaries than teaching about them,” Fisher noted. “…That being said, teaching at Wesleyan was [a] unique experience for me because, for the first time, I didn’t teach film majors but merely interested students. …The students are coming from a variety of different fields (astronomy being one of them) and enrich the discussion to unprecedented levels. …In the case of screening some of my own films, it is interesting for me—as both a filmmaker and as a scholar—to face questions I’ve never been asked before.”

Teter’s Talk Opens Symposium on 50th Anniversary of Vatican II Council’s Declaration “Nostra Aetate”

Magda Teter

Magda Teter

In early March, Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, gave the opening talk at a symposium in Poland on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration “Nostra Aetate” issued by the Second Vatican Council, which changed the tone and relations between Jews and the Catholic Church.

Teter spoke on “Continuity and Change in ‘Nostra Aetate.'” Teter also is chair and professor of history, professor of medieval studies.

Teter has been involved in Jewish-Catholic dialogue in Poland for the past three years. Her research into post-Reformation Europe led her to meet with a bishop in the southeastern Polish town of Sandomierz, a town long considered a locus of anti-Semitism due to a painting in the city’s cathedral depicting the “blood libel” of Jews murdering Christian children. Teter and the bishop discussed what to do with the 18th century painting, and how to bring the community together around a solution. The result was a 2013 symposium on the issue, partially sponsored by Wesleyan, that brought together scholars and clerics and led to the decision to unveil the painting, add explanatory signage and convene again. Read more in this News @ Wesleyan story.

In addition to Teter’s talk at the meeting this month, Bishop Mieczysław Cisło spoke on Jewish-Catholic dialogue in Poland, and John Connelly, professor of history at the University of California-Berkeley, spoke about the individuals involved in creating a foundation for the declaration, both in the interwar period and after World War II.

Jewish Community Makes Hamantaschen Cookies to Celebrate Purim Holiday

About 30 students gathered in Usdan 110 on March 2 to celebrate the coming of Purim by making hamantaschen. The triangular cookies are filled with a sweet filling, usually made of poppy seeds, and are traditionally eaten during the Purim holiday, which begins on the evening of March 4. Matt Renetzky ’18 and Rabbi Levi Schectman organized the event through Chabad at Wesleyan along with help from Elli Scharlin '18 and Aaron Josephs '18.

About 30 students gathered in Usdan 110 on March 2 to celebrate the coming of Purim by making hamantaschen. The triangular cookies are filled with a sweet filling, usually made of poppy seeds, and are traditionally eaten during the Purim holiday, which begins on the evening of March 4. Matt Renetzky ’18 and Rabbi Levi Schectman (pictured) organized the event through Chabad at Wesleyan along with help from Elli Scharlin ’18 and Aaron Josephs ’18.

Eighth Annual Israeli Film Festival Begins

filmfestivalThe Center for Jewish Studies is presenting the Eighth Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival. Five contemporary Israeli films and one television show will be screened; each will be commented on by an expert, including a script writer, a film professor, a director, a critic and others.

All screenings are at 8 p.m. in the Goldsmith Family Cinema in the Center for Film Studies. Admission is free.

Below are a list of films, dates and speakers:

Feb. 12
Hunting Elephants, commented on by Isaac Zablocki, director of film programs at the JCC in Manhattan.

Jewish Community Celebrates the Life of Wesleyan’s First Chaplain

On Oct. 19, members of Wesleyan’s Jewish community gathered to celebrate a fundraising effort spearheaded by David Rabban ’71 to raise gifts in memory of Rabbi George Sobelman. Sobelman was Wesleyan’s first Jewish Chaplain from 1969-1973.

In addition, the Sobelman family is donating 43 volumes of the Babylonian Talmud with translation and commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz to Olin Library.

Rabbi Sobelman died Sept. 11, 2010 in Rehovot, Israel. During his time at Wesleyan Sobelman taught Modern Israeli Literature.

The event was hosted by University Relations. (Photos by John Van Vlack)

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Jewish Community Celebrates Rosh Hashanah with Shofar Factory

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Chabad at Wesleyan hosted a Shofar Factory Sept. 19 in Usdan's Huss Courtyard. The shofar, a musical instrument traditionally made from a ram's horn, is blown during synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chabad at Wesleyan offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty.

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Chabad at Wesleyan hosted a Shofar Factory Sept. 19 in Usdan’s Huss Courtyard. The shofar, a musical instrument traditionally made from a ram’s horn, is blown during synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chabad at Wesleyan offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty.

Students Bake Matzo Outdoors in Honor of Passover

Alpha Epsilon Pi and Chabad at Wesleyan hosted their third annual Wesleyan Matzo (Matzah) Bakery April 3 in Huss Courtyard.

Alpha Epsilon Pi and Chabad at Wesleyan hosted their third annual Wesleyan Matzo (Matzah) Bakery April 3 in Huss Courtyard.

Matzah is traditionally eaten by Jews during the week-long Passover holiday.

Matzo is traditionally eaten by Jews during the week-long Passover holiday.

Matzah, an unleavened bread, is made from flour and water and takes about 15 minutes to bake.

Matzo, an unleavened bread, is made from flour and water and takes about 15 minutes to bake.

Alpha Epsilon Pi, Wesleyan’s Jewish fraternity for men, aims to strengthen ties to the Jewish community.

Alpha Epsilon Pi, Wesleyan’s Jewish fraternity for men, aims to strengthen ties to the Jewish community.

Chabad at Wesleyan, Wesleyan’s Jewish organization, offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty. With more than 4,000 emissaries around the globe and over 80 branches on U.S. college campuses, Chabad is the largest Jewish outreach organization in the world. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Chabad at Wesleyan, one of Wesleyan’s Jewish organization, offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty. With more than 4,000 emissaries around the globe and over 80 branches on U.S. college campuses, Chabad is the largest Jewish outreach organization in the world. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

 

 

Symposium in Poland Encourages Jewish-Christian Dialogue

Pictured, from left: Marcin Przeciszewski, director of the Catholic Information Agency; Bishop Mieczysław Cisło, head of the Committee for the Dialogue with Judaism at the Episcopate of the Catholic Church in Poland; Magda Teter; Monica Adamczyk-Garbowska, professor of Jewish literature of the Maria Skłodowska-Curie University in Lublin; Michael Schudrich, chief Rabbi of Poland; Jan Grosfeld, professor of the Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw..

Pictured, from left: Marcin Przeciszewski, director of the Catholic Information Agency; Bishop Mieczysław Cisło, head of the Committee for the Dialogue with Judaism at the Episcopate of the Catholic Church in Poland; Magda Teter; Monica Adamczyk-Garbowska, professor of Jewish literature of the Maria Skłodowska-Curie University in Lublin; Michael Schudrich, chief Rabbi of Poland; Jan Grosfeld, professor of the Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.

Historians will tell you that the past can often have a direct and profound effect on the present age. 

Take Magda Teter, for example. A scholarly probe into post-Reformation Europe recently led the professor of history and director of Jewish Studies at Wesleyan to an event that may have changed the course of Jewish and Christian relations in Poland.

“This is how scholars can sometimes play a role in getting people to talk to each other,” she said. “It didn’t start that way, but that was the good result.”

Sandomierz, a sleepy Renaissance town in southeast Poland, (now known in Europe as the backdrop for a popular TV show about a crime-solving priest) was for many years considered a locus of anti-Semitism. The reason: a painting in the city’s cathedral church depicting the “blood libel” of Jews murdering Christian children. One of a series commemorating Catholic martyrs, it had been for many years covered up; calls to have it removed met with opposition, but it was the source of intense controversy and a big problem for the local bishop.

In the course of researching a book she is currently writing,  Teter met with the Sandomierz bishop. They discussed what to do with the 18th-century painting, and how to bring the community together around a solution?

The result of that conversation was a 2013 symposium on the issue, partially sponsored by Wesleyan, that brought together scholars and clerics and led to the decision to unveil the painting, add explanatory signage and convene again.

Teter Co-Edits Book on Jewish-Christian Relations in Art

New book, co-edited by Magda Teter.

New book, co-edited by Magda Teter.

Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, professor of history, professor of medieval studies, is the co-editor of a book titled, Jewish-Christian Relations in History, Memory, and Art: European contet for the paintings in the Sandomierz Cathedral, published in Polish by Wydawnictwo Diecezjalne, Sandomierz in 2013.

A large painting known as Infanticidium on the western wall of the Cathedral church in Sandomierz, Poland depicting scenes of Jews killing Christian children, has been frequently viewed as an example of Polish anti-Semitism and a troubling symbol of Jewish-Catholic relations. The painting became a site of memory (lieu de mémoire), crystalizing in one object the memory of Jewish-Christian relations in Poland, and a source of protests and tensions between the Catholic church and the Jewish community. The richly illustrated book, edited by Teter and Urszula Stępień, presents the Sandomierz paintings in their broader European and local artistic, historical and historiographic context.

The controversial Sandomierz painting belongs to a broader series of sixteen paintings known as “Martyrologium Romanum.” The first two essays address the question of Jewish-Christian relations. Teter discusses the history of these relations and the role historians have played, and continue to play, in shaping the understanding and perception of these relations. Teter also points to visual influences of European iconography of the so-called “ritual murder” on the Sandomierz paintings, especially the iconography of Simon of Trent.

Explore Israeli Culture during Spring Film Festival

The film, Fill the Void, is written and directed by Rama Burshstein (2012). It will be screened on Jan. 30 as part of the Israeli Film Festival. Lisa Dombrowski, associate professor of film studies, will speak about the film after the screening.

The film, Fill the Void, is written and directed by Rama Burshstein (2012). It will be screened on Jan. 30 as part of the Israeli Film Festival. Lisa Dombrowski, associate professor of film studies, will speak about the film after the screening.

Seven films, all with English subtitles, will be screened during the annual Israeli Film Festival this spring.

The festival aims to educate and explore the richness, diversity and creativity of Israeli culture as witnessed through the flourishing of contemporary Israeli cinema. Each film screening is followed by a guest speaker or Wesleyan faculty who comments on the film from a particular perspective.

FIlms this year include Fill the Void, Wherever You Go, Welcome and our Condolences, Zaytoun, By Summer’s End, Six Million and One, Back by Popular Demand: Eyes Wide Open. 

Films run every Thursday at 8 p.m. from Jan. 30 to March 6 in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. Admission is free.

The Festival is organized by Dalit Katz, adjunct assistant professor of Religion and Israel Studies and cultural coordinator of Israeli events at Wesleyan University. It is sponsored by the Ring Family, Jewish and Israel Studies and co sponsored by the Film Studies Department.

For more information about the films and the full schedule, visit the Israeli Film Festival website.