The study of Jewish life in modern Islamic contexts during the 2018-19 Fellowship year at the Katz Center delved into the meaning of modernity in North Africa, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, Central and South Asia. In their work, the Fellows broke new ground by looking beyond the more familiar paradigms of modern and contemporary Jewish history in European, American, and Israeli contexts to explore complex relationships between Jews and their Muslim neighbors, or with members of other non-Muslim communities in the Islamic world.
In Sight: Seeing the people of the Holy Land
This exhibition shows how people in nineteenth-century Holy Land photographs were visually represented and how these images met or challenged contemporary conventions about that most contested of places. It also brings back to life the faces of local inhabitants otherwise lost to history. By addressing both the photographer's and subject's points of view, these images draw the viewers closer into the image-making process and demonstrate the experience of photographing and of being photographed. The images on display here come from the extraordinary Lenkin Family Collection of Photography at the Penn Libraries.
Nature between Science and Religion: Jewish Culture and the Natural World
During its 2017-2018 fellowship year, scholars at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies asked new questions about how the history of science, medicine and technology may be seen from the perspective of Jewish culture. Among the highlights featured in this web exhibition are studies of ecology and the environment, astronomical science; calendrical systems; geographical knowledge; medieval and early modern natural philosophy; the history of medicine; evolutionary biology; Spiritualism; contemporary research in genetics; as well as modern industrial technology.
Expanding Jewish Political Thought: Beneath, between, before, & beyond the state
The 2016-17 Katz-Penn Libraries Web Exhibition brought together scholars working in a variety of fields of theory and praxis to unsettle regnant paradigms of power, authority, political action or inaction, law, human rights, gender inequalities, territorial sovereignty, and statehood. They drew upon a wide variety of sources and interdisciplinary methodologies to challenge established understandings of Jewish political history.
This exhibition explores the many and varied ways that people have reacted to, and acted upon, manuscripts from the Middle Ages up to today. Reactions take many forms. They include the manipulation of physical objects through, for example, the marking up of texts, addition of illustrations, the disbinding books or rebinding fragments, as well as the manipulation of digital objects, thanks to new technologies involved in digitization, ink and parchment analysis, virtual reconstruction, among many other processes. Both the exhibition and symposium will also tackle how popular culture has reacted to manuscripts over time as witnessed by their use and appearance in books, games, and films.
Focusing on the experiential, the sensual, as well as philosophical and theological reflections that occur within and beyond the rational dimension of human life, our scholars showed how emotions like love, anger, anxiety, joy, fear, empathy, sympathy, sadness, desire, pain, and pleasure
Doing Wissenschaft: The Active Study of Judaism as Practice, 1818 - 2018
This past year's Fellows explored critical questions about the way in which academic categories and methodologies have framed how Jews and Judaism are understood
Constellations of Atlantic Jewish History, 1555-1890: The Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica
During the 16th century and continuing over four centuries, Jews and their descendants forged extensive networks of kinship, commerce, and culture around the Atlantic coasts of Europe, Africa, South and North America, and beyond. The history of these Atlantic Jewries spans generations of colonization, revolutionary wars, cultural transformations, and continental crossings. The Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica teaches us about the everyday lives and businesses of these Atlantic Jewries and their changing perceptions and experiences of space and time - both as Jews and as members of their larger societies.
Constructing Borders & Crossing Boundaries: Social, Cultural, & Religious Change in Early Modern Jewish History
In order to probe the meaning of an early modern era of Jewish history on its own terms, scholars came together in 2013-14 to bridge often disconnected areas of scholarship. Borders and boundaries were understood geographically, but also as social, cultural, legal, political, and economic realities. In the year's web exhibition, the concept of the boundary is presented both as a dividing line and as a place of meeting and mixing between different groups (Jewish and non-Jewish) in an effort to illuminate the contexts and meanings of shared histories.
13th Century Entanglements: Judaism, Christianity & Islam
The selected original sources featured in this exhibit reflect scholarly efforts to develop a more integrated account of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic societies during the Middle Ages. They include a rich variety of Hebrew, Latin and Arabic manuscripts and early printed texts which illustrate a range of topics such as medieval liturgical poetry, law, rhetoric, philosophy, science, magic, social history, gender relations, inter-communal contact, conflict and other forms of entanglement both positive and negative.
Jews & Journeys: Travel & the Performance of Jewish Identity
The subject of travel and its complex range of practices and representations have provoked intense scholarly interest in recent years. Historically, Jewish travel has taken on many forms and is documented in a wide array of primary sources: merchant records; legends of the Wandering Jew; travel itineraries; pilgrimage accounts; photographs; postcards; journalistic reportage; motion picture footage. What cultural and ideological work is performed by these texts and what kinds of images of self and other are generated through them? A sampling of these sources, and scholarly discussions of these questions by the 2011-12 Katz Center Fellows, is displayed here.
Taking Turns: New Perspectives on Jews & Conversion
Taking Turns takes as its starting point the idea of converts and conversion - an unstable subject, in the double sense of a topic very much in need of definition, and a model of individual and group life that does not presume a fixed or univocal "identity." Through the study of conversion, our understanding of the very meaning of "Judaic," "Christian," and "Islamic" identities has been complicated and even transformed.
Translation Necessarie: The King James Bible at 400
The 1611 English translation of the Bible
Secularism & Its Discontents: Rethinking an organizing principle of modern Jewish life
This exhibition about secularism and its discontents examines the complex interplay and often permeable boundary between the religious and the secular in modern Jewish history.
This exhibition on Jewish economic history argues that economics is not solely materialist and quantitative in nature but is rather an integral part of the larger fabric of Jewish religion and folkways.
In this exhibition, scholars of late antiquity grapple with the complex and multifarious material sources and received texts upon which are understanding of the Roman empire and its minorities is built.
This exhibition reexamines the formative period in Islamic history between the 7th and the 11th century in order to understand how both Muslim and Jewish societies were shaped in this period, and how the presence of the majority of Jewish population worldwide under Islam modified Jewish life profoundly.
The Jewish Book: Material Texts and Comparative Contexts
This exhibition on the history of material texts investigates how the materiality and formatting of texts from antiquity to the present shaped authorship, transmission, reception, and interpretation; how the business of Jewish book production and the market forces of book consumption affected Jewish life and culture; how the visual art and design of Jewish books shaped reading habits, legibility, recollection, and signification.
Printer, Publisher, Peddler: The Business of the Jewish Book
Book production is a business as well as a craft, a trade and an art form. Since the invention of moveable type in the fifteenth century, Jews as well as non-Jews have been engaged in the printing and sale of a surprisingly diverse array of editions of Judaica. This exhibition offers a small sampling of that vast panoply of creativity, based on the University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished library collections at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and at the Walter and Lenore Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The materials selected highlight not only the production but also the consumption side of the business of the Jewish book: who bought and sold printed Judaica. In this exhibit, you will see in particular how these precious books came to be part of Penn’s library collections. Each item label explains from whom books were purchased or who donated specific treasures, and otherwise documents how Penn continues to develop one of world’s largest and most important Judaica collections.
The Meaning of Words: Marcus Jastrow and the Making of Rabbinic Dictionaries
This special exhibition at Penn celebrates the anniversary of Marcus Jastrow’s famous rabbinic dictionary and honors the centenary of its creator for his contributions to the distinguished tradition of rabbinic learning and lexicography.
Modern Jewish Literatures: Language, Identy, Writing
This exhibition on Jewish Literatures in the Modern Age takes literature itself as a site of intense struggle around the question of Jewishness and modernity in which all the resources of the linguistic imagination were called into play to negotiate the passage from traditional society to contemporary life.
Challenging Boundaries: History and Anthropology in Jewish Studies
In this exhibition, scholars of Jewish history and anthropology explore the dynamic tensions that exist in the way religious traditions instruct people to live their lives and the way people go about living them, between the presumably normative and actually lived experiences found in Jewish culture and history.
Tradition and Its Discontents: Jewish History and Culture in Eastern Europe
This exhibition considers Eastern Europe as home to the greatest living reservoir of Jewish civilization in the world for over three centuries and how it served as the location for key religious, intellectual, artistic, and political currents that shaped Jewish life across the modern period.
Bibliotheca Schoenbergensis: An Exhibition from the Collection of Lawrence J. Schoenberg
For three decades, Lawrence Schoenberg has been collecting in an area reserved for the few: illustrated manuscripts from the medieval and early modern periods. What is most striking about the collection is its breadth. Stretching from the eleventh to the eighteenth century, it includes monastic, university, and lay texts. Here one can study the contrasts between public and private devotion, the evolution of the school curriculum, the practices of history, and some chapters in a yet-to-be written history of science and technology.
And We have Revealed to You...: Jewish Biblical Interpretation in a Comparative Context: Introduction
This exhibition presents the common scriptural heritage of Judaism, Christianity and Islam while highlighting the distinctive traditions that each of them has developed for interpreting the Bible and what they believed to be its message and meaning.
This exhibition presents work in a rich diversity of cultural media and genres in an effort to illustrate and explore the characteristically modern features of Jewish aesthetic production and performance beyond the traditional texts that have defined Jewish identity and existence.
This exhibition focuses attention on the relatively unknown intellectual movement called Christian Hebraism, an offshoot of Renaissance humanism whose devotees — biblical scholars, theologians, lawyers, physicians, scientists,philosophers, and teachers in Latin schools--borrowed and adapted texts, literary forms, and ideas from Jewish scholarship and tradition to meet Christian cultural and religious needs.
From Written to Printed Text: Transmission of Jewish Tradition
This exhibition examines how the transmission of Judaism has always been heavily dependent on written texts as well as the oral traditions surrounding them through the presentation of one of the critical moments in the transformation of the Jewish book from manuscript to print in the early modern period.
Classical Jewish Literature is replete with references to the nobility of books and, by tradition, books are treated as special treasured objects. When they grew old or frayed, it was deemed irrelevant to throw them out. Old books were either carefully placed in a genizah (synagogue storeroom) or were respectfully interred. Rabbinic literature enjoins Jews to lend books to others, obligates Jewish communities to build libraries, and gives meticulous instructions on the binding, airing, care and preservation of books and manuscripts. Medieval Jewish literature encourages the Jew to make books his companion, to let bookshelves be his gardens: to bask in their beauty, gather their fruit, pluck their roses and take their spices and myrrh.
Yet, these very books, upon which Jews lavished so much love and reverence, became the objects of wanton hatred throughout the centuries. As far back as Maccabean times (175-163 B.C.E.), the Scrolls of the Torah were ripped to pieces and burned by the Syrian Greeks. Except for the attitudes of Christian Hebraists, Jewish books were the object of Christian attack throughout the Middle Ages. They were subjected to frequent censorship and periodic burnings. From 1242, when twenty four cartloads of Rabbinic manuscripts were burned in Paris, down to our own days, when the Nazi Holocaust decimated European Jewry together with its vast libraries, countless Hebrew books were destroyed and many important works were lost. Only a few precious manuscripts and incunabula (books printed before the year 1501) have survived. This sense of irretrievable loss gives special meaning to the assiduous efforts of institutions to collect and preserve the rare Judaica and Hebraica which have survived over the millennia, as the torch of Jewish learning was passed from one center to another, during the long wanderings of the Jewish people.
It is with these thoughts in mind, that we cordially invite you to experience a sampling of these Judaic treasures which constitute the true monuments of Jewish history.