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Haverford College

Modern Jewish Thought and Culture Symposium

Speakers

Mara Benjamin

Mara Benjamin

Mara Benjamin is an Assistant Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College. She holds degrees from Hampshire College (B.A. 1994), a Diploma in Jewish Studies from Oxford University (1996), and Stanford University (Ph.D. 2005). Her field of specialization is modern Jewish thought. Before coming to St. Olaf in 2008, she held the Hazel D. Cole Fellowship in Jewish Studies at the University of Washington (2004-2005) and the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Fellowship in Judaic Studies at Yale University (2005-2008). She has also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and in a variety of non-academic settings. Areas of scholarly and teaching interest include Jewish textual traditions and practices, including biblical, rabbinic, and contemporary hermeneutics; modern European Jewish history and thought; and feminist theology. Current and past courses include "Judaism's Bible," "Law and Spirit," "God After Auschwitz," "Introduction to Judaism," "Jewish and Christian Feminisms," "Negotiating Religion and State," and "Modern Jewish Thought."

Steven Cohen

Steven Cohen

Steven Cohen is a Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner. In the past, he served as Professor at The Melton Centre for Jewish Education; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Queens College, CUNY. He has also been a Visiting Professor at Brandeis University, Yale University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has written or edited a dozen books and hundreds of scholarly articles and reports on such issues as Jewish community, Jewish identity, and Jewish education. With Arnold Eisen, he wrote The Jew Within: Self, Family and Community in America.

Greg Kaplan

Greg Kaplan

Greg Kaplan is the Anna Smith Fine Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at Rice University. In his research he investigate similarities and differences between religious and secular conceptions of life and death. Are life and death eternal forms or contingent effects? What answers do secularism and religiosity offer? He writes on medieval-modern Jewish philosophy because Judaism comprises at once a people, a master narrative or history, and a code of behavior or ethics, which Jews cannot easily force into religious or secular categories. In asking whether Jewish thought employs a value-neutral concept of life or whether life-styles are always already value-laden, he takes Jews and Judaism to exemplify and complicate a religious philosophy or philosophy of religion.

Akiba Lerner

Akiba Lerner

Akiba Lerner is an Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. He is a Jewish Studies scholar who earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2007. Prior to his Ph.D., Akiba earned a B.A. in History from the University of California, Berkeley before an M.A. in Religious Studies from Stanford.

Jessica Rosenberg

Jessica Rosenberg

Jessica Rosenberg is a doctoral student in Modern Jewish Thought at Stanford University, and a graduate of Oberlin College. Her forthcoming dissertation focuses on contemporary responsa treating issues of women and ritual observance. Her article "A Woman on the Bimah Means Ignorant Men" will appear in the Spring 2011 issue of Nashim. Her research interests include Modern Orthodoxy, halakhah, and contemporary Jewish thought and culture.

Zachary Braiterman

Zachary Braiterman

Zachary Braiterman is an Associate Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. He works in the field of modern Judaism, specializing in the 20th century. His latest project examines shifting aesthetic canons defined by Jugendstil, Expressionism, and Bauhaus as they shape modern Jewish thought and culture in Germany prior to the Holocaust. Research and teaching interests touch upon the impact of modernity upon Jewish self-expression, ritual, text-interpretation, and community life. These include modern Jewish philosophy, theoretical aesthetics, and classical Jewish sources.

Arnold Eisen

Arnold Eisen

Arnold M. Eisen, one of the world's foremost experts on American Judaism, is the seventh chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Since his appointment in 2007, he has increased JTS's impact on the communities it serves by transforming the education of religious leadership for Conservative Judaism; articulating a new vision for JTS; guiding the formulation of a strategic plan to implement that vision; and developing innovative programs in synagogue arts and practices, adult education, pastoral care, Jewish thought, interreligious dialogue, and the arts.

He believes that American Jews feel connected to Jewish ritual but maintain autonomy to decide what to practice and thus many do not attend synagogue on a regular basis. Eisen is a recognized expert in religious change and the modern transformation of Jewish religious belief and practice. He is also one of the world's foremost experts in the sociology of American Judaism. For the past twenty years, he has worked closely with synagogue and federation leadership around the country to analyze and address the issues of Jewish identity, the revitalization of Jewish tradition, and the redefinition of the American Jewish community.

Ken Koltun-Fromm

Ken Koltun-Fromm

Kenneth Koltun-Fromm is Associate Professor of Religion at Haverford College. He teaches a wide range of courses in modern Jewish thought and culture, together with material studies in religion. His research focuses on Jewish conceptions of identity, authority, authenticity, and material conceptions of self. He has published three books, Moses Hess and Modern Jewish Identity (2001), Abraham Geiger's Liberal Judaism: Personal Meaning and Religious Authority (2006), and Material Culture and Jewish Thought in America (2010), all with Indiana University Press. He is currently exploring the ways American Jewish thinkers employ visual discourse to make claims about religious authenticity.

Noam Pianko

Noam Pianko

Noam Pianko is the Samuel N. Stroum Endowed Chair of Jewish Studies in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. He is a historian of the Jewish people dedicated to rethinking deeply internalized assumptions about Jewish nationalism and its relationship to modern political, social, and cultural trends. His first book, Zionism and the Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn (Indiana University Press, 2010) explores overlooked formulations of early twentieth century Zionism. By illuminating the diversity of Zionist ideologies before the establishment of the state in 1948, the book demonstrates the importance of expanding our understanding of Jewish nationalism's scope and function.

Claire Sufrin

Claire Sufrin is a Visiting Professor in American Jewish Thought and Modern Judaism at Northwestern University with research and teaching interests including German Jewish philosophy, Judaism in America, Jewish feminism, and Zionism. Her current research project addresses the philosopher Martin Buber and his ways of reading the Hebrew Bible. She holds a PhD in Religious Studies from Stanford University and has taught previously at Stanford as well as Northeastern University in Boston, where she was the Schusterman Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow in Jewish Studies.