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Yeshiva University Jewish Studies Faculty to Present at Conferences, Serve as Visiting Scholars in San Francisco Area

Nearly a dozen members of Yeshiva University’s faculty will participate in this year’s annual conferences of the American School of Oriental Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American Academy of Religion taking place in San Francisco, California on November 16-22, 2011.

Jill Katz will be one of 11 YU Jewish studies faculty members presenting in San Francisco.

The conferences bring together thousands of scholars and students from all over the world to present and hear the most recent research in their respective fields and network with colleagues.

This year, YU will send eleven of its Jewish studies faculty to speak and present scholarly papers. The scheduled presentations include: “Poetic and Rhetorical Features in the Genesis Apocrypha” by Dr. Moshe Bernstein, professor of Jewish history and Bible; “Preserving Sin as Evidence in Court” by Dr. Shalom Holtz, assistant professor of Bible; “Multiple Aspects of Tribalism in Iron Israel” by Dr. Jill Katz, lecturer in Jewish history; “Semantics of ‘Coming’ and ‘Going’ in Ancient Hebrew: Synchronic and Diachronic Analyses” by Dr. Aaron Koller, assistant professor of Bible; “Conversion as Immigration: The Case Medieval Jewish Converts to Christianity” by Dr. Chaviva Levin, visiting assistant professor of Jewish history; and “The Emotional World of the Qumran Sect,” by Dr. Ari Mermelstein, instructor of Bible.

“We are extremely proud of the ability of our YU Jewish studies faculty to carry the message of their scholarship to wide audiences in the Jewish community,” said Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, vice-provost for undergraduate education. “We are sure that the communities will be enthralled by the chance to share in the phenomenal teaching that our students regularly receive.”

In addition to providing opportunities for members of the YU faculty to present their research, the conferences also offer the chance for faculty members to interact with the Jewish community where the conference takes place and to represent a unique aspect of YU’s Torah and values. This year, five faculty members will serve as scholars-in-residence at three synagogues in the San Francisco Bay area on the Shabbat of November 17-18. Mermelstein will serve as scholar-in-residence at Congregation Adath Israel in San Francisco; Holtz and Koller are the featured speakers at Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland; and Bernstein and Levin will lecture at Congregation Emek Bracha in Palo Alto.

“The professors and rabbis at Yeshiva University are a rare breed, capable of synthesizing Torah study of the highest order with first-rate biblical scholarship,” said Rabbi Judah Dardik of Beth Jacob Congregation. “As a student there I had exposure to some of the greatest minds in the world today and I treasure the opportunity to bring a taste of this level of learning to my community.”

YU relationship with the Bay Area will receive another boost this winter when students visit while participating in the Center for the Jewish Future’s Jewish Life Coast to Coast service learning mission over winter break.

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Panel on College Anti-Semitism Discusses Israel Advocacy on Campus

Speaking before a capacity crowd, Yeshiva College senior Chanan Reitblat reflected on a semester of anguish and humiliation spent abroad.

Chanan Reitblat

Yeshiva College senior Chanan Reitblat shared his personal experience with anti-Semitism while studying abroad.

“When I went to St. Andrews University last semester to study chemistry, I never expected to learn a lesson in anti-Semitism and Israel advocacy,” said Reitblat, who was part of a panel discussion on anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses titled “Confronting Campus Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in America” held at Yeshiva University’s Weisberg Commons on November 8.

Recounting the defamation of an Israeli flag in his dorm room and the court proceedings that followed, Reitblat emphasized the need for Jewish students, especially at YU, to show solidarity and support for students on other campuses.

“We have to be proactive, think strategically, and promote the many positive aspects of Israel,” he said. “Had I not had the support of like-minded and caring friends at YU and other institutions, I’m not sure I’d have been able to go through with my case and stand up to my attacker.”

Israel Advocacy - Panel

(L-R) Panelists: Matthew Ackerman, Chanan Reitblat, Eric Schorr, President Richard Joel and Rabbi Elliot Mathias.

The panel discussion featured personal testimony from students who had been subjected to hate acts or aggression and explored guidelines for Israel advocacy in universities, as well as insight from YU President Richard M. Joel, Matthew Ackerman of the David Project, and Rabbi Elliot Mathias of Hasbara Fellowships.

Eric Schorr, a senior in Middle East studies at Columbia University and modern Jewish studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, spoke about the connection being drawn on college campuses between movements like “Occupy Wall Street” and anti-Israel or anti-Semitic groups. “These students think Israel is an issue of left versus right and that opposing it makes them a part of something great,” Schorr said. “We need to show them that it isn’t about partisanship—it’s about right versus wrong.”

Schorr also shared his experience as founder and president of LionPac, the largest Israel advocacy group at Columbia; struggling to engage anti-Israel groups in dialogue and respond to acts such as mock checkpoints or “Israel Apartheid Week” on campus. Schorr encouraged students to reach out to other advocacy groups as well. “Every campus is nuanced and different and has their own model for activism at their school,” he said. “If you want to get involved, contact those leaders and find out how they are talking about Israel on campus.”

During a question and answer session, President Joel and Ackerman drew on their years of experience at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (where President Joel formerly served as president and international director) and the David Project, respectively, to frame the night’s conversation.

“It’s important to give this conversation the texture it needs,” said President Joel. “Universities are an attractive setting for people looking to spread anti-Semitism. There are a lot of people and scholars with strong opinions and it’s also cheap to advertise in campus newspapers which attract larger media and put Jews on the defensive.”

Ackerman agreed, adding that he had noticed an evolution in anti-Semitism over the years. “It’s now more of an ‘anti-Israelism,’ a denial of Jewish collective identity which therefore denies us the right to our own state,” Ackerman said. “We must make this kind of bigotry socially unacceptable.”

Follow-up programming to the event, which was sponsored by YAKUM and the YU Israel Club, included Israel advocacy training on the Beren Campus on November 13. To get involved or more information on advocacy training, contact Berel Bronshteyn, co-president of the Israel Club, at bronshte@yu.edu.

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