Straus Center Programs, Seminars and Lectures Promote Interdisciplinary Study of Jewish and Western Thought
What happens at the intersection of faith and reason?
It’s a complicated question whose depths have fascinated Jewish and gentile thinkers alike for thousands of years. Is it possible to be a religious intellectual? How does faith inform the scientific and philosophic discoveries of our time, and how do those discoveries in turn affect religious beliefs and lifestyles? Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought is committed to providing forums for Jews in the modern era to continue that conversation and arrive at their own understanding of the concept of “Torah Umadda”: the balance of Judaic and worldly values.
Noam Safier, a Straus Center Fellow
“In undergraduate courses, seminars for semicha [rabbinic ordination] students, adult education and public events, the Straus Center has brought about the bridging of Torah with the world in every part of Yeshiva,” said Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of the Straus Center. “In just the past year, students in our classes have approached, though a Torah lens, the fields of political thought, American history, law, Zionism, philosophy, art and medicine. We are so proud of having made the vision of Moshael Straus a reality: for Torah Umadda to never be merely a motto, but rather something that can be experienced throughout Yeshiva and the larger Yeshiva University community.”
Model of the Beth Alpha Synagogue (early sixth century C.E.) Displaycraft, 1972, Collection of Yeshiva University Museum Endowed by Erica and Ludwig Jesselson
The course will explore the process through which art and artists use physical means to achieve spiritual or intangible ends and the ways that Judaism and Jewish sources deal with the tension between the physical and the spiritual and between the visual and the intellectual.
“The course offers a unique opportunity to explore the compatibility of and tension between traditional Jewish thought and traditional art and art history,” said Wisse. “We will address the ways that Judaism is sensitive and responsive to the power and character of art, and also the ways the greatest artists channel ideas that we associate with Jewish ways of thinking. Read the rest of this entry…
Yeshiva University Museum Hosts First Large-Scale Exhibition of Haunting Catskills Photos by Marisa Scheinfeld
Turquoise barstools punctuate trash-strewn ruins of Grossinger’s coffee shop. A jumble of weeds clogs the outdoor pool of the Pines Hotel. Colorful furniture rots inside the Nevele’s ski chalet.
Coffee Shop – Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel (Marisa Scheinfeld)
In the museum debut of a major photographic talent, Yeshiva University Museum will present Marisa Scheinfeld’s haunting photos of abandoned sites where Borscht Belt resorts once boomed in the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York.
Echoes of the Borscht Belt assembles images Scheinfeld has shot inside and outside structures that once buzzed with life as summer havens for generations of New York Jews. Read the rest of this entry…
Students in Yeshiva College Summer Course Discredit Claim That Vatican is Hiding Temple Relics
When Yeshiva University senior Ari Rosenberg signed up for a summer school course on the Arch of Titus, he was just trying to fulfill his last history requirement with what sounded like an interesting class taught by Dr. Steven Fine, a professor who was clearly excited about his work and sharing it with his students.
Students in Professor Fine’s Arch of Titus summer course
“What I did not know was how fantastic a professor he really is and how stimulating the course would be,” said Rosenberg, a history major at Yeshiva College who hopes to attend medical school.
The summer course focused on the Arch of Titus, one of the most significant Roman monuments to survive from antiquity, from the perspectives of Roman, Jewish and Christian history and art. Built in 81 CE, it commemorates the Roman victory over Judea a decade earlier, an event that Jews mourn each year with the Fast of the Ninth of Av—Tisha B’Av, which falls this year on August 4-5. The course examined the contexts for the construction of the monument and the continued reflection that it has evoked, especially since its menorah relief was chosen as the symbol of the State of Israel in 1949. Read the rest of this entry…
At Straus Center Event, Author Daniel Gordis Discusses The Life and Legacy of Menachem Begin
A fiery revolutionary and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, a beloved founder of the State of Israel reviled by its first prime minister, a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one: Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister, was all of this and more. On April 1, Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought hosted an intimate evening of conversation at the Yeshiva University Museum with Straus Center Director Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and Dr. Daniel Gordis, author of the recent book Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul (Nextbook, April 2014), to discuss the complexities and contradictions of Begin’s life and legacy.
Left to right: YU President Richard M. Joel welcomes guests to an evening of conversation with Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and Dr. Daniel Gordis
“The two words that probably meant most to Menachem Begin were ‘Israel’ and ‘Jewish,’ and in his mind they were inextricably linked,” said YU President Richard M. Joel as he introduced the evening’s speakers. “At Yeshiva University, we reinforce the notion that Israel and Jewish identity have to be absolute, indivisible twins. We begin tonight by celebrating this year as the hundredth anniversary of Menachem Begin’s birth.”
YU Faculty Offer Insight into Historical, Political and Religious World of Esther
It’s the only book in the Bible to omit all mention of God, the Torah and the land of Israel. Aside from Genesis, it’s also the most written-about biblical work in the Talmud. Throughout the ages, the unique tension in the Book of Esther has made it one of the most fascinating books in Jewish tradition, and also one of the most deeply complex. On March 10, in honor of the upcoming festival of Purim, scholars from schools across Yeshiva University came together to discuss those complexities and their implications for Jewish thought and experience.
Yeshiva University and Jewish Publication Society Present Dec. 3 Event Celebrating Publication of Monumental Anthology
Yeshiva University and the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) will host a Hanukkah event on December 3 at the Yeshiva University Museum to celebrate the publication of Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture (JPS, December 2013).
The book, a three-volume anthology of Second Temple literature, was edited by Dr. Louis H. Feldman, the Abraham Wouk Family Chair in Classics and Literature at Yeshiva University; Dr. James L. Kugel, director of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar-Ilan University; and Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, vice provost for undergraduate education and professor of Judaic studies at YU. Read the rest of this entry…
Stern College for Women Course Places Art and Jewish Thought in Conversation
In some ways, a recent meeting of “The Image and the Idea,” a new course offered at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women this fall, looked like many other art history classrooms across the country.
Dr. Jacob Wisse, left, speaks to students in the course about the Sistine Chapel.
Projected on the whiteboard was “The Creation of Adam,” the classic fresco painting by Michelangelo that graces the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Dr. Jacob Wisse, associate professor of art history and director of the Yeshiva University Museum, discussed the religious and historical context of the painting, Michelangelo’s sculptural style and his goals as an artist. Then, pausing for comments, he took one—from Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, assistant professor of Judaic studies and director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, sitting at a desk near the front of the room.
YU Museum Exhibition Showcases Astonishing Pre-WWII Contributions of Jewish Mathematicians in German Culture
The people of the book have an illustrious legacy with numbers, as a fascinating new exhibition co-presented by the Leo Baeck Institute and Yeshiva University Museum reveals.
Mathematician David Hilbert with friends, students and family.
Transcending Tradition: Jewish Mathematicians in German-Speaking Academic Culture showcases the astonishing contributions of Jewish thinkers to mathematical culture in Germany before the Nazis decimated their ranks.
Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Dr. Ruth Wisse Discuss Jewish Humor at Straus Center Event
In his introduction of Dr. Ruth R. Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik described her as a renowned scholar and courageously outspoken supporter of Israel, as an “eishet chayil” [woman of valor].
“You know what they say about the eishet chayil—she ran off with an officer,” quipped Wisse, playing on the Hebrew phrase’s other literal meaning, “wife of a soldier.”
The line was one of several funny moments at the Yeshiva University Museum, which hosted a conversation between Wisse and Soloveichik about Jewish jokes and Wisse’s newest book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Princeton University Press, 2013) Read the rest of this entry…