The Birthplace of Standup Comedy and One of its Offspring Come Together at Yeshiva University Museum Borscht Belt Event
More than 100 fans of the Catskills braved severe winter weather to warm themselves with a nostalgic evening of Borscht Belt comedy at the Yeshiva University Museum on Monday, February 2, at a program that dovetailed exhibition Echoes of the Borscht Belt: Contemporary Photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld with the viewing of the film “When Comedy Went to School.” The event, presented by the YU Museum and the Center for Jewish History, was followed by a discussion with Robert Klein, noted comedian, singer, actor and the narrator of the film.
Comedian Robert Klein
The film lightly sketches the development of standup comedy, and the preponderance of Jewish practitioners, in the Catskill hotels during the early and mid 1900s. As cited in the film, 600, hotels, bungalow colonies, and summer camps made their home in the Catskills then, in Sullivan and Ulster Counties, known as the Borscht Belt. These hotels also became, according to comedian Jerry Lewis a “laboratory” for stand-up comedy.
The event, said Dr. Jacob Wisse, director of the Yeshiva University Museum, was inspired by Scheinfeld’s contemporary photographs of Catskill hotels, many of which have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. In their heyday, the Catskills teemed with Jewish patrons seeking a respite from the heat and congestion of city life and a vacation that included good food and entertainment, including the noted Borscht Belt comedy. Read the rest of this entry…
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.”
This fall, that includes a new undergraduate fellowship directed by Dr. Aaron Segal, assistant professor of philosophy at Yeshiva College; a semicha seminar for select YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary students taught by Rabbi Dr. David Shabtai, a fellow of RIETS’ Wexner Kollel Elyon; and multiple courses at Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women exploring the Center’s themes. Read the rest of this entry…
Interdisciplinary Seminar on Art History and Jewish Thought to be Offered at YU Museum in October
Yeshiva University will present a Community Beit Midrash program at the Yeshiva University Museum in the fall. The Image and the Idea is a six-week interdisciplinary seminar on art history and Jewish thought taught collaboratively by Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, and Dr. Jacob Wisse, director of the Yeshiva University Museum and associate professor of art history at Stern College for Women.
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.
Fine is a professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva College and Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and director of the Center for Israel Studies and its Arch of Titus Project. In 2012 he led an international team in the discovery of the original yellow paint that was used to color the Arch of Titus menorah nearly 2,000 years ago.
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.”
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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.
Dr. Aaron Koller and Yael Leibowitz
Co-hosted by the Yeshiva University Museum, Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, the evening, titled “Exploring Esther: The Origins, Values and Power of Purim,” focused on the historical and political context, religious significance and gender roles in Esther. Panelists included Dr. Aaron Koller, assistant dean and associate professor of Near Eastern and Jewish Studies at Yeshiva College; Yael Leibowitz, instructor in Bible at Stern College; Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik, director of the Straus Center; and Dr. Daniel Tsadik, assistant professor of Sephardic and Iranian studies at Revel.
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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.
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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.
Yeshiva University Museum (YUM) and the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) are partners at the Center for Jewish History in the Union Square neighborhood of New York City. YUM is dedicated to the presentation and interpretation of the artistic and cultural achievements of Jewish life. Read the rest of this entry…