Date and Time: Tuesday, May 10th 2016 at 6:00 pm

Location: Belfer Hall, Suite 501. 2495 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10033

The Center for Israel Studies and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies invites you to a lecture by Raanan Eichler: The Ark and the Cherubim

This lecture will examine the central cultic objects in the Hebrew Bible, namely the “ark of the covenant” and its cherubim statues, through analysis of the relevant biblical passages and of their ancient Near Eastern context as reflected in material, iconographic and paleographic data.It will be argued that this analysis generates solutions to a host of unsolved puzzles, such as the question of what cherubim look like, and leads to a new explanation of the nature of the ark and the cherubim, overturning the prevailing scholarly view of them as constituting an “empty throne” and footstool for the God of Israel.
Raanan Eichler is a postdoctoral fellow in the Departmentof Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. A recipient of numerous awards, including the Moshe Weinfeld Memorial Prize, the Isaac Leo Seeligmann Memorial Prize and the Biblical Archaeology Society’s Joseph Aviram Fellowship, he is an alumnus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Democracy Institute, the Shalem Center, Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav and the French Hill PingPong Club. His articles have appeared or been accepted for publication in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vetus Testamentum,Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Biblica, Journal of Semitic Studies and Tarbiz, and he edited the Hebrew edition of Leon Kass’ book on Genesis,The Beginning of Wisdom.
To RSVP click here

On Monday, April 11, Revel students, professors, and guests were illuminated by Dr. Baruch Alster’s lecture, “What is ‘Peshat’ in the Song of Songs? A Look at an Unpublished Commentary from Rashbam’s School.” Dr. Alster is Senior Lecturer and Bible department coordinator at Givat Washington College in Israel. He received his Ph.D. in Bible from Bar Ilan University in 2007, having written his dissertation on the Jewish commentaries on Song of Songs that focus attention on the human love story. Dr. Alster has since published articles on medieval and modern Jewish interpretation and on literary aspects of the Bible.


Baruch Alster lecture April 11, 2016

In his guest lecture, Dr. Alster introduced an anonymous manuscript commentary on the Megillot and Haftarot. Originally catalogued incorrectly as Rashi, the commentary on Shir HaShirim, which Dr. Alster termed “Pseudo-Rashi,” bears striking similarities to the Pentateuch commentary of Rashbam. Without taking a definitive position on the authorship of this anonymous manuscript, Dr. Alster observed that both commentaries share the same perspective on staircase parallelism (a discovery that Rashi attributed to Rashbam), the translation of the word “Levanon” (both translate it as referring to “Levonah” trees), and the existence of metonymy in biblical poetry. At the same time, Dr. Alster pointed out several occasions where “Pseudo-Rashi” follows a Midrashic interpretation which Rashbam rejects in his commentary on Chumash.

Dr. Alster argued, based on other passages of Rashbam’s commentary, that both commentators believed in the fundamental validity of Peshat and Midrash, and Pesudo-Rashi chose to include both because the true value of Shir HaShirim lies in its Midrashic interpretation, not in its Peshat. Dr. Alster concluded by noting that the relationship between the two modes of interpretation differs slightly in the two commentaries. Rashbam presents Peshat and Midrash as two entirely separate realms of interpretation, as Peshat requires a philological method, whereas Midrash is based on a close reading of redundancies in the text that are meaningless according to Peshat. For Pseudo-Rashi on Shir HaShirim, on the other hand, the allegorical midrashic interpretation is based on a symbolic reading of the love story in the Peshat.


By Yair Lichtman, YC’19

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The Arch of Titus in Rome

The Arch of Titus in Rome

Images a Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture has a special status for Bernard Revel Graduate School and for Yeshiva University as a whole.  Co-founded by our own Professor Steven Fine, scholars from Yeshiva and across the academic world explore the vast world of Jewish art and visual culture–ranging in time from Greco-Roman antiquity to the present day. The journal examines representations of Jewish architecture, painting, sculpture, treasury arts, book arts, graphics, textiles, photography and film, as well as theory and historiography of the field.

Now, alumni of Yeshiva University and Revel have who pursued their fascination with Jewish art and its historical and cultural impact under Professor Fine have taken their training into the larger world and contributed to Images: Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture.

Yitzchak Schwartz’s article (YC, Revel; doctoral candidate, NYU), examines the complex dynamics of interfaith relations in the interwar period in his article: “A Gift From One of the Jewish Faith: The Menorahs at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Liberal Religion in Interwar America.” He had this to say about the process that led to his study:

“When I came to YU as a freshman I knew that I wanted to study history and by my second year it became clear that Jewish history was what I was most passionate about. I was also passionate about art and Dr. Steven Fine took me under his wing. He knew I was interested in early-twentieth century American Judaism and American religion and suggested that I explore the donation of the menorahs at St. John the Divine as my senior thesis project. I took his advice and what I found in the archives exceeded both of our expectations. Dr,. Fine encouraged me to rework my thesis into a publishable paper and I worked on the paper during my time at Revel. It was published in Images this Fall. I am so grateful to Professor Fine and my other mentors at Revel for encouraging me and giving me the tools to pursue graduate studies in Jewish history. I don’t think I could have gotten the education I did anywhere but YU and Revel.”


Shimshon Aisenberg (YC, Revel; doctoral candidate, Stanford) published “Antokolskii’s Inquisition,” an article bringing to light the life and art of the  seminal Russian-Jewish artist of the nineteenth century, Mark Antokolskii.

Rachel Kupferman (SCW; MA, Art Institute of Chicago) serves as managing editor of the latest edition. She reflected on her education and her editorship:

“My experience at Stern College was a fantastic preparation for my professional path. My liberal arts degree prepared me for my MA in Art History as well as for curatorial positions in the Yeshiva University Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. Studying art and Judaic studies on a university level was a gift that only a dual curriculum could afford. Working as an editor for Images is a wonderful way for me to apply my love of history and art to my passion for Judaic studies. In the three semesters I spent teaching undergraduate World Cultures and Civilizations, or Art History 101, Jewish art and culture was entirely left out of the conversation. A progressive classroom will include one token Jewish contribution, Dura-Europos. While this gem of history is worthy, there are many more jewels in the chest of historical Jewish art. Unfortunately, they are rarely brought to lecture. Images is on the fore-front of scholarship and trends in the international academic world and in doing this, it becomes a point of authority and pride in the otherwise under represented world of Jewish art. Because of how Jewish culture is often ignored in the context of world culture, I find that at Images, we are soldiers a strange and accidental battle.”


The next issue will include a book review by Matt Williams. (YC; doctoral candidate, Jewish Education, Stanford).

Congratulations to all our alumni of Yeshiva University and The Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies who contributed to Images a Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture. We wish them continuing success!








Professor Stuczynsk w audience

Professor Claude B. Stuczynski


On Monday, March 28, Revel students, faculty, and guests heard a lecture from Dr. Claude Dov Stuczynski entitled “Conversos and Sephardic ‘New Jews’ as Thinkers of Empire.”

Dr. Stuczynski began with the common view of historian Jonathan Israel depicting New Jews as simultaneously agents and victims of empire.  Through this understanding, Dr. Stuczynski argued, some New Jews – Portuguese traders especially – were heavily invested in the promotion of Iberian imperialism, even as they themselves were persecuted by its spread and influence.  While the Inquisition targeted Jews, the imperialism of the following generation allowed them to become both objects and subjects of its thought.

Portugal’s imperial resurgence, Dr. Stuczynski pointed out, was tied to its mercantile expansion, and conversos played a large role in this.  During the celebrations surrounding King Phillip II’s visit to Portugal in 1619, elaborate arches were dedicated to Portugal’s illustrious past and present, and Dr. Stuczynski highlighted converso roles in this.  Lisbon’s “men of commerce,” an oligarchical group playing a major role in reviving Portugal’s empire, was made mostly of conversos trying to improve their financial standing and demonstrate their fealty to the Crown.  By appropriating symbols of Portugal’s nobility and royalty, most especially the armillary sphere of Portugal’s ruling house, conversos drew attention to Judeo-Christian values and highlighted the external enemy of the Muslim East.

By Jonathan Schwab

Current MA student at Revel  in Jewish philosophy

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Richard Hidary, Associate Professor of Jewish History

Associate Professor of Jewish History Richard Hidary has been accepted as a fellow for The Harvard University Center for Jewish Studies Harry Starr Fellowship in Judaica.  The entire Revel community congratulates Prof. Hidary on this impressive achievment!

The theme for the Starr Fellowship is going to be “Jews in the Classical World.” Prof. Hidary will be completing a book titled: “Rabbis as Greco-Roman Rhetors: Oratory and Sophistic Education in the Talmud and Midrash” to be published by Cambridge University Press.

“By analyzing extended examples of rabbinic sermons and lectures in the Talmud and Midrash, I find that the structure and style of rabbinic orations and lessons follow the same pattern as those practiced by contemporary sophists. There are also significant differences between the two sets of literature that reflect, in part, diverse attitudes towards truth, interpretation, and justice. Reading the Talmud and midrash within the context of classic rhetoric is invaluable to understanding and reconstructing rabbinic oratory as well as providing a rare glimpse into how one provincial subculture within the Greek East navigates overlapping identities while maintaining religious and social independence.” – Prof. Hidary

Prof. Hidary will also be devoting time to preparing a book chapter for CRINT’s new version of The Literature of the Sages, Part I, being edited by Professor Christine Hayes. This chapter will be titled, “The Greco-Roman West,” and will survey recent contributions to the study of Palestinian and Babylonian rabbinic Judaism and its literature as products of the Greco-Roman world.

In addition, he will be writing an article comparing Jewish and Classical Funeral Orations during the Talmudic Period. The primary focus of this research project will be to analyze quotations from funeral orations found in rabbinic literature, which range from a few words to a paragraph, and use them to reconstruct, as far as possible, the style, structure, and settings for these speeches. As Prof. Hidary explains, “My interest is to use funeral orations as a window into comparing the views of Jews and their neighbors on fundamental values of life, death, suffering, martyrdom, piety, afterlife, community, civics, family, and other central issues that orators would address at such opportunities.”