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Copy of 16 Arch Menorah

Most people believe that ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was colored white. Recent scholarship has shown that this assumption is incorrect, as the polychromy of ancient art has been revealed and reconstructed.

Revel professor Dr. Steven Fine has been at the forefront of this research in terms of the Roman and the Jewish past as a participant in the Virginia Museum’s research on its Caligula, on color in Jewish thought and visual culture of late antiquity, and now the polychromy of the Arch of Titus.  In 2012 his team discovered the original yellow paint of the menorah, and plans are in the works for continued research on the polychromy of the Arch in the near future.

The USC symposium, titled “The Colors of Imperial Rome:  The Richmond Statue of Caligula & the Arch of Titus in Rome,” reassembles members of the original Caligula team, Peter Schertz, John Polini and Dr. Fine, to discuss the significance of polychromy in Roman art.  Schertz and Fine are both alumni of the department of Art History at USC, where Dr. Fine wrote his MA in Art History. It will be filmed by YU Global, for inclusion in their upcoming documentary and Coursera course featuring Dr. Fine’s work on the Arch of Titus.

The symposium will take place on March 11, 2015 from 5-6:45pm (with reception to follow) in Taper Hall 102 at USC.

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Professor GurockAs a social historian and scholar of religion in America, Revel Professor Jeffrey Gurock investigates how secular cultural phenomena entered into the lives of Jewish men and women in America and the conflicts that ensued as Jews attempted to be part of American environments while maintaining connections to their faith.

The Jewish encounter with American sports—a robust example of what Professor Gurock calls “cultural clamor and religious conflict”—is the subject of his new article, “The Clothes They Wear and the Time They Keep: The Orthodox Athletes’ Tests of Tolerance in Contemporary America,” which appeared in Muscling in on New Worlds: Jews, Sport, and the Making of the Americas, ed. Raanan Rein and David M.K. Sheinin (Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2014), pp. 68-84. This study looks closely at the challenges traditional Jewish men and women faced over several generations in entering the arenas of sports. It also points out how changing American attitudes towards minority religions have generally facilitated religious Jews—and others of deep faith commitment—participating in sports without violating their religious scruples.

For the full text of Professor Gurock’s new article, click here.


Revel Student’s Research Examines Daily Legalities of Biblical Life Through a Comparative Lens

Judaism relies heavily on its legal library: written discussions of the law are almost synonymous with the religion, describing practices that date back to the beginnings of the Bible and beyond. But what did those practices actually look like in the day-to-day lives of ancient Israelites? Like many civilizations of the time, the Jews of the biblical era used papyrus for everyday business affairs; few artifacts from the era survive to illustrate how the rules and regulations found in the canonical Torah were observed.

Yael_Landman WermuthFor Yael Landman Wermuth, a doctoral student at Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, the key to understanding these texts lies not so much in the history of ancient Jews, but in that of their neighbors.

Landman Wermuth’s doctoral thesis examines areas of biblical law through a comparative lens, drawing on examples from the contemporary Mesopotamian and Hittite law codes, which contain many similarities to that of the Bible, as well as ancient Near Eastern contracts, letters, trial records and other documents that offer a glimpse of legal practice in everyday Mesopotamian life.

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10 Elisheva Carlebach, Jewish historyRevel extends an enthusiastic congratulations to Elisheva Carlebach, Salo Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture and Society in the Department of History, Columbia University, and adjunct Professor of Jewish History, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, who is the recipient of the Association for Jewish Studies’ (AJS) 2014 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the category of Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History for her book, Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe (Harvard University Press).

Publication Palaces-of-TimeAccording to the AJS, the prize “recognizes and promotes outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies and honors scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: rigorous research, theoretical sophistication, innovative methodology, and excellent writing.” The prize, awarded once in three years per category, will be presented on Sunday night December 14, 2014 at the AJS Conference in Baltimore.

Upon receiving notification of this award, Dean David Berger reacted as follows: Prof. Carlebach is a scholar of international renown and is also a figure of great stature in the professional leadership of the field of Jewish Studies.  There is no higher compliment than to say that this book is worthy of her.  Prof Carlebach’s position as Senior Adjunct Professor in the Bernard Revel Graduate School adds luster to our institution and affords our students a treasured opportunity to benefit from her instruction and her guidance.


Aryeh Headshot no logoAt an international conference convened by the Institute for Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University, Aryeh Tuchman joined thirty other scholars for three days of intensive interdisciplinary study of contemporary antisemitism. Aryeh’s paper focused on “Generational Changes in the Holocaust Denial Movement,” and analyzed the shifting rhetorical strategies employed by Holocaust deniers from the 1970s through today. Aryeh’s interest in contemporary antisemitism grew as a result of his studies of antisemitism in the medieval period at BRGS.

Shana SchickRevel alumna Dr. Shana Schick’s article, “Negligence and Strict Liability in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds: Two Competing Systems of Tort Law in the Rulings of Early Amoraim,” was recently published in the Jewish law journal Dine Israel (vol. 29 [2013]). The article explores the differences between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds’ laws holding people responsible for inadvertent property damage.
Schick received her doctorate in Talmudic Studies from Revel in 2011, making her the first woman to graduate from Yeshiva University with a PhD in Talmud. She is currently pursuing post-doctoral work at the University of Haifa’s Department of Jewish History and Thought.

Fine_Steven_59329c-35-1The unique story of Dr. Steven Fine’s undergraduate Ancient Jewish History class and its semester-long quest to decipher a 5th-century, Aramaic-language, Jewish woman’s tombstone featured in The New York Times last week. The project involved close correspondence with Californian Pastor Carl Morgan, also curator of the Woodland Museum of Biblical Archaeology, who was in possession the tombstone and answered the class’s various questions about the artifact’s appearance and dimensions. In the end, Morgan generously chose to donate the tombstone to the Yeshiva University Museum, believing that the non-biblical tombstone of “Sa’adah, daughter of Pi[nchas]” belonged in a Jewish institution.

The story was also picked up by The Jewish Week in October.



iran-israel-flagsDr. Daniel Tsadik, Assistant Professor of Iranian and Sephardic Studies at Revel, has presented a paper at an interdisciplinary conference sponsored by the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism. The topic of this international conference which was held on October 4, 2013 at Yale University was “Exodus or Exile?: The Departure of Jews from Muslim Counties, 1948-1978.” Daniel Tsadik’s paper examined the Jews immigration from Iran and its relevance to the question of their identity. This paper constitutes a continuation of Daniel Tsadik’s recent article “Identity among the Jews of Iran,” in: Amanat, A and Vejdani, F (Eds.), Iran Facing Others: Identity Boundaries in a Historical Perspective (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 219-242.



iranian-talmud-book-imageRevel congratulates Shai Secunda on his recently published book, The Iranian Talmud: Reading the Bavli In Its Sasanian Context (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). Secunda earned his Revel PhD in Talmud in 2008, completing his dissertation: “Dashtana—Ke-Derekh Nashim Li: A Study of the Babylonian Rabbinic Laws of Menstruation in Relation to Corresponding Zoroastrian Texts,” under the direction of Prof. Yaakov Elman.


The Iranian Talmud continues this research. Although the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, has been a text central and vital to the Jewish canon since the Middle Ages, the context in which it was produced has been poorly understood. Delving deep into Sasanian material culture and literary remains, the new volume pieces together the dynamic world of late antique Iran, providing an unprecedented and accessible overview of the world that shaped the Bavli. 

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Professor Richard Steiner BibleIn an article just published in the Jewish Studies Internet Journal, Revel Professor Richard C. Steiner proposes a new solution to a blatant internal contradiction within Kol Nidre going back to the time of Rabbenu Tam and his father, R. Samuel of Ramerupt. The article entitled Kol Nidre: Past, Present and Future, goes through the various textual and Halakhic issues that have been raised against the recitation of this famous prayer.

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