Past Events



Between Jesus and Paul:
From Apologetics to Jewish Theological Affirmations in 20th Century Germany

Monday October 29, 2018
Norris University Center

This year’s Manfred H. Vogel Memorial Lecture in Judaic Studies, held in conjunction with the German-Jewish Hermeneutics Workshop, featured the historian Paul Mendes-Flohr, whose work on German Jewish intellectuals including Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig has made an indelible mark on the study of the modern Jewish history. In his talk, “Between Jesus and Paul: from Apologetics to Jewish Theological Affirmations in 20th Century Germany,” Professor Mendes-Flohr addressed the fascination of many German-Jewish intellectuals with the key figures of Christianity, Jesus and Paul. Animated by captivating details such as Jacob Taubes’ claim that Paul was so deeply rooted in Judaism that he “spoke Yiddish,” the talk illustrated how German Jews explored the meaning of Judaism by examining the central heroes of early Christianity. The talk was also attentive to what was happening at that time in the work of Christian theologians such as Adolf von Harnack, whose Essence of Christianity portrayed Judaism in a negative light and elicited harsh responses from, among others, Leo Baeck and Franz Rosenzweig.



A German-Jewish Hermeneutics Conference

Monday October 29-Tuesday, October 30, 2018
John Evans Alumni Center

The German-Jewish Hermeneutics Workshop brought together more than a dozen scholars from around the United States and Germany to Northwestern to share research on the interaction of Jewish and Christian artists, theologians, and philosophers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Papers addressed topics as varied as the influence of Christian biblical scholars on the work of Jewish biblical scholars and vice versa; philosopher Hans Jonas’ notion of “reading” the world; and the use of parable (mashal) as a literary form in sources ranging from the Talmud to the notebooks of Franz Kafka. Hosted by Claire Sufrin and Nitzan Lebovic (Lehigh University), the meeting was sponsored by the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies with additional support from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Lehigh University, and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern. Other Northwestern participants included German professors Jan Behrs, Peter Fenves, and Anna Parkinson and graduate student Ariel Weiner; and Hebrew instructor Hanna Seltzer. 


Anna Shternshis and Psoy Korolenko on stage presenting Yiddish songs

Last Yiddish Heroes: Lost & Found Songs of Soviet Jews During World War II

Monday, May 7, 2018
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall

An audience of nearly 500 people was enthralled on May 7 by “Last Yiddish Heroes: Lost and Found Songs of Soviet Jews During World War II,” this year’s Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization co-sponsored by JUF Chicago. In this presentation, the duo of Professor Anna Shternshis (University of Toronto) and singer-musician Psoy Korolenko brought Soviet Jewish life of the 1940s to life through the analysis and performance of Yiddish songs written during the Second World War and documenting the loss of Jewish life and the ongoing hope for the defeat of the Nazis with sadness, humor, and satire. Shternshis’ discussion and Korolenko’s dynamic singing together created a rich understanding of Jewish life in the Soviet Union for all present.


Stefano Perfetti speaking to the crowd

Songs of Praise in a Broken World:
Leonard Cohen from "Story of Isaac" (1969) to "You Want It Darker" (2016)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Norris University Center

Leonard Cohen fans new and old gathered for this year’s Vogel lecture, “Songs of Praise in a Broken World: Leonard Cohen from 'Story of Isaac' (1969) to 'You Want it Darker' (2016)", presented by Stefano Perfetti of the University of Pisa. With multi-media presentation of musical clips and more, Perfetti examined the influence of the Jewish textual tradition on Cohen’s music.


Trajtenberg at public lecture

Israel at 70: Social Fissures, Shared Aspirations

Wednesday, April 11, 2018
McCormick Foundation Center

In this compelling lecture, Professor Manuel Trajtenberg discussed Israel's economy, society and culture, surveying Israel's past, present and future. Over 100 Chicago-area and Northwestern community members listened attentively as Trajtenberg described the ups and downs the State of Israel has encountered since its birth as a nation in 1948 addressing topics ranging from the challenges of having such a diverse population to benefits of providing physical spaces for early childhood education for all. One of Israel's leading economists, Trajtenberg drew upon his experience in politics and academia for his portrayal of "Israel at 70."


Photo of the three presenters talking.

Allan and Norma Harris Day of Jewish Study 2018

Sunday, March 18, 2018
Norris University Center

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies welcomed over 80 community members to Northwestern’s Evanston campus for the third annual Allan and Norma Harris Day of Jewish Study. Three faculty members affiliated with the Crown Center presented synopses of their recent research publications followed by
Q & A: 

  • Professor Mira Balberg, Blood for Thought: The Reinvention of Sacrifice in Early Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2017)
  • Professor Barry Wimpfheimer, The Talmud: A Biography, part of the Lives of Great Religious Books series (Princeton University Press, 2018)
  • Professor David Shyovitz, A Remembrance of His Wonders: Nature and the Supernatural in Medieval Ashkenaz (University of Pennsylvania, 2017)


 Abigail Pogrebin, Tova Mirvis and Claire Sufin engaged in conversation.

Crown Speaker Series 2017
"Life, Love and Judaism: A Conversation about Writing and Spirituality"

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Segal Visitors Center

On the evening of November 16, the Crown Family Center welcomed authors Tova Mirvis and Abigail Pogrebin for a conversation about their recently-published memoirs before an audience of 130. Mirvis’ Book of Separation chronicles her movement away from Orthodox Judaism while Pogrebin’s My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew emerged from her immersion in studying and celebrating the many fast days and feast days of Judaism. Claire Sufrin, Assistant Director of Jewish Studies, guided the authors through a conversation that touched on the process of writing about one’s own life and the possibilities of finding spiritual meaning in the mundane details of daily existence.


 Image of Dan Peled & Elie Rekhess in front of the Water Symposium Banner

Water in Israel and The Middle East “Regional Water Sustainability and Resilience”
Second Annual Symposium

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Rebecca Crown Center, Hardin Hall

Six scholars came together to explore technological solutions to water scarcity, such as desalination and precision agriculture; the socio-political aspects of water security in the Middle East and strategies for international cooperation to achieve water security, peace and health in the region while factoring the added complication of climate change. This interdisciplinary symposium is part of a wider collaboration between the Northwestern Center for Water Research and the Crown Center for Jewish and Israel studies supported by the Buffet institute for Global Studies. 



“Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”
Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization

Thursday, May 18, 2017
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall

In this thoughtful talk, Professor Ruth Gavison, Haim H. Cohn Professor Emerita of Human Rights in the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University, suggested that the State of Israel’s Jewish and democratic identities together with its commitments to human rights should be understood as existing within a relationship of mutual reinforcement and creative tensions. She argued that all democracies are strengthened by allowing and even encouraging citizens to turn to the traditions of their different cultural groups as a source of meaning and values. It is because the majority of citizens in Israel are Jewish that Jewish values are amplified in the political process. At the same time, like other states, the State of Israel will not function without a commitment to take good care of all citizens, both Jews and non-Jews. Recognizing that Israel does not always live up to these ideals, Gavison made a forceful case for understanding the state’s identity in light of political and legal philosophy and historical realities.


vogel lecture

Manfred H. Vogel Memorial Lecture in Judaic Studies
“The Jewish Encounter with American Freedom:  A New Variation on an Old Theme”

Wednesday, April 2, 2017
Forum Room, McCormick Foundation Center

Tony Michels, George L. Mosse Professor of American Jewish History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, addressed the overwhelming tendency among historians of American Jews to assume that the United States is the exception to every other place Jews have lived over the length of their history. That is, historians have generally argued that because American Jews enjoyed equal rights by law from the beginning and because there have been no major political or legislative anti-Semitic movements, America has provided Jews with the freedom to flourish in a way they never have had before. In his talk, Michels argued persuasively that this paradigm must be reexamined against a broad panorama of Jewish history that includes both a variety of states (democratic and otherwise) and a variety of time frames. In the second half of his talk, Michels discussed the 20th century American Jewish literary critic Harold Rosenberg’s definition of freedom. Rosenberg demanded that Jews be free not to be connected with the Jewish community; Michels considered how this definition of freedom might also challenge paradigms of American Jewish history.


Ambassador Dennis Ross
“Challenges for U.S. Middle East Policy Under the Trump Administration” 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Forum Room, McCormick Foundation Center

Ambassador Dennis Ross is counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Prior to returning to the Institute in 2011, he served two years as special assistant to President Obama and National Security Council senior director for the Central Region, and a year as special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Renée and Lester Crown Speaker Series
"Two She-Bears: Reflections on Israeli Society"

November 10, 2016
Forum Room, McCormick Foundation Center

Israeli author and journalist Meir Shalev spoke to an enraptured audience of 130 sharing the stories that inspired his most recent novel Two She-Bears. These stories included a decades-old rumor about a murder disguised as a suicide and biblical verses about bears, lions, and snakes.  He reflected as well on his the importance of stories and storytelling in his own family and how his father's love of the Bible inspires him. After Shalev's talk, Professor Elie Rekhess interviewed the author on the wide appeal of his novels and non-fiction writing, which all take place in Israel but have been translated into 26 languages. In response, Shalev commented that "all local literature is universal literature."


Allan and Norma Harris Day of Jewish Study

October 30, 2016
Norris University Center

More than 80 guests enjoyed  a morning of education and study with faculty from The Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern.


"Late Marriage" Film Screening

October 13, 2016
Forum Room, McCormick Foundation Center

This event was hosted by the NU Israeli Film Club. Professor Elie Rekhess introduced the film, explaining how marriage practices can often lie at the foundation of ethnic affiliation and identity within Israeli subgroups. The film stars famed Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz, and the October screening commenced the NU Israeli Film Club's annual theme revolving around the actress and her filmography.


"The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity"
Manfred H. Vogel Memorial Lecture in Judaic Studies

June 7, 2016
Segal Visitors Center, Auditorium

Philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein discussed her book, Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. Rebecca Goldstein articulated an understanding of Spinoza's philosophy while providing a critique of his ideas.

Goldstein is the recipient of numerous awards for both her scholarship and fiction, including a MacArthur fellowship. She was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association in 2011, and, in 2015, was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House. She is currently a Visiting Professor of Philosophy and English at NYU, as well as a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities, London, UK.


"Yona Wallach: Deconstructed through Film"

May 31, 2016
Forum Room, McCormick Foundation Center

On May 31, the NU Israeli Film Club hosted a film screening and discussion exploring Israeli beat poet Yona Wallach. Distinguished Northwestern lecturer Phyllis Lassner and Director of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema Cindy Stern each offered introductions to the poet and her visual representation through film. The screening included Nir Bergman's Yona, followed by a documentary clip from Hagai Levy's series The Accursed.


Water in Israel and the Middle East - Symposium

May 18, 2016
Harris Hall, Room 108

During this symposium, several international experts discussed the state of water in the Middle East, and potential technological and political solutions to problems with clean water accessibility. These sessions were followed by question and answer sessions with community members, faculty and students.


"Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947"

April 26, 2016
Forum Room, McCormick Foundation Center

At this lecture, Bruce Hoffman discussed his book Anonymous Soldiers at the McCormick Foundation Center. Bruce Hoffman is a tenured professor in Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he is also the Director of both the Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies Program.


"Neighboring Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam"
Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization

April 12, 2016
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall

On Tuesday, April 12th, David Nirenberg discussed "Neighboring Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam." The University of Chicago scholar gave his presentation to community members and students at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.


"Matisyahu in Concert and Conversation"
The Renée and Lester Crown Speaker Series

March 31, 2016
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall

On Thursday, March 31 at 7:00pm, acclaimed, Grammy-nominated reggae, hip-hop and rock artist Matisyahu joined Professor Barry Wimpfheimer for a conversation about his Jewish identity and how it relates to his art. After the talk and questions from the audience, Matisyahu and his band played a variety of their music for the crowd of over 600.


"Jewish American World War II Novels: Young Lions"

March 1, 2016
Norris University Center

At this lecture, Leah Garrett, Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life and Culture at Monash University in Australia, discussed her research and book Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel. Garrett examined how Jewish WWII soldiers were portrayed in popular American novels during the 1940s and 1950s. The event was free and open to the public. Her book was published in the Northwestern University Press series "Cultural Expressions of World War II," edited by Phyllis Lassner.


The Allan and Norma Harris Day of Jewish Study

February 14, 2016
Bernard Weinger JCC in Northbrook, Florence G. Heller JCC in Chicago

The Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern University partnered with the Jewish Community Centers (JCC) of Chicago for a unique event on Sunday, Feb. 14.

The Allan and Norma Harris Day of Jewish Study featured eight Northwestern faculty members sharing their research and expertise with the public for a day of education and study. This Day of Study was named for Norma and Allan Harris who were instrumental in creating Jewish Studies at Northwestern. The event was free and open to the public.


"Between Baghdad and Haifa" - A Tribute to Israeli Author Sami Michael

October 7-9, 2015
Northwestern University

This three-day conference "Between Baghdad and Haifa" brought together international scholars to discuss and explore the work and life of award-winning Israeli author Sami Michael. Highlights included an interview between Ha'aretz literary editor Benny Ziffer and Sami Michael in addition to a performance of traditional Iraqi-Jewish music by renowned Israeli musician Yair Dalal.


"Dealing with 'Difficult' Prayers: Jewish Liturgy in an Age of
      Jewish-Christian Dialogue"
Philip M. & Ethel Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization

Thursday, May 28, 2015
7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall

Ruth Langer, Professor of Jewish Studies and Associate Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, overviewed the history of Birkat Haminim, an ancient prayer that has been understood as anti-Christian for much of its history. Langer framed this issue in the context of recent traditionalist attempts to reinstate such prayers in the liturgy despite their polemical meanings in an unprecedented age of religious dialogue.

This program was co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

View Professor Langer's lecture on our media page.


"Is It Good to Give? The American Jewish Philanthropic Complex"
Manfred H. Vogel Memorial Lecture in Judaic Studies

Thursday, April 23, 2015
7:30 PM, McCormick Tribune Forum

Lila Corwin Berman, Director of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University enlightened the audience on the history of American Jewish philanthropy.

View Professor Berman's lecture on our media page.


"2015 Knesset Elections: A Shift in Israeli Politics?"

Thursday, March 5, 2015
5:00 PM, McCormick Tribune Forum

Prof. Yoram Peri, of the University of Maryland, and Prof. Elie Rekhess, the Crown Center's Associate Director for Israel Studies, engaged in a panel discussion concerning the platforms, electoral characteristics and voting patterns pertaining to Israel's 20th Knesset election, predicting a potential sea change of power as voters' interests shift and the Arab vote gains seats.

View Professor Peri's lecture on our media page.


"Hollywood and the Holocaust: From Appeasement to Anti-Nazism, 1933-1945"
The Allan and Norma Harris Memorial Lecture in Jewish Studies

Monday, November 3, 2014
7:30 PM, Harris Hall

Lawrence Baron of San Diego State University examines the resons for Hollywood's self-censorship of Nazi anti-Semetic policies and why Warner Brothers became the first major studio to tackle the topic in the late 1930s.


"Still Falling: Gary Shteyngart Returns"
The Renée and Lester Crown Speaker Series in partnership with The Chicago Humanities Festival

Saturday, October 25, 2014
7:30-8:30 PM, Cahn Auditorium

Acclaimed author Gary Shteyngart read from and discussed his best-selling memoir Little Failure. He brought his inimitable blend of Russian-Jewish ennui, self-deprecating comedy, and literary erudition to Evanston. Shteyngart is also the author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story.

Watch the video of this lecture on our media page


"Gaza and Beyond: Israel, The Palestinians, and the Arab World"

Thursday, October 23, 2014
5:00-6:30 PM, McCormick Tribune Forum

Panel discussion with experts from Brandeis University, Northwestern University and the Chicago Council for Global Affairs

Watch the video of this discussion on our media page.