Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another lecture at Penn

I am happy to post events and lectures outside the University of Pennsylvania as well...

Spinoza in the Library of an Early Modern Dutch Sephardic Rabbi
>>> Yosef Kaplan, Hebrew University
>>> Wednesday, February 20, 5:00PM, Logan Hall 402
>>> Rabbi David Nunes Torres had been the rabbi of one of the Sephardic
>>> congregations in The Hague at the beginning of the eighteenth
>>> century.
>>> About three months after his death in 1728, his impressive library,
>>> which contained more than 2,000 volumes in eight languages, was put
>>> up for sale. Some of the large blocs that comprise this library
>>> reflect in the clearest fashion the intellectual ferment of Nunes
>>> Torres'
>>> generation and his purposeful and sophisticated collection of books
>>> made him, willy-nilly, a secret agent of the early enlightenment in
>>> the Sephardic Diaspora of Western Europe, and even in Dutch society
>>> at large.
>>> Yosef Kaplan is the Bernard Cherrick Professor of Jewish History at
>>> the Hebrew University. His books include: An Alternative Path to
>>> Modernity; Judios Nuevos en Amsterdam; The Western Sephardi
>>> Diaspora; From Christianity to Judaism: The Story of Isaac Orobio de
>>> Castro; and a translation (with introduction and notes) of Isaac
>>> Cardoso's, Las Excelencias de los Hebreos. He has edited and
>>> co-edited 14 books, among
>>> them: The Dutch Intersection: The Jews and the Netherlands in Modern
>>> History; Fins de Siecle -- End of Ages; Dutch Jews as Perceived by
>>> Themselves and by Others; Menasseh ben Israel and His World, and
>>> Jews and Conversos. Studies in Society and the Inquisition.
>>> Kaplan is the former Director of the School of History at the Hebrew
>>> University and former editor of Tarbiz and Zion. He was awarded the
>>> A.
>>> Wiznitzer Prize and the Ben Zvi Prize, and in 2004 he was elected
>>> fellow of the Israel Academy for Sciences and Humanities. He is
>>> currently a fellow at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced
>>> Study.
>>> Part of the Jewish Studies Kutchin Faculty Seminar Series, and
>>> co-sponsored by the Department of History. Event is free and open to
>>> the public. No RSVP necessary. Questions? 215-898-6654 or
>>> --Beth S. Wenger Katz Family Term Chair
>>> in American Jewish History Associate Professor of History Director,
>>> Jewish Studies Program
>>> Department of History
>>> University of Pennsylvania
>>> 208 College Hall
>>> Philadelphia, PA 19104-6379
>>> Phone: 215-898-5702
>>> Fax: 215-573-2089
>>> E-mail:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

World Congress of Jewish Studies: Call for Proposals

Dear Colleagues,

The Fifteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies will take place from August 2-6 of 2009. If there is sufficient interest I would like to organize a session on “The Jewish Book in Early Modern Europe.” I have left the theme deliberately vague so as to allow for submissions on authors and their texts, printing, distribution and the ultimate fate of the books produced. (I am open to narrowing the focus of the session theme). I was thinking of speaking on Christian awareness of Hebrew printed books, specifically on Conrad Gesner’s Bibliotheca universalis (3 vols., 1545-1555). While Gesner’s listings are not very extensive, they did provide enough titles to form the basis for a meaningful Christian encounter with Judaism by way of its classical texts.

If I have read the call for papers correctly we will all have to submit a preliminary registration form, and I would also submit materials for a complete session, providing the following information:

“Those interested in proposing a complete session (up to four lectures) are requested to specify the subject of the session and the names of the scholars whose agreement to participate has already been obtained. A brief explanation and a short abstract of the proposed lectures should also be submitted.”

So I would need paper topics and short abstracts from each presenter before I turn in all of the information. The submission deadline is May 18, 2008.
Are there any takers?

Best wishes,
Stephen Burnett
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I would be very happy to post notices of seminars, lectures, workshops, conferences, etc. related to Jewish books. Send them my way--ashear at pitt dot edu--and I will post them here.

Here is one:

University of Pennsylvania
Material Texts seminar, Monday, February 11 at
5:15 pm in the Lea Library on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library:

Yaacob Dweck (University of Pennsylvania):

"Jewish Scribal Culture in an Age of Print: The Writing Practices of Leon

Yaacob writes: "This presentation will examine the composition and
circulation of manuscripts in early modern Venice through the writings of
Leon Modena (157-1648). Modena, a rabbi and intellectual who lived in
Venice, composed several Hebrew polemics in the last decades of his life.
None of these texts, which included attacks on Kabbalah, Christianity, and
the belief in metempsychosis, appeared in print before the nineteenth
century. Using Modena's critique of Kabbalah, a work called Ari Nohem
(Heb. A Roaring Lion) I will focus on two issues: the nature of an
autograph in the early seventeenth century and the importance placed on
the material form of various texts in Modena's argument. In the first
part, I will examine Modena's writing practices and demonstrate that he
wrote his works in collaboration with an amanuensis, a practice typical
for Jewish and Christian intellectuals writing in Venice in the early
seventeenth century. In the second part, I will examine Ari Nohem as a
reflection upon the effects of printing on the transmission of Jewish
knowledge. In Ari Nohem Modena decries the effects of printing upon the
dissemination of Kabbalah, the adjudication of Jewish law, and the
accessibility of knowledge to a wider range of people. I hope
to demonstrate that the scribal aspects of Ari Nohem not only inform the
immediate working environment of the book's author, but also the content
of the work."

Yaacob Dweck is a fifth-year graduate student in history at Penn.