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The Leonard and
Helen R. Stulman
Program in Jewish Studies

The Johns Hopkins University
338 Mergenthaler Hall
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

Phone (410) 516-7515
Fax (410) 516-5515


 Lavy Colloquium

The Lavy Colloquium was founded in 2005 through the generosity of  Norman Lavy, MD, FACP and Marion H. Lavy.  The purpose of the colloquium is to examine and consider ideas related to Jewish civilization.


The 11th Lavy Colloquium

May 4 and 5, 2016


Israel’s East European Lineages: Russian and Polish Jewish History, Zionism, and Israeli Political Cultures


Wednesday May 4

10:30-12 Keynote Address:


Anita Shapira (Tel Aviv University, Emerita):

Jewish Palestine and Eastern Europe: I am in the East and my Heart is in the West


12:00-1:00                  Lunch


Panel 1          

1:00-3:20       The Polish Frameworks of Zionist Political Culture


Ela Bauer (Kibbutzim College and Tel Aviv University):

From Thought to Action: Polish Political Thought and its Zionist Appropriations


Kamil Kijek (University of Wroclaw):

Children of Modernism. Jewish Youth Political Culture in the Last Decade of Interwar Poland


Stephan Stach (Institute for Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Science):

For the “Jews’ Common Good” and for the Polish State – Aleksander Hafftka as Jewish Public Figure and Polish State Official


3:20-4:00        Coffee Break


Panel 2          

4:00-5:30        East European Genealogies of Orthodoxy in Israel


Benjamin Brown (Hebrew University of Jerusalem):

Hasidic Leadership: From Charismatic to Hereditary and Back


Iris Brown (Ono Academic College):

Beit Yaakov from Poland to Israel: Ideology and Practice


Thursday, May 5


Panel 3          

9:00-10:30                  Russian Imperial Lineages of the Yishuv


Simon Rabinovitch (Boston University):

Defining the Bounds of Community in Eastern Europe and the Yishuv


Mihaly Kalman (Harvard University):

 From the Pale to Palestine: The 'Odessa Group' and Reading Resistance to Pogroms in the Pre-State Period


Panel 4          

11:00-12:30                Israeli Polity and Culture and its Easter European Inheritances


Rachel Rojanski (Brown University):

Between Eastern Europe and the Zionist Master Narrative: Yiddish Literature in Israel in the Early 1950s


Marcos Silber (Haifa University):

Nation State and Minority Rights - between Poland and Israel


12:30-1:30      Lunch



Roundtable                            1:30-3:00

Israel Bartal, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (emeritus)

Kenneth Moss, Johns Hopkins University

Benjamin Nathans, University of Pennsylvania

Taro Tsurumi, University of Tokyo



10th Lavy International Conference,

Dec. 1-2 2014:

The Polish Jewish Condition? Polish Jewish Social Thought and the 1930s


Organizer: Kenneth B. Moss, Posen Assoc. Prof. of Modern Jewish History, The Johns Hopkins University


What was becoming of Polish Jewry in the 1930s, and what was Polish Jewry becoming? Were processes of socioeconomic dislocation, headlong Polonization, political radicalization, and widely attested emigration-fever related or fundamentally disparate in origin? If related, did they stem essentially from global economic crisis, from new forms of ethnopolitical stigmatization and extrusion directed at Polish Jews (or ethnic minorities as such), from new sets of cultural expectations and dissatisfactions unspooling in Jewish life particularly or among European youth generally? Regardless of shared or disparate origins, were these processes coalescing in such a way as to fundamentally alter Polish Jewry’s character, and if so, how and with what effects? What global, regional, and local factors would (have) decide(d) Polish Jewry’s fate in the near term, medium term, and long term?

These questions of communal trajectory have long been central to research on interwar Polish Jewry. Even as they continue to provoke innovative research in the blossoming field of Polish-Jewish studies, they also call forth implicit or explicit dissent. Perhaps the centrality we accord these questions blinds us to other sorts of processes and experiences, from Jewish-Polish integration and intimacy to the resilience of traditional Jewish religious life. Perhaps the very idea that there is a single “Polish Jewry” whose politics, culture, and psychology we can study is an artifact of nationalist narrative. Perhaps the enduring centrality of these questions is a product of post-Holocaust consciousness that is essentially presentist, foreign to how the historical actors thought or could have thought.

But in fact, the question of what Polish Jewry and Polish Jews were becoming in the 1930s and why is by no means a presentist ‘backshadowing.’ This conference begins from the recognition that from the late 1920s on, articulate Polish Jews and observers abroad of many political and cultural persuasions shared the understanding that Polish Jewry was undergoing a set of transformations no less dramatic than (and somehow linked to) those convulsing the region and the globe. Further, contemporaries anticipated our own empirical, theoretical, and definitional concerns as to whether these transformations taken together constituted a watershed in Polish Jewry’s history. Like us, they wrestled empirically, theoretically, and definitionally with the question of whether the political, economic and cultural developments of the 1930s might be reversed, evaded, or outlasted, or whether conversely they had irrevocably set Polish Jewry on a different course and decisively recast Jewish life-chances and imaginable individual and communal futures.

The goal of this conference is to stimulate a renewed investigation of contemporaries’ own efforts in the 1930s to make sense of the changing Polish Jewish situation – their efforts to understand whether the wrenching transformations experienced by many Polish Jews in the 1930s were merely a congeries of unrelated developments or a “condition” in the making, whether the situation was transient or long-term, and what sort of future Polish Jewry should expect.

Participants are invited to give 30-minute papers on any aspect of Polish Jewish social and political thought in the 1930s, or social and political thought relating to Polish Jewry, but might wish to consider the following propositions and questions as a starting point:

a)for all that Polish Jewish intellectual life was indeed divided by high walls of ideological conviction, were there contemporary efforts to make sense of Polish Jewish experience that at least partially transcended the narrow dictates of one ideological camp or another? Can we understand figures like Max Weinreich, the Sokolover rebbe, Mikhl Astour, Aleksander Hertz, and Loveh Levita, to name only a few, not merely political antagonists affiliated with five different political camps, but also as serious analysts of Polish Jewish and global political society struggling to understand the same phenomena? If so, how might we rethink the history of Polish Jewish thought in the 1930s not through the lens of ideology, programme, and party, but rather in terms of the intellectual history of critical and self-critical political and social thought?

b)as contemporaries struggled to answer these pressing questions, they anticipated our own perplexities as to how to chart relative significance of various transformations and processes, how to characterize their cultural and psychic impact, how to explain their interrelations, and above all how to explain the relationship between socioeconomic and cultural upheavals on the one hand and the political and psychological situation of Polish Jewry (or perhaps European Jewry as a whole) on the other. In that sense, could we say that Polish Jews became – intentionally or accidentally – participants in the axial debates of social theory and social explanation that began with Marx and Weber? Are there elements of Polish Jewish social thought that are interesting not only for the light they shed on Polish Jewish political culture in the 1930s but also as part of the larger history of social theory?

c)can we trace such intellectual inquiry beyond scholars, professional intellectuals and political ideologists to include as well social activists, philanthropists, and everyday people were compelled to wrestle with same overarching questions? It seems plausible to say that men who ran ORT and TOZ, gmiles-chesed activists, Hasidic leaders, and the young people who wrote YIVO autobiographies staked claims and responded to others’ contentions about the trajectory of Jewish life, the state of the world, the relationship between political, social, and cultural factors, the character of Jewish youth. Participants are invited to explore the theme of a Polish Jewish ‘intellectual history from below. 

d)finally, although many Polish Jewish observers of the 1930s remained unbudgeably committed to ideologies and idea systems inherited from the 1920s or indeed the late imperial period, others were compelled by events of the 1930s to subject their own prior assumptions to critical scrutiny. We know a lot about the postulates and claims of the main inherited political ideologies in Jewish life, and far less about deviations and attempted new departures. Participants are invited to consider whether the latter stance of political uncertainty and searching the exception or the norm in Polish Jewish political and social thinking in the 1930s. By the same token, participants are invited to shift attention from the most coherent and certain ideologues of all camps to those who actively critiqued their earlier assumptions and rethought their views in the 1930s.


9th Lavy Colloquium
The Hacham Tzvi, Rabbi Yaacov Emden, and Their Worlds: The Story of Early Modern Rabbinics

To view the complete program click here

November 18 and 19 2013

The Hacham Tzvi (1656-1718) and his son, Rabbi Yaacov Emden (1697-1776), were two of the most prominent rabbinic figures in the early modern period. Both engaged in some of the most heated polemics of their times, and both left a literary heritage that would become part and parcel of the rabbinic canon. The worlds of these two Rabbis will the subject of the 9thLavy Colloquium in Jewish Studies. In this two-day conference we will attempt to tell the story of early modern rabbinics from the mid seventeenth century till the Haskalah, focusing on these two figures, their friends and foes, travels, dreams, and confessions.


8th Lavy Colloquium

Yiddish after the Castrophe 1934 to present
To view complete program please click here
October 15 and 16, 2012


What "goes without saying" in the contemporary status of the Yiddish language and its culture is the degree to which it has been shaped and determined by the cataclysms of the 20th century; both the philosophical condition and the demographic statistics of Yiddish have been constituted by events that in any language are essentially unnamable and therefore unspeakable. How, then, does Yiddish provide a discourse for confronting these historical traumas, and to what extent can an understanding of trauma as such contribute to an understanding of the ways in which Yiddish continues to persist in the contemporary moment? This interdisciplinary conference will consider the recent history of Yiddish culture through a variety of topics and methodologies: the significance of modern Yiddish literature written after the rise of totalitarianism and the Holocaust, by figures such as Avrom Sutzkever, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jacob Glatstein, and Chaim Grade; the confinement of Yiddish as an everyday vernacular among ultra-Orthodox, particularly Hasidic, Jews; the institutional history of Yiddish scholarship; the preservation and transformation of Yiddish memory via contemporary technologies; the problems and possibilities created by Yiddish nostalgia, the echoes of Yiddish in other languages, the uses of Yiddish in popular culture, and the symbolic status of Yiddish among non-Yiddish speakers. Through this array of subjects and diversity of approaches, the participants can hope to establish a critical understanding of contemporary Yiddish culture as well as the interconnectedness of Yiddish scholarship in all its dimensions.

7th Lavy Colloquium

Jews and Empire

The 2011 Lavy Colloquium of the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Program in Jewish Studies at the Johns Hopkins University

To view Monday Morning session click here

Jews on Josephus and the Roman Empire
Martin Goodman
University of Oxford

Israelite Kingship, Christian Empire, and the Jewish Imperial Imagination
Ra'anan Boustan
University of California, Los Angles

Embedded, Constructed, Resistant: How Do We Talk about Jews in the Roman Empire?
Hayim Lapin
University of Maryland

Seth Schwartz                   Discussant
Columbia University

To view Monday Afternoon session click here

The Jews and "Oriental Despotism"
Marina Rustow
Johns Hopkins University

Jews, Medieval Islam and the Limits of Empire
David Wasserstein
Vanderbilt University

David Nirenberg                 Discussant
University of Chicago

The "Maghribi Traders" Reflections on Origins, Affinities, and Identities among Geniza Merchants
Jessica Goldberg
University of Pennsylvania

A Stateless Disapora between the Ottoman Empire and European Commercial Rivalries: Sephardic Merchants in the 16th Century Mediterranean
Francesca Trivellato
Yale University

Richard Kagan          Discussant
Johns Hopkins University

To view Tuesday session click here

Sephardi Jews and the Modern Ottoman State
Julia Cohen
Vanderbilt University

Galician Jews and the Habsburg Policy of Religious Toleration
Rachel Manekin
University of Maryland

Imperial Identities, Zionism and the Emergence of Modern Israeli Culture
Israel Bartal
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Kenneth Moss                 Discussant
Johns Hopkins University

October 31 and November 1, 2011

The Lavy colloquia are annual two-day international conferences that bring together some dozen outside scholars with faculty and students at Johns Hopkins to discuss a central topic in Jewish studies. The topic for this coming fall is "Jews and empire." From the ancient image of the Jew as the passive object of imperial rule to the postmodern rubric of empire as a cultural koiné, empire has featured prominently in Jewish history and historiography, at times explicitly and at others without the kind of theoretical scrutiny that might allow Jewish historians to return the category to the discipline refurbished and improved. At the same time, though scholarship on Jews in late antiquity and in early modern Europe has grappled with imperial paradigms, Jews have been conspicuously absent from the major theoretical statements on imperialism in recent years.

This symposium will attempt to redress these problems by discussing particular cases of Jews and empire, from the ancient to the modern period, with an eye on asking what the Jewish cases demonstrate and how they might enrich or complicate the existing paradigms. Our goals are fourfold: 1) To understand how scholars across many different fields of Jewish history are currently using empire as an analytical category and whether the category changes when placed in relation to other key topics (trade, connectivity, conquest, colonialism, law, religion, governance, nationalism, political culture, power and its negotiation); 2) to bring that work into dialogue with scholarship on empire in other historical subfields (e.g., on oceans and empires, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean);

3) if empire has begun to prove its utility as a category, to ask where its analytical *limits* might lie; and 4) to consider how thinking in terms of empire might or might not be relevant for historians working on post-imperial settings, whether premodern or modern.


6TH  Lavy Colloquium 

click here to view a taped session of the conference

Six Decades Of

US-Israeli Relations

October 10, 2010

Panel One: Political Ties

1. David Makovsky, Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy
    Us-Israeli Relations from 1948-2000

2. Robert O. Freedman, Johns Hopkins University,
    US-Israeli Relations from George W. Bush to Barak Obama

3. Dov Waxman, City University of New York,
     Pro-Israeli Lobbies in the United States

4. Amnon Cavari, University of Wisconsin
American Public Opinion and Israel


Panel Two: Econimic, Legal and Strategic Issues

1. Roby Nathanson, Israeli Center for Political Economics,
    Israeli-American Economic Ties

2. Pnina Lahav, Boston University Law School,
   The Impact of American Jurisprudence on Israel

3.  Steven David, Johns Hopkins University,
    An Iranian Nuclear Bomb: Implications for Israel and the United States

Panel Three: Community and Religious Issues

1. Mark Rosenblum, Queens College,
    The American Jewish Peace Movement and Israel

2. Steven Bayme, American Jewish Committee,
    Orthodox Jewry and Israel

3.  Neil Rubin, Towson University,
    American Evangelical Protestants and Israel


5th Lavy Colloquium
“The Jewish Jesus”
November 18-19, 2009

Conference Details


"And Jesus was a Jew with ear-locks and prayer shawl” claimed Uri Zvi Greenberg, the ultra-nationalist giant of modern Jewish poetry. A flesh-and-blood Jew, a demon, a spoiled student, an idol, a brother, a (failed) Messiah, a nationalist rebel, a Greek god in a Jewish garb – these images of Jesus accompanied Jewish thought and imagination for almost two thousand years. In what ways do the representations of Jesus contribute to the self-understanding of Jews over these two millennia? What were the major changes in the representation of Jesus by Jews throughout this period? What kind of entity was the Jewish Jesus? These and similar questions regarding the Jewish Jesus will engage us at the 5th international Lavy Colloquium, to be held at Johns Hopkins University. We will attempt to cover these issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (Talmud and Rabbinics, Medieval Hebrew Literature and Thought, Kabbalah, Jewish History, Modern Jewish Thought and Literature), and address the Jewish attitudes toward - and representations of - Jesus from antiquity to the present moment. We intend to publish the proceedings of the conference in a major university press.


Leora Batnitzky
Princeton University
"Jesus in Modern Jewish Thought"

 Daniel Boyarin
University of California, Berkeley
"The Sovereignty of the Son of Man: Reading Mark 2"

Matt Goldish
Ohio State University
"Observations on Jacob Frank and Jesus"

Adam Gregerman
Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies
Theology Department, Loyola University, Maryland
"Zero-Sum Prophecy, Ancient Jewish Attacks on Jesus as Messiah of Israel
and True Teacher of Torah in Origen's Contra Celsum"

Warren Zeev Harvey
The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
"Harry Austryn Wolfson on the Jews' Reclamation of Jesus"

Matthew Hoffman
Franklin and Marshall College
"Satire and Survival: What Jews Had to Say About
Jesus and Why It Was Funny"

Moshe Idel
The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
"Abraham Abulafia: The Kabbalistic 'Son of God' on Jesus"

Yitzhak Melamed
Johns Hopkins University
"'Christ According to the Spirit':
Spinoza, Jesus and the Infinite Intellect"

Amitai Mendelsohn
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and The Ben Gurion University
"The Figure of Jesus in Israeli Art"

Elchanan Reiner
Tel Aviv University
"And so Jesus Begat Rashbi"

Avigdor Shinan
The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
"'Behold, one Greater than Jonah is Here'
(Mat. 12:41) Jonah (and Jesus) in Rabbinic Literature"

Michael Schwartz
Ohio State University
"The Magical Jesus in Ancient Jewish Literature"

Neta Stahl
Johns Hopkins University
"'We left Yesh, We Left a Country',
On Three Early Twentieth Century Hebrew Poet's poetry of Longing for Jesus"

Joanna Weinberg
Oxford University
"Jesus on the Cross and Psalm 22:
a Contentious Issue"

Past Events:

4TH Lavy Colloquium
 November 6-7, 2008


David Assaf, Tel Aviv University
“When the Rebbe Met the Tsar: Hasidic Leaders Struggling with the Authorities”

Israel Bartal, The Hebrew University
"Der yidisher kozak/The Jewish Cossack”

David Bell, Johns Hopkins University
 “Jews and Nationalism in France”

Svetlana Boym, Harvard University
“A Half-Jew and a Role-Player: Modernist Humanism, Rootless Cosmopolitanism and Civic Conscience”

Marc Caplan, Johns Hopkins University
“Between Self and Other: Displacement, Dislocation, and Deferral in Dovid Bergelson’s Mides ha-din and Alfred Doblin’s Reise in Polen”

Roger Friedland, University of California, Santa Barbara
“The Institution of Religious Violence and the Erotics of Sovereignty”

Christine Holbo, Arizona State University
“On Reading Heine In Ohio: Incomplete Emancipation and the Project of American Realism”

Mary Gluck, Brown University
“Jewish Self-Fashioning through Popular Culturein Fin-de-Siecle Budapest”

Kenneth Moss, Johns Hopkins University
“Be a Polish Jew in the Mountains and a Third Sex at Home: Rethinking Jewish Society and Self-Cultivation in Nationalist Eastern Europe”

Eric Oberle, Washington University at St. Louis
“Universalizing Georg Simmel’ ‘Stranger’: The Philosophy of Money as a Model of Social Modernity”

Oded Schechter, University of Chicago
“Rabbi Yoel Teitelboim: Is Jewish Secularism Equal to Nationalism? An Analysis of the “Aporia of Babel”

Scott Spector, University of Michigan
“Savage Nation: Expertise, Rumor, and the Revival of the Blood Libel in the Late Habsburg Empire”

Neta Stahl, Johns Hopkins University
“The Zionist Jesus”

Liliane Weissberg, University of Pennsylvania
“Metropolis of Freedom: Berlin Jews in Paris, 1789-1812”

3rd Lavy Colloquium
“Judaism and Christian Art”
October 11-12, 2007


Yve-Allain Bois, Institute for Advanced Study
“Barnett Newman’s Covenant”

Stephen Campbell, The Johns Hopkins University
“Renaissance Naturalism and the Jewish Bible: Ferrara and Brescia 1520-1540”

Madeline H. Caviness, Tufts University
"Immunity of person and property accorded to Jews in the Sachsenspeigel picture books: Compensation and Recuperation”

Kathleen Corrigan, Dartmouth College
“Visualizing the Divine: The Sinai Icon of the “Ancient Days’”

Jas Elsner, University of Chicago
“Pharoah”s Army Got Drownded: Some Reflections on Jewish and Roman Genealogies in Early Christian Art”

Dana Katz, Reed College
“The Gaze and the Ghetto in Early Modern Venice”

Marcia Kupfer, The Johns Hopkins University
“Abraham Circumcises Himself: a Scene at the Endgame of Jewish Utility to Christian Art in Late Fourteenth-Century France and Fifteenth-Century Spain”

Sara Lipton, State University of New York at Stoney Brook
“Jewish Eyes, 1150-1175”

Mitchell Merback, DePauw
“Lord’s Supper and  Passover Sacrilege: Shared Images and the Confrontation of Rituals in the Nothern Renaissance Atlarpiece”

Margaret Olin, Art Institute of Chicago
“Jewish Art and the National Past(t)ime”

Filipe Pereda, University of Madrid
“Social Discord and the Evolution of Image Theory in Early Modern Castile”

Francisco Prado-Vilar, University of London
“In the Hall of Mirrors: Illuminating the Jews in Medieval Iberia”

Achim Timmerman, University of Michigan
“Frau Venus, the Eucharist, and the Jews of Landshut”

2nd Lavy Colloquium
“Israel Since Rabin”
Sunday, March 25, 2006


Steven David, The Johns Hopkins University
“Changing Existential Threats to Israel”

Ze’ev Khanin, Bar-Ilan University
“The Russian Immigrant Parties”

Ilan Peleg, Lafayette University
Kadima and the Parties To Its Right”

Pnina Lahav, Boston University
“The Changing Role of the Israeli Supreme Court”

David Lesch, Trinity Univeristy
“Israel and the Arab World”

Mark Rosenblum, Queens College
‘Labor and the Parties To Its Left”

Barry Rubin, GLORIA Center
“Israel and the Palestinians”

1st Lavy Colloquium
“Atlantic Jewry in an Age of Mercantilism
March 25-26, 2005

Aviva Ben-Ur, University of Massachusetts
“How Jews Became Black Folks: The Case of Suriname”

Wim Klooster, Clark University
“Networks of Colonial Entrepreneurs: The Founding Fathers of the Jewish Settlements in Dutch American 1650’s and 1660’s”

Ronnie Perelis, New York University
“Encountering the Other/Remaking the Self: The Construction of Identity and the Encounter with the Other in two Marrano autobiographies”

Jonathan Schorsch, Columbia University
“Atlantic Jews, Race and War (Seen through Early 21st-Centure Portholes)

Holly Snyder, Brown University
“English Markets, Jewish Merchants and Atlantic Endeavors: Jews and the Making of British Transatlantic Commercial Culture, 1650-1800”

David Studnicki-Gizbert, McGill University
“La Nacion amongst the Nations: Portuguese, and other Maritime Trading Diasporas in the Atlantic, 16th-18th Centuries”

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