A Year in Review

As the year 2020 comes to a close, we turn our thoughts to the bright moments of the year. Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, we were able to launch a series of public programs that reached audiences well beyond Fordham and the New York metropolitan area, to other parts of the US, as far as California and Oregon, to Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Denmark, France, Spain, the UK, Germany, Poland, Italy, Israel, and more. Soon after the pandemic sent us all home we launched a “Zoominar” series on pandemics in Jewish history and society. Then, as we remained home, we continued public programs over the summer, including film virtual screenings, and then through the fall. We look forward to seeing each other in person in 2021 but in the meantime feel free to enjoy the past lectures and conversations that are now available on our YouTube channel.

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Dear Editor: Advice Columns and the Making of the American Yiddish Press by Ayelet Brinn (live event). Watch.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Epidemics, Disease and Plagues in Jewish History & Memory, a conversation between Joshua Teplitsky and Magda Teter. Watch


Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

The Historians and the Memory of  Plagues in Jewish History, part II of the conversation between Joshua Teplitsky and Magda Teter. Watch.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Orthodox Jews vs. the State: Responses to COVID-19 in the US, UK, & Israel, a tricontinental panel discussion. Watch.


Sunday, May 31st, 2020

Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in the Digital Age, a conversation with Ayala Fader and Robert Orsi. Watch.


Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Epidemic and the Marginalized of Society: A View from the Jewish Past, a talk by Natan Meir. Watch.


Thursday, June 16th, 2020

From HIV/AIDS Epidemic to Pride Shabbat: Liturgical and Cultural Transformations in Progressive Judaism, a conversation with Elazar Ben Lulu and Deborah Medgal. Watch.


Thursday, August 6th, 2020

“400 Miles to Freedom: A Perilous Journey from Ethiopia to Israel”: a conversation about the film with director Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen, Steven B. Kaplan, and Kay Shelemay. Watch.


Tuesday, August 18th, 4PM:

Blue Like Me: The Art of Siona Benjamin, a conversation between the artist Siona Benjamin and art historian Ori Soltes. Watch.


Wednesday, September 9th, 4PM:

A Lens onto the Jewish Past: How do Prints of Eastern European Jewish Life Speak to Us Today? A lecture by Susan Chevlowe, the Director and Chief Curator of Derfner Judaica and The Art Collection. Watch.


Thursday, Sept 24, 4PM: 

Feminine Power in the History of American Jewish Museums, a lecture by Ariel Cohen, University of Virginia. Watch


Thursday October 22, 1PM :

Fordham and Les Enluminures present
“Go forth and learn”: The Artist Joel ben Simeon and a Newly Discovered Hebrew Manuscript. Watch


October 14-November 12:  Visiting Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series:

Moshe Rosman

A SHORT HISTORY OF JEWISH GENDER

Wednesday, October 14th, 12 noon:

Lecture 1: The Genesis of Jewish Gender: From the Bible to the Baal Shem Tov

with a response by Sarit Kattan Gribetz, Fordham University. Watch


Wednesday, October 28th, 12 noon:

Lecture 2: Jewish Gender Expressed: The Synagogue and Other Institutions

with a response by Debra Kaplan, Bar Ilan University . Watch

Wednesday, November 4th, 12 noon:

Lecture 3: Jewish Gender under Review: Early Modern Ambivalence

with a response by Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University. Watch

Wednesday, November 11th, 12 noon:

Lecture 4: Well-Behaved Women Undermining Jewish Gender, Part I: Leah Horowitz as the Jewish Mary Wollstonecraft?

with a response by Elisheva Baumgarten, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Watch

Wednesday, November 18th, 12 noon:

Lecture 5: Well-Behaved Women Undermining Jewish Gender, Part II: Glickl Hamel as a Model Jewish Grandmother?

with a response by Ruth von Bernuth, University of North Carolina. Watch


Thursday, November 19, 7PM

A panel discussion of the new film by Anat Tel, “The Church” with George Demacopoulos, Sarah Eltantawi, Sarit Kattan Gribetz, and Michael Peppard, four Fordham professors from the Theology Department whose areas of expertise cover Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Watch.


Sunday, November 22, 1PM:

Nina Rowe, “The Illuminated World Chronicle: Tales from the Late Medieval City” in conversation with Ephraim Shoham-SteinerWatch.


Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Sarit Kattan Gribetz, “Time and Difference in Rabbinic Judaism” in conversation with Elizabeth Shanks Alexander. Watch.


Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

“Singed by History: Lucy S. Dawidowicz, Polish-Jewish Relations, and Holocaust Historiography,” a talk by Nancy Sinkoff. Watch.


Wednesday, December 9th, 4:30PM:

Alon Tam, “Nostalgia: Remembering The Jewish Community In Egypt”


To keep up-to-date about upcoming events, sign up for our newsletter.

All events are possible through the generosity of The Joseph Alexander Foundation, The Knapp Family Foundation, The Picket Family Foundation, the Shvidler Gift Fund to Fordham University, and individual donations from friends of the Center for Jewish Studies at Fordham.

Jews, Race, and the Story of Ethiopian Jews

Famine in Ethiopia of 1983-1985 led to over one million deaths, with hundreds of thousands refugees leaving the country. Among those refugees were Beta Israel, Ethiopian Jews, who found their way on foot to Sudan. As neither Muslims nor Christians, they were persecuted in Sudanese refugee camps. In an international operation, later called Operation Moses, thousands of Beta Israel were rescued and brought to Israel between November 21, 1984 and January 5, 1985.

In Israel, state agencies, social workers sought to integrate the refugees into a new life in Israel. Passover of 1985 would be their first Passover in a new home. That year, the Office for Cultural Integration of Ethiopian Jews (Misrad le-kelitah ruḥanit shel yehudei etiopia be-Israel) published a bilingual haggadah in Amharic and Hebrew, Haggadah shel Pesaḥ, edited by Yosef Hadana, Chief Rabbi of Ethiopian Jews, translated by Yona Bugale.

Haggadah shel Pesaḥ, Amharic and Hebrew, edited by Yosef Hadana, Chief Rabbi of Ethiopian Jews, translated by Yona Bugale (Bnei Brak: Misrad le-kelitah ruḥanit shel yehudei etiopia be-Israel, 1985). Fordham, O’Hare Special Collections and Archives, Walsh Family Library.

The process of integration was not easy, Israel’s rabbis questioned the refugees’ Jewishness requiring conversions, while within the Ethiopian Jewish community, traditional values and practices were challenged, including traditional gender roles. Among those refugees was Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen, whose compelling film “400 Miles to Freedom” combines a deeply personal story with broader questions of trauma, race, gender, and identity. Mekonen’s deeply personal story also raises questions that were a driving force for early Jewish historians, even those focused on mostly European Jewish history: how Jews survived for thousands of years and maintained their Jewish identity as a tiny minority settled among other peoples. But the film also raises broader questions about what it means to be Jewish and how the Jewish community accepts its own diversity.

On August 6th, Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen discussed his film and family story with scholars of Beta Israel, Steven B. Kaplan, a professor emeritus of African studies and comparative religion at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he also served a Dean of the Humanities, and the author of many books and articles on the history of Ethiopian Jews, including The Beta Israel: Falasha in Ethiopia: From Earliest Times to the Twentieth Century, and Kay Shelemay, the G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and the author of Music, Ritual, and Falasha History (1986), A Song of Longing: An Ethiopian Journey (1991); and Ethiopian Christian Chant: An Anthology (3 vols., 1993-97), among others.

The conversation can be viewed on our YouTube chanell

And you can watch “400 Miles to Freedom” on Vimeo:

Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen’s compelling film “400 Miles to Freedom” from from Seventh Art Releasing

This program was co-presented with Be’chol Lashon’s speakers’ bureau. For 20 years, Be’chol Lashon  has been dealing with diversity in the Jewish community. The organization also supported the creation of Avishai’s movie. For more information see their website www.globaljews.org