Hotel Lobby Mementos (Duke University)


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Just back from Duke University where I presented a paper, “What’s Human? Whose Right? Moses Mendelssohn and the Jewish Enlightenment.” The paper was part of lecture on Judaism and Human Rights, meant to celebrate the opening of the Heschel Archives sometime next fall. The Heschel Archive will be keeping company with the Marshall Meyer Papers, making Duke a center for the study of American Jewish culture and religion.

Like any place, Duke is a world unto itself,  but maybe even more so. I wish I had had a lot more time to explore the University, Durham, and the general environs –pine forests, neighborhoods built in the 1920s and 1930s, old tabacco warehouses.

I wanted to share these photos from the Washington Duke Inn where I was graciously put up. I was particularly fascinated by a long hallway off the lobby, dedicated to Angier Biddle Duke, an important trustee at mid-century. I was drawn to the photographs and mementos chronicling a lifetime of diplomatic service. They show the “genius” of the place.

Everything is framed, in gilt and comfortable. Steeped in family and tradition, crowded and full of young people –with apologies to Siegfried Kracauer,  the hotel lobby is local, old-moneyed, and elegant. I felt animal and savage upon my return to New York. It’s different kind of place than the ones I’m used to, different, but probably not too different.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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