Theory & Practive (Jewish Studies at Syracuse University)


I hope we’re doing exciting things. What with the AJS conference coming up, I wanted to brag a little bit, not so much about the Jewish Studies Program at Syracuse, but about our students. A premium is placed in the program on the intersection between theory and the study of Jewish culture and Judaism. For a program operating on a shoestring, academic year 2014-2015 was a pretty good year.

Here are some student highlights:

–Jenny Caplan (Religion Department) defended her dissertation “All Joking Aside: The Role of Religion in American Jewish Satire,” securing while still technically an ABD, a visiting assistant professorship at Wesleyan University. Turning to “thing theory,” Caplan looks past the ethnicity and narrow models of social identity to put special focus on the impact of satire on the religious culture of American Jews and Judaism, particularly in relation to their object character.

–Jonathan Jackson (Department of Anthropology) won a an “Association for Jewish Studies Berman Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Support of Research in the Social Scientific Study of the Contemporary American Jewish Community” made possible through the generous support of the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation. His dissertation title is “Unholy Alliance: Queer Kinship and Reform Judaism.”

–Having completed comprehensive examinations in the Department of Religion, Michael Chaniss, Emma Brodeur, Maria Carson are working on dissertation prospecti and dissertation documents on Jews and Native Americans, Freud and a Theory of Judaism, Heschel and affect.

–Rachel Mandel, a dual major in Psychology and Modern Jewish Studies, wrote her Honors Thesis on the Holocaust and graphic art. She was accepted into the MA program at Library and Information Sciences: School Media Specialization, in the iSchool at SU.

Talmud group proceeds apace. This year we explored the material on images in chapter 3 of tractate Avodah Zarah. Group participants included interested faculty and graduate students in fields of study both inside and outside Jewish Studies, including continental philosophy, critical theory, affect theory, media studies, film, American Christianity, and Mormon Studies).

Talmud group met directly before the Theory Reading Group, organized by Gail Hamner this semester reading Spinoza’s Ethics.

This calendar year, the Jewish Studies Program hosted or co-hosted Susannah Heschel, Jay Geller Aaron Hughes, Nora Rubel, Sayed Kashua, Laura Levitt, and Benjamin Sommer.

The Department of Religion and the Religion Graduate Organization hosted visits by Constance Furey, Lynn Huffer, Deborah Whitehad, Jason Josephson, and Courtney Bender.


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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