Welcome to Jewish History Matters

Jewish History Matters features interviews and in-depth discussion of new research and enduring debates about Jewish history and culture and why it matters. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or browse and listen to our latest episodes.

What Happens to Jewish Culture Without Jews with Alanna Cooper and Hillel Smith

What happens to our stuff when we’re gone? Hillel Smith and Alanna Cooper join the podcast to talk about their projects that consider what happens to Jewish communities and their stuff, both buildings and objects, especially when we look at communities and synagogues that shrink, disappear, merge together, or move from one place to another.

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American Judaism with Jonathan Sarna

Jonathan Sarna discusses American Judaism: A History, which recently was published in a second, revised edition. Listen in for a wide ranging conversation about American Jewish history in big terms, about Jonathan’s work at large and the book American Judaism in particular. As we discuss in the episode, American Judaism is one of a series of books which have been published in recent years that has tried to synthesize American Jewish history, so we will look closely at how the landscape of American Jewish historical studies has developed, how we tell the history of America’s Jews, and why it matters.

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Contemporary Yiddish Culture (and Podcasts!) with Sandra Fox

In this episode, we’re joined by Sandra Fox to talk about contemporary Yiddish culture and her Yiddish-language feminist podcast, Vaybertaytsh. The podcast recently came back for a new season, and so we’re going to be talking about the origin of the podcast as part of the development of contemporary Yiddish culture and its history.

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews on Israeli TV with Shayna Weiss

In this episode we’re excited to share a presentation by Shayna Weiss about Israeli TV titled “Black is the New Black: Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Israel, and the Globalization of Television,” and a conversation with her about Israeli television, the representation of ultra-Orthodox Jews in this medium, and why this matters as we put Israel in a global context.

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Translating the Bible with Robert Alter

For this episode, we are joined by Robert Alter to discuss his monumental translation of the Bible. Robert Alter has been translating the Bible for more than twenty years, beginning with his translation of Genesis published in 1996. It’s really a tremendous achievement, as he brings his own particular sensibilities to the project as a literary scholar. We’re excited to share our fascinating conversation about the meaning of translation, the significance of Bible translations in particular, and what we get from a translation of the Bible that emphasizes its literary character and sensibilities.

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Why Modern Jewish Studies Matters with Mirjam Thulin and Jeffrey Blutinger

Mirjam Thulin and Jeffrey Blutinger join us for a conversation about the past and future of modern Jewish studies. We’ll look at what’s at stake when in how people write and tell the history of the Jews, and delve into why studying the Jews has mattered over the course of two centuries of modern Jewish studies, and why it still matters today.

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Roundtable Discussion on the Materiality of Jewish Culture with Aleksandra Buncic, Nathan Mastnjack, David Sclar, and Jason Lustig

Listen to a roundtable discussion on the materiality of Jewish culture with B Buncic, David Sclar, Nathan Mastnjack, and Jason Lustig, who in 2018-19 have been Harry Starr Fellows in Judaica at Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies. The theme this year has been the history of the Jewish book, and we come together to discuss why books matter in Jewish culture and why we should look at the material objects, writing platforms, and physical form in addition to the contents that they contain.

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What Does It Mean for Israel to be a “Jewish” State? Defining Israel with Simon Rabinovitch

Simon Rabinovitch joins us to talk about Israel’s nation-state law and his volume Defining Israel: The Jewish State, Democracy and the Law—the origins, development, and ramifications of Israel’s nation-state law, how we can contextualize it, and try to understand its importance and meaning for the ongoing debates over the character of the state of Israel.

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