Faculty Seminars

Tripartite Sinai"O Beastly Jew!" Jews, Animals, and Jewish Animals in the Middle Ages

David Shyovitz
Northwestern University

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
10:00 AM
Bildner Center, 12 College Ave.

In the high Middle Ages, northern European Christians and Jews increasingly equated Jews with animals. For Christians, the linkage was meant disparagingly—claims that Jews were fundamentally animalistic served to “de-humanize” them by highlighting their inferiority and irrationality. But a wide range of medieval Jewish authors and artists self-consciously celebrated their “beastly” identity, and sought to efface the conceptual and theological boundaries between humans and animals altogether. In this presentation, David Shyovitz will explore several manifestations of this paradoxical convergence between Christian and Jewish discourses of animality, and trace the shifting and contested status of “Jewish animals” in medieval European culture.

David Shyovitz is Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University and director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. His publications include A Remembrance of His Wonders: Nature and the Supernatural in Medieval Ashkenaz (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).


Hacohen LectureJewish European History: The Challenge Ahead

Malachi Hacohen
Duke University

Thursday, September 19, 2019
4:30 PM 
Bildner Center, 12 College Avenue

The horizons of Jewish Studies and European history have been drawing closer in recent years. Jewish Studies scholars now seek to locate their subjects within European history, and European historians recount transnational histories using the Jewish Diaspora.  But convergence is still limited.  Rabbinic scholars and European historians still seem to inhabit different intellectual universes, as if their concerns did not matter to each other.  Traditional Jewish Studies still do not tell a European story, and European intellectual history does not tell a traditional Jewish one. For traditional Jewish culture to become part of European history, rabbinic discourses must be “Europeanized,” and Jewish European history written, at least in part, out of traditional Jewish sources. 

The challenges of Jewish European history exemplify those of writing the histories of other minorities, especially Muslim Europeans.  The lecture addresses these challenges, searching for a history that is at one and the same time genuinely Jewish and European, in the hope that it facilitate other histories written from the margins. 

Malachi Hacohen is Professor of History, Political Science and Religion at Duke University and Director of the Religions and Public Life Initiative at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His books include Karl Popper - The Formative Years, 1902-1945: Politics and Philosophy in Interwar Vienna and Jacob and Esau: Jewish European History Between Nation and Empire.

This seminar is open to faculty and graduate students only.