Faculty Seminars 2015-2016

Open to faculty and graduate students only

The Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers invites you to a seminar with

KrawkowskitalkDr. Eve Krakowski

Young Wives between the Courtroom and the Bedroom:
Jewish Marriage Agreements in Twelfth-century Egypt

Tuesday, February 16, 2016, 10:30 am – 12:00 noon, followed by lunch
Seminar Room, 12 College Avenue (Bildner Center)

Beginning in the early twelfth century, Jewish marriage documents preserved in the Cairo Geniza begin to feature personal stipulations: promises by both spouses, but especially husbands, to give the other specific personal and financial rights in marriage. This paper will examine how these documents shaped married women’s intimate position within households, and why. Until now, the new marriage agreements have mostly been read as top-down rabbinic products that testify to women’s protection by a maturing Jewish communal infrastructure in twelfth-century Fustat (old Cairo). I will argue that they illustrate something quite different: a socially contingent Jewish legal system that allowed a woman’s own male relatives pride of place in deciding how she could live as a wife—not only when a marriage was arranged, but also after it had begun.

Dr. Krakowski is an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies and the Program in Judaic Studies at Princeton University.

Lunch will be served. RSVP by February 10: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gray Urbanism in Israel

Erez Tzfadia, Sapir College & Israel Institute's Visiting Scholar at the Bildner Center

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 11:30 am
Bildner Center, 12 College Avenue
Lunch will be provided.

Modernist cities represent the rationalist vision of organized, pre-planned and orderly space. These cities promise its citizens all-inclusive egalitarian citizenship and tolerance. With this in mind, we recognize the day-to-day city, often representing the opposite of the modernist city, strewn with shades of ‘gray’. Part of the city is planned and organized, but within it exists encroaching spaces of unplanned building and an informal economy. Slums and shanty towns accommodate twenty-five percent of the world’s population, mainly in the global south but rapidly expanding northward. This presentation will focus on the central insights emerging from the study of urban informality in Israel. It will suggest a framework which adds to the understanding of the phenomenon, focusing on the encounter between the logic of ethno-nationalism and the logic of capitalism, and the way they promote the ‘gray” spaces in the contemporary city. 

Sponsored by the Bildner Center

The Henry Schwartzman Endowed Faculty Seminar

The Evolution of the Concept of the Non-Jew  in Late Antiquity

Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Department of Hebrew Cutural Studies, Tel Aviv University

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 11:30 am
Bildner Center, 12 College Avenue
Lunch will be provided.

The Hebrew term goy appears for the first time in rabbinic literature as a general term for all non-Jews and has been in current use since. While the status of gentiles in rabbinic literature has received extensive treatment, the concept itself was considered self-evident and its history remained undetected. How and why did the term goy, which in biblical and second-temple literature means "people" or "nation" come to denote non-Jews in rabbinic literature? Does this terminological transformation conceal a deeper conceptual change? In this presentation, Rosen-Zvi discusses the category of the unified “goy” as a rabbinic novelty, erasing all ethnic and social differences and replacing older, less dichotomous, categories of otherness.

Sponsored by the Bildner Center

Fall 2015

Eva Mroczek


How to Close a Canon
from Jewish Antiquity to Haile Selassie

Tuesday, November 17, 10:30 am – 12:00 noon, followed by lunch
Seminar Room, 12 College Avenue (Bildner Center)

While no concept of a scriptural canon existed in Judaism before the Common Era, something shifts in the first century CE: Josephus and 4Ezra mention that there is a certain number of sacred books, 22 or 24. Scholars interpret this to mean that Jews now had a closed canon of scripture. But neither source enumerates which texts are included; the numbers are clearly typological; and a broader corpus of writings is still considered sacred and authentic, even though it falls outside these bounds. What do such numbers really mean, and how are they related to the concept of canonicity? Focusing on second temple Jewish sources like Psalm manuscripts and Jubilees as well as Josephus and 4Ezra, the talk will also consider Rabbinic and Syriac Christian literature and the modern analogy of the Ethiopic Orthodox Church to show how considering the cultural uses and meanings of numbers in religious discourses can change the story we tell about setting the boundaries of scripture. This becomes a lens for reflecting on the culturally shifting concepts of canon, revelation, and the idea of “the Bible” across time and religious traditions.

Eva Mroczek is Assistant Professor of Premodern Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California Davis. Her first book, The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity, is coming out in April with Oxford University Press. Dr. Mroczek is currently a fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

RSVP by Thursday, November 12, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.