Coming events for Fall 2017

David Blitzer programmatic symposium, “What Should Jewish Thought Be?”

October 19th at 7 pm University at Buffalo

Samuel Friedman Library – 708 Clemens Hall

The symposium will comprise talks by two of the most intellectually powerful and creative leading scholars in Jewish Thought, professors Martin Kavka and David Metzger, followed by round-table discussion for faculty and graduate students and community members. At the time when technological thinking facilitates a tacit by dangerous move from democracy to technocracy, turning to intellectual resources of Biblical Ethics and its Jewish tradition as one of the three pillars of Western humanity (along with Greek philosophy and Roman law) becomes vital. It is about reclaiming the role of Jewish tradition as not only and not primarily promoting technological advancement, but also and more importantly developing new ways of thinking in the face of each new challenge and each new responsibility that greets us.

The David Blitzer symposium will be dedicated to that intellectual and ethical task.

The event will be open for the public. In consideration of room and refreshments orders and to receive further information and updates on that event, please contact the Department of Jewish Thought at: to reserve your place.


Department of Jewish Thought and the Humanities Institute Symposium – “Cosmopolitanism versus Globalization”

October, 23-24, 2017 – University at Buffalo

Samuel Friedman Library  – 708 Clemens Hall

There is an increasingly obvious conflict between the culture of a genuine cosmopolitanism, originating in the qualitative creativity of local contexts yet in communication with a worldwide Republic of Letters, and globalization, with its quantitative anti-culture of commodification, cost-benefit, and publicity motivated by monetary profiteering.  Of this conflict, Pierre Bourdieu, in Firing Back (2001) wrote: “As Pascale Casanova showed in La Republique Modiale des lettres, the ‘denationalized International of creators,’ the Joyces, Faulkners, Kafkas, Becketts, or Gombrowiczes, pure products of Ireland, the United States, Czechoslovakia, or Poland, but who were made in Paris; or the Kaurismakis, Manuel De Oliveiras, Satyajit Rays, Kieslowskis, or Kiarostamis, and so many other contemporary filmmakers of all countries, haughtily ignored by the Hollywood aesthetic, could never have existed and subsisted without an international tradition of artistic internationalism or, more precisely, with the microcosm of producers, critics, and informed audiences required for its survival and which, having been constituted long ago, has managed to survive in precious few places spared by the commercial invasion.  Despite appearances, this tradition of specific internationalism, proper to the realm of culture, stands radically opposed to what is called ‘globalization.’ That term, which operates both as a password and a watchword, is in effect the justificatory mask sported by a policy aimed at universalizing the particle interests and the particular tradition of the economically and politically dominant powers (principally the United States).  It seeks to extend to the whole world the economic and culture model most favorable to those powers, by presenting that model as a norm, an imperative, an inevitable development, and a universal destiny, so as to obtain universal allegiance – or at least universal resignation – to it”  (pp. 74-75).  The aim of this one day conference is to investigate, clarify and weigh these claims regarding an opposition between the spiritual heritage and “aura” of specific cultural cosmopolitanism and abstract commercial globalization, what Guy Debord called “the spectacle.”  What can be done to resist the sedative complacency and compliance of global capitalist ideology and entertainment which, as Marcuse put it, “delivers the goods”?


Richard A. Cohen, Dept. of Jewish Thought, UB

Joseph Conte, Dept. of English, UB

Sergey Dolgopolski, Dept. of Jewish Thought, UB

Tito Marci, Dept. of Political Science, University of Rome – La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

Deborah Reed-Danahay, Dept. of Anthropology, UB

Luca Scuccimarra, Dept., of Political Science, University of Rome – La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

The event will be open for the public. In consideration of room and refreshments orders and to receive further information and updates on that event, please contact the Department of Jewish Thought at: to reserve your place.

Jews and Melancholia International Symposium a Success!

Photo of Jews and Melancholia Speakers, taken on March 30, 201, at Samuel Friedman Judaic Library, 708 Clemens Hall, UB from left to right (Click name for Abstract)
 Irven Resnick, Vivian Liska, Nitzan Lebovic, Sergey Dolgopolski, Noam Pines (Organizer), Ann Golomp Hoffman

Jews and Melancholia International Symposium

University of Buffalo

March 30-31, 2017

Samuel Friedman Library, Clemens 708

The connection between Jews and melancholia is a long-standing one in Western thought and culture, and is grounded in religious, medical, astrological, artistic, literary, and philosophical traditions that extend all the way to antiquity. The association begins in late Roman antiquity, when the Jewish Sabbath was identified with the worship of Saturn, the planet of melancholics; it continues throughout the Middle Ages and early modern times, when melancholia was linked in the Christian imagination with the Jewish cannibalistic lust for Christian blood; and culminates in such twentieth century Jewish figures as Walter Benjamin and S. Y. Agnon, who identified their Judaism, or certain forms of modern Jewish mentality, with a melancholic disposition. What is at stake, then, in the notion of melancholia, and why is it frequently associated with Jews and Jewish identity? The symposium will present an opportunity to think about these questions and discuss them in an interdisciplinary academic forum. The purpose of the symposium is to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on melancholia—while drawing on classical, medieval, and modern notions—not only by charting the specific relation of such notions to Jews, but also by identifying how they came to influence certain artistic, theological, and literary practices.

Topics and Speakers:

Are Jews Melancholic Acedia in Rabbinic (In)action – by Sergey Dolgopolski (Jewish Thought, SUNY at Buffalo)

Freud and Agnon Melancholy Objects, Language, Identifications- by Anne Golomb Hoffman (English, Fordham University)

Left-Wing Melancholy in Early Hebrew Literature- by Nitzan Lebovic (History, Lehigh University)

Demonic Melancholy. Reading Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin Today- by Vivian Liska (German Literature, University of Antwerp)

The Portrait of the Jew as a Saturnian Cannibal- by Noam Pines (Jewish Thought, SUNY at Buffalo)

The Melancholy Jew Humoral Theory in medieval Jewish and Christian Polemics- by Irven Resnick (Philosophy and Religion, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)

Jews and Melancholia Poster

Jews and Melancholia International Symposium Program

This event is sponsored by the Department of Jewish Thought, the Department of Comparative Literature, The Humanities Institute, The Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture, and by Ewa Ziarek, Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature.




Kafka Conference a Success!

Photo of Speakers, taken on April 5, 2016, at Samuel Friedman Judaica Library, 708 Clemens Hall, UB: from left to right: Professors Paul North, Nitzan Lebovic, Richard Cohen, Max Pensky, Sergey Dolgopolski, Noam Pines (Organizer)

Kafka Conf Participants April 5 2016


“Kafka and the Law” Conference

at University at Buffalo

April 4-5, 2016

The law is a theme that pervades the work of Franz Kafka as a whole, from his early writings, such as “The Judgment,” through The Trial, to later works such as The Castle and the neglected piece “The Animal in the Synagogue.” Yet despite its critical importance, the law remains a “cloudy spot” in Kafka’s oeuvre and a bone of contention for subsequent critics and interpreters. The conference will explore some of the literary, philosophical, and theological aspects of the law in Kafka’s writings, and suggest ways to situate it within his work as well as within the general context of Jewish thought and modernist literature.

Session I

Nitzan Lebovic (Lehigh University) – The Law of the Land and No Man’s Land: On Kafka and porous borders

Richard A. Cohen (SUNY at Buffalo) – Pusillanimous Kafka: A Sad Case

Session II

Sergey Dolgopolski (SUNY at Buffalo) – Anteriorities: Kafka’s critique of the political in the Talmud

Max Pensky (SUNY Binghamton) – Spooky Action at a Distance: Kafka and the Laws of Spacetime

Evening Panel on the the topic: “Kafka in Our Time,” An open discussion in which the conference participants will answer questions from the audience.

Session III

Paul North (Yale University) – To Defraud But Not to Deceive

Noam Pines (SUNY at Buffalo) – On Shechita in Kafka’s The Trial

Organized by Prof. Noam Pines, sponsored by the Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage, and the Humanities Institute, University at Buffalo.   This conference is free and open to the public.  Everyone is welcome.


“The ‘Strange Hell of Beauty’:

Hell in Existential Paris”

Thursday, March 24, 2016, 2:00pm

University at Buffalo, North Campus

108 Baldy Hall

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves Hellmouth

James McLachlan is a Professor of Philosophy at Western Carolina University. He earned a Ph. D from the Centre for the study of religion at the University of Toronto and did graduate work at Indiana University, Universite de Paris, and Pennsylvania State University.

Sponsored By:

The Department of Jewish Thought


IJTH Faculty to give Five Community Lectures on

LOVE in the Jewish Tradition


2015: October 29, November 15; 2016: March 15, April 18, May 18. Mark your calendars.


Maimonides Conference

at University at Buffalo

 November 19, 2015

One of the most revolutionary figures in the Jewish tradition is the philosopher and legal scholar, Moses Maimonides (1138-1204). Maimonides changed the ways Jews understand their religion through his major theological work, the Guide of the Perplexed and his legal code, the Mishneh Torah, so much so that everyone after Maimonides was influenced by him, even his critical opponents. As the eminent Maimonides scholar Isadore Twersky observed, “although religious rationalism did not begin with Maimonides, it came to be totally identified with him. Protagonists and antagonists would draw the lines of their positions in relation to Maimonides. To a great extent, subsequent Jewish intellectual history may be seen as a debate concerning the wisdom and effectiveness of the Maimonidean position.”
One would think that eight hundred years after his death, scholars would have completed the study of his writings, but scholars still actively debate Maimonides’ ideas and deliberate over the extent to which they support the Maimonidean project.

The last two years have witnessed many new books published on Maimonides’ thought by leading academic scholars in the United States, Canada and Israel. This conference seeks to bring these scholars together for the first time to discuss their works, allowing them to converse with each other over the lasting significance of Maimonides’ writings.

Moshe Halbertal

“Emotion and the Law: Maimonides’ Conception of Mourning”

Kenneth Hart Green – “Why Maimonides Was Controversial”

Lawrence Kaplan – “Love and Fear of God in the Writings of Maimonides According to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik”

James Diamond – “Nahmanides vs Maimonides on Memory and The Shaping of Jewish Identity”

Evening panel at Temple Beth Tzedek on the theme: “Why Read Maimonides Today”

All four professors will give brief presentations and answer questions from the audience.  Their books will be available for purchase, thanks to Talking Leaves Books. The authors will be signing their books as well.

Four Invited Distinguished Scholars and their Recent Books on Maimonides:

– James Diamond, Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
– Moshe Halbertal, Maimonides: Life and Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013.
– Kenneth Hart Green, Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides and Leo Strauss on Maimonides: The Complete Writings, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
– Lawrence Kaplan, Maimonides, Between Philosophy and Halakhah: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Lectures on the ‘Guide of the Perplexed’. Urim Publications, 2013.

Moshe Halbertal is the Gruss Professor at NYU School of Law and a professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at Hebrew University. He received his Ph.D. from Hebrew University in 1989, and from 1988-92 he was a fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. Moshe Halbertal has also served as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, and at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is the author of the books Idolatry (co-authored with Avishai Margalit), and People of the Book: Canon, Meaning, and Authority, both published by Harvard University Press, and of Concealment and Revelation published by Princeton University Press. He has also authored two books, Interpretative Revolutions in the Making, and Between Torah and Wisdom: R Menachem ha-Meiri and The Maimonidean Halakhists in Provence, both published in Hebrew by Magnes Press. His most recent books are By Way of Truth: Nachmanides and the Creation of Tradition, published by the Shalom Hartman Institute and Maimonides: Life and Thought published by Princeton University Press .

– Lawrence J. Kaplan received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He has taught Rabbinics and Jewish Philosophy in the Department of Jewish Studies of McGill University since 1972. In the spring of 2004 he held a Harry Starr Fellowship at the Center for Jewish Studies of Harvard. He is probably best known for his scholarship on and translation of the works of “the Rav,” Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. He translated from the Hebrew Rabbi Soloveitchik’s classic monograph Halakhic Man (Jewish Publication Society, 1983), as well as his essay “Kol Dodi Dofek.” His overview of the thought of Rabbi Soloveitchik appeared in the Cambridge Companion to Modern Jewish Philosophy.

– Kenneth Hart Green teaches Jewish Studies in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. He received his Ph.D. in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. He has published books and articles which explore the thought of Judah Halevi, Moses Maimonides, Benedict Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Franz Rosenzweig, Leo Strauss, Gershom Scholem, and Emil Fackenheim. His most recent books are Leo Strauss, On Maimonides: The Complete Writings, and Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides. His next book is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press entitled Emil Fackenheim’s Search of Revelation: Divine Presence and Diabolical History. He is also presently working on a manuscript with the tentative title: What Moses Saw: Maimonidean Meditations, or On the Torah as a Speculative Teaching.

– James A. Diamond holds the Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Waterloo. He earned an LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School; an LLM in International Legal Studies at New York University School of Law and, while practicing civil litigation, an MA and PhD in Medieval Jewish Thought from University of Toronto. He was the international director of the Friedberg Genizah Project. His books, Maimonides and the Hermeneutics of Concealment, and Converts, Heretics, and Lepers: Maimonides and the Outsider, garnered Canadian Jewish book awards; the latter a Jordan Schnitzer Notable Selection. He has published widely on Jewish thought from the Bible to Maimonides to R. Kook. His most recent book is Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon published by Cambridge University Press.

(Specific paper topics and times TBA)

This conference has been organized by Prof. Alex Green, IJTH, and is sponsored by the Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage, and the Humanities Institute, of the University at Buffalo.  It is free and open to the public.  We welcome you to attend.

April 30, 2015

Jewish Studies Open House  a Big Success

Jewish Studies Open House- April 39 2015

 Organized by Prof. Alex Green, Jewish Studies majors and minors and other interested UB students gathered in Clemens 708 for dinner and conversation, and to learn about Jewish Studies courses and activities at UB.

(Events for Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 will be posted when speakers, topics, dates, times, places are finalized.)