Titles and abstracts

David Abulafia "The first Sephardim in the Atlantic"
Among the first people to settle the Atlantic islands discovered by Portuguese and Spanish navigators in the 15th century were Jews and 'New Christians', some of whom kept up Jewish practices in secret.  Life was not easy for them, with the Inquisition on their tail in the Canary Islands; while the Equatorial island of Sao Tome was settled by Jewish children forcibly separated from their parents and sent as cheap labour to the sugar plantations of this remote Portuguese possession.  At the same time, New Christian merchants played a very important role in the opening of trade to West Africa and Brazil at the start of the sixteenth century. Overall, the Sephardim helped transform the Atlantic world in the Age of Discovery.

Rachel Adelstein "The world of Jewish liturgical music"
When we think of synagogue music, we usually think first of Lewandowski and Carlebach.  But what do synagogues sound like in other parts of the world, and what did they sound like in the distant past?  Come and explore the sounds of Jewish praise and worship in medieval France, southern India, northern Uganda, and other communities less well known in the UK.

David Bilchitz "The Kaddish symphony: Blasphemy or profound theology?"
The mourner’s Kaddish has become one of the defining texts of modern Jewish living, exalted by the secular and religious alike. Yet, as a response to death, it raises profound and difficult theological questions that have been explored in our contemporary world by, amongst others, Leonard Bernstein in his Kaddish symphony. In this interactive and multi-media session, we will explore the music and text of the Kaddish symphony and how it both challenges and provides a provide interpretation of this seminal prayer.

Daniel Boyarin "The quest of the historical metatron: Enoch or Jesus?"
We'll be looking comparatively at a Talmudic text and a passage from the Hekhalot mystical texts and trying to sort out the genealogy of some surprising material that we find there.

Zoe Buckman "The Sparing Artist – practice and influences"
Artist Zoe Buckman discusses her artistic practice and influences from vintage lingerie, boxing, Planned Parenthood, and placentas.

Sir Roy Calne "The Ratchet of Science or curiosity killed the cat"
Science, like the Universe, is expanding and accelerating. Science has bestowed many gifts on our quality of life ranging from health, travel and communication. There are also unintended consequences of science, which may be accidental and unanticipated or deliberate, as with the development of new weapons that carry dreadful potential. Science has a responsibility for these consequences even if they are not anticipated. Sir Roy Calne looks at the correspondence between scientists and philosophers, in particular between Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, for ways to continue a peaceful dialogue to prevent future confrontation.

Rabbi Levi Cooper "Leadership: Preservation or innovation?"
What is the goal of leadership? Should leaders aim to preserve the traditions of old, guarding our hallowed heritage against whimsical fades? Or perhaps the task of leaders is to forge a new path through unchartered territory, innovating and inspiring as they lead? We will refract this question through the lens of the famous Talmudic passage describing the dismissal of Rabban Gamliel from his position at the head of the academy in Yavne.

Sir Richard Evans "Art and architecture in Nazi Germany"
Hitler, a failed artist in his youth, was obsessed with art and architecture. Art for the Nazis was more than just propaganda. But what kind of paintings, sculptures and buildings did they favour? And how did artists and architects respond? This illustrated lecture explores the fate of modern art in Nazi Germany and comes up with some surprising conclusions.

Michael Figueroa "Jerusalem’s music matters / Jerusalem’s musical matter"
In my presentation I discuss the modern history of “Jerusalem song” (shire Yerushalayim, שירי ירושלים)—songs that take the contested city as their subject. My analysis of tropes, metaphors, and performance conventions that comprise the poetics of this musical/literary genre will intersect with an ethnographic account of everyday social and musical life in 21st-century Jerusalem.

Menachem Fisch "Toward a Jewish philosophy of humour"
In this presentation I will show how the history of philosophical attempts to understand humour culminate in a picture that is inherently Jewish.

Sir Lawrence Freedman "Does strategy always fail in the Middle East?"
Conflict in the Middle East has reached new levels of violence in complexity since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The West has struggled to find strategies that can both contain the violence and create the conditions for a satisfactory long-term solution. This talk will explore why this is the case.

Jay Geller "With Friends like Marx and Freud…"
This session explores how Marx and Freud, though often viewed as exemplary self-hating, if not outright anti-Semitic, non-Jewish “Jewish” thinkers were indeed thinking in Jewish. That is, it examines how they appropriated the anti-Jewish muck encountered daily and transformed that dreck in order to make sense of their worlds and our modernity.

Shirli Gilbert "Jews, the Holocaust and apartheid"
Three years after the end of the Holocaust, South Africa instituted apartheid. In this session we’ll explore the SA Jewish community’s responses to a system based on racism. To what extent did their own historical experience of persecution impact their behaviour?

Niv Goldberg "De profundis clamavi! Art in the Holocaust and the Holocaust in art"
Resistance to the German Nazi extermination machine that implemented the Holocaust took many forms. One of these, perhaps the most striking, was offered by Jewish artists struggling to survive yet determined to engage in resistance both practical and spiritual. Threatened with torture and death if discovered, they nevertheless took respite from their own existential worries, and created art that documented the travails of their persecuted brethren. These artists, many of whom were murdered, have bequeathed us visual testimony both stark and vibrantly exhilarating – of life and death in the inferno.

Bettany Hughes "Putting history and ideas on TV"
In conversation with Mike Levy.

Howard Jacobson "In conversation about my new novel 'Shylock Is My Name'"

Kalela Lancaster "Beyond tribes: towards a mosaic of Israeli society"
Israeli society is characterized by a high degree of fragmentation and polarisation, including divides along political, religious, national and ethnic lines. With segregated education systems, growing economic gaps, and an atmosphere of mistrust and delegitimisation of “the other”, Israel’s President Rivlin has cautioned that “Israel’s tribal schisms are threatening to tear Israel apart”.
This session will explore the extent of this problem, discuss different perspectives on its roots, and share some positive new initiatives that are crossing the divides of Israeli society to advance social cohesion.

Beatrice Lang "Yiddish in the 21st century"
Who is speaking Yiddish today, and why? This report will focus on contemporary manifestations of Yiddish culture including the Yiddish Farm in Goshen, New York, the Sholem Aleichem College in Melbourne, Australia, the forthcoming Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary and Handl Erlekh, the Hasidic version of monopoly.

Rabbi Levi Lauer "Paradox, broken myths and uncertainty: Foundations of Jewish activist engagement"
There is urgent need for many Jews to embrace, rather than deny, a profound theological-philosophical doubt as the basis of their faith/emu. This session will seek to affirm, classically and textually, that doubt and suggest its potential as an organising principle of activist endeavour. A thinking, modern wo/man’s guide to perplexity and social engagement.

Amy-Jill Levine "Jesus’s parables as Jewish stories"
Jesus told Parables – including stories of the pearl of great price, the prodigal son, and the good Samaritan – to fellow Jews: recovering that original setting corrects their frequent anti-Jewish interpretations, provides a grounding for better Jewish/Christian relations, and offers new insight into both ancient and contemporary social relations. 

Alison Liebling "'Intelligent trust', 'subversive geraniums' and penal reform"
Alison Liebling argues that we need a 'trust uprising’. I challenge 'terror talk', proposing that we replace 'risk discourse', and action, with 'trust discourse' and action, in the interests of building a better future. I draw on the results of a two year study of 'the location and building of trust' in high security prison settings, and explore some of the advantages found, then and since, in approaching both prison life in general, and 'the new security risks' in particular, in this way.

Jacqueline Nicholls "Venice, Jewish printing & contemporary Jewish art"
The first completed printed set of Talmud was produced in Venice in the 16th century. Jacqueline has been exploring through drawings the connection between the layout of the Talmud page, the experience of learning Talmud, and the topography of this magical labyrinthian city. Jacqueline also led an international group of artists to create artwork for a new Haggadah, inspired by the original 1609 Haggadah, and this most magical of cities, the artists worked together, forming a conversation between the traditional and the contemporary.

E.M. Rose Blood, guts and crusade: The medieval blood libel and its modern repercussions
The malevolent accusation that Jews used the blood of children for religious rituals has endured for centuries and led to torture, pogroms and expulsions in supposed revenge. We will examine the origins of the blood libel in the Middle Ages, review some of the famous English cases, and consider how and why it spread. We will also look will also look at some the imagery of the blood libel and its use in antisemitic propaganda up to and including the present.

Miri Rubin Church and synagogue: Visualising the relationship between Judaism and Christianity
Around the year 800 a new way of representing the relationship between Judaism and Christianity developed in Europe, in the shape of two female figures: Church and Synagogue. Over the following centuries these figures came to be known widely, carved and painted in many media, for uses that were public as well as private. This lecture will trace the emergence of a new way of visualising the relations between the two religions, and pay particular attention to change over time, especially after the Black Death. Miri Rubin will present the fruits of her current research with the aid of distinctive imagery and texts, and consider how such images affected the experiences of Jews in medieval cities.

Rita Rudner and Martin Bergman... ...argue in public
USA comedian Rita Rudner and her British husband Martin Bergman (Emmanuel College, 1976–79) tell as much as they can remember about their show business adventures in Hollywood, on Broadway and in Las Vegas – from meeting screen legends to meeting people who ended up in prison, from writing screenplays for executives and actors who cannot read to Rita becoming the longest-running solo comedy show in Las Vegas history, from dog smuggling to raising a daughter in Sin City. (Said daughter, Molly, will also be making an appearance).

Lena Salamayeh Circumcising member(ship): Jewish and Islamic rituals in tandem
This presentation explores historical and contemporary debates on male circumcision. In late antiquity, Jews and Muslims justified male circumcision in overlapping, but distinct ways; by comparison, Christians rejected circumcision. These historical debates resonate in contemporary debates about the legality of circumcision.

Philippe Sands "East West Street": On the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity
A uniquely personal exploration of the origins of international law, centering on the Nuremberg Trials, the city of Lviv and a secret family history. Internationally-renowned human rights lawyer Philippe Sands guides us between past and present as several interconnected stories unfold in parallel. The first is the hidden story of two Nuremberg prosecutors who discover, only at the end of the trials, that the man they are prosecuting, once Hitler's personal lawyer, may be responsible for the murder of their entire families in Nazi-occupied Poland, in and around Lviv. The two prosecutors, Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, were remarkable men, whose efforts led to the inclusion of the terms 'crimes against humanity' and 'genocide' in the judgement at Nuremberg, with their different emphasis on the protection of individuals and groups.  A second strand is more personal, as Sands traces the events that overwhelmed his mother's family in Lviv and Vienna during the Second World War, and led his grandfather to leave his wife and daughter behind as war came to Europe.
Click for a trailer of Philippe Sands's book.

Marc Saperstein Agony in the pulpit: British Jewish preaching in response to Nazi persecution and mass murder, 1933–1945
The talk will focus on passages from the texts of sermons delivered by rabbinical leaders such as Joseph Hertz, Abraham Cohen (unpublished hand-written texts), Israel Mattuck (unpublished typed texts), Ignaz Maybaum and Eliezer Berkovits, responding to events at critical points during the Nazi period.
Despite the enormous amount of scholarly research and publication on virtually all aspects of the Holocaust, this is a topic that has been almost totally ignored. The dated texts of the sermons reveals what the rabbinical leaders knew at these crucial moments, what and when they communicated to their congregants, how they related the events to traditional Jewish texts and earlier experiences of persecution (emphasizing continuity or recognition of something new), and so forth. It is part of a book I am close to finishing, which will include American rabbis and some from other countries (Canada, France, Poland, Palestine, etc.) as well.

Jonathan Steinberg Reflections on the return of anti-semitism today
Since the last third of the nineteenth century, anti-semitism has taken various forms culminating in the Shoah. Even the death of half the Jews in the world did not eradicate it and now in the globalised world of the 21st Century it has sprung up anew in reaction to changes in that world. This talk will be in the spirit of Limmud not a set of conclusions but a group of questions that all of us must face.

Linda Turner More secrets from the Shtetl
The Director of Mavar, together with one or two ex-charedi young people will discuss the challenges faced by disaffected individuals who have grown up in an ultra-orthodox community and are now exploring the wider world – or in some cases have chosen to leave that world behind them. Mavar is a relatively new charity that supports young men and women who are embarking on this difficult journey.

Rafi ZarumDefecation and the Divine
To my mind, Asher Yatzar, the prayer said after using the toilet, is the most visceral and vital of the everyday blessings. We will look at its Talmudic origins and its surprising view of God. We will also discover how The Temple toilet caused a Christian argument, how Rabbi Yehudi HaNasi's privy pains were masked, and how sacredness can be found in bodily secretions.

and finally...

NBOS Some for laughs, some for tears: Jewish cabaret at the Cambridge Limmud
Fresh from performances in the United States and the UK, celebrating their 2016 Grammy Award nomination, the New Budapest Orpheum Society decamps in Cambridge to share the remarkable range of repertories that they call Jewish cabaret. Their performance unfolds as a journey through modern Jewish history, beginning on the streets of fin-de-siècle Vienna, following the paths of struggle and exile, searching out the music of survival and remembrance. Songs from the Yiddish stage and the early decades sound film in Berlin and Hollywood fill the evening, resounding worlds forgotten and newly rediscovered. It will be an evening of twentieth-century Jewish songs in their remarkable diversity, some for laughs, some for tears.