RootedThe Myth of Jewish Universalism: Recovering the Judeo-Catholic Origins of Amnesty International

James Loeffler
Berkowitz Professor of Jewish History, University of Virginia

Tuesday, April 2, 2019
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Bildner Center, 12 College Avenue

This seminar will re-examine the origins of Amnesty International through the St. Paul-like conversion story of its founder, Peter Benenson, Jewish Socialist Zionist turned Catholic universalist. Benenson's writings illustrate that the well-worn myth of a tradition of non-Jewish Jews or Jewish universalism, which is often invoked in accounts of human rights history, crumbles upon closer inspection. In its place, we find an intriguing example of how the politics of Jewish identity shaped the late modern Western moral imagination.

James Loeffler is a scholar of Jewish, European, and international history, and the history of human rights. His publications include Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, and the forthcoming collection, The Law of Strangers: Jewish Lawyers and International Law in Historical Perspective.

Article in Jewish Standard, "The Secret Jewish history of human rights", Virginia professor to speak at Rutgers about "Rooted Cosmopolitans'.

This seminar is open to faculty and graduate students only.

Support provided by the Henry Schwartzman Endowed Fund.


BenjaminJewish Feminist Thought: Unfinished Agendas, New Directions

Mara Benjamin
Mt. Holyoke College

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Bildner Center, 12 College Avenue

Starting in the 1970s, Jewish feminists challenged the gender order of Jewish tradition and unleashed an outpouring of innovative work in midrash, ritual, liturgy, and other expressive forms. This seminar examines how the themes that emerged in early feminist critiques of Jewish thought have been amplified, addressed, or shifted by recent developments in Jewish feminism, including Kohenet, Orthodox feminism, and queer and trans theology.

Mara Benjamin is Irene Kaplan Leiwant Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Mt. Holyoke College. She is the author of Rosenzweig’s Bible: Reinventing Scripture for Jewish Modernity and, most recently, The Obligated Self: Maternal Subjectivity and Jewish Thought.

This seminar is open to faculty and graduate students only.