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Judaic Audio Lectures, Panel Discussions, Author Talks, Workshops & More

The AJL Podcast brings you the best talks on Jewish literature and the Jewish library world, with respected experts and popular authors. Please check back periodically, as new lectures will be added to the series.


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Use the links on the left to select a category of interest or to use our index.


Stanford University Libraries acquired the papers of Eisig Silberschlag (1903-1988) in 2003. Silberschlag was recognized as an authority in the field of Hebrew literary criticism and won prizes for his translations of Aristophanes and Menander from Greek into Hebrew as well as for a book of his poems. He was much beloved as a teacher, served as Dean and later President of Hebrew Teachers College in Boston, and ended his career as a visiting professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.

What makes this collection unique and valuable to researchers? Silberschlag never moved beyond second-tier status in academia nor did he succeed in having his plays produced by any of the leading theater companies in Israel or the U.S. Yet his correspondence files, which comprise the bulk of the collection, reveal that he was highly regarded by many of the literary and academic luminaries in the world of Hebrew letters and scholarship. The collection contains correspondence from writers S.Y. Agnon and David Vogel; historian Salo Baro; and publisher Avraham Stybel, among many others, and offers glimpses of the 20th century Jewish academic experience in Europe, Palestine and post-1948 Israel; and North America. This guided tour, illustrated by slides, includes excerpts from the collection’s many highlights.

Anna Levia is Assistant to the Curator for Judaica & Hebraica Collections at Stanford University. She presented this paper at the 2009 Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Chicago, IL.

24 min 14 sec

Posted in: RAS

From the beginnings of intensive study of Jewish music over 100 years ago by A.Z. Idelsohn, approaches have changed significantly. Idelsohn provided the first comparative study of Jewish music comparing various traditions in Europe, the Middle East, to Yemen and beyond. His goal was to explain and define the essence of “Jewish music.” As the field of ethnomusicology developed, scholars asked different questions looking more at the complexities of single traditions with less emphasis on larger comparative approaches. This presentation shows how the developments of the field of ethnomusicology, a discipline to look at the connection of music and culture, during the 20th century has impacted studies of Jewish music and offer examples of various approaches. Kligman also shares his research of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn with audio and visual material to demonstrate a particular connection of Jewish culture with Arab music.

Mark Kligman, PhD, is Professor of Jewish Musicology at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

Click for the text and images from this presentation.

40 min 20 sec

Posted in: RAS

Cellist Joachim Stutschewsky (1891-1982) is perhaps best remembered as a founding member of the Viennese String Quartet, the ensemble that premiered important works by Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg. Stutschewsky was also at the forefront of contemporary Jewish art music. He left behind a rich compositional legacy that has yet to have been explored. His compositions, articles, books, and concert activity represent forms of musical expression that for him were closely connected with his socio-political ideals. In all these media his works chronicle the life of a conscientious Jewish musician creating music during a time of contending ideologies, two World Wars, and the establishment of the State of Israel.

Racheli Galay-Altman is a cellist and conductor, and Assistant Professor of Cello at VanderCook College of Music.

33 min 20 sec

Posted in: RAS

This lecture addresses how terrorists use the Internet to carry out their deadly plans on a daily basis and threats posed to our civil liberties by government efforts to constrain cyberterror.

Presented by Dr. Gabriel Weimann at the 2009 Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Chicago, IL.

Click here for Dr. Weiman’s handout on The Dark Side of the Web.

1 hr 6 min 50 sec

Posted in: RAS

The focus of this session will be “personal narratives” and “oral tradition and folklore.” Beatriz Gomez-Acuna presents a video montage including highlights from interviews and may invite some of the informants. “These people are fascinating as they have a very rich personal history and most of them are elderly (one of the men is 98). They recall with great affection and nostalgia their childhood and youth in places like Smyrna, Salonica, etc.”

Presented by Beatriz Gomez-Acuna, Assistant Professor of Spanish at Elmhurst College, specializes on the folklore and oral traditions of Spain and especially the study of Hispanic Balladry.

59 min 32 sec

Posted in: RAS

The books on library shelves have to come from somewhere. Once they came from booksellers with direct relationships with the librarians. Now many libraries rely on Amazon.com and approval plan suppliers like Yankee Book Peddler and have fewer or even only rare contacts with Jewish booksellers. Is this an unavoidable function of our modern world are are there other choices? Reporting on discussions with various booksellers and academic and synagogue librarians, some suggestions will be made.

Presented by Henry Hollander,  bookseller and San Francisco Rabin Library Committee Chair

41 min 5 sec

Posted in: RAS

Established in 1903 by Moshe Beinkinstadt, Cape Town’s oldest Jewish book store remained in the hands of his descendants for 105 years. Situated in District Six, the district closest to the original harbour, not far from the castle built by the Dutch East India Company, the shop reflects the history of Cape Town’s Jewish community. Suppliers of seforim, taleysim, tefilin, and even of herrings, all imported from Latvia in the very earliest days, the shop also served as a meeting place for Yiddish speaking intellectuals. Among some 3000 Yiddish and Hebrew books on its shelves were titles as diverse as the luried early 20th century Yiddish novels of Shmoer and bloyshteyn, information about birth control from 1930 Warsaw, translations of Goethe, Balzac, Ibsen, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Dickens, Marx and Kropotkin, Darwin’s Ascent of Man, and Jean Meslier, the 17th century Catholic priest’s philosophical essay promoting atheism! In the context of the social history of Cape Town’s Jewish community, this paper will consider what this diverse collection reflects about the world of Yiddish speaking Jews in the first half of the 20th century.

Presented by Veronica Belling, Jewish Studies Librarian, Jewish Studies Library of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research and  University of Cape Town Libraries.

23 min

Posted in: RAS

This presentation discusses the state of the Hebrew language in Israeli society as a reflection of contemporary societal trends. New words, idioms, slang and cultural allusions will be demonstrated through recent dictionaries, media publications and literary texts.

Yaffa Weisman of the Frances-Henry Library at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention on July 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.

Click for the text and the Powerpoint of this presentation.

36 min 44 sec

Posted in: RAS

Studying Jewish life inevitably brings one into contact with a variety of different languages and dialects. For specialized scholars of Jewish linguistics, as well as for researchers who in general are fascinated by Jewish languages, online access to the existing and growing network of basic resources that are maximally representative of a particular language or language body is crucial to their work. These resources can range from unanalyzed sound recordings to fully transcribed and annotated text corpora; from dictionaries to the various manifestations of web-based “social media.” Even though many of these tools and projects are not yet fully accessible on the web or remain in various stages of development because of staffing, funding and technological issues, listeners’ awareness will be raised about their existence and benefits through this presentation.

Heidi Lerner of Stanford University gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention on July 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.

21 min 40 sec

Posted in: RAS

“Stolen Books: The Third Reich’s Exchange Center and the Prussian State Library in the Years 1933-1945. Aspects of the supply with literature under the control of National Socialism” was the title of this Special Plenary Session, presented at the 44th annual AJL Convention in Chicago, IL, July 6, 2009. The honored presenter was Barbara Schneider-Kempf, the Director General of the Berlin State Library in Germany.

38 min 46 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Dr. Peter Hayes is a Professor at Northwestern University and the Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Chair in Holocaust Studies. He was named a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence for the period 2007-2010. He has published some 60 articles in American and European journals and books; edited volumes I and III of the renowned Lessons and Legacies series that he helped found, and co-edited works on Imperial Germany, the so-called Aryanization of Jewish property during the Third Reich and The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz. His most recent book is From Cooperation to Complicity: Degussa in the Third Reich, which appeared in both English and German in 2004, and he is at work on two further studies: Profits and Persecution: German Big Business and the Holocaust and The Failure of a Generation: German Elites and National Socialism.

Dr. Hayes gave this keynote presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries 44th annual convention on July 5, 2009 in Chicago, IL.

43 min 23 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Rachel Leket-Mor

The current demand for appropriate entertaining titles in the Haredi community in Israel is reflected, among other things, in the growing movie industry led by Haredi producers and directors. This interesting sub-genre of popular Israeli cinema, consisting of male-only actors, is intended for the whole family. Therefore, not only these movies are approved as “G-rated” by rabbis, they are also sold in a CD-Rom format, since in many Haredi households computers are welcome as a work tool, while DVD players are not allowed for religious reasons. Main themes of this genre include, quite surprisingly, quite a lot of military stories (some of them describing adventures of Israeli Mossad agents), comedies, contemporary dramas with Haredi happy endings, Hassidic tales, historical documentaries, as well as “women movies” with moving stories and heartbreaking endings. This presentation discusses the significance of such movies in academic collections as authentic portrayals of Haredi culture in Israel

Rachel Leket-Mor has worked as a Hebrew editor with Israel publishers. She is Bibliographer of Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. She gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 23, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

24 min 32 sec

Posted in: RAS

The Jewish community of northeastern Ohio, or more simply, “Jewish Cleveland,” has played an important role in the region’s development since the first group of Jews to settle in the area arrived in 1839. This presentation will offer an overview of the growth and development of the region’s Jewish community after World War II, drawing attention to the community’s response to the arrival of Holocaust survivors, the move to the eastern suburbs, the role of Jewish leaders in the civil rights movement, and the local campaign on behalf of Soviet Jewry. The aim is to present a series of questions within a presentation on the community’s development, questions which the presentation can only begin to address: How has the community’s relationship to Jews outside the US affected local leaders and organizations? Why and how did Jews move to the eastern suburbs and how has the suburbanization of the community affected their concerns? How has the Jewish community forged alliances with non-Jews, and how have conflicts with other communities been handled? How has the community remained so vibrant, in spite of increasing urban sprawl and persistent demographic challenges? Posing the questions may lead to a new awareness of this more recent period of history. Special attention will also be given to the types of resources available in the Cleveland Jewish Archives to answer these questions.

Sean Martin is Associate Curator for Jewish History in the Cleveland Jewish Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio. Martin’s academic interests focus on modern Jewish and Polish history. He has written articles and book reviews for several journals in these fields, conducted extensive research in Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, and given talks on the Holocaust and Jewish history in the US and Poland. He is the author of Jewish Life in Cracow 1918-1939 (Vallentine Mitchell 2004).

26 min 33 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

In 1927, the Rare Book Room (now the Special Collections Library) of the University of Michigan Library received a gift of several 17th century Hebrew books published in Italy. Although spotted by a cataloger in the early 1970′s, somehow these rare materials remained uncatalogued and unprocessed for another thirty years before they were rediscovered by a staff member of the Special Collections Library who sent them to one of the catalogers of the Judaica-Hebraica Unit. Finally, some seventy years after the gift was made, these rare works were formally added to the University Library’s Special Collections. How this markedly lengthy interval between receipt and processing could occur is the mystery that this presentation attempts to uncover.

Elliot Gertel is the Irving M. Hermelin Curator of Judaica at the University of Michigan and is president of AJL’s RAS Division.

Posted in: RAS

If you belong to an AJL Chapter or would like to start one in your area, this is the lecture for you. Chapter officers speak about their experiences with organization issues, leadership and succession, communication, programming and more in this lively panel discussion with Marcie Eskin, Jean Loeb Lettofsky, Yelena Luckert and Rosalind Reisner.

Marcie Eskin is the librarian at the Marshall Jewish Learning Center of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, as well as librarian at Beth Hillel Congregation’s B’nai Emunah Library in Wilmete, IL. She is past president of AJL’s Chicago Chapter.

Jean Loeb Lettofsky is director of the library at Siegal College and a past president of AJL’s Greater Cleveland Chapter. She is co-editor of Guide to Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust and Jewish Union List: Periodical Holdings in Greater Cleveland Jewish Libraries.

Yelena Luckert is a librarian for History, Jewish, Slavic & Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, and the author of Soviet Jewish History, 1917-1991: An Annotated Bibliography. She is chair of AJL’s Doris Orenstein Memorial Fund.

Rosalind Reisner is the author of Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests, winner of the 2004 AJL Judaica Reference & Bibliography Award. She is librarian at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ, and is co-chair of AJL’s Chapter Relations Committee with Irene Seff.

Please note that Irene Seff was also scheduled to present in this session but was unavailable to participate.

49 min 36 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Although several comic book stories have tried to describe life in Israel (Joe Sacco’s Palestine; Peter Kuper’s Promised Land; Uri Fink’s Fink!), very few of them have been written by women and none of them have tried to show what life is like for those who work behind the scenes in the Israeli army, working desk jobs and performing menial tasks (the so-called “jobnikim”). Miriam Libicki, who spent two years as a volunteer in the Israeli army, is currently completing work on her self-published comic book series jobnik!, while also writing illustrated essays such as “Towards a Hot Jew: The Israeli Soldier as Fetish Object,” “ceasefire,” and “Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy!” Miriam discusses her influences, what led her to choose comics as a format, why she started the jobnik! series, her self-publishing experience, and how her work has been received thus far in Israel and elsewhere.

Miriam Libicki was born in 1981 in Columbus, Ohio. After living in Jerusalem and Seattle, Washington, she is now based in Vancouver, BC. She completed her BFA from Emily Carr Institute in 2006. She is the creator of the comic series jobnik! and the drawn essays “Towards a Hot Jew,” “ceasefire,” and “Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy!” (in The Jewish Graphic Novel, forthcoming from Rutgers University Press). See her blog at www.realgonegirl.com

23 min 45 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

One of the most active and dynamic groups of Sephardim today are the Syrian Jews living in Brooklyn, New York. An extremely tight-knit community, they began moving from Syria at the beginning of the 20th centuray. Subjected to terrible persecution, a major wave of them came to New York in the 1920′s, and another group came when they were released by the government in the 1990′s. In New York they became a highly insular group, with a major edict that prevented almost any conversion into their community. This was intended to prevent dilution of the traditional community and has resulted in a highly homogeneous, close-knit group of jews whose numbers now exceed 75,000. Two scholars, Dr. Walter Zenner and Joseph A.D. Sutton, have carried out extensive studies of this gropu, with articles, oral histories, and other documentary evidence. The papers of both of these scholars are held in the archives of the American Sephardi Federation. In this presentation, we examine those papers and attempt to learn a little more about this fascinating group of Sephardim.

Randall Belinfante is the Librarian/Archivist of the American Sephardi Federation. Over the past seven years, he has expanded this Library/Archives from a small collection of 200 odd books and 20 boxes of papers to a collection that now exceeds 6,000 catalogued items and some 300 linear feet of archives. Randy is fascinated by all aspects of the Sephardim, with papers and articles dealing with communities from Brooklyn to Burma.

23 min 24 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

As well as a brief general overview of the DSS library, the differences revelaed by the contents of DSS texts in theology between Essenes, Sadducess and Pharisees is illustrated by looking at the topics of predestination, immortality, dualism, apocalyptic messianism, and angelology. Differences in halakhah are illustrated by touching on the laws regarding halah, peru u-revu, pikuah nefesh, li-fenim mi-shurat ha-din, oils, mikvaot immersions, harvesting the omer, tevel yom relating to the parah adumah, and some differences in Shabbat observances. The method of approach is to compare DSS theology, politics and halakhah with the evolution of mainstream Rabbinic traditions across history in order to illuminate, enhance, and increase our knowledge about Rabbinic observances, history and practices.

David B. Levy received a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy, rabbinics and biblical studies in 2002. In 1994, he received an MLS from UMCP. He previously served as a librarian and taught in thehigh school at Ner Israel.

25 min 36 sec

Posted in: RAS

Rachel Leket-Mor

Hebrew printing in America was initiated as early as 1735 and encompassed a variety of genres, including literature for children. Unsurprisingly, major cities with big Jewish populations, such as New York City, Philadelphia or Cleveland, were fundamental in the intellectual and financial efforts involved in this activity, serving as urban magnets for authors, educators and publishers. Memphis, Tennessee was not one of these cultural centers. In fact, not even one single Hebrew book is known to have been published there at least until 1926, the last year reviewed in the most comprehensive research on this topic. In 1945, however, a Hebrew book series for children was published in Memphis by the Shainberg Library Foundation. This presentation features the series, as this unconventional project in the history of the Hebrew book may shed light on the mainstream Hebrew movement in America, its leaders and politics. Aspects of book production, Jewish publishing history, Hebrew literature and education in America, as well as children’s literature, are discussed.

Rachel Leket-Mor has worked as a Hebrew editor with Israel publishers. She is Bibliographer of Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. She gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 24, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

32 min 10 sec

Posted in: RAS

Daniel Scheide, center, with friends at the AJL Convention in Cleveland

Since the early 1990′s, Jewish music has undergone a burgeoning revival and a drastic transformation. While being grounded in klezmer, hazzanut and other traditional sounds, today’s Jewish music is being informed by free jazz, avant-garde composer, hardcore punk, and a wide variety of other outside influences. At the forefront of this movement are recent MacArthur Genius grant winner John Zorn and his record label, Tzadik. This talk is a brief introduction and overview of one of the most exciting developments in modern Jewish culture.

Daniel Scheide is a cataloger for Florida Atlantic University. He writes a column about Jewish music for AJL Newsletter and also serves as the newsletter’s co-editor for adult book reviews. He gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 23, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

20 min 56 sec

Posted in: RAS

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