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October 28, 2002

Stein lecture to bring top Jewish scholar to campus

By Eric Rangus

One of the leading scholars in modern Jewish history will come to Emory as part of the sixth annual Max K. and Mathilda W. Stein Lecture Series, Wednesday, Oct. 30.

“Talmudic Echoes in the Jewish Experience of Emanci-pation: From Mendelsohn to the Holocaust” will be the title of the talk by Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). The speech will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Winship Ballroom, and it is free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel, which is part of the Institute for Jewish Studies.

Rabbi Moses Mendelsohn was at the forefront of the Jewish Reform movement in Germany in the 19th century. He made many revisions to Jewish beliefs—several of them seen as radical, such as substituting Sunday for Saturday as the traditional day of rest. Schorsch will discuss the path of German Jewry from this period until the Holocaust during the Second World War.

“It will be a look at how a traditional society transfers itself into the modern world,” said Kenneth Stein, William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies and director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel. “Dr. Schorsch is an expert in the evolution of German Jewry and its intellectual development. He’s very concerned about how German Jewry handled sacred texts and its willingness to use them in modern society.

A top scholar in modern Jewish history, Schorsch has served as JTS chancellor for 14 years. The school is considered an academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism. The vision of JTS is that an authentic Judaism conserves the past in order to build the future.

Schorsch’s 1995 book, Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism, is a highly acclaimed monograph outlining the seven fundamental tenets of Conservative Judaism. Schorsch’s most recent publication is 1999’s From Text to Context: The Turn to History in Modern Judaism.

The Stein Lecture Series aims to associate the Emory community with current scholarship dealing with modern European Jewish history and the aspects of modern Israeli society, history and culture.

That Kenneth Stein shares a surname with the honorees of the lecture series is not a coincidence; Max and Mathilda Stein are his parents. In 1997, to celebrate the completion of his mother’s first book, Stein’s father gave $10,000 to start the lecture series. While Max Stein has passed away, Mathilda Stein, an octogenarian now working on her second book, attends the series each year and participated herself in March 2001, speaking on “The Way It Was: The Jewish World of Rural Hesse.”

“It has just been a joy having her participate each year,” her son said.

For more information, call the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel at 404-727-2798.