High Holidays 2018

7th Annual Jewish University For A Day


with generous support from the 


 plenary co-sponsored by



Registration | Additional Information | Faculty Profiles 


Study with scholars who are enriching the landscape of contemporary Judaism.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

9:00 am - 5:30 pm

(Registration and a light breakfast begin at 8:30 am)

 Book Signing and Sale!

Authors will be signing books during lunch and books will be available for sale throughout the day!

Charles B. Wang Center - Stony Brook University 

 Pre-registration is $75, $65 for Seniors, if you sign-up on line by April 18th. After that, registration is $85, $75 for seniors.  Registration is free for full-time Stony Brook University students.








Plenary I:


“Who Will Write Our History?”

Dr. Eleonora Bergman

Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw

The amazing story of a trove of unearthed documents buried beneath the Warsaw Ghetto, shedding new light on the Uprising 75 years ago and the subject of a new film by Nancy Spielberg.

Special appearance by Roberta Grossman, Associate Producer of the film Who Will Write Our History? with excerpts from the film.

Co-sponsored by the
Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County


Plenary II:


"Leonard Bernstein at 100"

Nina Bernstein Simmons, daughter of Leonard Bernstein, will discuss the impact of Judaism on her father's music with musical selections by members of the Stony Brook University Music Department.




"Chores and Avodah: House and Home in the Jewish Past"

Dr. Joshua Teplitsky, Assistant Professor of History and Judaic Studies, Stony Brook University

Did medieval Jews think about, and take care of, their household order and cleanliness in ways different than their non-Jewish neighbors?  This class will delve into the daily household life of families, parents, and children in Europe in the centuries between the Black Death and the French Revolution, and look at the stories we don't often tell about the apparently mundane but essential ways of keeping house.  We'll encounter wives and widows, washers and "scandalous bathers."  In the process, we'll expand our story of the Jewish past, and learn the history of ordinary people under interesting circumstances.


“The People and the Books: Reading the Classics of Jewish Literature”

Adam Kirsch, poet, critic, and editor

Jews have long taken pride in calling ourselves the People of the Book. So what can we learn about Judaism from the classics of Jewish literature? In this course, Adam Kirsch will discuss the ways Jewish writers over the millennia have thought about the central ideas of Judaism: God, the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the Jewish people. We will look at the many kinds of books in the canon of Jewish literature, including memoirs, fiction, travel writings, ethical sayings, and philosophical treatises, and at writers including Maimonides, Spinoza, Sholem Aleichem and Theodor Herzl.


"The Four Languages of the Jews"

Dr. Robert Hoberman, Professor of Linguistics, Stony Brook University

All around the world, Jews have spoken differently from their non-Jewish neighbors. There have been dozens of Jewish languages, and many are still spoken. Sometimes the language of the Jews is very different from their neighbors'; Yiddish is the best example. Sometimes the difference is not extensive: the way Jews speak English is not very different from other English, yet there are many particularly Jewish expressions and ways of talking. To the extent that there is a separate community, there will be a separate language. We will examine how and why these Jewish languages came to be, focusing on Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish, and English. We will evaluate the current state of Yiddish, and where it is going in the foreseeable future. We will also touch on a few other cases, including Ladino and Judeo-Arabic.


“Anti-Semitism in America: How Real a Threat?”

Evan Bernstein, New York Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League

Interviewed by Prof. James Klurfeld, School of Journalism

Hate groups in America seem to have flourished in the wake of the 2016 elections and incidents like the march in Charlottesville, Virginia.  What is the real threat associated with these groups today?


"Jewish Law & the Death Penalty"

Samuel Levine, Professor of Law & Director of the Jewish Law Institute, Touro Law Center

The issue of capital punishment represents one of most complex areas of American law, and remains the subject of intense debate among the American public.  This session will draw upon approaches toward the death penalty within Jewish law, illustrating a wide range of perspectives that can help illuminate the question of capital punishment in contemporary American society.  The session will trace doctrinal and philosophical sources in Jewish law, from the Torah to the Talmud and beyond, demonstrating that the Jewish legal system anticipated, by thousands of years, many of the arguments that are central to the contemporary debate over the death penalty in the United States.


"Welcome Back: Spain's Efforts to Reconnect with Sephardim"

Dr. Daniela Flesler, Associate Professor of Spanish, Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature, Stony Brook University

The much-publicized 2015 law granting Spanish nationality to the descendants of Jews expelled in 1492 is the latest example of a widespread phenomenon in contemporary Spain, the “re-discovery” of Spain’s Jewish heritage. Today, all things “Sepharad” (Spanish Jews’ traditional name for the Iberian Peninsula) are marketed throughout Spain, from cultural festivals, museums, historical synagogues and Jewish quarters, to novels, music and cookbooks. This course examines this phenomena in order to identify the implications of Spain’s reclaiming the memory of Sepharad, arguing that these initiatives open up the possibility of imagining a more complex national and cultural identity.


"Making the Heart Feel What the Mind Knows: The Mussar Pathway"

Gary Shaffer, The Mussar Institute

Did anyone else’s parents ever trigger your buttons?  Very unlikely.  Did your parents, or kids, or a co-worker or boss, every trigger yours?  Most likely.  Ever observe an argument between others that kept you up at night?  Not many.  Ever have one of your own that did?  Do you think if a friend of Cain told him about being slighted in favor of his brother, Cain would have suggested killing the brother in order to feel better?  You get the picture.  We’re all full of buttons.   And it turns out that Judaism has addressed the issue of button pushing for centuries.  It’s also come up with a way to help us figure out how to wait that extra millisecond before saying what we might regret, or hitting that send button a moment too soon.  That way is Mussar, an old but increasingly well-known method for developing self-awareness and putting that awareness into action.  This session will provide some background as to what Mussar is and then we’ll actually practice it.  At the end, information will be provided as to how one can continue the practice individually and in groups.


"The Jews of Harlem Then and Now"

Dr. Jeffrey Gurock, Professor of History, Yeshiva University

An exploration of what Jewish life was once like in a community that once housed over 175,000 Jews and which is now witnessing their return and a discussion of what Harlem’s history says about the tangled relationship between African Americans and Jews in the 20th-21st centuries.


"A Rabbi at Gettysburg: Ferdinand Sarner, German Jews, and the Civil War"

Rabbi Joseph Topek, Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life, Stony Brook University

Ferdinand Sarner was the only rabbi to serve as a regimental chaplain during the Civil War.  How does his story teach us about how 19th Century American Jews saw themselves in relation to their immigrant and ethnic status as well as how rabbis were perceived by and treated by the Jewish community.  We will learn about Rabbi Sarner's unique and unusual experiences before, during, and after the Civil War.