Rabbi Topek Fund

8th Annual Jewish University For A Day


with additional support from

The Jewish Theological Seminary 


Registration | Additional Information | Faculty Profiles 


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

Sunday, March 31, 2019

9:00 am - 5:30 pm

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

full lunch at 12:45 pm)

 Book Signing and Sale!

Authors will be signing 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 March 27th. After that, registration is $85, $75 for seniors.  Registration is free for full-time Stony Brook University students. 






Plenary I:


“American Jews and Israel: The Growing Chasm”

Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, President, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America

The growing divide between American Jewry and the government of the State of Israel has become more evident since 2016.  Dr. Kurtzer, a leading thinker on the relationship between American Jews and Israel, will frame this conversation with other plenary participants to explore this rift and what future events may close the gap or widen it.  The plenary panel will be moderated by Howard Schneider, former Dean of the School of Journalism and Editor in Chief of Newsday.


Plenary II:


"40 Years of Jewish Life on American Campuses: What's Changed?"

Rabbi Joseph Topek, Director of Stony Brook Hillel, will be retiring this year after a 40 year Hillel career.  Joined by distinguished colleagues Daniel Marcus from Pittsburgh Hillel, location of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre, and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna from New York University's Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, which has been embroiled in anti-Israel controversies, they will discuss what has changed, and what has not, for Jews in American colleges and universities in the last half century.




"Golda Reconsidered"

Francine Klagsbrun, author

Forty years after her death, Golda Meir, a world figure unlike any other, remains a popular icon for American Jews, but her legacy is far more mixed and controversial in Israel. Find out why in an informative session by award-winning author Francine Klagsbrun, whose recent book Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel is a superbly researched and story of Israel's founding mother and reveals some new and surprising details about Golda’s public and private life.


"Jewish and Muslim Women in Dialogue: The Sisterhood of Salaam - Shalom"

Dr. Isma Chaudhry, moderator

Each month across the country, hundreds of Jewish and Muslim women meet in small groups to fight anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish sentiment in their communities, but also to expand knowledge of each other’s practices and beliefs and attempt to build friendships. Six women - three Jews and three Muslims - from the Nassau County chapter of The Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom share their experiences.


"Books without End: The Pursuit of a Universal Jewish Library in Eighteenth-Century Europe"

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

This is the story of one of world’s largest collections of Jewish books, and the man who used his collection to cultivate power, prestige, and political influence.  David Oppenheim (1664–1736), chief rabbi of Prague in the early eighteenth century, assembled a remarkable collection of Jewish books that testifies to the myriad connections Jews maintained with each other across political borders. His impressive library functioned as a unique source of personal authority that gained him fame throughout Jewish society and beyond.


“Jewish Calcutta through Music and Memory”

Rahel Musleah, journalist, author, singer, and educator

The Jews of India lived in peace and harmony with their Hindu and Muslim neighbors for centuries. Today, the 4,500 Jews who remain make up only .0004 percent of India's population of 1.3 billion. Find out why India constituted a rare and benevolent diaspora and why the heritage of its Jews remains important. In this age of diversity, it’s vital to learn that Judaism is far from monolithic; that it flourished in different ways in the four corners of the earth. This fascinating historical and personal journey mirrors the story of Calcutta's Jews with humor, poignancy and song.


“The Latest in Jewish Genealogy: How to Research and Document Your Family History”

Nolan Altman, JewishGen

The vast majority of our Jewish ancestors came to the United States during one of two great migrations; German Jews during the period 1820 – 1880 and a larger migration of Eastern European Jews between 1880 and the early1920’s. Starting with information that you know about yourself and your immediate family, Jewish genealogy expert Nolan Altman will provide practical, step-by-step advice on how to rediscover your ancestors’ history, not only from the time they arrived in the U.S, but how to go back to the “old country”. Altman also discuss resources available to assist in trying to find information on family members that did not come to America and may have been lost during the Holocaust.


"The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion"

Steven R. Weisman, Peterson Institute for International Economics

America ‘s promise of unbridled opportunity and its democratic institutions not only energized 18th and 19th century Jews, but transformed Judaism, eventually helping to splinter it into three branches. Passionate battles over women and worship, liturgy, rabbinic authority and ritual practice erupted almost immediately after the American Revolution and continued unabated for the next century, redefining Judaism with a new, homegrown theological mission. A fascinating historical story with contemporary implications.


"Transgender Jews: The Nexus of Halakhah and Ethics"

Rabbi Leonard Sharzer, MD, The Jewish Theological Seminary

This session will explore how Halakhah, the Jewish legal tradition, and Jewish ethics relate to the current debate over acceptance of transgender individuals into the community.


"Finding Hope and Faith in the Face of Death: Insights of a Mourner and Rabbi"

Rabbi Stephen Karol, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Isaiah, Stony Brook, NY

A course based on my book about giving people hope and faith, comfort and inspiration when a death occurs.  It is based on my experiences throughout my forty-two-year career as a rabbi in helping my congregants deal with the emotions and thoughts that occur when a loved one dies. I have grown to understand, and have taught about, the importance of community when we are mourners, and of the absolute emotional and spiritual power of prayer. The book includes lessons that I have learned personally and professionally, lessons that are relevant to the very real issues brought on by sorrow and regret. My messages not only educate those who read them, but also convey a sense of faith and hope that can positively affect our transition from mourning to living our lives. And, they are valid for Jews and non-Jews alike, those who attend services, and those who don’t.


What we can learn about Jews from the Haggadot they have used: Examples from the Library of JTS

David Kraemer, the Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian at The Jewish Theological Seminary

Haggadot are the most produced, most used, most diverse Jewish books of all time, their pages preserving Jewish attitudes and tastes (literally!) from all places Jews have called home. From those pages, we can learn more about Jewish life and hope than from virtually any other source. In this session, we will view images of rare and exceptional haggadot from the collection of the library of JTS, representing various periods and places. You will come away with a greater appreciation of the holiday and of the Jews who celebrated it.


The Prophet and the Priest: Amos vs. Amaziah - A Case Study in Speaking Truth to Power

Alan Cooper, the Elaine Ravich Professor of Jewish Studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary

The report of the encounter between the prophet Amos and the priest Amaziah in chapter 7 of the biblical Book of Amos is the quintessential tale of an individual who dares to speak truth to power—one charismatic person against an entrenched and powerful Establishment.  Amos takes his stand in Israel’s royal temple at Bethel, of all places, in order to prophesy Israel’s downfall.  For his pains, he incurs the wrath of the high priest and is expelled from the temple (or possibly worse).  But the story and its ramifications continue to resonate to the present day.  We will discuss the conflict between prophet and priest in its biblical context, in the light of the history of its reception, and for its continuing significance in our own time.


A Nazi Doctor in America and the Legacy of Nuremberg on Medical Research

Lester Paldy, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Stony Brook University

When WW II ended, U.S. Army intelligence created a secret program known as “Operation Paperclip” to recruit and bring to the United States scientists, engineers, and physicians from Nazi military programs to work on space and military projects in the developing Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. This talk tells the story of a physician who rose to a high position in the U.S. aerospace community despite his connection to criminal experiments on Jews and other prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp. It also traces how the pioneering work of two U.S. physicians, a German psychologist, and a Nuremberg Tribunal judge led to our current requirements for informed consent of human subjects participating in clinical trials and medical research.


Melville Library N5580, Stony Brook, NY 11790
Phone: 631.632.6565
E-Mail: [email protected]

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