From our Director

David Stern

Contact

Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East (HMANE)
6 Divinity Ave, #209
Cambridge, MA 02138

dstern@fas.harvard.edu

Cell: 267-307-5287
Office: 617-495-3977

Office Hours: By appointment

Message from our Director,
David Stern


Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature and
Professor of Comparative Literature
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Department of Comparative Literature

September 2021

As I write this letter, we are one week into the new Fall semester.  Harvard is back to “in-person” classes, albeit with everyone masked and strictly monitored with weekly COVID-19 testing. The Harvard libraries have re-opened, the Yard is filled with students bustling to and from classes, and while most public lectures and events remain on-line and on Zoom, we’re all hoping cautiously for a return to normalcy. Spirits are high, and there is real excitement about seeing each other in person.  

Last year was a challenge, but the Center operated remotely at full steam. We sponsored or co-sponsored more than 50 lectures and events, all on Zoom, and with international audiences that far exceeded in numbers anything we’ve sponsored in the past. With the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, the Center launched a talk series entitled “Black and Jewish,” with two panels and a conversation. These events included artists, activists, and intellectuals who discussed their professional lives and personal experiences as Americans who are Black and Jewish. This groundbreaking series, which examines the challenges and prospects of Black diversity and Jewish diversity, drew record audiences. In January, the Center with the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School, ran an international conference entitled “What is the Mishnah?” Originally planned to be held in person at Harvard, the conference was transitioned to an online format of seven panels stretched out over two weeks; each panel drew an audience of at least two hundred participants.  Over the academic year, our graduate students continued to organize and run their two workshops on the Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies, with regular lectures in each, and our various lecture series in modern Jewish history and our joint lectures in medieval studies and Jewish studies and the history of book also continued as normal. At the close of the academic year, Sara Feldman, Preceptor in Yiddish, organized a fascinating panel on Queer Yiddishkeit that, again, drew a large online audience from around the world.

Our Starr Seminars last spring were dedicated to the topic of “New Directions in Jewish Thought,” and were co-organized by Professors Jay Harris, David Stern, and Elliot Wolfson. Unhappily, our Starr and Stroock Fellows–from across America and Israel—were unable physically to be in Cambridge, and the Starr Seminars were held online, but remained intellectually invigorating for all. This coming year, the Starr Fellowships are dedicated to recent post-doctoral scholars (who have completed their degrees in the last three years) working in some area of Jewish studies in the medieval period. We decided to focus the fellowships on this group of scholars specifically because of the dire job market in the wake of the pandemic; this was the least we could do as a service to the profession. Some Starr Fellows have already arrived in Cambridge, and we’re praying that the Starr Seminars will be held in-person in the spring.

All the while, our courses—on Zoom last year, in-person this semester—have continued apace, and Jewish studies at Harvard continues to grow.  This semester we welcome a new faculty member, Dr. Julia Rhyder, as Assistant Professor in Biblical Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and several searches for other positions in Jewish studies are in process.  

We are also very happy to announce the establishment of two new funds. The first of these is the Nathan Snyder A.B. ’56 and Geraldine Snyder Fund which will support student research and travel and language instruction in Jewish Languages. The second is a new lecture fund established by the Charles H. Revson Foundation in honor of Stacy Dick, a long-time supporter of the Center and a member of the Charles H. Revson Foundation Board. The first Stacy Dick Lecture will be delivered by Professor Jerome Groopman of Harvard Medical School on October 5.

All this would not be possible without the – extraordinary generosity of our Friends, supporters and donors. This is always the case, but it’s especially true during this difficult period. On behalf of my faculty colleagues and the students associated with the Center, we express our warmest thanks and appreciation for all your encouragement and devotion. 

David Stern

Director of the Center for Jewish Studies

Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature