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Film festival, conference to mark 10 years of Jewish studies
STANFORD -- The Program in Jewish Studies at Stanford will sponsor a film festival and conference May 12-15 to mark the 10th anniversary of its founding in 1986.
All of the movies shown at the "American Jewish Film Retrospective" and all conference sessions of "Jewish Culture in America: Looking Backward, Forward and Beyond" are free and open to the public.
Speakers include Alfred Kazin, author of On Native Grounds, and Lester Friedman, author of several books on images of Jews in Hollywood. Participating Stanford professors include Arnold Eisen, professor of religious studies; John Felstiner, English; and Aron Rodrigue, history.
At the final session Eisen and Israel Bartal, professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will share their impressions of the conference.
"Some of the most interesting texts that have shaped and defined the Jewish cultural experience in this country are films," said Steven Zipperstein, the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History and director of the program. "We're trying to break down the barriers that might otherwise exist between a film festival and an academic conference or between scholarship and the kind of cultural interpretation one might find in, say, a journal like The New Republic.
"We're also trying to formulate a new sense of how one studies American Jews at a time when most Jews in the United States are not committed to religious, communal or philanthropic institutions."
Jews now constitute only 3 percent of the U.S. population, Zipperstein said, "and few of us who teach at universities are religious."
At Stanford the percentage of students who are Jewish has remained constant at about 11 percent for several years. At Princeton the percentage of Jews is 30 percent, Zipperstein said, and at Harvard it is 25 percent.
This year, around 800 undergraduates enrolled in 30 different courses in Jewish history, literature, language, religion and politics. Another 15 doctoral candidates currently are researching issues as diverse as the history of Jewish women radicals in Russia and representations of Syria and Egyptian political culture in the United States in the 1950s and '60s. In the past two years, the major journal in the field, Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture and Society, has relocated to Stanford and the Jewish studies collection in the university libraries has tripled in size.
Zipperstein said that throughout the past 10 years the primary goal of the interdisciplinary program has been to bring Jewish studies into the mainstream.
"It's clear by now, I imagine, that it's not an intellectually cloistered program in any way," Zipperstein said. "But just as Jews and Judaism have always been synonyms for apartness from a larger Christian world, or the one unconverted minority, so we're still seen, to a degree, at Stanford as being unusual or different."
Zipperstein is teaching a new course this year on 20th-century American Jewry, and next winter he will co-teach with Eisen a new survey course, "Jewish Civilization," for the undergraduate honors program.
"Because Jewish studies is relatively new to the West Coast, this frees us to ask fresh questions about how one thinks about the future of what was, in the past, an overwhelmingly bookish, text-based culture," Zipperstein said of the conference.
The conference is sponsored by the Taube Family Foundation, the Koret Foundation and the Shoshana and Martin Gerstel Conference Fund in Jewish Studies. For more information call 725-2789.
The schedule includes the following events:
4:15 p.m.: "American Jews and Their Historians."
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