Archive for October 2008

Water Tunnel Discovered in Jerusalem

October 30, 2008

More archaeology news: Eilat Mazar has discovered a water tunnel from the First Temple era in the City of David.  She theorizes that the tunnel may have been used by King David’s warriors to purify themselves after the conquest of Jerusalem.  This is of course mere speculation, but the find itself is quite interesting.  One person can pass through the tunnel, 50 meters of which have been cleared out.  It was discovered by accident after a snowfall last winter.

More on this discovery and Mazar’s interpretations can be found at:
The Jerusalem Post


Discoveries from the 10th Century BCE

October 30, 2008

The tenth century BCE, the period of King David according to the Bible, has so far eluded archaeologists.  This may be about to change, however, since archaeologists at Khirbet Qeiyafa say they have uncovered olive pits and inscriped pottery from that period.  Scholars are already debating the significance (or lack thereof) of these discoveries, but excavation at the site is far from done.

The New York Times has this story.  UPDATE: A critque of the article is on BiblePlaces Blog.

Encyclopedia of Race and Zionism

October 29, 2008

Macmillan has published an Encyclopedia of Race and Racism which contains an entry on Zionism.  A Z-Word podcast explains why we should worry about this.

1. The very fact that Zionism appears in an encyclopedia devoted to racism is worrying, especially since the encyclopedia contains no other articles devoted to types of nationalism or even an article on nationalism itself.

2. Additionally, the article perpetuates the myth that Zionsits cooperated with the Nazis in order to further their cause of a Jewish homeland.

3. And finally, the fact that the book is billed as an encyclopedia and published by a reputable publisher, means that the book will be widely available in college libraries.  Students trust the resources in their school libraries, and will not read the entry with a critical eye.

For more information, listen to the podcast.

For and against Christian Zionism

October 28, 2008

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has produced a brochure which criticizes Christian Zionism.  An interesting take on this matter can be found at Answers for the Faith.

Endorsement of Obama by Judaic Studies Scholars

October 28, 2008


As Americans we support Barack Obama for president because we believe that he is the best person to lead our country through these difficult times. Senator Obama’s firm grasp of the issues, his ability to work with diverse groups of people, and his humane and progressive social vision will bring a welcome change from the governing style and policies of the last eight years.

As scholars of Jewish Studies, we are concerned that distortions of Senator Obama’s record and biography have caused undue anxiety among American Jews about what an Obama presidency would mean for Israel and the Jewish community here. We urge Jewish voters to see through the partisan attacks and recognize how much they have in common with the senator.

Jewish Americans have long played an important role in efforts to achieve a more just society not only for themselves, not just for other minority groups, but for all Americans. The Obama candidacy offers us the chance to play such a role once more. In fact, Senator Obama shares many of the values and positions held by the majority of American Jews:

Senator Obama supports policies which promote equality of opportunity and  social justice:

–the defense of social security against attempts to privatize it.

–a fairer tax system, including tax cuts for the elderly.

–expanded health coverage and defense of Medicare.

–aid to education at all levels.

He calls for energy independence through the development of renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources.

He is consistently pro-choice and pro-civil liberties, resisting attempts to blur the boundaries between church and state.

He opposed the misguided Iraq war from the beginning, understanding it as a distraction from the true war on terror.

Most importantly, Senator Obama has dedicated himself to promoting racial and religious tolerance and coexistence, speaking out against anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds. He embodies the Jewish hope for a society in which race, ethnicity, and religion are not barriers to achievement, a dream shared by African Americans.

We urge Jewish voters to vote with their minds as well as their hearts, and not to allow themselves to be misled by pernicious lies concerning the candidate’s religious and ethnic background. We know that most American Jews realize the danger presented by such lies. The truth is that Senator Obama is a strong friend of Israel, a position recognized by many Israeli leaders during his visits to that country. They understand that Senator Obama’s foreign policy is more conducive to Israel’s security than is the bellicose Bush-McCain approach. The Jewish Americans who know him best, those in the Chicago community, also count him as a longtime ally and friend. They know that the rumors that have been circulating among Jews for months – that Senator Obama is a Muslim who would be hostile to Israel and Jewish interests – are patently false attempts to play to Jewish fears.

Finally, we are concerned about the possibility that John McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, might become president. Not only has she has shown herself to be unready to take over should something happen to Senator McCain, but she shown herself to be at odds with the values of most American Jews throughout her political career: She supports the teaching of creationism in the public schools, failed to acknowledge the human role in climate change, and opposed the right to an abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

The stakes are high in this election. Hillary Clinton got it right in her convention speech: We can move forward, or we can have four more years of the disastrous Bush policies of war, economic crisis, and cronyism. We hope that Jewish Americans, and all Americans, will choose to move forward by electing Barack Obama president.


Robert H. Abzug, University of Texas at Austin

Evelyn B. Ackerman, Lehman College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Phyllis Albert, Harvard University

Rebecca Alpert, Temple University

Robert Alter, University of California – Berkeley

Mark M. Anderson, Columbia University

Joyce Antler, Brandeis University

Myron J. Aronoff, Rutgers University

Yael S. Aronoff, Michigan State University

Dianne C. Ashton, Rowan University

Alan Astro, Trinity University

Carol Bakhos, UCLA

Monique R. Balbuena, University of Oregon

Arnold J. Band,  UCLA

Lawrence Baron, San Diego State University

Lewis M. Barth, Hebrew Union College – Los Angeles

Judith R. Baskin, University of Oregon

Adam H. Becker, New York University

Ruth Behar, University of Michigan

Elissa Bemporad, The New School

Mara Benjamin, St. Olaf College

Sarah Bunin Benor, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

Michael Berenbaum American Jewish University

Michael Berkowitz, University College London

Lila Corwin Berman, Pennsylvania State University

Marc S. Bernstein, Michigan State University

David Biale, University of California – Davis

Lori Gemeiner Bihler, University of Rhode Island

Lisa Bloom, University of California–San Diego

Ilana M. Blumberg, Michigan State University

Linda Borish, Western Michigan University

Oded Borovsky, Emory University

Ra’anan Boustan, UCLA

Steven Bowman, University of Cincinnati

Daniel Boyarin, University of California – Berkeley

Jonathan Boyarin, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Ben Braude, Boston College

Alisa Braun, Hebrew College

David Brenner, University of Houston

Marcy Brink-Danan, Brown University

Phil Brown, Brown University

Stephan Brumberg, CUNY

Matti Bunzl, University of Illinois

Janet Burstein, Drew University

Andrew Bush, Vassar College

Marc Caplan, The Johns Hopkins University

Nina Caputo, University of Florida

Jules Chametzky, University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Robert Chazan, New York University

Aryeh Cohen, American Jewish University

Julia Phillips Cohen, Vanderbilt University

Mark R. Cohen, Princeton University

Shaul Cohen, University of Oregon

Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Robert L. Cohn, Lafayette College

William Cutter, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles

Arnold Dashefsky, University of Connecticut

Lynn Davidman, University of Kansas

Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University

Nathaniel Deutsch, University of California-Santa Cruz

Maureen Dewan, Fairfield University

Hasia Diner, New York University

Leonard Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

Alan Dowty, University of Notre Dame

Lois Dubin, Smith College

Deborah Dwork, Clark University

John Efron, University of California-Berkeley

Peter Eisenstadt, Rochester, NY

Judith Laikin Elkin, University of Michigan

Todd Endelman, University of Michigan

Marc Michael Epstein, Vassar College

Amir Eshel, Stanford University

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Hebrew University

Ayala Fader, Fordham University

Marcia Falk, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley

Amy Feinstein, Colgate University

Marjorie N. Feld, Babson College

Yael Feldman, New York University

John Felstiner, Stanford University

Kirsten Fermaglich, Michigan State University

David Fishman, Jewish Theological Seminary

Hilene Flanzbaum, Butler University

Daniel E. Fleming, New York University

Harriet Freidenreich, Temple University

Lewis Fried, Kent State University

Kathie Friedman, University of Washington

Jay Geller, Vanderbilt University

Judith Gerson, Rutgers University

Abigail Gillman, Boston University

Amelia Glaser, University of California – San Diego

Susan Glenn, University of Washington

Ann Goldberg, University of California, Riverside

Robert Goldenberg, Stony Brook University

Judith L. Goldstein, Vassar College

Lynn D. Gordon, University of Rochester

Michael Gottsegen, Brown University

Lisa D. Grant, Hebrew Union College

Deborah Green, University of Oregon

Cheryl Greenberg, Trinity College

Daniel Greene, The Newberry Library

Frederick E. Greenspahn, Florida Atlantic University

Ed Greenstein, Bar Ilan University

Atina Grossmann, Cooper Union

Janet Hadda, UCLA

Mitchell Hart, University of Florida

Rachel Havrelock, University of Illinois at Chicago

Joel Hecker, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Kathryn Hellerstein, University of Pennsylvania

Ronald Hendel, University of California — Berkeley

Deborah Hertz, University of California – San Diego

Daniel Herwitz, University of Michigan

Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College

Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University

John Hoberman, University of Texas at Austin

Gil Z. Hochberg, UCLA

Anne Golomb Hoffman, Fordham University

Joshua Holo, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Paula Hyman, Yale University

Tali E. Hyman, Hebrew Union College

Miriam Isaacs, University of Maryland – College Park

Susan Jacobowitz, Queensborough Community College, CUNY

Jack Jacobs, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Matthew Jacobson, Yale University

Robin Judd, Ohio State University

S. Tamar Kamionkowski, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Brett Ashley Kaplan, University of Illinois

Marion Kaplan, New York University

Samuel D. Kassow, Trinity College

Stephanie Katz, Lehigh University

Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

Ellie Kellman, Brandeis University

Ari Y. Kelman, University of California — Davis

Carole S. Kessner, SUNY Stony Brook

Hillel J. Kieval, Washington University in St. Louis

Ann Kirschner, Macaulay Honors College, CUNY

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblet, New York University

Rebecca Kobrin, Columbia University

Madeline Kochen, University of Michigan

Risa Levitt Kohn, San Diego State University

Ross S. Kraemer, Brown University

David Krikun, SUNY-New Paltz

Hartley Lachter, Muhlenberg College

Lisa Lampert-Weissig, University of California, San Diego

Berel Lang, Wesleyan University

Lisa Moses Leff, Southwestern University

Erica Lehrer, Concordia University

Paul Lerner, University of Southern California

Jeffrey Lesser, Emory University

Mark Leuchter, Temple University

Adriane Leveen, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Andrea Levine, George Washington University

Daniel Levine, The Johns Hopkins University

Michael G. Levine, Rutgers University

Laura S. Levitt, Temple University

Rhoda G. Lewin, Minneapolis, MN

Andrea Lieber, Dickinson College

Olga Litvak, Clark University

Shaul Magid, Indiana University -Bloomington

Maud Mandel, Brown University

Barbara Mann, Jewish Theological Seminary

Jessica Marglin, Princeton University

Mary McCune, SUNY-Oswego

Keren R. McGinity, University of Michigan

Yitzhak Melamed, Johns Hopkins University

Ezra Mendelsohn, Hebrew University

Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Joel S. Migdal, University of Washington

Nancy K. Miller, City University of New York

Deborah Dash Moore, University of Michigan

Regina Morantz-Sanchez, University of Michigan

Leslie Morris, University of Minnesota

Kenneth Moss, The Johns Hopkins University

Andrea Most, University of Toronto

David N. Myers, UCLA

Stanley Nash, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Anita Norich, University of Michigan

Malkah Notman, Harvard University

Peter Ochs, University of Virginia

Saul M. Olyan, Brown University

Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth College

Avinoam Patt, University of Hartford

Ilan Peleg, Lafayette College

Derek J. Penslar, University of Toronto

Daniel D. Perlmutter, University of Pennsylvania

Felice Davidson Perlmutter, Temple University
Noam Pianko, University of Washington

Annie Polland, Lang College, The New School

Riv-Ellen Prell, University of Minnesota

Dana Rabin, History, University of Illinois

Anson Rabinbach  Princeton University

Sanford Ragins, Occidental College

Mark Raider, University of Cincinnati

Marc Lee Raphael, College of William and Mary

Michael A. Riff, Ramapo College

Meri-Jane Rochelson, Florida International University

Aron Rodrigue, Stanford University

Jordan D. Rosenblum, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dale Rosengarten, College of Charleston

Robert A. Rosenstone, California Institute of Technology

Michael Rothberg, University of Illinois

Joel Rubin, University of Virginia

David Ruderman, University of Pennsylvania

Marina Rustow, Emory University

S.I. Salamensky, UCLA

Jack Salzman, Hunter College, CUNY

Seth L. Sanders, Trinity College

Marianne Sanua, Florida Atlantic University

Paul L. Scham, University of Maryland

Ray Scheindlin, Jewish Theological Seminary

Ellen Schiff, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Jonathan Schofer, Harvard University

Esther Schor, Princeton University

Joshua Schreier, Vassar College

Daniel Schroeter, University of Minnessota

Seth Schwartz, Jewish Theological Seminary

Naomi Seidman, Graduate Theological Seminary

Robert M. Seltzer, Hunter College, CUNY

Alyssa G. Sepinwall, California State University – San Marcos

Ann R. Shapiro, Farmingdale State College

Jeffrey S. Shoulson, University of Miami

David Silver, University of Delaware

Jonathan Skolnik, University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Mark Slobin, Wesleyan University

Mark S. Smith, New York University

Naomi Sokoloff, University of Washington

Gerald Sorin, SUNY-New Paltz

David J. Sorkin, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Daniel Soyer, Fordham University

Michael F. Stanislawski, Columbia University

Arlene Stein, Rutgers University

Richard L. Stein, University of Oregon

Sarah Abrevaya Stein, UCLA

Michael P. Steinberg, Brown University

Michael Steinlauf, Gratz College

Elsie Stern, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Michael Stern, University Of Oregon

Lance J. Sussman, Hunter College – CUNY

Shelly Tenenbaum, Clark University

David A. Teutsch  Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Ellen M. Umansky, Fairfield University

Agnes Veto, Vassar College

Val Vinokur, Eugene Lang College/The New School

Kenneth Waltzer, Michigan State University

Suzanne Wasserman, Gotham Center/CUNY Graduate Center

Dov Waxman, Baruch College, CUNY

Chava Weissler, Lehigh University

Gary Weissman, University of Cincinnati

Steven Weitzman, Indiana University — Bloomington.

Beth Wenger, University of Pennsylvania

Stephen J. Whitfield, Brandeis University

Sam Wineburg, Stanford University

Diane L. Wolf, University of California — Davis

Elliot R. Wolfson, New York University

Seth Wolitz, University of Texas – Austin

Billy Yalowitz, Temple University

James E. Young, University of Massachusetts — Amherst

Eric Zakim, University of Maryland – College Park

Michael Zakim, Tel Aviv University

Tom Zakim, Sonoma State University

Froma I. Zeitlin, Princeton University

Steven J. Zipperstein, Stanford University

Jeremy Zwelling, Wesleyan University

*Institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional endorsement.

(This statement has been copied from

God in Biblical Theology

October 27, 2008

Dr. Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary, wrote a thought-provoking piece for Mixed Multitudes about the God of the Bible:

I just finished a book, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, which will be published next year by Cambridge University Press. In it I describe an ancient Near Eastern perception of divinity that shows up in certain parts of the Bible, according to which a god (or, in its biblical version, God) differs from a human because a god can have more than one body, each one located at some specific place on earth or in heaven.

Prof. Sommer believes that this topic is important not only for academic research, but also because it provides a new perspective for the modern Jew.  For example, the idea of sacred space:

The centrality of sacred space is important for many Jews on the left, who fail to acknowledge the holiness of the Land of Israel as a crucial aspect of Jewish belief. The relativizing of sacred space, on the other hand, is important for certain Jews on the right, who need to hear this critique lest they continue to promote their idolatry of the Land of Israel.

And the definition of a Jew’s relationship with God:

This is a God whom we can love and be angry with and speak with, a God with whom we can have a relationship, because a being with a body is a being like us. An embodied being can be wounded and can change. In short, the embodied God is the personal God of our father Abraham (and of Abraham Joshua Heschel).

Another interesting point made by Sommer is that although mainstream Judaism may have moved away from the perception of a god of many bodies, the concept still exists in kabbalah and in Christianity.  Later Jewish thought has developed, integrating biblical theology and other philosophies into a Jewish theology for the modern Jew.

Desecration of Cemetery in Romania

October 26, 2008

A Jewish cemetery in Bucharest has been desecrated, with about 200 markers damaged.  Jewish leaders say the vandalism was clearly organized.  Many Holocaust victims are buried in the Bucharest cemetery.  Their graves were not disturbed.  According to Fox News, anti-Semitism in Romania has been on the decline in the last few years.