Celebrating 20 Years at the Katz Center

The worldwide hub of advanced Judaic studies looks back—and forward.
April 1, 2014

On May 1, scholars at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies will gather to celebrate and reflect on two decades of Jewish learning at the highest level. The occasion is David Ruderman’s retirement as the Ella Darivoff Director of the center, but Taking Note: 20 Years of Scholars and Scholarship at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, 1993-2014 will look forward as much as back. 

In year 5774 of the Jewish calendar, 20 years may seem like an eyeblink, but under the leadership of Ruderman, the Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History, the Katz Center has become one of the world’s most influential sources for Jewish scholarship. Now a lively roundtable of six Katz Center “alumni” will discuss questions like, what have we achieved? What are the stakes and import of the secular Torah of academic Jewish scholarship? And what is the place of institutes for advanced study in the globalized, digitized 21st century?

The Center for Advanced Judaic Studies was created in 1993, when the University of Pennsylvania joined with the Annenberg Research Center. It was renamed in memory of former Board Chair Herbert D. Katz, W’51, in 2008. The center was and still is unique, a place where Judaic scholars of all ages and cultures not only take time to think, learn, and write, but also work together and get involved in the life of the university and the community. 

Instead of scholars studying a disparate group of topics, the Katz Center selects a theme for each year and accepts only fellows whose work is related to that theme. Past themes have included “The Jewish Book,” “Jews, Commerce, and Culture,” and “Prescriptive Traditions and Lived Experience in the Jewish Religion.” The goal each year is to develop that subfield of Jewish studies, with regular seminars for the fellows and, at the end, a published record of the knowledge gained. So far, 450 fellows have come to Philadelphia to study. They each form bonds with fellow scholars that last long after the year is over. They also interact with Penn students and the local community. Ruderman says he “couldn’t imagine having a resource of this caliber and not sharing with the community.”

The panel will include five fellows from throughout the center’s history: moderator Benjamin Nathans, Ronald S. Lauder Term Associate Professor of History at Penn; David N. Myers, Professor of Jewish History and the Robert N. Burr Department Chair of History, University of California, Los Angeles; Annette Yoshiko Reed, M. Mark and Esther K. Watkins Assistant Professor in the Humanities, Department of Religious Studies at Penn; Peter Stallybrass, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities, Professor of English, and Professor of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at Penn; and Piet Van Boxel, Fellow, Oriental Institute, and Curator Emeritus of Hebraica and Judaica, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. They will be joined by Elsie R. Stern, Associate Professor of Bible, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and formerly Assistant Director for Public Programs at the Katz Center. 

Join them and all friends of the Katz Center as we celebrate the past and the future of this world-renowned center of Judaic studies.

Taking Note: 20 Years of Scholars and Scholarship at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, 1993-2014 

Thursday, May 1, 2014 
10 a.m.-Noon 
Penn Museum, Widener Lecture Hall
3260 South Street

For more information click here.