What is Judaism? Study Day at the Parkes Institute

Following on from our previous succesful study days on ‘Lost in Translation: Jewish Cultures’ and ‘Change and Continuity: The Impact of the Holocaust’, we are pleased to announce the programme for our upcoming study day on


What is Judaism?

‘What is Judaism?’ is not a straightforward question, and will be addressed in our first study day this year from the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/Non-Jewish Relations. The day will be held on 2nd November 2013 and will consist of a series of talks with lots of opportunities for questions, discussion and debate.

Judaism and Jewish life and identity outside of the religious sphere have developed in many different trajectories throughout different historical periods and geographical contexts. We will introduce you to some key questions in the debate about Jewishness and invite you to consider: what is Judaism?


Jennifer Craig-Norton – ‘The Kindertransport and Jewish Identity’

Unaccompanied Jewish children who came to Great Britain in Kindertransports often faced challenges to their Jewishness and Jewish identity. This was especially true for orthodox Jewish children and those whose identity was already complicated before arrival in England. Using case studies from my research on German born children of Polish parents who came on Kindertransports after their expulsion from Germany, this session will explore layers of identity, both religious and national, and the challenges these posed for children uprooted and separated from homes and families in the vortex of war.

Professor Tony Kushner – ‘Stephen Lawrence and Anne Frank: Whose Jewishness is it anyway?

‘Who is a Jew?’ is a question that has an endless fascination and importance. Is it defined within the Jewish community and if so, by whom? The individual themselves, religious authorities or secular bodies? Or from without – by state, society and culture? The subject matter of this talk my seem to be taking this problem of definition to the extremes – Stephen Lawrence was a black teenager born in south London of Jamaican parents. Both Doreen and Neville Lawrence were Christians, the former devoutly so. And yet…. Here, I will be suggesting the connections that have been made between Stephen Lawrence, brutally murdered by racists, and the Jewish experience may mean our boundaries of Jewish and non-Jewish are fluid and constantly contested.

Dr Helen Spurling and Dr Tom Plant – ‘Rebel Jews: Resistance and Jewishness’

The Maccabean Revolt of 167 BCE is traditionally portrayed as a Jewish resistance movement led by the Maccabeans against their Greek rulers, the Seleucids. Against all odds, the revolt was successful and is celebrated today in the festival of Chanukkah. The early Jewish writings on this revolt, however, present a complex array of attitudes by Jewish society towards Greek rule and culture. This session will ask what this shows about Jewish religion and identity at the close of the biblical period. The session will then move forward to the modern period to explore the ways in which the myth and memory of the revolt has been used as a means of defining and defending Jewish identity in twentieth century Britain.

Dr Dan Levene – ‘The Jews of Ethiopia’

In 1975 the Israeli government decided that the ‘Law of Return’ applies to the Ethiopian Jews and embarked on a programme that was aimed at bringing them to Israel. Nearly 40 years on the majority of this community is firmly settled in their new/old homeland. Time has shown, however, that this change of place has had quite an impact on the Jewish Ethiopians’ sense of identity. After a brief introduction to the most recent history of this community we will look at the different traditions and opinions that account for their Jewish origins starting with the biblical story of the encounter between Solomon and the queen of Sheba.

Dr Kathrin Pieren – ‘What is Jewish art?’

What do we mean when we speak about Jewish art? Do we refer to the identity of the artist, the subject matter of a work or the purpose of an art object or building? Looking at numerous examples from art history, we will reflect on how the concept of Jewish art has changed over time and how Jewish identity has been represented and negotiated through works of art.


£31 full rate

£21 loyalty rate (Harbour Lights Members, Friends of Parkes, English Teachers Network, university staff and alumni)

£11 discount rate (students/sixth form & college students and those in receipt of income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Council Tax or Housing Benefit)

All prices include lunch and refreshments.

For more information or to book a place please visit our online store.

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