HomepageNewsOngoing Lecture Series Prompts Important Conversation on Jewish Life

Ongoing Lecture Series Prompts Important Conversation on Jewish Life

On March 12, scholar and author Jeffrey Kopstein will present, “Politics, Violence, Memory: The New Social Science of the Holocaust.” It’s the latest in Ursinus College’s important and ongoing Jewish Life Lecture Series.

Since 2015, the Jewish Life Lecture Series at Ursinus College has invited members of the campus and surrounding communities to discuss social, political, and cultural issues—both current and historical—through the lens of Jewish life.

For Professor of Politics Jonathan Marks, one of the founders of the series, the lectures have become a significant part of how Ursinus engages with the surrounding community on important topics impacting the Jewish community—especially since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and ongoing media coverage surrounding antisemitism on college campuses across the country.

“It provides a conversation on campus for our Jewish students and it’s a way for our entire community to expand its knowledge. It provides exposure to different points of view,” Marks said.

Back in 2015, Marks and Ursinus’s then-Jewish Life coordinators had been seeking ways to engage the college community in a discussion on antisemitism—its causes, its nature, and what it means. So, Ursinus hosted a roundtable discussion with three university professors (Professor of History Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland; Associate Professor of History Sharon Musher, Stockton University; and Assistant Professor of Religion Eliot Ratzman, Temple University).

It became the first in a series and since then, a dozen more guest speakers have participated in the series twice per academic year, providing a forum and sparking important conversations on a range of Jewish life topics.

“There is so much concern today about how we talk about Jewish life on college campuses, but we at Ursinus have had a conversation going for some time,” Marks said. “It’s an opportunity for learning and understanding that reflects enduring questions as well as current issues, and we try to connect to conversations we’re having in our classrooms.”

The series has been popular among Collegeville residents and local Ursinus alumni, often drawing more than 100 attendees per event.

Last fall, the Rabbi David Wolpe, a visiting professor at the Harvard Divinity School and one of the most influential Jewish speakers, scholars, and writers in the world, spoke about the Book of Genesis, which is also a topic covered in Ursinus’s Common Intellectual Experience. Jewish Life Lecture Series topics have also included the Holocaust, the Book of Job (also a CIE text), Middle East politics, American Judaism, and more.

On March 12, Jeffrey Kopstein, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of California, Irvine, will lead the latest lecture at Ursinus at 7 p.m. in Musser Auditorium in Pfahler Hall. His research focuses on interethnic violence, voting patterns of minority groups, antisemitism, and anti-liberal tendencies in civil society, paying special attention to cases within European and Russian Jewish history. For more and to register, click here.

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