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10.19.12 Issue

by Dr. Leonard Greenspoon, Creighton University, Klutznick Chair

It’s an unprecedented opportunity. Sixteen speakers over two days, with plenty of time for audience interaction, on the topic of Who is a Jew? That’s the promise and the premise of this year’s Klutznick-Harris Symposium, the 25th in the annual series, which takes place on Sunday, Oct. 28, and Monday, Oct. 29.

The Symposium kicks off at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday morning at the Omaha Jewish Community Center. The first three speakers explore a variety of topics relating to Jewish identity in a number of different environments. First is Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, from the University of San Francisco, whose presentation is titled Will the ‘Real’ Jew Please Stand Up! Karaites, Israelites, Kabbalists, Messianists, and the Politics of Identity. He is followed by Leonard Levin, who is a pulpit rabbi and has also taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His presentation is It’s All in the Memes. The third paper in the first session is by Naomi Leite of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She will be speaking on Ancestral Souls and Jewish Genes: Alternative Models of Jewishness from Portugal’s Urban Marranos.

Directly after Dr. Leite’s presentation there will be a special luncheon in honor of Menachem Mor, the first holder of the Klutznick Chair and the organizer of the first Klutznick Symposia. This luncheon, from 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Directly after lunch, Mor, who is currently at the University of Haifa, will lead off the second session of the Symposium with his presentation on Who Is a Samaritan? Following Mor is Matthew Boxer from Brandeis University. He will be speaking about The Birthright Israel Generation: Being a Jewish Young Adult in Contemporary America. The final presentation of session II will begin at 1:50 p.m. It will be presented by Mark Goldfeder of the Emory University School of Law. His topic is Timeless Principles and Timely Applications: Re-examining the Definition of A Jew in the Modern World.

After a break, session III will begin at 2:50 p.m. All of the papers in this session are directly related to Israel. The first is by Naftali Rothenberg of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.  His presentation is titled Conversion in Transition: Conceptual and Halakhic Changes in Israel. The second presentation in this session is by Joseph R. Hodes of Tulane University, who will be speaking about The Bene Israel and the ‘Who is a Jew?’ Controversy in Israel. Netanel Fisher from Hebrew University is the final speaker in session III. The title of his presentation is Who is a Jew in Israel? Did Israel Succeed in Untying the Knot?

Sunday’s exploration of Who Is a Jew? continues with the keynote presentation by Shaye J. D. Cohen, Littauer Professor of Hebrew and Philosophy at Harvard University.  Cohen’s talk, which will begin at 7:30 p.m., is titled Who is a Jew? Who decides? Who cares? After his presentation, Cohen will be available for questions and comments from members of the audience.

Monday morning’s activities start at 8:30 a.m. in the Ballroom of Creighton University’s Skutt Student Center.  Visitor parking for this event is available at the Lied Center parking lot, 24th and Cass Streets.

Session IV consists of two presentations. The first is by Mara W. Cohen Ioannides of Missouri State University and is titled Creating a Community: Who can belong? Wesley K. Sutton, of Lehman College/ CUNY, will then speak on The Fallacy of Biological Judaism.

After a short break, session V begins at 10:05 a.m. The first presenter in this session is Katarzyna Person, who is at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. Her talk is titled We didn’t even know they were Jewish. Assimilated, Acculturated, and Baptized Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1940-1943. Next is Misha Klein of the University of Oklahoma, who will speak on Kosher Feijoada, or Blending Contradictions into Identities.

Immediately after this session ends, at 11:30 a.m., everyone is invited to a deli luncheon. The luncheon, another opportunity for informal interaction, is followed at 12:15 p.m. by the final presentations of the Symposium.

First in session VI is Steven Leonard Jacobs of the University of Alabama. His presentation is on German-Jewish Identity: Problematic Then; Problematic Now. Sarah Imhoff of Indiana University follows. The title of her presentation is Traces of Race: Defining Jewishness in America. The end of her talk, at 1:45 p.m., will also mark the conclusion of the 25th Annual Klutznick-Harris Symposium.

In addition to the presentations described above, those who attend the Symposium will also have the opportunity to learn about and participate in RavelUnravel, an activity devised by Project Interfaith. Details about this activity can be viewed at

The co-hosts of the annual Klutznick-Harris Symposium are the Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization at Creighton University and the Norman & Bernice Harris Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Along with them are Creighton University’s Kripke Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Jewish Federation of Omaha. From within the Jewish community, the Ike and Roz Friedman Foundation, the Riekes Family, the Center for Jewish Life, the Henry Monsky Lodge of B’nai B’rith, and the Dr. Bruce S. Bloom Memorial Endowment also provide generous support.

The papers presented at each year’s Symposium are published, in edited form, in the Studies in Jewish Civilization Series from Purdue University Press. Copies of the just published Jews in the Gym: Judaism, Sports, and Athletics volume, from the 2010 Symposium, will be available for viewing and purchase at this year’s Symposium. Among the authors featured in this volume is Steven Riekes, who wrote a chapter titled Is Life a Game? Athletic Competition as a Metaphor for the Meaning of Life.

The full program for the Symposium will be printed as an insert for The Jewish Press issue of Oct. 26. For further information, please contact Pam Yenko at the Klutznick Chair office: 402.280.2303; Additional features, including summaries of each paper, can be viewed at the Klutznick Chair website: