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8.1.14 Issue

by Dr. Moshe Gershovich, Professor of History and Director, Schwalb Center for Israel and Jewish Studies, UNO

The University of Nebraska at Omaha and the Schwalb Center are welcoming a new Visiting Israeli Professor (VIP), while the Jewish Community of Omaha is getting ready to absorb a new family from Israel. Assaf Gavron is an Israeli author, translator, and literature professor who will arrive in Omaha in August, 2014, along with his wife Hilla and two daughters, Gali (7) and Maya (4).

The first opportunity to meet Assaf Gavron will come on Sunday evening Aug. 17, 7 p.m. at the JCC Theater, at the screening of the film Zigzag Kid (2012), which will be shown as part of the 2014 Annual Jewish Film Festival.  The film is based on a novel by Israeli author David Grossman; Gavron will speak briefly about the author and the book.

The Schwalb Center’s ability to bring Gavron to Omaha is made possible through a generous grant from the American-Israeli Cooperative Exchange (AICE), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization established in 1993 to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship by emphasizing the fundamental values shared by both nations. Last year, the AICE sponsored UNO’s first Schusterman VIP, Dr. Anat Gilboa.

AICE has been complementary and supportive of the education the Schwalb Center provides the community, as attested to by this second grant. Additional support making this professorship possible was given by Silvia and Larry Roffman, the Deborah and Arthur M. Greene Trust, and the Jewish Federation of Omaha. The Federation is providing Jewish and general education for the Gavron family.

The son of English immigrants, Assaf Gavron grew up in a small village near Jerusalem and currently lives in Tel Aviv. His literary harvest thus far includes five novels (Ice, Moving, Almost Dead, Hydromania and The Hilltop), a collection of short stories (Sex in the Cemetery), and a non-fiction collection of Jerusalem falafel-joint reviews (Eating Standing Up). His fiction has been translated into English, German, Russian, Italian, French, Dutch, Swedish, Greek and Bulgarian. He has won numerous literary awards, including the Israeli Prime Minister’s Creative Award for Authors. His fiction was adapted for the stage in Habima, Israel’s national theater, and three of his novels were optioned for movies by Israeli and international film producers. As a translator of fiction, Gavron is responsible for the highly-regarded English-to-Hebrew translations of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Jonathan Safran Foer’s novels, among others. He also co-translated his own Almost Dead from Hebrew to English.

The English translation of Gavron’s novel, The Hilltop, is scheduled to be published by Scribner in October 2014. Hailed as “The Great Israeli Novel” (Time Out Tel Aviv) and winner of the prestigious Bernstein Prize, The Hilltop is a monumental and daring work about life in a West Bank settlement. The Schwalb Center is planning to mark that event in early November, 2014.

Beyond his literary work, Gavron was the chief writer of the prize-winning computer game Peacemaker; and he has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines, writing on subjects ranging from sports to politics, and from music to food. Gavron is also the singer and main songwriter of cult pop group The Foot and Mouth. The group has released five albums.

During the Fall, 2014 semester at UNO, Assaf Gavron will offer two classes. His first class, Israeli Literature of War, will be offered Tuesday evenings, 6-8:40 p.m. at UNO. His second class, American Jewish Literature, will be held at the JCC on Wednesdays, 4-6:40 p.m. Both classes are designed for UNO students and members of the community who wish to audit them. Seniors over the age of 60 are specifically encouraged to take advantage of UNOs “Senior Passport” program, which enables them to audit up to six UNO classes during the academic year, for $25. For more information about these courses (and others offered by the Schwalb Center), contact us by phone, 402.554.3175 or e-mail