Symposium on Continuity and Change in Political Culture, Israel and Beyond
Jan 24 @ 11:00 am – 1:45 pm
Symposium on Continuity and Change in Political Culture, Israel and Beyond

Symposium on Continuity and Change in Political Culture, Israel and Beyond Register here

Co-edited by Yael S. Aronoff, Ilan Peleg, and Saliba Sarsar
Ten leading scholars and practitioners of politics, political science, anthropology, Israel studies, and Middle East affairs address the theme of continuity and change in political culture as a tribute to Professor Myron (Mike) J. Aronoff whose work on political culture has built conceptual and methodological bridges between political science and anthropology. There will be three consecutive panels on the three themes of the book by its contributors.

Conflict and Peace 11:00-11:55 am EST (6-6:55 pm IST) followed by 10 minute break

Yael S. Aronoff- Pathways to Peace: Legitimation of a Two-State Solution
Aronoff is the director of the Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel and is the Serling Chair in Israel Studies at Michigan State University. Dr. Aronoff teaches in James Madison College, where she is associate professor of political science. Her book, The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers: When Hard Liners Opt for Peace, was published by Cambridge University Press (2014), and she is the current president of the Association of Israel Studies

Saliba Sarsar- Memory, Identity, and Peace in Palestinian-Israeli Relations
Sarsar, born and raised in Jerusalem, is the author of Peacebuilding in Israeli-Palestinian Relations (2020), Jerusalem: The Home in Our Hearts (2018) and What Jerusalem Means to Us: Christian Perspectives and Reflections (2018).

Nadav G. Shelef- Denationalization in the Israel-Palestinian Context
Shelef is the Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Israel Studies and professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His most recent books include Homelands: Shifting Borders and Territorial Disputes (Cornell University Press, 2020) and Evolving Nationalism: Homeland, Identity and Religion in Israel, 1925–2005 (Cornell University Press, 2010).

Yossi Beilin- The Ecological Fallacy: “Trust” in International Relations— The Case of the Settlement Freeze in the Oslo Process
Beilin initiated the Oslo Process in 1992, the “Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement” in 1993–1995, and the Geneva Initiative in 2001–2003. He also headed the Labour Party and the Meretz Party. Beilin was Israeli Justice Minister and served as deputy minister and as minister in four governments in Israel from 1988-2001.

Challenges to Democracy 12:05- 12:50 pm EST (7:05-7:50 pm IST) followed by 10 minute break

Naomi Chazan- Israel’s Democracy at a Turning Point
Naomi Chazan is professor emerita of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and currently serves as a senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. She has written and edited nine books and over seventy scholarly articles, headed the Meretz Party, and was President of the New Israel Fund.

Ilan Peleg– Majority-Minority Relations in Deeply Divided Democratic Societies: The Israeli Case in a Globalized Context
Peleg is the author or editor of eleven books and over ninety scholarly essays. A former president of the Association of Israel Studies, he is the founding editor-in-chief of Israel Studies Forum, the scholarly journal of the Association for Israel Studies.

Joel Migdal- Creating the Public in a Society of Strangers: Inclusion and Exclusion in American Cities
Migdal is the Robert F. Philip Professor Emeritus of International Studies in the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. Among his books are Strong Societies and Weak States; The Palestinian People: A History (with Baruch Kimmerling); and Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East.

National Memory, Memorialization, and Dramatization 1:00- 1:45 pm EST (8:00-8:45 pm IST)

Yael Zerubavel- The Bible Now: Political Satire and National Memory
Zerubavel is professor emerita of Jewish studies and history at Rutgers University and the former founding director of the Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life. She is the author of the award-winning Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1995), and Desert in the Promised Land (Stanford University Press, 2019). Professor Zerubavel is the recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award in Israel Studies from the Association for Israel Studies and the Israel Institute.

Roland Vazquez- Victim Sculpture and an Aesthetic of Basque Politics
Vazquez is professor of Anthropology and Social Science at Upper Iowa University. His book Politics, Culture, and Sociability in the Basque Nationalist Party (University of Nevada Press, 2010) is an ethnographic study of Basque partisan competition.

Jan Kubik- Tadeusz Kantor’s Theater as an Antidote against the Excesses of Nationalism and Idiocy of State Socialism
Kubik is professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University and professor of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London (UCL). Among his publications are The Power of Symbols against the Symbols of Power; Anthropology and Political Science, with Myron Aronoff.

Lecture by Sarah S. Willen about her award-winning book Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins
Jan 31 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Lecture by Sarah S. Willen about her award-winning book Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins

Lecture by Sarah S. Willen about her award-winning book
Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins
Sunday, January 31st | Register here

Sarah S. Willen will reflect on her long-term ethnographic engagement with global migrants who came to Israel from countries as varied as Ghana and the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, and Ukraine seeking work opportunities. After a brief heyday around the year 2000, many of these migrant communities fell apart when the Israeli government launched a mass deportation campaign (2002-05) that set the stage for even more aggressive anti-migrant and anti-refugee policies in the years to come. Drawing on fieldwork in homes and in churches, medical offices, human rights NGOs, and public spaces, Willen explores how global migrants in Tel Aviv struggle to craft meaningful, flourishing lives despite the exclusions and vulnerabilities they endure.

Sarah S. Willen is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, where she also directs the Research Program on Global Health & Human Rights at the Human Rights Institute. Her first book, Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), was awarded the 2019 Yonathan Shapiro Prize for Best Book in Israel Studies from the Association for Israel Studies, the 2020 Edie Turner First Book Prize in Ethnographic Writing from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, and was named finalist for the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in Social Science, Anthropology, and Folklore from the Association for Jewish Studies.

Tim Brown Visiting Design Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom
Feb 9 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Tim Brown Visiting Design Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom

Tim Brown is the creative vision behind Allbirds, shoes, apparel, and accessories, where he combines his experiences as a World Cup soccer player for New Zealand with his background in business management and design. Brown is driven by a desire to do things better, his design practice is balanced with his active advocacy for sustainable practices in business, with a focus on renewable practices for the materials, packaging, sources, and manufacturing of Allbirds.

This virtual event is free and open to the public, please register using the link below:


Dr. Kathleen Bickford Berzock Visiting Scholar Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom
Feb 17 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Dr. Kathleen Bickford Berzock Visiting Scholar Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom

Dr. Kathleen Berzock | Wednesday, February 17 | Zoom Webinar | 6pm

Dr. Kathleen Berzock is the Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs, at the Block Museum, at Northwestern, specializing in African art. Her co-edited book (with Christa Clark) Representing Africa in American Art Museums: A Century of Collecting and Display (2010) chronicles more than a century of building and presenting collections of African art in the United States.

This event is additionally sponsored by the African American and African Studies Program and the Museum Studies Program.

This virtual event is free and open to the public please register to join using the link below:



Betting on Democracy: The Faith of an American Jewish Pragmatist
Feb 23 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Betting on Democracy:  The Faith of an American Jewish Pragmatist

Betting on Democracy: The Faith of an American Jewish Pragmatist
Tuesday, February 23rd,7-8:30 pm| Register here

In this significant American political moment, this presentation on the thought of American Jewish philosopher Horace M. Kallen is a timely exploration of his unique and creative conception of democracy as a religion. As we now grapple with understanding what America is and who we are as a people, Kallen’s ideas resonate as a sounding board for new debates on the viability of cooperative unity as the operative condition of American society.

Rabbi Matthew Kaufman, PhD, is the author of Horace Kallen Confronts America: Jewish Identity, Science, and Secularism (Syracuse University Press, 2019). This intellectual biography traces how one man’s quest for authenticity contributed to a gradual shift in Jewish self-perception in America and reveals how Kallen’s struggle led to America’s embrace of his well-known term “cultural pluralism.” Dr. Kaufman serves as the rabbi of Congregation Kehillat Israel in Lansing, MI.

Finifter Panel on The Holocaust in Greece
Mar 23 @ 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Finifter Panel on The Holocaust in Greece

Finifter Panel on The Holocaust in Greece
Tuesday, March 23rd, 12:30-2:30 pm | Register Here

The Third Perspective on the Holocaust: Non-Jews and the German Murder of their Jewish Neighbours

Historians write about the Holocaust generally from the perspectives of the German perpetrators or the Jewish victims. This means that they miss the vital non-Jewish perspective, in particular the national and local governments that played an important role in facilitating the German murder of their Jewish citizens. This talk will explore non-Jewish involvement in the murder of the Greek Jews of Salonika, the city in which 70% of Greece’s Jewish population lived on the eve of World War II.

Andrew Apostolou is the first historian to have written about Greek Christian collaboration during the Holocaust in Greece in an academic journal. He earned his DPhil from St. Antony’s, Oxford, for “The Exception of Salonika: Greek Christian Reactions to the Holocaust” (forthcoming as a monograph).

A City against Its Citizens? Thessaloniki and the Jews

The presentation will focus on the reactions of Thessaloniki’s city authorities as the Holocaust was unfolding. In so doing, it seeks to answer the questions: did the Christian society stand up for the defense of the city’s Jews and did they try to undermine or object to the Nazi orders? Using archives from the City of Thessaloniki and several other sources, five case studies will be presented: the renaming of the streets with Jewish names prior to the deportations; the city’s involvement with the destruction of the Jewish cemetery; the use by the city of Jewish slave labor; the replacing of the Jewish employees in the municipality of Thessaloniki; and the acquisition of Jewish property.

Leon Saltiel holds a PhD in Contemporary Greek History from the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki and has received postdoctoral fellowships at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Revisiting Bystanders, Rescuers and Collaborators: Social Distancing and Social Networks in Thessaloniki before and during the Holocaust

The paper will examine the importance of prewar ‘social distancing’, i.e. the cultural, class and linguistic barriers between Christians and Jews in Thessaloniki, in relation to the low probability of survival (4%) among the members of the community. The paper will then analyze the various networks of survival based on prewar social ties and relations (cultural linguistic, class). What kind of social capital did prewar relations create and was it important for increasing the possibility of survival?

Giorgos Antoniou is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He currently holds the Chair of Jewish Studies and is a member of European Holocaust Research Infrastructure and International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. His current research interests include the study of contemporary antisemitism in Greece, datasets and demographics of the Thessaloniki Jewish community, survival and social networking, and the commemoration of the Holocaust in Greece.

Tanner Woodford Visiting Designer Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom
Mar 25 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Tanner Woodford Visiting Designer Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom

Tanner Woodford | Thursday, March 25| Virtual on Zoom | 6pm

Tanner Woodford is the founder and executive director of the Design Museum of Chicago. He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and makes Iterative Work. His research includes design issues, social change, and design history. His belief that design has the capacity to fundamentally improve the human condition is rooted in all of his pursuits. This virtual event is free and open to the public.

To join please register using the link below:

Panel followed by book discussion of Wandering Jews: Global Jewish Migration
Mar 30 @ 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Panel followed by book discussion of Wandering Jews: Global Jewish Migration

Panel followed by book discussion of
Wandering Jews: Global Jewish Migration
Tuesday, March 30th, 4:30-6:30 pm | Register here

Steven Gold will discuss his edited book Wandering Jews with Gil Ribak, Laura Limonic, and Kirsten Fermaglich, who will give virtual presentations on their chapters. Wandering Jews provides readers with a broader understanding of the Jewish experience of migration in the United States and elsewhere. It describes the record of a wide variety of Jewish migrant groups, including those encountering different locations of settlement, historical periods, and facets of the migration experience. While migrants who left the Pale of Settlement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are discussed, the volume’s authors also explore less well-studied topics. These include the fate of contemporary Jewish academics who seek to build communities in midwestern college towns; the adaptation experience of recent Jewish migrants from Latin America, Israel, and the former Soviet Union; the adjustment of Iranian Jews; the experience of contemporary Jewish migrants in France and Belgium; the return of Israelis living abroad; and a number of other topics. Interdisciplinary, the volume draws upon history, sociology, geography, and other fields.
Steven J. Gold is professor and graduate program director in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University and is a faculty affiliate of the Serling Institute.

Kirsten Fermaglich – It’s the Community That We’ve Made: Jewish Migration to East Lansing, Michigan in the Postwar Era
This presentation explores the experiences of Jewish academics who moved to East Lansing, Michigan to take jobs at Michigan State University in the post-World War II era. These academics were part of a wave of American Jewish internal migration. As antisemitic restrictions lifted and higher education expanded in the years after the war, thousands of Jews moved from large Eastern cities to colleges located in small Midwestern and Southern cities with few Jews. Although Jewish observers at the time called these academics “runaway Jewish intellectuals,” fearing they would abandon the Jewish community, this paper will describe how the academic Jews of East Lansing found themselves seeking Jewish community, and indeed creating one that fit their needs. These academic migrants built their own religious school and synagogue, which featured an egalitarian liturgy, participatory worship service and a vibrant Jewish community. The academic Jews of East Lansing experienced a renewal, not a loss, of Jewish identity with their migration.
Kirsten Fermaglich is Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Michigan State University. She is the author of A Rosenberg By Any Other Name (NYU Press, 2018) which won the Saul Viener Prize for the best book in American Jewish history from the American Jewish Historical Society in 2019.

Laura Limonic – New Jewish Immigrants: Constructing an American Jewish Identity
Jewish identity is built within and across national borders – influenced by the transnational tenets of Jewish practice, faith and culture as well as the national cultures where Jews reside. Jewish immigrants often find that their Jewish practice and Jewish culture diverges from Jewish life in their adopted country. In this presentation, I compare three immigrant groups, from distinct geographic locations: the former Soviet Union, Israel and Latin America. By comparing demographic and socio-economic characteristics as well as markers of Jewish identity and behavior across these three immigrant groups, we widen our understanding of immigrant communities that comprise the larger US Jewish group. I use data from the Pew Research Center, to construct variables aimed at measuring Jewish identity – providing insight into the changing nature of Jewish identity and the process of assimilation into the larger US Jewish community.
Laura Limonic received her PhD in sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2014. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American Studies from Brandeis University and a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University. In addition to academic research, Laura has an extensive background in public policy research and advocacy.

Gil Ribak – Cleanliness Like That of the Germans: Eastern European Jews’ Views of Germans and the Dynamics of Migration and Disillusionment
The talk will focus on Eastern European Jews’ views of Germans before, during, and after immigration to America. Images of Germans should be understood in the context of the Jewish encounter with modernity. Modernizing Jews initially idealized the non-Jews whom they perceived as more developed and carriers of a higher culture; however, this pattern of initial admiration was frequently followed by disenchantment. Idealization required geographical distance; when Jews came into close contact with Germans, their attitudes often changed.
Gil Ribak is an Associate Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona. Born and raised in Israel, he came to the United States on a Fulbright Dissertator Fellowship and completed a doctoral degree in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His book, Gentile New York: The Images of Non-Jews among Jewish Immigrants, was published by Rutgers University Press in 2012.

Ann Hamilton Signature Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom
Apr 16 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Ann Hamilton Signature Lecture @ Virtual on Zoom

The College of Arts & Letters and the Department of Art, Art History and Design are pleased to host internationally acclaimed visual artist Ann Hamilton as the Spring 2021 Signature Lecture. Hamilton is best known for her large-scale multimedia installations, public projects, and performance collaborations. Her site-responsive process works with common materials to invoke particular places, collective voices, and communities of labor. Hamilton is a Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University.

This virtual event will be held on zoom and is free and open to the public but requires preregistration. To register please click here. For more information about Ann Hamilton and her work, please see this teaching resources packet, for MSU Students, Faculty, and Staff, accessible only with an MSU NetID and password, prepared by Lily Woodruff, Associate Professor, Art History and Visual Culture.

Signature Lecture Series

Originally founded as the Celebrity Lecture Series in 1998 by the College of Arts & Letters and the Dean’s Community Council, the series was later renamed the Signature Lecture Series in 2007 and allows notable public figures to interact and engage with the faculty, students, and greater community of Michigan State University through conversations and discussions.

Support for this series has come from sponsors both within the university community and the community at large. Their generosity has been critical in attracting the best and most qualified individuals to conduct an informed and wide-ranging discussion of contemporary ideas and creative achievements in the arts and humanities.

The popularity of this series has attracted some of the most illustrious scholars, critics, novelists, poets, film producers, and creative artists of our time, including Soledad O’Brien, Ken Burns, Oliver Stone, Richard Ford, and Maya Angelou, and most recently Claudia Rankine, just to name a few.

Annual Rabin/Brill Lecture: “Neighbors in Difficult Times: Jews and Gentiles in the Borderlands of the Soviet Union and Romania during the Holocaust”
Aug 4 @ 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Annual Rabin/Brill Lecture: "Neighbors in Difficult Times: Jews and Gentiles in the Borderlands of the Soviet Union and Romania during the Holocaust"

Annual Rabin/Brill Lecture:
“Neighbors in Difficult Times: Jews and Gentiles in the Borderlands of the Soviet Union and Romania during the Holocaust”
Thursday, April 8th, 12:30-2:00 pm | Register here

In this lecture, Dr. Diana Dumitru will explore differences between how civilians treated the Jewish populations of Romania and the occupied Soviet Union during the Holocaust. Contrary to most accounts that describe gentile behavior in Eastern Europe as almost uniformly negative in their interaction with Jewish neighbors, Dr. Dumitru demonstrates that the role of governments in the lead-up to the Holocaust mattered a great deal, with more inclusive nationality policies resulting in significantly better outcomes, even in territories with a long history of antisemitism, and exclusivist nationality policies resulting in significantly worse outcomes for Jews. The lecture will discuss Soviet and Romanian nationality policies between World Wars I and II, as well as uncovering the deadly impact this had during the Holocaust. Based on original archival research and hundreds of interviews with gentiles and Jews, the results suggest that relations between ethnic groups are not fixed and destined to repeat themselves, but are instead fluid and susceptible to change over time.
Dr. Diana Dumitru is Associate Professor of History at Ion Creanga State University of Moldova. Her field of research includes the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, nationalism, and Jews under late Stalinism.