Scholars to ponder role of Zionism in Israel's future

Schusterman Center and Israel Institute cosponsoring conference

Leon Wieseltier and Anita Shapira

The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies will host a conference on “Zionism in the 21st Century: Contemporary Perspectives From and About Israel” on Sunday and Monday, Feb. 17 -18. The event is cosponsored by the Israel Institute.

“Many have studied Zionism and its policies, dilemmas and problems in historical context,” says Professor Ilan Troen ’63 P’14, the director of the Schusterman Center and conference co-chair, explaining the significance of the conference. “Little has been done to examine how the lessons of the past and the realities of the present may impact on the role Zionism might play in Israel's complicated and conflicted future.”

The conference is designed to take up this challenge, Troen said. Co-chairing the conference with Troen, who is Stoll Family Chair in Israel Studies, is Donna Robinson Divine ’63 P’01, Morningstar Family Professor in Jewish Studies and professor of government at Smith College. Both co-chairs are Brandeis alumni.

In addition to faculty and doctoral students from Brandeis and neighboring universities, over 60 scholars from across the United States and Canada as well as Latin America, Europe and Asia will attend the two-day conference.

Sessions will cover issues in literature, music, politics, law, human rights, competing land claims, economics, religion, Zionist thought, Arab minorities in Israel and Israel within the Middle Eastern context. Papers deriving from the conference will be published in a special issue of Israel Studies, the leading journal in the field, which is published by Indiana University Press and co-sponsored by the Schusterman Center.

Two keynote addresses will anchor the conference.

Professor Emerita Anita Shapira, chair of the Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel at Tel Aviv University and an Israel Prize laureate, will inaugurate the program with an exploration of “The Changing Images of Ben-Gurion.” Shapira recently won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in History for her latest book, “Israel: A History” (Schusterman Series in Israel Studies, published by Brandeis University Press).

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic since 1983, will deliver the second keynote, on Sunday evening, on “The Stubbornness of Zionism.” Wieseltier’s publications include “Nuclear War, Nuclear Peace: The Sensible Argument about the Greatest Peril of Our Age,” essays on Jewish history, politics, and culture, and translations of modern Hebrew poetry. Wieseltier is this year’s winner of the prestigious Dan David Prize for his contributions to the field of ideas as a public intellectual. Dr. Kathy Lawrence, wife of President Fred Lawrence, will introduce Wieseltier.

Brandeis has long been a center for promoting scholarship and training scholars in Israeli and contemporary Jewish studies. Benjamin Halpern, who joined the Brandeis University faculty in 1960, pioneered the study of Israel and Zionism in America through courses, publications and the training of students. Jehuda Reinharz Ph.D.’72 continued in Halpern’s tradition of scholarship and teaching as the Richard Koret Professor of Modern Jewish History and later as President of Brandeis. Then in 2004, Professor Troen was installed as Stoll Family Chair in Israel Studies.

These activities paved the way for the establishment of the Summer Institute for Israel Studies  in 2004. By this June, 200 scholars from 180 universities across the world will have participated in this program, which prepares faculty to teach multidisciplinary courses on Israel. The Summer Institute, in turn, led to the establishment in 2007 of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, the leading such institution outside Israel.

Categories: International Affairs

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