Jewish Studies at Syracuse University (Brochure)


Fresh from the printer after what feels like years of work. I’m delighted with how the new brochure came out. One above the other, heaven and earth in a material key. Is this what Jewish Studies looks like at Syracuse? Red. No books. No beards. The pomegranate is from Aunt Phyllis’ house in Hadera.

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Flat & Stark (On the Road in Central Illinois)

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On my way back home from Bloomington-Normal, I hopped a rental and drove up rt. 55 to O’hare to pick up my flight. Better than the fly over, it’s been years since I drove through anything so flat. Most dramatic were the slight bends in the road when the huge expanse of prairie open up before you before you complete the turn. I like the human construction on the plain.  In the first cold days of spring the landscape is exceptional and stark.

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Word of God Seminar Series (Columbia University)

word of god banner

What does it mean for something to be ‘the word of God?’ What are the origins, forms, and functions of this concept? This seminar series investigates what it means within the traditions of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, with a variety of scholars and thinkers.  The Word of God seminar series, begun in the Spring semester of 2015 and organized by Sudipta Kaviraj, is a series of public conversations that attempts to answer these questions.

All talks will be from 4:10-6:00pm.  This series is free and open to all.  No registration is required, but space is limited.

The scheduled seminars are:

Wednesday, February 4
Knox Hall, Room 509
Gil Anidjar, Columbia University
“The Word of God”
An audio recording of this seminar is available here.

Friday, February 13
80 Claremont, Room 101
Wael Hallaq, Columbia University
“God’s Word: Between the Intentional and the Political”
An audio recording of this seminar is available here.

Friday, February 27, 10:00am – 12:00pm
Knox Hall, Room 509
Arindam Chakrabarti, University of Hawai’i
“Moral Epistemic Authority With or Without God: The Meaning of an Imperative Sentence (Vidhi-vAkya), Nyaya versus Miimamsa”
with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak as Chair
An audio recording of this seminar is available here.

Friday, March 6
Knox Hall, Room 509
Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Columbia University
“The Word of God in Translation”
An audio recording of this seminar is available here.

Wednesday, March 25
Knox Hall, Room 509
Lawrence McCrea, Cornell University
“Does God have free will?: Hermeneutics and Theology in Medieval South India”

Friday, March 27
80 Claremont Ave, Room 101
Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University
“Can a Monotheist God be Multilingual?”

Wednesday, April 8
IAB, Room 501B
Hossein Kamaly, Barnard College
“Can the Word of God be Ambiguous?”

Wednesday, April 15
Knox Hall, Room 509
Shaul Magid, Indiana University
“The Word of God Is No Word at All”

Friday, April 17
Charles Hallisey, Harvard University
“Learning the Word of God from Reading the Word of the Buddha”Wednesday,

Friday, April 24
(room to be announced)
Jerusha Lamptey, Union Theological Seminary
“Women and the Word(s): Comparative Feminist Approaches to the Word of God.”

Wednesday, April 29
Knox Hall, Room 509
Parimal Patil, Harvard University


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Image, Not Idol (Talk at Illinois Wesleyan)


Honored to have been asked to present a paper at Illinois Wesleyan.

More philosophical Talmud, this one was entitled:

“Image, Not Icon: Judaism and the Disappearance of the Second Commandment”

Lots of very bright undergraduates showed up.

Could not have been more pleased.

Great hanging out with Robert Erlewine.

Hope to make the 2 hour road trip out of here tomorrow to O’hare.

Why fly, when you can drive?

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In Shock — Netanyahu Just Tore Off The Left Arm of the State of Israel



Why are liberal Jews in shock? In one month (March, 2015), we all watched before our very eyes Netanyahu tear out of its socket the left arm off his country and off the liberal base of his support in the United States and the American Jewish community. It has not been a pretty picture.

–The speech at the U.S. Capitol shredded a bi-partisan consensus that the Jewish establishment spent blood, sweat, and tears to create over decades. He turned Israel into a Republican political axe with which to batter a president whom half they country hates, and whom half the country supports, including most American Jews in overwhelming numbers.

–By rejecting the 2 state solution, he tore out the only thing standing in the way of Israel turning into bi-national state apartheid state. Since the early 1990s, this was a consensus position. Jewish institutions have gone to the mat for a Jewish majority democratic state. If all that comes of this is occupation-apartheid, liberal-left Jews in Israel and the majority of American Jews will turn away from this grotesque thing with the revulsion it deserves.

–In baiting his camp with the specter of the Arab vote and leftist perfidy, we all watched with our own eyes the Prime Minister of Israel cynically trampling democratic norms, primarily the principle of equal citizenship enshrined in the country’s declaration of independence.

Others will argue otherwise, but it’s not that liberal Jews are naïve. No one ever doubted the serious external threats faced by Israel, and the serious political and ethical and challenges that beset the State of Israel internally. It’s one thing to “know” all this. It’s another thing to “see” it dramatized with such quick and sudden clarity.

There’s no way to walk this back. Before the eyes of the world, Netanyahu ripped up the rules of the game with calculated brutality. At the UN and other international bodies, in the EU and on university campuses, Israel will reap the whirlwind and there’s not a thing we can do about it. He tore off the country’s left arm, and the strong liberal arm of the U.S. Jewish community.

It’s us or him.



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Americans for Peace Now Petition to President Obama

Peace now

I signed this petition by Americans for Peace Now. You can find it here.

This text of the statement reads:

Tell President Obama: Stand Up for Peace, Stand Up to Bibi
The recent Israeli elections definitively unmasked the real Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • Netanyahu cynically campaigned as an adversary of President Obama
  • Netanyahu brazenly ruled out a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians
  • Netanyahu flagrantly incited racism and intolerance in the Israeli body politic
  • Netanyahu shamelessly stoked divisions within the American Jewish community
  • Netanyahu recklessly turned Israel into a partisan issue in Congress

Tell President Obama:  Stand up to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has repeatedly violated the progressive values that we, as Americans and American Jews, hold dear. Real U.S. support for Israel today means holding Netanyahu and his next government accountable for its words and deeds – particularly those that undermine the very foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, contradict longstanding U.S. policy, or threaten the vital interests of the United States and Israel.

Tell President Obama: I will stand with you as you stand up to Bibi.

President Obama needs to hear from you today!  Tell him that you will support him as he stands up to Bibi – including at the UN, with respect to a potential nuclear agreement with Iran, with respect to international pressure on settlements, and with respect to the Palestinians. Tell him that standing up to Bibi is the real pro-Israel, pro-peace policy.


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Not “Good for Palestine” — Sayed Kashua Responds to Netanyahu Re-Election


Hard, sad truths by Sayed Kashua, which I’m reading against the idea bandied about, mostly here recently by Yousef Munayyer in the New York Times, that all of this –Netanyahu’s re-election, the galloping occupation, the deepening racism, the contempt in the face of human suffering– is “good” for Palestine in the long run. The argument is either cynical or desperate. There’s nothing in this but bad for everyone, especially for Palestine. Once it’s over, there may be nothing left.

You should read the whole thing here, but I’m excerpting the remarks below that speak directly against the facile notion that only a catastrophe unfolding before us can redeem this fundamentally grotesque and rotten situation. Like Kashua, I’m expecting nothing good out of it.

Dear Mr Netanyahu: Sorry we dared to dream. Yours, Israel’s Arab population

“However, that’s an extremely problematic argument. The hope for a binational state that Israeli policy will bring about unintentionally, will be shunted aside for years by the racist separation that already exists in the occupied territories. Israel will continue to expand at the expense of Palestinian land, the Palestinians will continue to be squeezed into densely populated cantons encircled by walls, until the international community will ostracise Israel and force it to grant civil rights to the Palestinians – thereby perhaps bringing about a binational state.

That’s a dangerous process, grounded in the trampling of the Palestinians. And even if the situation does play out like that, what exactly will the Palestinian society look like after long years of poverty, distress, overcrowding and adversity?

What kind of people will these ghettos of Palestinians produce? What form of morality, national consciousness and hope will people be left with after so many years of stifling occupation and a sense of hopelessness? Will the Palestinian people still retain the strength to struggle for a binational state, or will we have become, by then, the fallout of a people barely able to stand on its feet?”



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