Relief from the Arch of Titus in Rome, ca. 81 AD.

Bard Graduate Center is pleased to announce its pilot project dedicated to the study of Jewish Material Culture, which will launch in fall semester of 2017 with major funding from the Leon Levy Foundation and additional funding from the David Berg Foundation.

“The study of the Jewish past is probably the first ‘area studies program,’ and it began in the first decades of the nineteenth century. But it has been almost entirely focused on textual sources. With this project we hope to make an intervention in a large, thriving literature,” said Dean Peter N. Miller. “As a think tank for material culture, Bard Graduate Center has the intellectual and institutional resources to successfully launch this line of inquiry.”

Jewish Material Culture at Bard Graduate Center will incorporate a one-semester visiting professorship in Jewish material culture with the field rotating between ancient, medieval, and modern. The Leon Levy Foundation Professor will teach a graduate seminar, and deliver a series of public lectures which will be the focus of subsequent workshop meetings and eventually be published in BGC’s Cultural Histories of the Material World book series.

Andrea M. Berlin, James R. Wiseman Chair in Classical Archaeology and director of Graduate Studies at Boston University, will inaugurate the visiting professorship in fall 2017. Berlin’s area of expertise is the archaeology of Hellenistic and Roman Judea and Palestine, and her graduate seminar will explore a range of quotidian material remains, such as jewelry, dishes, cooking pots, and lamps, found at various ancient sites, including Troy and Jerusalem. Her public lecture series is tentatively titled “Beyond the Temple: Jewish Households from the Maccabees to the Great Revolt against Rome.”

In spring 2018, Laura Leibman, professor of English and Humanities at Reed College, will join the faculty as the second visiting professor. Leibman, a scholar of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American Jewish material culture and the Jewish diaspora, will focus her seminar on the radical transformation of Jewish American identify during the early Republic as the Jewish people struggled to gain full civil rights. Her public lecture series, tentatively titled “The Art of the Jewish Family: Material Culture in Early New York,” will complement BGC’s long-time research and teaching commitment to the material culture of New York City.


Join us in October for the inaugural Leon Levy Foundation Lectures in Jewish Material Culture. Andrea M. Berlin will deliver a series of three lectures entitled “Beyond the Temple: Jewish Households from the Maccabees to the Great Revolt against Rome.” Alex P. Jassen, Karen B. Stern, and Azzan Yadin-Israel will each respond to one lecture and also offer a corresponding lunchtime talk the following day.

Additional support provided by The David Berg Foundation.

October 10, 6 pm
Lecture 1: Mediterranean Cosmopolitans and the Maccabees

October 11, 12:15 pm
On the Emergence of Jewish Cultural Practice in the Second Century BCE

October 17, 6 pm
Lecture 2: Class Divides: Jewish Daily Life in the time of Herod the Great

October 18, 12:15 pm
Class Divides: Reading, Writing, and Jewish Daily Life through Graffiti

October 24, 6pm
Lecture 3: The Great Revolt, and Its Jewish Afterlife

October 25, 12:15 pm
Material Culture and Rabbinic Isolation: A Cultural Ecology Perspective


The following five visiting scholars will hold the position of Leon Levy Foundation Professor of Jewish Material Culture:

Fall 2017
Andrea M. Berlin
James R. Wiseman Chair in Classical Archaeology, Boston University
Lecture: “Beyond the Temple: Jewish Households from the Maccabees to the Great Revolt against Rome”

Spring 2018
Laura Arnold Leibman
Professor of English and Humanities, Reed College

Spring 2019
Zeev Weiss
Professor, Department of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Spring 2020
Miriam Frenkel
Senior Lecturer, Department for Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Spring 2021
Seth Schwartz
Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Classical Jewish Civilization, Columbia University