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©Yeshiva University Arch of Titus Project, courtesy of Steven Fine.
Masada N. Palace Wall Painting. Courtesy of the Israel Exploration Society.
Gamla Synagogue. Courtesy of Andrea M. Berlin.

When, nearly 100 years ago, the Hungarian scholar Ludwig Blau proposed the study of the Jewish past through its material remains, he modelled it on the study of Christian antiquity through its material remains. Blau saw that the full breadth of the Jewish experience extended beyond any national, geographical or temporal limitation. It is this sense of possibility as yet unfulfilled that lies at the heart of the Leon Levy Foundation Lectures in Jewish Material Culture.
In fact, it does not occur to anyone to read about the Jewish monuments, and, as far as I know, such a subject of study figures in no curriculum and there exists no Jewish archaeologist in the sense of the term employed here…To America, which has at its disposal the means and the teaching staff, there is here offered a grateful field of activity—the founding of Jewish archaeology. It is well worth the exertion and the money of the noble…In Palestine there has been founded a Jewish Archaeological Society which, let us hope, will carry on its labors successfully. This society, as is quite natural, confines itself exclusively to the Holy Land, but that which I am proposing has reference to all lands, a plan which only America would be able to carry in view of the present conditions. It would be a religious and national achievement at the same time, even as it would be a furtherance of general science, not only Jewish science. A general exhibition of the Jewish monuments would level the way for the establishment of institutions to carry out this suggested task, a work which enthusiastic men would be in a position to accomplish. (Ludwig Blau, “Early Christian Archaeology from the Jewish Point of View,” Hebrew Union College Annual, 3 (1926) 157-214, at 160-161)

Each semester, we invite a visiting scholar to Bard Graduate Center to deliver a series of three public lectures which will culminate in a publication in BGC’s book series, Cultural Histories of the Material World.

Spring 2024
Jonathan Ben-Dov

Fall 2023
Bozena Shallcross
In the pilot phase, we aimed at creating models for the development of a field, bringing five visiting scholars to the Bard Graduate Center between 2017 and 2021. Each scholar was in residence for a semester, during which they taught a graduate seminar and delivered a series of public lectures, resulting in a publication in BGC’s book series, Cultural Histories of the Material World.

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

Spring 2021
Seth Schwartz
Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Classical Jewish Civilization, Columbia University
Lectures: “Materiality and Politics: How Integrated were Diaspora Jews in the Roman Empire?”
Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3

Spring 2020
Miriam Frenkel
Associate Professor, Department for Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Lectures: “The Matter of Things: Material Culture in the Medieval Islamicate World”
Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3

Spring 2019
Zeev Weiss
Professor, Department of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Lectures: “Jewish Material Culture: Old Theories and New Approaches, From Eleazar L. Sukenik to the Twenty-First Century”
Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3

Spring 2018
Laura Arnold Leibman
Professor of English and Humanities, Reed College
Lectures: “The Art of the Jewish Family: Material Culture in Early New York”
Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3

Fall 2017
Andrea M. Berlin
James R. Wiseman Chair in Classical Archaeology, Boston University
Lectures: “Beyond the Temple: Jewish Households from the Maccabees to the Great Revolt against Rome”
Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3