This November, the HUC-JIR Community was privileged to host Dr. Daniel Boyarin for the Annual Feld Memorial Lecture at the Klau Library in Cincinnati. Professor Boyarin hails from UC Berekely and brought with him a wealth of scholarship and teaching experience to the Library's seminars. Boyarin is the Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and Rhetoric at the University of California, and received his Ph.D from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He has since been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and fellowships, including appointments as a NEH Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, a Ford Foundation Fellow, and he is a holder of the Berlin Prize at the American Academy in Berlin. Writing extensively on talmudic and midrashic studies, much of Boyarin’s work has focused on cultural studies in rabbinic Judaism, including issues of gender and sexuality as well as research on the Jews as a colonized people.
Professor Boyarin spent two days at the Library, exploring our extensive collection of rare printed materials and unique manuscripts and giving two lectures to the HUC Community. For his evening lecture, Boyarin presented his thesis for his forthcoming book on the topic of Jews in the Diaspora and the role of Talmud and Torah study in defining the Diaspora. Through examining other exiled nations and both historical and traditional accounts of the Jewish Diaspora, the audience was led to reexamine our cultural attitudes about displacement and exile, and toward understanding Boyarin's proposed prescription for ensuring a thriving Jewish future. The evening lecture was followed by a light reception where academic faculty and the general population were able to mingle and discuss with each other and with Professor Boyarin the new ideas and constructs he presented.
The following day, the Library's Lunch and Learn for students and faculty drew record numbers as attendees enjoyed a lovely lunch while Professor Boyarin taught a page of Talmud related to his understanding of Diaspora. In the stories presented from both Bavli and Yerushalmi editions of the Talmud, Rav Chisda was censured for intercalating the Jewish calendar outside of the Land of Israel. Boyarin contrasted the two versions of this story and explained how the emphases on different descriptors and narrative elements reflect alternate views of Diaspora. The lively lecture was followed by a question and answer session when attendees were able to ask Professor Boyarin about things like his personal connections to the topic of Diaspora and the Diaspora's effect on women.
The Klau Library is very grateful for the mind-expanding lectures that we were able to present to the HUC Community through the generous Feld Memorial Fund. Professor Boyarin was a gracious and engaging speaker and it was a memorable experience having a lecturer of such high esteem in our library and college community.