Summer Scholar-in-Residence featuring Professor Ronnie Perelis, PhD.

Summer Scholar-in-Residence 2020 was with Professor Ronnie Perelis, PhD.

“The Exiles of Jerusalem in Sepharad”: Crisis, Creativity and Resilience

Zoom on Three Wednesdays, July 8, 15 & 22, 7:30 pm

Click to listen to Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.
Click HERE for a bibliography compiled by Dr. Ronnie Perelis on The Jews of Spain.

Despite the pandemic that had closed our building for the past several months, Or Zarua’s adult educational programming remained ongoing, accessible and vibrant. We sustained our robust learning community through a varied menu of virtual classes, lectures and sermons. Our year-round learning opportunities continued over the summer with a three-part lecture series in July by Dr. Ronnie Perelis, a world-class scholar of Sephardic history and culture.

Dr. Perelis, Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Abraham and Jelena (Rachel) Alcalay Associate Professor of Sephardic Studies at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and the Director of the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs at Yeshiva University, will explore various stages of medieval and early modern Sephardic experience and expression. The Jews of the Iberian Peninsula in the fourteenth century and beyond endured intense persecution and crisis, yet emerged from their recurring traumas to embody heroic resilience and creativity.

The Jews of Spain created an unrivaled culture during their millennial stay in the Iberian Peninsula. These Sephardim were deeply rooted in their Jewish tradition but also vigorously enmeshed in the economic, political and cultural life of their broader society. After an extended period of thriving splendor, however, the Jews of Spain were persecuted, forcibly converted and eventually expelled, leading to communal fragmentation and dispersion.

Yet Sephardic creativity was not extinguished with the expulsion. With the rise of the Converso class, Jewish identity took on new forms and expressions. Dr. Perelis will focus his lecture series on pivotal moments in Sephardic history including the riots of 1391, the establishment of the Inquisition, the expulsions from and forced baptisms in Spain and Portugal, the conquest of the Americas, and the rebirth of open Jewish life in cosmopolitan Amsterdam. He will review a variety of primary sources, both texts and images, to allow us to better appreciate the complexities of this arduous but inspiring historical narrative.

Dr. Perelis explores the vitality of Sephardic history with his students at Yeshiva University and in a variety of adult educational settings. His essays on Sephardic history analyze the dynamics of religious transformation within the context of the crypto-Jewish experience, and his book, Narratives from the Sephardic Atlantic: Blood and Faith (Indiana University Press), explores family and identity in the Sephardic Atlantic world. Dr. Perelis is currently working on a critical edition, English translation and historical study of the rediscovered manuscripts of Luis de Carvajal, a sixteenth-century Mexican crypto-Jewish thinker. This project will offer readers the first opportunity to delve deeply into the spiritual world of a remarkable early modern religious thinker and provide a window into crypto-Jewish life in the Americas. Dr. Perelis has lectured widely in the United States and throughout the world, and has served on the board of the Latin American Jewish Studies Organization and the advisory board of the American Sephardi Federation.

Please join us as Dr. Perelis hosts a compelling journey through the poignant crises and impressive achievements of medieval and early modern Sephardic Jews, as he engages the past while keeping an eye on contemporary concerns. Make July a time of exciting and insightful learning about often overlooked dimensions of Jewish history, experience and expression. —Marc Ashley

Click here for optional reading materials for Dr. Perelis’s Presentations: