NYU Wagner Scholar to open Fairfield University's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center season exploring Jewish identity in the United States



Image: Steven CohenScholar Steven M. Cohen, a recent National Jewish Book Award winner who was named twice to "the Forward 50," opens Fairfield University's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies' fall season with the Judaic Studies Scholar-in-Residence Lecture, on Wednesday, September 21.

Taking place in the Barone Campus Center's Oak Room at 7:30 p.m., Dr. Cohen's free, public talk, entitled "Changing Patterns of Jewish Identity in the U.S.," will serve as an opportunity to learn about American Jewry from a leading sociologist and researcher.

"Over the last half century, Jews have won extraordinary acceptance in the larger society," said Dr. Cohen, research professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner. "They have significantly departed from an ethnic definition of group identity; and they have dramatically shifted their religious self-definition, as a culture of expectations has been replaced by a culture of resource."

Dr. Cohen's current research interests extend to emerging forms of Jewish community and identity among younger Jews in the United States. He serves as research director of Synagogue 3000, senior counselor to the chancellor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and director of the Florence G. Heller/JCCA Research Center.

His latest book, "Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary," of which he is a co-author, was honored with a National Jewish Book Award. Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, observed of the book: "Sacred Strategies tells how eight American synagogues became visionary congregations - 'entrepreneurial, experimental, and committed to engaging members' and serves as a primer for other congregations seeking to join them. Anyone who leads or attends a synagogue will be inspired by this book."

With Arnold Eisen, he wrote, "The Jew Within," and with Charles Liebman he wrote, "Two Worlds of Judaism: The Israeli and American Experiences." His earlier books include "American Modernity & Jewish Identity," and "American Assimilation or Jewish Revival?"

In the past, Dr. Cohen served as Professor at The Melton Centre for Jewish Education; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Queens College, CUNY. He has also been a visiting professor at Brandeis University, Yale University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Earlier this year, Cohen received an honorary doctorate from the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. In 2010, he was cited as one of the "Forward 50," the newspaper The Jewish Daily Forward's annual list of noteworthy Jews. In 1992 he made aliyah, and taught for 14 years at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The two-day Judaic Studies Scholar-in-Residence program includes additional events for students, faculty and staff. It is made possible through the generosity of David and Edith Chaifetz.

Seating for the lecture is limited. To reserve a seat, call the Bennett Center at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2066.

The Bennett Center's goal is to provide Fairfield University students and the greater community exposure to and contact with Jewish ideas, culture, and thinking. For more information on other Bennett Center events, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/judaic/.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 8, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 30