Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University presents two lectures by Jewish scholar Chava Weissler


Image: Chava WeisslerChava Weissler, Ph.D., author, groundbreaking scholar, and professor of Jewish civilization at Lehigh University, will present two public lectures as part of her visit to Fairfield University as its 2002 Judaic Studies scholar-in-residence.

On Monday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m., Weissler will speak on "Jewish Renewal: Revitalizing Contemporary American Judaism." The talk will be held in the university's Charles F. Dolan School of Business and will reflect her recent research into the Jewish renewal movement and how it fits into America's spiritual marketplace.

On Tuesday, April 23 at 2:30 p.m., Weissler will present a second lecture in Multimedia Room 101 of the university's DiMenna-Nyselius Library. The title of this afternoon lecture is "Voices of the Matriarchs: Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women." It will focus on her 1998 book by the same name, which won the Koret Award for Outstanding Work in Jewish History in 1999 and was a National Jewish Book Award finalist. Weissler's work in women's devotional literature was inspired by her pioneering studies of the religious lives of 17th- and 18th-century Jewish women. She began to study devotional Yiddish literature in the mid-1980s, examining nearly 1,000 cards for tkhines, which are prayers written in Yiddish for and sometimes by women.

Weissler was born in Washington, D.C., in 1947. Her interests in academics and Jewish life were nurtured early on. As a young girl, she attended Jewish summer camps and participated in Habonim, the Labor Zionist youth group. By age 12, she had taught herself Hebrew.

Weissler attended Brandeis University and studied abroad her junior year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She graduated Brandeis in 1967 with top honors and a degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. As an aspiring scholar of Jewish studies, a rabbinical program was the next logical step for her, but the Jewish Theological Seminary of America did not accept women at that time. Therefore, Weissler took a job as a secretary in the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., where she continued to make use of her Hebrew.

Weissler earned a master's degree in library service from Columbia University in 1970 and received a doctorate in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. Increasingly, her attention turned to the religious lives of ordinary Jewish people, with a special interest in the ritual, food, narrative, devotional literature and aesthetics of everyday Jewish life. In 1988, she joined the faculty at Lehigh University as the Philip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization. She was promoted to full professor in 1999.

The Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies is under the direction of Ellen M. Umansky, Ph.D. The Weissler lectures are free and open to the public. Reservations are recommended. Call Judaic Studies at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2066.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 5, 2002

Vol. 34, No. 192