Join me at the Solomon-Tenenbaum Lecture tonight


I’m planning to go to this lecture tonight at USC. Here’s the PDF of the image so you can read it better. And here’s a description:

Dean Nirenberg will discuss how Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Christians and Muslims of every period, and the secularist of modernity have used Judaism in constructing their visions of the world. Do these former and modern ways of life have any relationship to each other? Do past forms of life and thought affect later ones? If so, how does past perception about Judaism influence the ways in which we perceive the world today? In the 2015 Solomon-Tenenbaum Lecture, Dean Nirenberg will examine these important questions and will discuss what, if anything, the history of anti-Judaism has to do with the present.

This is the annual lectureship that Samuel Tenenbaum funds. It’s usually pretty good. Frequently, these events give us on the Bernardin lecture committee a high bar to shoot for.

I hope to see you there.

One thought on “Join me at the Solomon-Tenenbaum Lecture tonight

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    It was an interesting lecture, even though the question he was addressing — “Does the History of Anti-Judaism have anything to do with the Present?” — was ridiculous.

    Of course it does. You know me. I’m the intuitive type, and trust my intuition, so I feel no need to PROVE something so obvious.

    But such questions seem to fascinate academics, as evidenced by the panel discussion afterward. I participated in a panel, at the Koger Center, with a previous Solomon-Tenenbaum lecturer, Tom Friedman. I remember that one being interesting and engaging. This one, well, failed to crackle, let us say. It may have been riveting to academics who were present, but to me it seemed a debate over terms and questions that did not matter.

    But David Nirenberg himself is a good speaker, and the things he said on the way to proving something that didn’t need to be proved were highly interesting.

    He started with an anecdote about an overheard conversation on a New York subway one week to the day after 9/11. A welder who was on the way to work on the wreckage of the twin towers was chatting with another guy. One of them raised the question of why the terrorists had done what they had done. The other said, “It’s because the Jews turned New York into a symbol of greed.” The other added, “Yeah, and they killed Christ.”

    Which brings to mind a similar anecdote that he mentioned, a not-so-funny joke told by Hannah Arendt: Two men are discussing the cause of the First World War. One, an anti-Semite, says it was caused by the Jews. The other man says, “Yes, and the bicycle riders.” The first man asks, “Why the bicycle riders?” The second one replies, “Why the Jews?”

    It was his answer for that that was interesting.

    He spoke of things I knew, but had not quite thought of in this way. Most of us know of the debate within the early Christian church, between Peter and Paul and their adherents, over whether gentile converts to Christianity must become Jews — be circumcised, eat kosher, and so forth (personally, I would have been on the Peter side, but the Paul side won out). But Nirenberg took it further, pointing out that the very first task of both Christianity and Islam, in defining themselves, was to demonstrate to all how they were different from, and better than, Judaism.

    He notes that when the risen Jesus appears to the two disciples walking to Emmaus — his first extended appearance after resurrection — he explains to them in great detail how their (essentially Jewish) understanding of the Messiah was mistaken, and why he indeed was the Christ.

    Nirenberg goes back further, explaining how the roots of the anti-Jewish meme lay in the Hebrew Bible itself. The Old Testament is replete with examples of Jews excoriating each other for being insufficiently attuned to God’s will. Christians were only too happy to take that theme and run with it, portraying Jews as the people who rejected the Anointed One who had come to complete the Law.

    Another idea that ran through the talk was the fact that anti-Judaism was not some lowbrow, marginal thing for most of the history of Christianity. On the contrary, it was championed by geniuses — Shakespeare, Kant, Burke, Hegel, Schopenhauer and so forth. I’d like to know more about that.

    Perhaps I should read one of his books

Comments are closed.