From Scroll to Screen: Revolutions in Jewish Book History

By :  The Jewish Theological Seminary Posted On Feb 9, 2020

Leading scholars explore the remarkable story of Jews and books: their historic role in advancing new reading formats; their creative use of technology; their critical work demonstrating the enduring relevance of the printed word; and their love of the Jewish book as a material object as well as an object of study.

This panel discussion explores what it is we should talk about when we talk about Jewish books. What new stories can we tell that bring us closer to Jews of the past, present, and future? From the Torah scroll to iPhone apps, this panel examines how understanding Jews and their book history influences how we think about today’s media revolutions. 

This program was part of the Reading Hebrew Handwriting in the Margins: Early Modern Hebrew Paleography conference, and was cosponsored by JTS and the Rabbis Ben Zion and Baruch Micah Bokser Memorial Foundation.

About the Speakers

The panelists are co-directors of “Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Space,” a large-scale digital humanities research project on the dissemination and movement of early printed books and their influence in Jewish and non-Jewish culture.

Michelle Chesner is the Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University. She is also the president of the Research, Archives, and Special Libraries Division, and the co-coordinator of the Northeast Judaica Bibliographers’ Group. Her research interests lie in early Hebrew printing and the history of Judaica collections. Her degrees are from University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Long Island University; and New York University.

Marjorie Lehman is associate professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary. She specializes in Talmud and Rabbinics, with a specific focus on gender. Her first book, The En Yaaqov: Jacob Ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus was published by Wayne State University Press (2012). She has co-edited two books, Learning to Read Talmud: What it Looks Like and How It Happens (Academic Studies Press, 2017) and Mothers in the Jewish Cultural Imagination (Littman Press, 2017). All were finalists for the National Jewish Book Award. This year she is a fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is working on a book that explores tractate Yoma, examining its relationship to the construction of the rabbinic home.

Adam Shear is associate professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on early modern Jewish intellectual and cultural history, with a particular focus on the history of books and the transmission of knowledge. His reception history of Judah Halevi’s 12th-century defense of Judaism, The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, 1167–1900 (2008), received the National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship and the Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the Best Book in Intellectual History from the Journal of the History of Ideas. He is also the co-editor of The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy (2011); and Perspectives on Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe. He is currently writing a book on the ways that early printers and publishers adapted, presented, and packaged medieval Hebrew texts using the new medium of print.

Joshua Teplitsky is an assistant professor in the Department of History and the Program in Judaic Studies at Stony Brook University. He specializes in the history of the Jews in Europe in the early modern period, with a particular interest in cultures of knowledge making, printing, and book collecting. His current work explores material culture, gender, public policy, and private life during periods of epidemic in early modern Europe. He earned his PhD from New York University’s Departments of History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies and has held fellowships at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the National Library of Israel, and Harvard University. His first book, Prince of the Press: How One Collector Built History’s Most Enduring and Remarkable Jewish Library, was published by Yale University Press in 2019.

About Ben Zion and Baruch Micah Bokser

Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser was the founding rabbi of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, serving as its spiritual leader for 50 years. He chaired the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, edited new editions of the Siddur and High Holiday mahzor, and authored numerous books and articles. His son, Rabbi Baruch Micah Bokser, was a scholar of rabbinics and ancient Judaism at JTS. He devoted his career to researching and explaining the development of rabbinic Judaism, and authored numerous books and articles, including Post Mishnaic Judaism in Transition and The Origins of the Seder.

The Rabbis Ben Zion and Baruch Micah Bokser Memorial Foundation was established to support and further research in the study of rabbinic and post-rabbinic Judaism and issues of ethics and social justice, areas that were of keen interest to both.