“If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem”: The Idea of the Retun to Zion in Jewish History

By :  Shuly Rubin Schwartz Chancellor and Irving Lehrman Research Professor of American Jewish History Posted On Jun 7, 2021 / 5781 | A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined Monday Webinar | Israel

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Part of the series, “A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined”

Exiled by the Romans almost two thousand years ago, Jews were compelled to sustain a connection to the Land of Israel from a distance. The longing to return to Zion emerged as a central motif in the liturgy and literature of the Jewish people and fueled Jewish creativity for centuries.

Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz explores the implications of living in a state of longing, how Jews attempted to reconcile the dream of return with the reality of Jewish exile, and how this dream was adapted and transformed with the emergence of modern Zionism and a thriving Jewish diaspora.


As the pandemic surged and forced us into our homes, many of us dreamed with new intensity of being elsewhere. For Jews throughout the ages, the promises and perils of travel have been central to shaping the individual and collective experience. Notions of home and homeland have been redefined by Jewish wandering. Drawing on literary, spiritual, and historical sources and responses, JTS scholars will explore what happens when Jews—whether by force or voluntarily, whether in reality or in the imagination—travel from one place to another. 

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