Traveling to Babylon—For Good

Dr. David Kraemer
By :  David C. Kraemer Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics Posted On Aug 23, 2021 / 5781 | A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined Monday Webinar

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

The first time Jews traveled to Babylon, it was part of a great exile. But when the rabbis returned to Babylon many centuries later, joining a now “native” Jewish community there, they found themselves very much at home. Some did indeed claim Babylon as home, while others traveled back and forth between Babylon and Palestine as rabbinic messengers to ensure that the teachings of each were available to the other. Two confident centers of Jewish life developed, not unlike modern New York and Jerusalem. In this session, Dr. David Kraemer explores the legacy of those rabbis and how their work continues to impact Jewish life today.


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 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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