The Jewish Catalog Turns 50: Revolutionary Manifesto of DIY Judaism

Wednesday, Feb 7, 2024

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Wednesday, February 7
5pm Doors | 5:45pm Program | 6:45pm Reception (In Person Only)

In Person at The Weitzman & Livestreamed on Zoom
Tickets: $15 | $12 UPENN Tickets | FREE Weitzman Members | FREE Livestream with suggested $5 donation

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In the Fall of 1973, three young leaders emerged from the Jewish counterculture movement with an audacious vision. They sought to reshape Judaism and make it accessible to all. The fruits of their labor, the Jewish Catalog, burst forth into the world, captivating the hearts and minds of a generation.

Published by the esteemed Jewish Publication Society in the heart of Philadelphia, the Jewish Catalog has since become a beacon of knowledge, guiding countless individuals on the path to a richer Jewish life. Unveiled in its pages is a treasure trove of resources and tools, all  artfully presented in an informal yet exquisitely illustrated format. The brilliance of the Catalog lies in its universality. No matter one’s background or level of knowledge, the Catalog warmly embraces one and all. 

Join us for a conversation celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jewish Catalog–a  bestseller whose success led to second and third Jewish Catalog editions– a groundbreaking publication that revolutionized Judaism. Gather with us to explore the origins, development, and profound impact of this landmark manifesto in American Jewish life. 

A Reception will immediately follow the discussion (vegetarian/dairy not prepared under rabbinic supervision).


About the Panelists

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld has been prominent in the American Jewish community for nearly forty years, dating from his involvement as co-editor of the first Jewish Catalog in 1973. He graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University (1971) with honors in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, after having spent his freshman year at the Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He also holds an M.A. degree from Brandeis in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and completed his doctoral coursework in Jewish History at Brandeis. He received his ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1991.

Rabbi Strassfeld was very active in the Havurah movement, having been the founding chairperson of the National Havurah Committee from 1979 to 1982. Before coming to the SAJ, he held various positions at Congregation Ansche Chesed on the Upper West Side, including Director of Program and Development, Executive Director, and Rabbi of the congregation. Rabbi Strassfeld led the SAJ from 2001-2015.

Joshua Teplitsky is an associate professor and the Joseph Meyerhoff Chair in Modern Jewish History at the University of Pennsylvania. He has held fellowships at the University of Oxford, the National Library of Israel, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University. His 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 and was named the winner of the Salo Baron Prize of the AAJR for best first book in Jewish Studies in 2019, the 2020 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award of the Association for Jewish Studies and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. He is the editor, with Warren Klein and Sharon Liberman Mintz of Be Fruitful! The Etrog in Jewish Art, Culture, and History (Mineged, 2022). He is an Associate Editor of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Book Cultures. He also co-leads a digital humanities project called Footprints: Jewish Books through time and place, which tracks the movement of Jewish books since the inception of print. He is currently at work on a book reconstructing a plague epidemic in eighteenth-century Prague and its impact on Jewish social and cultural life in the city. 

Beth S. Wenger is Moritz and Josephine Berg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania where she serves as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. Wenger’s most recent book is a co-edited anthology (with Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet), titled Gender in Judaism and Islam: Common Lives, Uncommon Heritage (New York University Press, 2014).  She is also the author of History Lessons: The Creation of American Jewish Heritage (Princeton University Press, 2010) and New York Jews and the Great Depression: Uncertain Promise (Yale University Press, 1996), which was awarded the Salo Baron Prize in Jewish History from the American Academy of Jewish Research.  Her other books include The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America (Doubleday, 2007), companion volume to the 2008 PBS series, titled The Jewish Americans.  In addition to writing The Jewish Americans, which was named a National Jewish Book Award finalist, Wenger served on the board of distinguished scholars advising the PBS series.

 Wenger’s other co-edited collections include Remembering the Lower East Side: American Jewish Reflections (with Hasia Diner and Jeffrey Shandler) as well as the museum catalogue for the exhibition that she co-curated (with Jeffrey Shandler), titled Encounters with the “Holy Land:” Place, Past, and Future in American Jewish Culture. That catalogue received honorable mention as one of the American Library Association’s Exhibition Catalogue Awards for Excellence. Wenger has published numerous scholarly articles, including contributions to the journals American Jewish History,Jewish Social Studies, the Journal of Women’s History, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, as well as several essays in collected volumes and anthologies.

This event is Produced by the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in partnership with the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Brandeis Library, Brandeis University, Penn’s Jewish Studies Program, and the Jewish Publication Society.

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