Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History Guest: Lior Sternfeld, Department of History and Jewish Studies, Penn State
Iran is home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel. At its peak in the 20th century, the population of Jews was over 100,000; today about 25,000 Jews still live in Iran. Iranian Jews rejected the siren call of the Zionist movement to instead participate in the Iranian nationbuilding process, welcoming European refugees during World War II, and participating in international exchanges between Iran and Israel.
Guest Lior Sternfeld from Penn State discusses the rich history of Iran’s Jewish community in the 20th century, and discusses the unique place of the community in Iran under the Shah, and how Jews even contributed to the 1979 revolution.
Host:Joan Neuberger, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin Guest:Robert Weinberg, Isaac H. Clothier Professor of History and International Relations, Swarthmore College
In Kiev, in 1911, a Jewish factory manager named Mendel Beilis was indicted for murdering a young boy. Many believed that Beilis had carried out the murder as part of a ritual known as the “blood libel,” in which Jews used the blood of gentile children for baking Passover matzo. Where the idea of the “blood ritual” come from and why did people all over the world believe it? And what happened to Mendel Beilis?
Historian Robert Weinberg, who teaches Russian history at Swarthmore College is here to answer these questions.
Host:Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin Guest:Leonard Greenspoon, Professor of Near Eastern Civilizations and Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University
Any student of a foreign language knows that the process of translating a text can be laden with unexpected choices about words, sentence structure, and phrases that don’t make sense in the target language. Now imagine the added pressures of translating a sacred text whose language is well known and imbued with religious significance and symbolism. Our guest Leonard Greenspoon from Creighton University has done just that with translators of the Jewish Bible over the centuries.
In this episode, Dr. Greespoon takes us on a fascinating journey into a Jewish perspective on how and why translating the Bible is necessary, and how and why it matters.
Southeastern Europe, or the Balkans, grabbed headlines in the 1990s after the collapse of communism with the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the bloody conflicts that followed. At the time, much was made of the region’s unique history, having been separated from Europe and languishing under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. But, was this really the cause of the conflict in the 20th century? What was life in southeastern Europe like under the Ottomans?
Guest Mary Neuburger walks us through current historical thinking about the five hundred year legacy of Ottoman rule in southeastern Europe, and gives us an alternate explanation for the turbulence of the 19th and 20th centuries.
In 2006, Keith Ellison, a newly elected congressman from the state of Minnesota, and the first Muslim elected to Congress, took his oath of office on a Qur’an from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. Why did one of the founding fathers own a Qur’an? What was his opinion of it? And how did it influence his ideas about concepts of religious liberty that would eventually be enshrined in the Constitution?
Guest Denise A. Spellberg, author of a new book called Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, sheds light on a little known facet of American history: our earliest imaginings of and engagements with the Islamic world, and comes to some surprising conclusions about the extend of religious freedoms envisioned by one of the key founding fathers.
The Ottoman Empire has long captured the public imagination in a way that few other royal houses and empires have managed to do. From the days when its armies threatened the gates of Vienna, its long-rumored decline as the “sick man of Europe,” and the Taksim demonstrations of 2013 when Turkish Prime Minsiter Erdo?an was accused of “neo-Ottomanism,” the legacy that the Empire left is long and vast. But who were the Ottomans? Why were they so successful? And why have they lasted so long in the public’s imagination?
In the first of a two part series, guest Barbara Petzen helps to shed some light on the origins and rise of the empire that rivaled Europe for centuries. Turkish in origin, the Ottoman state at its best reveled in its diversity and played up the strengths of its multi-confessional multi-ethnic population.
Host:Joan Neuberger, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past Guest:Philippa Levine, Professor; Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professorship in the Humanities; Co-Director British Studies Program
Early in the twentieth century, governments all over the world thought they had found a rational, efficient, and scientific solution to the related problems of poverty, crime, and hereditary illness. Scientists hoped they might be able to help societies control the social problems that arose from these phenomena. All over the world, the science-turned-social-policy known as eugenics became a base-line around which social services and welfare legislation were organized.
Philippa Levine, co-editor of a newly published book on the history of eugenics, explains the appeal and wide-reaching effects of the eugenics movement, which at its best inspired access to pre-natal care, access to clean water, and the eradication of harmful diseases, but at its worst led to compulsory sterilization laws, and the horrific experiments of the Nazi death camps.
The Spanish Inquisition has cast a long shadow in the public imagination, with Inquisitors playing the role of villain on stage and screen. But what was the Inquisition-really? Established in 1480 to deal with heresies under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the Spanish Inquisition was a highly regulated institution with enormous political and legal power whose influence reached all the way to the Americas for over three hundred years.
Guest Miriam Bodian from UT’s Department of History separates truth from legend and reveals the intricacies of the Inquisition’s processes and inner workings.