Distinguished Speaker Series

Presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture

2014-15 LECTURES

January 26, 2015 • 7:00P.M.


“Surviving in Secret: Uncovering the Marrano Jews of Spain” 
Lecturer: Professor Matthias Lehmann

In 1391, a wave of attacks led to the mass-conversion of many Spanish Jews to Catholicism. A century later, in 1492, many more Jews in Spain underwent baptism as they faced the threat of expulsion. In 1497, the same fate befell the Jews in neighboring Portugal. What happened to these Jewish converts--Conversos or Marranos, as they are often called? In subsequent generations, many Conversos left Spain and Portugal to escape the Inquisition, returned to the religion of their Jewish ancestors, and established communities in places such as Venice, Amsterdam, London, and across the Atlantic in the New World. As we will see in this lecture, their experience anticipated in many ways the challenges faced by other Jews in later centuries. As the "first modern Jews," there is much their history can teach us today about being Jewish in the modern world.

Matthias Lehmann is the Teller Family Chair in Jewish History at the University of California, Irvine. A native of Germany, he studied history and Jewish Studies in Freiburg, Berlin, Jerusalem, and Madrid. Before moving to Irvine in 2012, he was associate professor of Jewish Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Lehmann is the author of Ladino Rabbinic Literature and Ottoman Sephardic Culture (Indiana Univ. Press 2005), co-author of the widely used textbook The Jews: A History (with John Efron and Steven Weitzman, second edition, Pearson 2014), and, most recently, of Emissaries from the Holy Land (Stanford Univ. Press 2014) which deals with philanthropy and the relations between the Land of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora in the early modern period.


February 23, 2015 • 7:00P.M.
Astor Judaica Library, LFJCC
Pepper, Silk and Ivory: 

Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East

Lecturer: Rabbi Marvin Tokayer

There is a missing page in Jewish history. We tend to assume that Jewish history is to be found in the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and the Americas but not in the Far East. In this talk you will hear about that missing page as Marvin Tokayer, Honorary Rabbi of Japan’s Jewish community reveals the amazing stories of Jews who both benefitted from and contributed to the Far East. You will hear about the uncrowned Jewish king of China, the indefatigable World War II refugees in Kobe, the woman who refused to give up until the Japanese constitution included rights for women and children, and the baseball player who became an American spy in Japan. Rabbi Tokayer draws on half a century of personal experiences and a wealth of knowledge as he weaves together the characters and history of the Jews of the Far East.
Rabbi Marvin Tokayer began his rabbinic career in 1962 as a US Air Force chaplain stationed in southern Japan. In 1968, he returned to serve as rabbi of the thousand-member Jewish community of Japan, a post he held until 1976; he remains Lifetime Honorary Rabbi of the community. He also served on the Federation of Jewish Communities of Southeast Asia and the Far East and as Founding Board Member of the Sino-Judaic Institute. He contributed seven articles on rabbinics and the Orient for the Encyclopedia Judaica, authored twenty books in Japanese on Judaica and Japan, and coauthored (with Mary Swartz) The Fugu Plan The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews during World War II.

The Jacob Goldberg Lectures

March 16, 17 and 18 • 7:00P.M.
David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre
The Jacob Goldberg Lectures:

Details to be announced

Lecturer: Dr. Jacob Goldberg

Professor Jacob Goldberg (Ph. D. degree from Harvard University in Middle East politics) is a former Senior Adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He is the author of The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia, published by Harvard University Press, and has also published numerous articles in newspapers in Israel and the U. S., including the New York Times and the Washington Post. 

April 13, 2015 • 7:00P.M.
Astor Judaica Library, LFJCC
Midnight in Siberia

Lecturer: David Greene

After two and a half years as NPR’s Moscow bureau chief, David Greene traveled across the country—a 6,000-mile journey by rail, from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok—to speak with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. Through the stories of fellow travelers, Greene explored the challenges and opportunities facing the new Russia—a nation that boasts open elections and new-found prosperity yet still continues to endure oppression, corruption, and stark inequality. Set against the wintery landscape of Siberia, Greene’s lively travel narrative will offer a glimpse into the soul of twenty first-century Russia—how its people remember their history and look forward to the future.

David Greene is host of NPR's Morning Edition, with Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne. For two years prior to taking on his current role in 2012, Greene was an NPR foreign correspondent based in Moscow covering the region from Ukraine and the Baltics, east to Siberia. During that time he brought listeners stories as wide ranging as Chernobyl 25 years later and Beatles-singing Russian Babushkas. He spent a month in Libya reporting riveting stories in the most difficult of circumstances as NATO bombs fell on Tripoli. He was honored with the 2011 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize from WBUR and Boston University for that coverage of the Arab Spring.


May 18, 2015 • 7:00P.M.
Location TBD
Murder and Conspiracy in Tsarist Russia: The Beilis Blood Libel

Lecturer: Edmund Levin

A Jewish factory worker is falsely accused of ritually murdering a Christian boy in Russia in 1911, and his trial becomes an international cause célèbre. On March 20, 1911, thirteen-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky was found stabbed to death in a cave on the outskirts of Kiev. Four months later, Russian police arrested Mendel Beilis, a thirty-seven-year-old father of five who worked as a clerk in a brick factory nearby, and charged him not only with Andrei’s murder but also with the Jewish ritual murder of a Christian child. Despite the fact that there was no evidence linking him to the crime, that he had a solid alibi, and that his main accuser was a professional criminal who was herself under suspicion for the murder, Beilis was imprisoned for more than two years before being brought to trial. Edmund Levin describes an event that is so compelling that even when rigorously researched and historically accurate, it sounds like a cinematic thriller.

Edmund Levin is a Writers Guild and Emmy award–winning writer/producer for Good Morning America. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The Atlantic, and Slate, among other publications, and was included in The Best of Slate: A 10th Anniversary Anthology.