We’ll be looking at the life and work of Rabbi Chaim Vital (1542-1620), the principal disciple of the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal). Three days after the death of his master, Rabbi Vital received a vision in a dream that consumed his scholarly life for decades: preserving the mystical heritage of the great Safed tradition.

We’ll be meeting as usual in the main auditorium of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences, Touro College, 1602 Avenue J, Brooklyn NY 11230.

Lecture begins at 7:00 pm promptly and is free of charge.

A community project of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences.

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Who Was Uriel da Costa?

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Living under the Portuguese Inquisition, Uriel da Costa (1583-1640) fled with his family to Amsterdam to reclaim his Jewish heritage. Tragically, the years of attempting to reconstruct authentic Judaism under the scrutiny of a zealous Church led him, like many crypto-Jews of his generation, to basic misunderstandings about the fundamental ideas and practices of his ancestral religion.  A combination of a personal struggle with mental illness and an inability to accept the discrepancy between his imagined Judaism and the way it was actually practiced led him to become an outspoken critic of Jewish leadership as he wandered between Amsterdam, Hamburg and Utrecht. He was censured with repeated excommunication, and ultimately took his own life in 1640 after penning a brief autobiographical statement cataloguing his inner spiritual conflict. His writings are brief and confused, but they had a significant impact on the work of Baruch Spinoza, whose own conflict with traditional Judaism paralleled da Costa’s in many ways.

Image: from Henryk Berlewi’s book cover to a 1931 Kultur-lige biography of da Costa.

Click here for the Prezi associated with this lecture.

Tonight: Uriel da Costa, 7 pm


Tonight’s Jewish History lecture will focus on the life and thought of Uriel da Costa, a tragic figure whose brief autobiography, “Example of a Human Life,” describes the psychic pain and spiritual loss felt by Jewish victims of the Spanish Inquisition, even generations after the expulsion of 1492. His thought had a major impact on later thinkers including Baruch Spinoza, depicted in this imaginary scene by Samuel Hirszenberg (1888) as a child on da Costa’s knee.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

1602 Avenue J, Brooklyn NY 11230. Lecture is free and open to the community.

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Who Was Dona Gracia Nasi?

Lecture on the life and work of Dona Gracia Nasi (also known as Beatrice de Luna Mendes), a heroic Jewish woman of the 16th century. Fleeing the Inquisition in Portugal, she used her considerable wealth and courage to spirit converso Jews out of Europe to refuge in Ottoman lands.

Here’s the Prezi for this lecture:

Who was Avraham Maimuni?

Lecture on Avraham ben HaRambam, an important Jewish leader and scholar of 13th century Egypt. Best known as the son of the illustrious Maimonides, Avraham Maimuni was a brilliant thinker whose descendants led the Jewish community of Egypt for nearly 200 years.


Here’s the link to the Prezi:

Jewish History in Christian Context

By popular demand, I’ve set up a new playlist of my lectures that cater to students of the Jewish roots of Christianity and selected lectures on the experience of Jews living in Christian lands.  Enjoy in good health!

The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln

Please enjoy this week’s column in the Five Towns Jewish Times, a discussion of the memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, a remarkable woman from 17th-century Germany.

Who Was Count Emicho? Jews and the First Crusade

Lecture on Count Emicho and the Jews of Germany during the First Crusade (1096).

Here’s a link to the Prezi.

Who was King Bulan of Khazaria? Jewish Biography as History

Presentation on the history of the Khazar conversion to Judaism, with updated material based on recent research.