Message from the Director

The past year has been one involving transitions for the Stahl Center, and featuring forays into new types of endeavors. For the previous two academic years, most of our public programs were underwritten by a generous grant from the Asssociation for Jewish Studies. In our first year after the end of that grant cycle, our programming is just as ambitious as before, if not more so. Once again this year, our focus was on the arts; the themes of “Art & Conflict” seemed to select us rather than our selecting them. Our events explored a wide range of art forms: poetry, fiction, visual arts (painting, photography, mixed media), theatre, music, film, and television. Our audiences saw, heard, and learned about work created in Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, French, and English. And every event brought one or more leading figures in their fields to Milwaukee: poets, filmmakers, TV producers, historians, literary scholars, musicians.

Since its founding, the Stahl Center has taken pride in bringing Milwaukee the very best that the field of Jewish Studies has to offer. This year we began not only showcasing scholarly and artistic accomplishments, but also helping to create them. In late March, the three-day meeting of the Digital Yiddish Theatre Workshop brought together a research group that is undertaking pioneering work in Yiddish theatre scholarship (see cover story for more details). Next year, in May 2015, we will host another conference in a very different field, when my colleague Lisa Silverman, along with Ben Baader (University of Manitoba) and Beth Berkowitz (Barnard College), will convene “Grammars of Coherence and Difference,” described by the organizers as “a conversation about what Jewish Studies can learn from Gender Studies.” I have no doubt that this conference will make its mark on subsequent research conducted by scholars working in a number of areas of specialization within Jewish Studies.

At the same time, we will never miss the opportunity to connect such events to our mission of outreach, so members of the UWM and wider Milwaukee communities can learn from them as well.

Speaking of outreach, I am pleased to announce a new theme for the 2014-15 programming year: the Milwaukee Jewish Idea. Wisconsinites will recognize the echo of a famous Progressive Era policy, the Wisconsin Idea, linking the state’s university system to social legislation benefitting the entire citizenry, and summed up by the principle that “the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state.” In that spirit, the Milwaukee Jewish Idea will:

• highlight work in Jewish Studies by Wisconsin-based scholars: particularly UWM faculty, but including the work of our colleagues elsewhere in Milwaukee and around the state;
• feature events exploring the history of Jews in Milwaukee and elsewhere in Wisconsin; and
• include programs pairing UWM faculty with colleagues from other Wisconsin colleges and universities whose research intersects with ours.

Details of next year’s programs will be publicized in the coming months. To add your name to our mailing list, please contact us at And please follow us on social media for announcements, updates, and other information.

Have a wonderful summer. We look forward to seeing you again in September!

Joel Berkowitz
Director, Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies

July 2014