A busy fall semester of events was highlighted by this year’s Morton E. Ruderman Memorial Event: a panel discussion “On the Jewish Media.” Morton Ruderman, a graduate of Northeastern University in engineering, was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Zionist. He expressed his gratitude to Northeastern by endowing a Chair in Jewish Studies, and the Ruderman Family Foundation continues to honor his memory by supporting student scholarships in Jewish Studies and the annual event.
“On the Jewish Media” provided an opportunity to discuss both the important role the Jewish media plays in the Jewish community and the mainstream media’s coverage of issues of critical concern to the Jewish community. Thoughtful consideration of the role of media was especially helpful in these difficult times. Brooke Gladstone, managing editor and host of National Public Radio’s On The Media, led the discussion. She was joined by Jane Eisner, the Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Daily Forward, among the most influential of America’s Jewish newspapers; Mark Oppenheimer, who writes the biweekly “Beliefs” column for the New York Times and is a contributing editor at Tablet Magazine; and Dina Kraft, the Associate Program Coordinator of the Media Innovation Track at Northeastern’s School of Journalism, who was the Jerusalem bureau chief of the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, and Haaretz.
Several other important discussions took place this fall. In September, our own Dov Waxman, newly arrived on campus as professor of Israel Studies, offered a thoughtful public lecture that considered the Gaza War in terms of Just War Theory. In November, Alex Cicelsky, Director of Research & Development Center for Creative Ecology Kibbutz Lotan, gave a fascinating talk on “Eco-Judaism” to students and invited guests in Jewish Religion and Culture. Two other events featured speakers whose compelling personal stories inspired students with the power of persistence and careful research. On November 13, journalist Sarah Wildman talked about her just published book, Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind. Paper Love chronicles Wildman’s efforts to penetrate family secrets, traveling the globe to unearth the fate of Valy, a woman who had been her grandfather’s girlfriend when they were both medical students in 1930s Vienna. Her grandfather escaped to the United States; Valy did not. In a talk on December 10, Peter Sonnenthal, a graduate of Northeastern’s law school, described his 23-year quest in the German courts for restitution for property the Nazis seized from his grandparents and other relatives, property that is now prime real estate in the upscale Berlin suburb of Teltow worth millions of euros.
Finally, Jewish Studies sponsored a fascinating film, “Little White Lie,” screened on November 15 during the Boston Jewish Film Festival. The film tells the story of Lacey Schwartz, who, after growing up believing she is a typical upper-middle-class Jewish girl, learns that her biological father was black. The widely acclaimed “Little White Lie” follows Lacey as she learns about her black identity and tries to reconcile the hidden pieces of her life; it is an extraordinary personal story about racial identity and Jewishness. Jewish Studies Associate Director Jenny Sartori, whose research on adoption engages with important questions of race, ethnicity, and identity in the Jewish community, moderated a discussion of the film with Schwartz, its director, before a full-to-capacity audience.