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Ruderman Lectures across the years

Art Spiegelman, March 27, 2012

’What the %@&*! Happened to Comics?’ A lecture with images

“Comics burn their way past your periph­eral defenses into your brain directly through the eye­ball,” said Spiegelman. “They dig deep because they work the same way your brain works.” Spiegelman, who recalled his obses­sion with comics as a kid, examined the evo­lu­tion of what he described as an “inti­mate” medium that spans from super­hero and children’s sto­ries to graphic novels and polit­ical man­i­festos. He said comics echo the thought process through the use of sequen­tial images, thought bub­bles and speech bal­loons. As he put it, they “don’t have to be escapist sto­ries or funny gags. They are capable of being art.”

Spiegelman was part of the under­ground comic move­ment of the late 1960s and ‘70s and later spent a decade working for The New Yorker. But his crowning achieve­ment is Maus: A Survivor’s Tale a two-​volume comic mas­ter­piece that explores his father’s life as a Polish Jew and Holo­caust sur­vivor. The tale, which cast Jews as mice and Ger­mans as cats, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

In addition to speaking to a full house in Blackman Auditorium, Spiegelman participated in an hour-​​long meeting with art stu­dents in a 2D Foun­da­tions course taught by lec­turer Julia Hechtman, coordinated  by the Human­i­ties Center and the Col­lege of Arts, Medi­a and Design’s Center for the Arts. The evening culminated in a dinner with faculty, students, and distinguished guests.


Nathan Englander, March 18, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank


After reading from the title story of his new collection, Englander shared his compelling reflections on a wide variety of topics related to writing, identity, the Holocaust, politics, and personality. He observed that everything must be understood in multiple contexts as meanings are variable, and that all that he says and writes is responsive to overlapping but particular concerns.

Englander is the author of the short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, which won the 2012 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.  He first became known for his internationally bestselling short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (1999), followed by the novel The Ministry of Special Cases (2007).  Englander was selected by The New Yorker as one of the “20 Writers for the 21st Century”; he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Malamud Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

Before his lecture, Englander met informally with a group of students and faculty for an intimate discussion of the themes of his work and to talk about the artistic process more broadly. The evening culminated in a dinner with faculty, students, and distinguished guests.


Brooke Gladstone, Mark Oppenheimer, Jane Eisner, Dina Kraft, October 20, 2014

On the Jewish Media: A Panel Discussion


“On the Jewish Media” provided an opportunity for distinguished panelists to discuss both the important role that the Jewish media plays in the Jewish community and the mainstream media’s coverage of issues of critical concern to the Jewish community. Panelists had a lively discussion about what is Jewish about the Jewish media and entertained sharp questions from the audience.

Brooke Gladstone, managing editor and host of National Public Radio’s On The Media, who moderated the discussion, is the recipient of two Peabody Awards, a National Press Club Award, and an Overseas Press Club Award, among others. She is the author of The Influencing Machine, a media manifesto in graphic form, listed among the top books of 2011 by The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, and among the “10 Masterpieces of Graphic Nonfiction” by The Atlantic.

Gladstone was joined by Jane Eisner, the Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Daily Forward, arguably 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 has been the Jerusalem bureau chief of the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, and Haaretz. 

Gladstone lectured and answered questions in a journalism class before the public event. The evening culminated in a dinner with faculty, students, and distinguished guests.



Jodi Rudoren, December 2, 2015

Journalism in a Land of Few Facts


The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren addressed critics on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. She discussed the many ways in which contested facts complicate media coverage in the Middle East. During her years in Jerusalem, Rudoren covered two Gaza wars and two Israeli elections. She has also reported on the Syrian civil war, West Bank resettlement, terror attacks, and the fallout from the Iran nuclear deal.

Before the public event, Rudoren visited with journalism students and fielded questions. The evening culminated in a dinner with faculty, students, and distinguished guests.




Paul Wolpe, March 27, 2017

Frankenstein and the Golem:  How ancient tales inform modern biotechnology


This lecture with accompanying slides was about the intersection of Judaism and bioethics. Wolpe raised the question of what exactly makes something human and explained how technology allows humans to make and enhance people, and asked to what extent is it ethical to do so. To explore these big questions, and in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Wolpe analyzed and compared the stories of the Golem from Jewish mythology and the story of Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Dr. Paul Root Wolpe is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics, the Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics, and the Director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. Wolpe served as the first Chief of Bioethics for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He was Co-Editor of the American Journal of Bioethics and is Editor-In-Chief of AJOB Neuroscience, the official Journal of the International Neuroethics Society. Wolpe is a past President of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, a Fellow of the Hastings Center, and was the first National Bioethics Advisor to Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In addition to his public lecture, Wolpe taught a class in Jewish ethics in a course in the Jewish Studies program. His lecture was followed by a festive dinner for faculty, students, and distinguished guests. The next day, Wolpe taught a special class for combined sections of introductory ethics on case studies in biomedical ethics.


David N. Myers


David N. Myers, March 26, 2018

Why Is Jewish History So Important Today: An Impassioned Plea for Studying the Past


David N. Myers delivered a timely reminder of the importance of the study of Jewish history, noting among other issues new Polish legislation that punishes speech critical of the Polish role during the Holocaust. The study of Jewish History, posits Myers, has had many constructive functions, including forging the boundaries of religious denominations, creating a vehicle of national identity, and constructing a template of how immigrants adapt to majority culture. It can serve to fortify a sense of group memory and as a warning sign of the growth of intolerance.

David N. Myers holds the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History at UCLA, where he serves as the director of the Luskin Center for History and Policy. He is the President and CEO of the Center for Jewish History in New York City. Myers has written extensively in the fields of modern Jewish intellectual and cultural history; his books include Re-Inventing the Jewish Past: European Jewish Intellectuals and the Zionist Return to History (Oxford: 1995), Resisting History: Historicism and its Discontents in German-Jewish Thought (Princeton, 2003), Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz (Brandeis University Press, 2008), Jewish History: A Very Short Introduction (2017), and The Stakes of History: On the Use and Abuse of Jewish History for Life (2018). Myers has edited or co-edited eight books, including The Jewish Past Revisited, Enlightenment and Diaspora: The Armenian and Jewish Cases, and The Faith of Fallen Jews: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi and the Writing of Jewish History.

 His lecture was followed by a festive dinner for faculty, students, and distinguished guests.



Michael Pollan, September 24, 2019

What Can Psychedelics Teach Us About Spirituality?


Best-selling author Michael Pollan engaged in a wide-ranging conversation with Northeastern University’s Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies, Lori Lefkovitz, about his new book, How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Among other topics, Lefkovitz engaged Pollan in a discussion of spiritual experiences arising from the use of psychedelics, and his conclusions (such as the importance of awe in the human experience) that echo religious experience.

Pollan’s other books include five New York Times bestsellers: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (2013), Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2010); In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008); The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001). The Omnivore’s Dilemma was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also won the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, the James Beard Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Botany of Desire received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best non-fiction work of 2001, and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon.com. Several of his books have been adapted for television. Pollan was named to the 2010 TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people and was named by Newsweek as one of the top 10 “New Thought Leaders.”

Pollan has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.  He is the Lewis K. Chan Arts Lecturer and Professor of the Practice of Non-Fiction at Harvard University and holds the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

While at Northeastern, Pollan also taught a master class in writing to a group of students from the Jewish Studies Program, the Writing Program, School of Journalism, English Department and Psychology Department.

Later, the Ruderman family discussed with Pollan his views on the potential use of psychedelics in treating mental illnesses. His lecture was followed by a festive dinner for faculty, students, and distinguished guests.