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Steve Weitzman "How Does the Story of the Jews Begin"


Steve Weitzman "How Does the Story of the Jews Begin"

How does the story of the Jews begin? Many assume that that beginning is to be found in the Bible’s account of the Israelites, but modern scholarship has looked elsewhere to understand the origin of the Jews, drawing on linguistics, archaeology, anthropology and other disciplines to develop a range of alternative theories. This talk explores recent efforts to use genetics to illumine the origin of the Jews. What can be learned from DNA about the early history of the Jews, and why are some scholars very critical of this kind of research, warning against it? Genetics has the potential to answer questions about our ancestors otherwise beyond reach, but some believe it has reintroduced scientific racism, and the aim of this presentation is to weigh the pros and cons of this kind of research in an open-minded and balanced way.

Steven Weitzman serves as the Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures Ella Darivoff Director of the Katz Center of Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Trained in the study of the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East, his research explores the development of Jewish culture in the Hellenistic-Roman period, the history of how the Bible has been understood over the ages, and sometimes ventures into the broader study of religion, history and literature. His publications include Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity (Harvard University Press); The Jews: A History, coauthored with John Efron and Matthias Lehmann (3rd edition forthcoming in 2019); a biography of King Solomon, part of the new “Jewish Lives” series published by Yale University Press (2011); and most recently, The Origin of the Jews: the Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age (Princeton University Press, 2017), a recipient of a National Jewish Book Award. Before coming to Penn in 2014, Weitzman taught at Stanford University as the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion and did his undergraduate studies at U.C. Berkeley.

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