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Israel Studies conference tackles Zionist influence on Israeli culture

Religious+studies+Prof.+Barry+Wimpfheimer+speaks+at+the+kickoff+event+for+%E2%80%9CThe+Zionist+Ideal+in+Israeli+Culture%3A+Dream+and+Reality%2C%E2%80%9D+a+three-day+conference+that+began+Sunday.+The+event+was+part+of+Northwestern%E2%80%99s+inaugural+Israel+Studies+conference.%0D%0A
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Israel Studies conference tackles Zionist influence on Israeli culture

Religious studies Prof. Barry Wimpfheimer speaks at the kickoff event for “The Zionist Ideal in Israeli Culture: Dream and Reality,” a three-day conference that began Sunday. The event was part of Northwestern’s inaugural Israel Studies conference.

Religious studies Prof. Barry Wimpfheimer speaks at the kickoff event for “The Zionist Ideal in Israeli Culture: Dream and Reality,” a three-day conference that began Sunday. The event was part of Northwestern’s inaugural Israel Studies conference.

Ebony Calloway/The Daily Northwestern

Religious studies Prof. Barry Wimpfheimer speaks at the kickoff event for “The Zionist Ideal in Israeli Culture: Dream and Reality,” a three-day conference that began Sunday. The event was part of Northwestern’s inaugural Israel Studies conference.

Ebony Calloway/The Daily Northwestern

Ebony Calloway/The Daily Northwestern

Religious studies Prof. Barry Wimpfheimer speaks at the kickoff event for “The Zionist Ideal in Israeli Culture: Dream and Reality,” a three-day conference that began Sunday. The event was part of Northwestern’s inaugural Israel Studies conference.

Lan Nguyen, Reporter

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Northwestern faculty, students and community members gathered Sunday in Lutkin Hall to hear an Israeli piano ensemble and celebrate the beginning of a three-day academic conference on how Zionism influences Israeli culture.

The conference, “The Zionist Ideal in Israeli Culture: Dream and Reality,” runs through Tuesday and is presented by the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. The event focuses on how Zionist ideology is reflected in Israeli society and is organized into five sessions highlighting different aspects of culture: music and dance, theater, visual arts, literature, and cinema.

“It would be impossible to expose the different facets of this phenomenon and allocate sufficient time to each topic over the course of just a one-time lecture,” said Jewish studies Prof. Elie Rekhess, event co-chair and head of Israel studies, when explaining why the event was held over the course of three days. “This was not a one-shot enterprise, but rather a comprehensive, all-encompassing venture.”

Rekhess took the responsibility of planning the conference, which is the first hosted since NU began its Israel studies program this academic year, and compiling the program. He started researching and contacting people at the beginning of summer.

However, he said the conference was a collaborative effort, with co-sponsors from the Judd. A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, the Israel Institute in Washington, D.C. and more.

The conference commemorates NU’s first year enacting the Israel Studies program, nestled under the Hebrew Studies Department, which was made possible through a donation by Renée and Lester Crown (McCormick ’46). The program focuses on the culture, politics and society of modern Israel.

“As we grow here at Northwestern, we anticipate an even richer set of lenses with which to study Israel as a critical subject,” said religious studies Prof. Barry Wimpfheimer, event co-chair and head of Jewish Studies. “This conference is just the beginning.”

The opening session of the conference consisted of Wimpfheimer and Rekhess explaining the background of the program, as well as previewing the events to come. At the end of the session, guests were invited to dinner at the house of University President Morton Schapiro.

The scheduled keynote speaker, Yael Zerubavel from Rutgers University, was unable to attend the session due to the stormy weather. However, Prof. Yigal Schwartz from Ben-Gurion University stepped in and gave a keynote address about the conflict between Eastern European Ashkenazic Jews and Western European Ashkenazic Jews.

“This is a conflict that has been suppressed in the field of Hebrew literature,” Wimpfheimer said. “This is a conflict that is profoundly important for understanding Hebrew literature and Israel today.”

Schwartz’s address was followed by a musical performance from the MultiPiano Ensemble from Tel Aviv University in Israel. The performance featured three compositions designed for one and two pianos for four, six and eight hands.

“The concert was my favorite part of the session,” Weinberg sophomore Jordan Wilimovsky said. “I really enjoyed it and thought it was interesting.”

The Multi-Piano Ensemble will deliver a full performance Tuesday at Lutkin Hall. Other key events from the conference include speakers discussing music and dance, theater and visual arts on Monday, as well as a discussion about literature and film and a screening of the documentary “The Gatekeepers” followed by an interview with the directors on Tuesday.

“I sincerely hope that this is just the beginning,” Rekhess said. “I hope that we can establish a sound basis for the development of the field at Northwestern.”

Email: LanNguyen2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: LanNguyen_NU

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