Call for applications for Summer Seminar on Jewish Law and Political Thought



The inaugural meeting of the Summer Seminar on Jewish Legal and Political Thought will take place at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City from Monday, August 3, 2020 through Friday, August 14. The seminar will be run by Professors Leora Batnitzky (Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies; Professor of Religion, Princeton University), Yonatan Brafman (Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought and Ethics, Jewish Theological Seminary of America), and Suzanne Last Stone (University Professor of Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, Yeshiva University; Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law), with a guest presentation by Professor Christine Hayes (Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University). Between 10 and 12 students in Jewish Studies, Religious Studies, or related fields will be selected to participate through a competitive application process. Graduate students will be given priority, but we welcome applications from advanced undergraduates.

Fellows will receive an honorarium of $1,000 plus a $250 travel stipend. A limited supply of housing is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The intensive seminar considers two basic questions.  First, how have political and historical developments, along with historical debates in political and legal theories, shaped the ways in which Jews have understood law, politics, and religion?  And second, how might internal Jewish debates about Jewish law contribute to and challenge modern conceptions of law, politics, and religion?  The seminar will consider these questions from historical, normative, and jurisprudential perspectives.  Particular topics include: the meaning and purpose of law, authority in law versus the authority of law, historical consciousness and legal change, centralized versus non-centralized legal systems, and the role of the modern nation state in modern conceptions of politics, law, and religion.  We will focus on a range of primary and secondary sources from the first century until today. Topics will include but are not limited to:

  1. Law and politics (law and power, including law within and outside of the state, centralized and decentralized law);
  2. the purpose and meaning of law (legal formalism, conceptualism, positivism, and natural law);
  3. authority (of law and within law);
  4. Legal change (common versus civil law systems; historical consciousness and law)

Texts will include but are not limited to:

Spinoza, Maimonides, Mendelssohn, Weber, Schmitt, Gadamer, Austin, Hart, Dworkin, as well as an array of classical Jewish sources and contemporary authors.

A complete application should include two letters of recommendation, an up-to-date CV, and a 1–2 page outline of the applicant’s research interests and how the subject matter of the seminar would help advance their scholarly work.

Applications are due by January 1, 2020 and should be submitted to Ari Mermelstein at Questions and letters of recommendation should be directed to the same email address.

The Seminar is a project of the Consortium on Jewish Studies and Legal Theory, a partnership among Cardozo Law School, Columbia University, The Jewish Theological Seminary, NYU, Princeton, and Yale.

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