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Visiting Scholar: Professor Laura Arnold Leibman

Saturday, April 21
Monday, May 14, 7:00PM

We are delighted to welcome Professor Laura Arnold Leibman, who will deliver two historical lectures. The Shabbat lecture will be on the topic of “Jews and Voting in Early America: The Fight for Civil Rights,” and her midweek lecture will be on “Sephardic Country Houses.”


Help us give Professor Leibman a warm Shearith Israel welcome by sponsoring the kiddush following her Shabbat lecture on April 21- click here to sponsor.


Jews and Voting in Early America: The Fight for Civil Rights

Shabbat, April 21 | Following Morning Services

In 1819, Isaac Lopez Brandon found himself at the unhappy center of a heated dispute about Jews and civil rights in Barbados. Although initially the debate was regarding a petition to the legislature to grant Jews civil rights, ultimately the controversy spiraled into a fight about race and Jews that led to Isaac being denied full rights in the synagogue. Isaac’s struggle was not unique. Between 1776-1826, Jews across the Atlantic World found themselves in the center of debates about what qualified men for citizenship. Even within the United States, Jewish rights varied wildly by state. Although the founding documents of the United States granted Jews freedom of religion, the founders did not clearly give Jews political rights. As late as 1840, five states still subjected Jews to disabilities. Between 1776-1840, Jewish men in the fledgling United States and across the Atlantic World struggled to secure their right to vote and serve in government. In this talk she will highlight how the Jewish struggle for rights shed light on the larger history of race and rights in America.


Sephardic Country Houses

Monday, May 14 | 7:00 PM

In the 1730s, Sephardic luminary Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal) was vacationing at Doornburgh, the country house of his patron and pupil Jacob de Chaves. Doornburgh was in many ways the archetypal eighteenth-century Dutch country house, but with a Sephardic twist. To be sure, there were the decorations: scenes from the Hebrew Bible painted on the walls. More importantly, however, was the environment in which Doornburgh was set. While non-Jews were free to establish their country estates as an escape from society, Dutch Jews built their rural mansions in easy walking distance of Maarssen’s Portuguese synagogue. Neighbors in town became neighbors in the pastoral beauty of the Vecht River. In this talk, Professor Leibman introduces people to the entrancing world of Jewish country houses with elegant examples of the beautiful Jewish country houses built along the Vecht. In the second half of the lecture, she turns westward and shows how early Sephardic immigrants to the Americas adapted the country house life to the desert island of Curaçao, where nearly ninety Jewish country houses remain today.


About Professor Laura Arnold Leibman:

Laura Arnold Leibman is Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Her work focuses on religion and the daily lives of women and children in early America, and uses everyday objects to help bring their stories back to life. She is the author of Indian Converts (U Mass Press, 2008) and Messianism, Secrecy and Mysticism: A New Interpretation of Early American Jewish Life (Vallentine Mitchell, 2012), which won a National Jewish Book Award, a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association for Jewish Studies, and was selected as one of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013. Professor Leibman earned her PhD from UCLA, is currently at work on a book that uses material culture to trace the history of members of a multiracial family who began their lives as slaves in the Caribbean and became some of the wealthiest Jews in New York. She is currently the Leon Levy Foundation Professor of Jewish Material Culture at Bard Graduate Center.

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