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Judaic Studies Speaker Program

Are you looking for a speaker for a community event or program? Distinguished faculty members in the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Tennessee have expertise on a wide range of subjects and are available free of charge to community organizations within the state of Tennessee.

Helene Sinnreich, Director, Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies

Professor Helene Sinnreich is a scholar of Jewish experience during the Holocaust and European Jewry. Her research focuses on ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe as well as sexual abuse during the Holocaust. Professor Sinnreich has been a fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel.


  • “Too little to keep them alive and too much to let them die”: Hunger in the Ghettos of Nazi Occupied Europe
  • One man’s experience in the Lodz Ghetto: The Life of Heinek Fogel
  • Beyond Schindler’s List: The Jews of the Krakow Ghetto

Professor J.P. Dessel specializes in the history and archaeology of the eastern Mediterranean and the ancient Near East. His research focuses on the rise of social complexity, urban-rural dynamics in the Bronze and Iron Ages, and ethnicity in the ancient world. He has participated in excavations in Israel, Turkey, Egypt, and North America


  • Israelite Ethnogenesis: From the Village People to the Chosen People
  • The Exodus: The Historical Roots of a mythic crossing
  • The Archaeology of Jerusalem: Filling the Space between Nationalism, Religion, and Tourism
  • Synagogue Mosaics of the Byzantine World: The Unexpected Visual World of Ancient Judaism

Professor Erin Darby is an expert in the Hebrew Bible, ancient Near Eastern history, literature, and archaeology, and specializes in ancient religion and iconography. Professor Darby has been the recipient of numerous awards, including most recently a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for her work at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.


  • Household Religion in Ancient Israel
  • Women and Religion in Ancient Israel
  • Ancient Israelite goddesses
  • Religion in Jerusalem in the First Temple Period
  • Idols in Ancient Israel and the Ancient Near East

Professor Marilyn Kallet has published 16 books, including six volumes of poetry, translations, critical essays, children’s books, pedagogy, and anthologies of women’s literature. Among other honors, she won the Tennessee Arts Commission Literary Fellowship in poetry in 1989 and was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in poetry in 2005.


  • On Poetry and Jewish Identity: Performance and Discussion

Professor Gregory Kaplan's principal area of research is medieval Spanish philology, which includes the literature of the Spanish Middle Ages as well as the history and evolution of the Spanish language. Kaplan’s recent work includes the converso literature of Medieval and Golden Age Spain and the writings of the rabbi to Amsterdam's community of some 1,500 exiled Sephardic Jews of Iberian descent (including Baruch Spinoza). Kaplan has been awarded numerous prizes for his excellence in research and teaching.


  • "Saul Levi Morteira: Spinoza's Rabbi"
  • "The Spanish Conversos: From Monarchy to Democracy"

Magilow's research interests include Holocaust studies, Weimar Republic, and the history of photography. He is the author, editor, and translator of four books and serves as managing editor of the Journal of Jewish Identities. Magilow has received several awards and grants for his work including a DAAD research grant and multiple grants from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


  • What does Tennessee have to do with the Holocaust?: The Whitwell Paperclips Project

Professor Christine Shepardson studies the history of early Christianity, particularly the Mediterranean world in the period of late antiquity. She is the winner of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society.


  • The Bible Tells Me So: The Politics of Biblical Interpretation
  • Identity Crisis: Making Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity
  • Passover and Easter: A History of Community Definition
  • When Jesus was Jewish: The Important Legacy of Early Jewish/Christian Relations
  • Claiming God’s Covenant: Early Christian Leaders and their Anti-Jewish Language
  • Judaism and Early Christianity
  • Jesus and Judaism

Robert C. Blitt is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Among other things, his scholarship   focuses on international organizations, human rights, and issues relating to the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. Prior to joining UT’s law faculty, he spent over five years in the Middle East, where, among other things, he served with the Department of International Agreements in Israel’s Ministry of Justice, clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, and directed projects at Physicians for Human Rights (Israel). In 2002, Professor Blitt was a Rabin Fellow for Peace and Tolerance at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


  • Constitutional history and contemporary law of Israel
  • Israel and the United Nations
  • Israel and the Arab world
  • Freedom of religion or belief
  • Human rights in the Middle East

Please contact Helene J. Sinnreich, director of the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies at to arrange for a speaker.

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