Sunday, August 23, 2015, 2:00-3:30pm
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by David Kertez
Facilitated by Dr. Margarete Feinstein, Assoc. Professor, Department of Jewish Studies
Bologna, 1858: A police squad, acting on the orders of the Inquisitor, invades the home of a Jewish merchant, Momolo Mortara, wrenches his crying six-year-old son from his arms, and rushes him off in a carriage bound for Rome. His mother is so distraught that she collapses and has to be taken to a neighbor's house, but her weeping can be heard across the city. With this terrifying scene--one that would haunt this family forever--David I. Kertzer begins his fascinating investigation of the dramatic kidnapping, and shows how this now obscure saga would eventually contribute to the collapse of the Church's temporal power in Italy. As Edgardo's parents desperately search for a way to get their son back, they learn why he--out of all their eight children--was taken. Years earlier, the family's Catholic serving girl, fearful that the infant might die of an illness, had secretly baptized him (or so she claimed). Edgardo recovered, but when the story reached the Bologna Inquisitor, the result was his order for Edgardo to be seized and sent to a special monastery where Jews were converted into good Catholics. The Inquisitor's justification for taking the child was based in Church teachings: No Christian child could be raised by Jewish parents. The case of Edgardo Mortara became an international cause célèbre. Although such kidnappings were not uncommon in Jewish communities across Europe, this time the political climate had changed. As news of the family's plight spread to Britain, where the Rothschilds got involved, to France, where it mobilized Napoleon III, and even to America, public opinion turned against the Vatican. Refusing to return the child to his family, Pope Pius IX began to regard the boy as his own child. The fate of this one boy came to symbolize the entire revolutionary campaign of Mazzini and Garibaldi to end the dominance of the Catholic Church and establish a modern, secular Italian state. The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1997, and has been made into a play by Pulitzer and Oscar winning playwright, Alfred Uhry. Early versions of the play were performed at Hartford Stage in 2002 and the Guthrie Theater in 2006.
Sunday, September 20, 2015, 2:00-3:30pm
FILM SHOWING: No. 4 Street of our Lady
A film by Barbara Bird, Judy Maltz, Richie Sherman (90 min)
Tells the story of Francisca Halamajowa, a Polish Catholic woman who hid 15 of her Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust. The film draws on excerpts from a diary kept by one of the survivors, Moshe Maltz. It also incorporates testimonies from other Jews saved by Halamajowa, her descendants and former neighbors as they reconnect on a trip back to Sokal
Sunday, October 18, 2015, 2:00-3:30pm
The World to Come, by Dara Horn
Facilitated by Dr. Holli Levitsky, Professor, English Dept. & Director of Jewish Studies
Following in the footsteps of her breakout debut In the Image, Dara Horn's second novel, The World to Come, is an intoxicating combination of mystery, spirituality, redemption, piety, and passion. Using a real-life art heist as her starting point, Horn traces the life and times of several characters, including Russian-born artist Marc Chagall, the New Jersey-based Ziskind family, and the "already-weres" and "not-yets" who roam an eternal world that exists outside the boundaries of life on earth. At the center of the story is Benjamin Ziskind, a former child prodigy who now spends his days writing questions for a television trivia show. After Ben's twin sister Sara forces him to attend a singles cocktail party at a Jewish museum, Ben spots Over Vitebsk, a Chagall sketch that once hung in the twins' childhood home. Convinced the painting was wrongfully taken from his family, Ben steals the work of art and enlists his twin to create a forgery to replace the stolen Chagall. What follows is a series of interwoven stories that trace the life and times of the famous painting, and the fate of those who come into contact with it. From a Jewish orphanage in 1920s Soviet Russia to a junior high school in Newark, New Jersey, with a stop in the jungles of Da Nang, Vietnam, Horn takes readers on an amazing journey through the sacred and the profane elements of the human condition. It is this expertly rendered juxtaposition of the spiritual with the secular that makes The World to Come so profound, and so compelling to readers. As we learn near the end of the beautiful tale, "The real world to come is down below--the world, in the future, as you create it."
Sunday, November 15, 2015, 2:00-3:30pm
The Paris Architect: A Novel, by Charles Belfoure
acilitated by Dr. Veronique Flambard-Weisbart, Professor, Department of Modern Languages & Literatures
How far would you go to help a stranger? What would you risk? Would you trade your life for another's in the name of what is right? Belfoure explores these questions and others in this debut novel set in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Lucien Bernard—who, like the book's author, is an architect—is offered a large sum of money to outsmart the Gestapo by devising unique hiding places for Jews, though he knows that anyone caught helping them will be tortured and killed by the Germans. Danger is everywhere: Lucien's mistress, Adele, a successful fashion designer, has an affair with a Gestapo colonel. Lucien's new assistant will betray him in a heartbeat. Offered a juicy German factory commission that involves working with a Nazi officer who admires architecture and art, Lucien's web weaves more complexly. And when he falls in love with Adele's assistant, rescues a child, and contacts some of the individuals he's saved, the stakes grow higher and Lucien's thoughts turn from money to vengeance. Seamlessly integrated architectural details add to the excitement. Belfoure's characters are well-rounded and intricate. Heart, reluctant heroism, and art blend together in this spine-chilling page-turner.