October 2017 , No.8
Agents of Conversion - May 22-25, 2017


CSOC - 5th Annual Conference


The papers given at the 5th CSOC Annual Conference presented many case studies where religious conversion, or inter-religious contact at large, were tightly interwoven with language issues.  Language can thus be seen as an agent of conversion in its own right. And in this function it can be described as a “set of techniques”. Relevant instances of such techniques were illustrated by Emily Michelson in the rhetorical tropes in Gregorio Boncompagni’s conversionary sermons in the late 17th century; by Paul Shore in the careful attention dedicated by Michel Nau to lexical choices in his translation of Qur’anic terms into Latin; and by Gideon Elazar in what he called the “tactics” of transculturation of myths in the Protestant mission to South-East Asia.  
Labeling, defining, and cataloguing otherness is a core rhetorical device within the macro-genre of conversion literature and of literature about conversion. This is what we saw particularly in Yaniv Fox’s paper, which focused on one of the possible rules of such a possible grammar of the genre. Alexander van der Haven brought an 18th-century conversion narrative about the Swede Israel Graanboom, who converted to Judaism when there was no Jewish presence whatsoever in Sweden.        
Another issue in communication was evidenced in Uri Z. Shachar’s paper on late medieval literature on Christian mission to East Asia. Are the accounts by travelers to be considered as mission literature disguised as travel literature, or rather as actual travel literature using mission as a rhetorical justification for the travel? This brings us close to Matteo Ricci’s interest in the structurally similar issue of the translatability of cultural contents between Christendom and Confucianism, as evidenced in Joan-Pau Rubiés Mirabet’s paper.
In their enquiries concerning women as agents of conversion to Islam, Keren Abbou Herskovits and Uriel Simonsohn stretched the traditional boundaries of the concept of agency to include a gender not usually considered as an agent. Brian Owensby and Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby showed in their papers how texts (17th-century Jesuit literature on missionizing in Paraguay) and images (of Franciscan mission to the Americas) can be agents of conversion, too; they thus further widened the concept of agency in conversion. Paola Tartakoff discussed revealing examples of the bias underlying representations of Jews in Christian illuminated manuscripts from the long 13th century in the British islands. Rosie Bonté analyzed 13th-century Icelandic sagas, who aptly talked about their “teleological approach to history”, and stressed the evidence they bear of the use of religion as instrumentum regni, a fig leaf over dynastic expansionism and historical violence.
I have tried to entertain the possibility that inter-religious encounters, and specifically religious conversion, are a game played in the language arena, and are possibly best defined and understood in terms of interactions of languages. This should be true even when we consider conversion not only as a social phenomenon, but rather as a psychological and emotional experience—when it is not all about shifting religions, but about changing one’s religion, deepening its way into the self. This might be a productive path for further research, or even for further CSOC conferences.
The four-day intensive workshop organized by Prof. Chaim (Harvey) Hames, Dr. Nimrod Hurvitz, Dr. Ephraim (Effie) Shoham Steiner, Prof. Ram Ben-Shalom, Prof. Dov (Claude) Stuczynski and Prof. Ora Limor, took place at The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters, Ben-Gurion University, 22-25/5/2017.

Piero Capelli












Convert of the Month


Converting Children: A Boy’s Journeys between Judaism and Christianity
Religious conversion of children and their religious self-determination have throughout history usually been at odds. This was no different in the early Dutch Republic, famed for its religious toleration. There, when one of the parents converted to another religion or denomination, the children of the gender of the converting parent were generally expected to follow suit. At the same time, arrangements – not always obeyed – made between different religious communities not to allow the conversion of minors, protected the religious sovereignty of and harmony between religious communities rather than the religious preferences of the minors themselves.
A fascinating instance of this problem is the conversion of a ten-year-old boy to Judaism and his consequent return to Calvinism in the seventeenth century. On 22 Kislev 5400, which is 18 December 1639, the Portuguese community of Amsterdam registered a donation of 10 guilders “to a young man who came from France, received circumcision, and is going to Brazil.” More details emerge when four months later, the Reformed (Calvinist) Classis of Dutch Brazil summoned a woman and her husband and questioned them. The classis’ minutes report that the woman was from a noble French Calvinist family from Thouars, and that her son was from her first marriage to another Calvinist. Her present husband, also French, had been born in the Catholic faith but had been secretly instructed in Judaism by his father. The couple had married in a Catholic church in Rochelle, France, after which it moved with the child to Amsterdam. There, the husband was circumcised and the wife converted to Judaism. The son, although they claimed to have opposed as long as they could his pleas also to convert, was circumcised as well.
Moved by neither the parents’ presentation of the child’s own religious wishes nor by the child itself, with whom they seem not to have spoken, the filed a request with the authorities to have the child taken away from his parents and sent to “his father’s friends, so it can be instructed in the Christian religion.” Who these friends were is revealed by another request in August of that year, when no one less than the (Calvinist) Reformed theologian Andreus Rivetus, private tutor to the young Prince of Orange, filed a complaint that a “certain Jew” who “had feigned to be popish” had brought a widow from Rochelle to Holland where he “seduced her” into Judaism and had her son circumcised. Although a further appeal from Brazil in November, showed that the authorities had ignored these complaints, Brazil’s classis from October 1641, thus a year later, was able happily to report that the “child had arrived at Reverend Rivetus’s, and the case therefore can be closed.”
Alexander van der Haven 




The Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award will be given to Cardinal Kurt J. Koch, President of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews.
The  Ceremony will be held on Monday, 6th  November 2017 at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

On the next day, a seminar for teachers and educators about "Christianity / Judaism and the Other" will be conducted with the participation of Cardinal Koch and Father Norbert Hofmann.
For the Full Program 


A series of nine lectures under the auspice of the Center will be held during 2017-2018 at The Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures, Beer Sheva. 
Lectures (partly given by members of the Center) will discuss different aspects of every day life, among different communities and social circles throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Each lecture will be  followed by a guided tour featuring unique aspects of the exhibition or by an artist's workshop. Coordinated by Dr. Keren Abbou Hershkovits, member of The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters.

For the Schedule of the Full Program (in Hebrew)


Chen Sarina, 'Speedily  in our Days', the Temple Mount Activists and the National-Religious Society in Israel, The Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. 
The Temple Mount is considered the holiest place for the Jewish people. After the unification of Jerusalem in 1967, the majority of the national-religious community followed the traditional order and warning of the Chief Rabbinate: Do not visit the Temple Mount. Today, 50 years later, the Temple Mount is a key site for members of the National Religious group. Many of them visit the mount, after their rabbis declared it a mitzvah to visit, or, to use their term, "to ascend" to the Temple Mount. How did this happen?
The book examines contemporary Jewish groups that have placed the Temple Mount and the establishment of the Third Temple on that site at the center of the vision of redemption they seek to realize and their way to the discourse of the main stream of the Nationalist-Religious society in Israel. This study offers a new light upon these groups. Based on comprehensive field work and an analysis of the texts and the visual material produced by these groups (which are first to be shown in this research), the book explores four central subjects around which their thoughts and actions revolve: ascent to the Temple Mount, memory, femininity and sacrifice.
For more information (in Hebrew) press here 


Ram Ben-Shalom, 'The Jews of Provence and Languedoc: Renaissance in the Shadow of the Church', Raanana 2017.
In the Middle Ages, the Jews of Provence were at the forefront of some of the most important religio-cultural developments in the Mediterranean Basin. Let it suffice to mention the Hebrew translation project of Arabic scientific works that contributed to the creation of the Aristotelian-Maimonidean philosophical school. Another consequence of this undertaking was the first historical appearance of the esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah. The book discusses the history of the Jews of southern France, from Roman times, when they first settled in the region, to their final expulsion in 1500—focusing on topics such as the yeshivot, Jewish communal institutions, the supreme leadership of the neśi'im, systems of taxation, enactments (taqqanot), courts, occupations and moneylending by Jews, relations between Jews and the Christian authorities, repeated expulsions from the Kingdom of France and Languedoc, and occasional anti-Jewish riots. Nevertheless, Provençal Jewry’s long-lived social and polemical encounter with Christianity also produced spiritual approaches that advocated religious tolerance toward the Christian faith, as well as periods of cultural renaissance.   
For more information (in Hebrew) press here 


Future Events




October 24, 2017
Ephraim Shoham-Steiner & Peter Sh. Lehnardt​
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev  


November 21, 2017
Ephraim Sicher & Eitan Bar-Yosef​
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev  


December 5, 2017
Muhamad Ali​
University Of California, Riverside  


December 19, 2017
Nadia Zeldes
 CSOC, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


January 2, 2018
Dennis Halft
CSOC, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


January 16, 2018
Nere Inxaustegui Jauregui
 Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao


February 13, 2018
Latin Talmud Workshop
ERC Project, UAB  


March 6, 2018
Shinichi Yamamoto
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev  


March 20, 2018
Adiel Schremer
Bar Ilan University   


April 10, 2018
New book event: Dr. Sarina Chen​
CSOC, Ben-Gurion University  


April 24, 2018


May 8, 2018
Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


May 14, 2018
New book event: Prof. Ram Ben-Shalom
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


June 12, 2018
Piero Capelli
University of Venice  


International Conference


CSOC- 6th Annual International Conference 
Religious Conversions: Then and Now  
  Ben-Gurion University of the Negev 
May 28th-31st, 2018 
Details T.B.A 


Faculty Activities


Keren Abbou Hershkovits: 
International Conference Agents of Conversion, Center for the Study of Conversion and Interreligious Encounters, Ben-Gurion University. “From the Margins to the Center, the Voyage into Conversion”, May 2017.


Pnina Arad:   
500 years of the Reformation, conference organized by The Historical Society of Israel, the Hebrew University and Yad Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem. “Between Catholic Pilgrimage and Protestant Scriptures: Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Map of the Holy Land“, 18-20.10.17.
The Early Modern Period, conference organized by The Historical Society of Israel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “Between Catholicism and Lutheranism: Fredericks III's Collection of Relics and Devotional Art”,  1.6.17.


Amir Ashur: 
Visiting scholar, The Department for Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University, USA, 1.8.17-1.10.17 


Sarina Chen: 
Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research. The "Temple Advocate" Groups: From Margin of Society to Forefront of Discourse,  November 2016.

Cherrik Center for the Study of Zionism, the Yishuv and the State of Israel. Zionism and Messianism,  May 2017.
Forth Annual Israeli Conference on Environmental History. Cypress and Zionist Settlers in the Land of Israel,  October 2017. 
The Cymbalista Jewish Heritage Center. Controversial Judaism: A Round table on Contemporary Matters- Temple Mount,  November 17th 2017.

Harvard School of Law. Temple Mount/ Haram al- Sharif: Conflict, Culture, Law,  November 28th 2017.


Dennis Halft: 
Translators, Copyists and Interpreters: Jews, Christians and Muslims and the Transmission of the Bible in Arabic in the Middle Ages,” Casa Árabe, Córdoba, Spain. “Notes on the So-Called Persian Diatessaron and its Author and Commentator”, 28 April 2017.

“Forum Biblia Arabica,” Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv . “Arabic Bible Translations in Early Modern Iran: Crossing the Boundaries between Christianity and Twelver Shiite Islam”, 3 May 2017.
41st annual conference of the Middle East & Islamic Studies Association of Israel (MEISAI), The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem.  “New Evidence for the History of Imāmī-Jewish Relations from Shīʿī Manuscript Repositories in Iran: The ‘Yazd Disputation’ on Muḥammad’s Prophethood (1796)”,19 June 2017.
International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Humboldt University, Berlin. “The Roman Arabic Vulgate in 17th-Century Persia: Some Notes on the Cross-Cultural Effects of the First Edition of the Gospels in Arabic Translation”, 9 August 2017.
33rd “Deutscher Orientalistentag,” Friedrich Schiller University, Jena. “A Jewish Family that Turned Shīʿī Muslim in 18th-Century Yazd: Transmitting Religious Knowledge beyond Boundaries”, 20 September 2017.
International conference “Global Reformations: Transforming Early Modern Religions, Societies, & Cultures”, Victoria College, University of Toronto. “Armenian-Twelver Shīʿī Controversies in Pre-Modern Iran”, 30 September 2017.


Alexander Van der Haven:
Museum of Islam and Near Eastern Studies Beer Sheva. The Ger’s Story: Early Modern Proselyte Autobiographies (Hebrew), 8 May 2017.

Cardozo School  of Law, Yeshiva University New York. Schreber’s Law. Sex  Change and Salvation, 14 May 2017.
International Conference  Agents of Conversion, Center for the Study of Conversion and  Inter-religious Encounters, Ben-Gurion University.  ”A Spirited Woman Rather than an  Imbecilic Man: Conversion in an Immanent Universe”. 22 May 2017.
Leipzig  University.  Religionswissenschaftliches  Institut. Colloquium ‘Multiple Secularities.’ The Secular as Religion: Making Religion in Darwin’s Century,  14 June 2017.
Seventeenth  World Congress of Jewish Studies Jerusalem.  Panel: Early Modern Judaeo-Christianities in Iberia and Beyond. Judeo-Christianity  and Conversion to Judaism in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic, August  6 2017.  


Daniel J. Lasker: 
Book Launch of Shalom Sadik, The Essence of Choice in Medieval Jewish Philosophy, Ben-Gurion University. “Thoughts about Choice”, May, 2017.

XIV International Congress, Société internationale pour l’étude de la philosophie médiévale, Porto Alegre, Brazil. “The Relationship between Jews and Non-Jews According to Judah Halevi”, July, 2017.
Conference of the Society for Judaeo-Arabic Studies, Bar-Ilan University. “The Composition of R. Judah Halevi's Book of Kuzari”, August, 2017.


Ora Limor:  
Public Lecture, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg. “A City of Three Faiths: Jerusalem in the Late Middle Ages”, 12 July, 2017.
Workshop on Jerusalem in Roman-Byzantine Times, University of Bern. “Jewish and Christian Pilgrims to Jerusalem in Roman and Byzantine Times” 3 September, 2017.


Ephraim Shoham-Steiner:
International Workshop on:  Visual and Material in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Culture, Westfälische Wilhelmsuniversität Münster.  “The Writing on the Wall: A Privilege A Mahzor and A Bimah form Thirteenth Century Cologne”“. July 17-20, 2017.

Seventeenth World Congress of Jewish Studies Jerusalem. “Jewish and Christian Collaboration in Crime: The Evidence from Medieval Rabbinic Sources”, 10-14 August 2017.


Uriel Simonsohn: 
Guest Speaker, Hadassah Brandeis Institute, Waltham, MA. “Female Power and Shifting Religious Affiliations under Medieval Islam: An Attempt at Bridging Gaps in Jewish Historiography.”

Guest Speaker, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. “Mismatched with the Unbelievers: Church Attitudes to Christian-Muslim Marriages in the Early Islamic Period.” 
International Conference Agents of Conversion, Center for the Study of Conversion and Interreligious Encounters, Ben-Gurion University. “Women as Agents of Conversion to Islam: The Significance of Saḥābiyāt Models”, May 2017.
International Conference Jewish Women's Cultural Capital Under Islam, IAS, Jerusalem. “Jewish Women and the Question of Kinship Ties in the Context of Conversion to Islam”.
International Conference of the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean, Gent. “Between Family and Community: Images of Early Female Converts to Islam in Biographic Dictionaries”.
Scholar in Residence at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute, Brandeis University, Sept.-Oct., 2017.
Teacher at the HUJI-Katz Center Graduate Summer School in Jewish Studies, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.


Nadia Zeldes: 
International Conference Agents of Conversion, Center for the Study of Conversion and Interreligious Encounters, Ben-Gurion University.  “Jewish conversion narratives and documentary evidence – who were the agents of mass conversion in south Italy?” May 22-25, 2017.

Seventeenth World Congress of Jewish Studies Jerusalem. “The case of the New Christians in the humanistic thinking of southern Italy: Antonio de Ferraris’s letter to Belisario Acquaviva duke of Nardò”. August 2017. 
Giornata Europea Cultura Ebraica  (European Day Commemorating Jewish Culture) in Sicily , lecture on the Jewish presence in Sicily. “Il mondo culturale degli ebrei Siciliani: fra identità ebraica e identità locale”. September 10, 2017.


New Publications


Keren Abbou Hershkovits:
“Endurance Sport”, https://tinyurl.com/yasdkdm5


Amir Ashur: 
(Together with Sivan Nir and Meira Polliack), ”Three Fragments of Sa'adya Gaon’s Arabic Translation of Isaiah copied by the Court Scribe Joseph ben Samuel”, in: Senses of Scripture, Treasures of Tradition: The Bible in Arabic among Jews, Christians and Muslims , Leiden: Brill,  2017, pp. 487–508


Sarina Chen:  
Chen Sarina, ' Speedily  in our Days ', the Temple Mount Activists and the National-Religious Society in Israel, The Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.  


Dennis Halft:  
“Ismāʿīl Qazvīnī: A Twelfth/Eighteenth-Century Jewish Convert to Imāmī Šīʿism and His Critique of Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Four Kingdoms (Daniel 2:31-45),” in: M. L. Hjälm, ed., Senses of Scripture, Treasures of Tradition: The Bible in Arabic among Jews, Christians and Muslims, Leiden: Brill 2017, pp. 280-304.

“Pietro della Valle. Risāla-yi Piṭrūs dillā Vāllī,” in: Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History, vol. 10 (Ottoman and Safavid Empires 1600-1700), ed. D. Thomas and J. Chesworth, Leiden: Brill, 2017, 457-460.
“Sayyid Aḥmad ʿAlavī,” in: Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History, vol. 10 (Ottoman and Safavid Empires 1600-1700), ed. D. Thomas and J. Chesworth, Leiden: Brill, 2017, 467-483.
“Paolo Piromalli,” in: Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History , vol. 10 (Ottoman and Safavid Empires 1600-1700), ed. D. Thomas and J. Chesworth, Leiden: Brill, 2017, 518-523.


Ayelet Harel-Shalev:  
Stein, Arthur, and Harel-Shalev, Ayelet, 2017. Editors: Special Issue - Ethnic and Racial Studies: (12)40 Affect, Interest, and Political Entrepreneurs in Ethnic and Religious Conflicts
Stein, Arthur. and Harel-Shalev, Ayelet. 2017. Ancestral and Instrumental in the Politics of Ethnic and Religious Conflict. Ethnic and Racial Studies . 40(12): 1981-2000. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/quNX7VgmxDPajsRkW6Xa/full


Alexander van der Haven:   
“Comparison, Practice, and Meaning: Martin Riesebrodt’s Theory of Religion.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion: Working Papers from Hannover. Supplements to Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 8. Ed. Steffen Führding. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2017: 27–37.

“God as Hypothesis: Daniel Paul Schreber and the Study of Religion.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion: Working Papers from Hannover. Supplements to Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 8. Ed. Steffen Führding. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2017: 176–198. 
“Kiss (literature).” Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception. Ed. Christine Helmer, Steven L. McKenzie, Thomas Römer, a.o. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, vol. 15 (2017): 364–366. 
“Thomas Coenen, Vain Hopes of the Jews.” Ed. Pawel Maciejko, Sabbatian Heresy: Writings on Mysticism, Messianism, and the Origins of Jewish Modernity. The Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press (2017): 8-11 (translation).
“Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Sabbatai Tsevi”. Ed. Pawel Maciejko, Sabbatian Heresy: Writings on Mysticism, Messianism, and the Origins of Jewish Modernity. The Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press (2017): 177-182 (translation).
“Predestination and Toleration: The Dutch Republic’s Single Judicial Persecution of Jews in Theological Context.” forthcoming in Renaissance Quarterly 71 no. 1 (2018) 


Daniel J. Lasker:  
“Translations of Rabbi Judah Halevi’s Kuzari,” The Seforim Blog, June 04, 2017 (http://seforim.blogspot.co.il/2017/06/translations-of-rabbi-judah-halevis.html).
“Biblical Exegesis as a Source of Jewish Pluralism: The Case of the Karaites,” theTorah.com, June 6, 2017 (http://thetorah.com/biblical-exegesis-as-a-source-of-jewish-pluralism-the-case-of-the-karaites/).
“Mary in Jewish Tradition,” Jewish Annotated New Testament, 2nd ed., eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler, Oxford, 2017, pp. 744-747.


Ora Limor:  
“Earth, Stone, Water and Oil: Objects of Veneration in Holy Land Travel Narratives”, in: Natural Materials of the Holy Land and the Visual Translation of Place 500-1500 , eds. Renana Bartal, Neta Bodner, and Bianca Kuehnel, London and New York: Ashgate, 2017, pp. 3-18.



Powered by smoove marketing platform