January 2015  Newsletter No.1




The Opening of the Center in the Library


After some delay in the renovations, we have finally moved into our new home on the fifth floor of the Aranne Library in BGU. The official opening of the Center took place on the 9th December 2014. The open space office design has created a "laboratory" for the humanities where members of the Center can work on their own projects while exchanging ideas and information with their colleagues.  The Center also has its own conference room which can seat some fifteen people.
Prof.Harvey Hames 




Data Base


The database is not yet open to the world, but the faculty of the Center are working on inputting data. The database is a collaborative project which cannot be carried out by the members of the Center alone, so we have reached out to scholars around the world to participate. At the international conference held in May 2014, we showcased the database by looking at different case-studies and asked the scholars present to input their materials and encourage their students to take part as well.
Any student or established scholar can register and become a member of the group inputting materials. It is important to stress that each entry will appear under the name of the contributor. We have also created a blog for each entry so that there can be ongoing discussion about the entries.
In the following newsletters, we will keep you updated on the progress of the database and will let you know when it can be accessed and used for research purposes.


Convert of the Month


Widow Geertgen Alberts, an early seventeenth-century convert to Judaism
Early modern Amsterdam is celebrated as a place where baptized Jews and Christians of Jewish lineage could freely live as Jews. Less known is that also a number of Christians without any Jewish lineage chose for Judaism as their preferred religion. One of these is Geertgen Alberts, "widow of Hendrick Jansz." We only know of her because a notarial act that she commissioned in 1636 has survived in the city archives of Amsterdam. What is so interesting about this document is that it shows not only the freedom she felt – and apparently had – to legally threaten her heirs were they to interfere in her religious decision but also that she felt no need for a complete social rupture with her Christian background.  
Describing Alberts as "sickly bedridden yet in control of her mind, memory and speech," the notary writes that "more than seven years she has been of the Jewish persuasion (Joots gesint)" and that she "desires to live and die in the Jewish religion." Therefore, "when the almighty God comes to take her out of this world, may her body be interred in the Jewish cemetery in Ouderkerk." If her friends or heirs "would try to do something against her final will and desire and would not allow it [the Jewish burial], they will forfeit their inheritance." In that case, half of her money would be donated to the "poor of the Jewish persuasion" whereas the other half would benefit the orphans of Amsterdam.
Thus, the wealthy widow not only counted on legal support for her religious choice that from a religious perspective was nothing less than an act of apostasy, but also regarded that choice, as her use of language also suggests, as a private choice. The private character of this choice meant that she did not refute her Christian family and that she expected the same respect on their behalf. If they refused to do so, half of her fortune would still benefit those orphans of Jerusalem of the North's who had not decided to "live and die as Jews."
  By Dr. Alexander van der Haven


Recent Events




November 25, 2014
Dr. Ilan Shoval
Open University


December 23, 2014
Dr. Shalom Sadick
Van-Leer Jerusalem  Institute
November 11,2014
Prof. Michael Lecker
The Hebrew University


December 9, 2014
Dr. Javier Castaño
CSIC (Spanish National Research Council)


January 20, 2015
 Ms. Elena Keidošiūtė
Vilnius University
October 28, 2014
Dr. Ayelet Harel-Shalev
 Ben-Gurion University


December 2, 2014
 Prof. David Nirenberg
Chicago University 


January 6, 2015
Prof. Jeremy Cohen
Tel- Aviv University


November 30 - December 1 2014  
Between Anti-Semitism and Philo-Semitism
.more info


Center Faculty Activities


Prof. Chaim Hames:
· Lectured at theTenth  EAJS conference in Paris (July 2014) on "Was Conversion on the Agenda? Reconsidering Barcelona 1263".
· Lectured at the POLEMICAL ENCOUNTERS conference in Madrid (October 2014) organized by
CORPI on "Creating Identities: Ramon Martí's Pugio Fidei and Christian-Jewish Polemic".
· Gave three talks at Limmud 2014 (University of Warwick in the UK) Of relevance for the Center was the talk about the Barcelona Disputation in 1263 and a talk on the first complete translation of the Gospels into Hebrew.


Prof.  Daniel Lasker:
Lectured at the POLEMICAL ENCOUNTERS conference in Madrid (October 2014) organized by CORPI on "Jewish Anti-Christian Polemics in Light of Mass Conversion to Christianity."



Dr.  Amir Ashur:
Lectured at the Tenth EAJS Congress in Paris (July 2014) on "Protecting the wife: Stipulations in Jewish Marriage documents from the Cairo Geniza and parallel Arabic sources and their social background".


Dr. Uriel Simonsohn:
· “Are Geonic Responsa a Reliable Source for the Study of Jewish Conversion to Islam? A Comparative Analysis of Legal Sources.” In Arnold E. Franklin et al (eds.), Jews, Christians and
Muslims in Medieval and Early Modern Times: A Festschrift in Honor of Mark R. Cohen.
Leiden: Brill (Christians and Jews in Muslim Societies), 2014, pp. 119-38.

Participated in the following conferences:
· Round table participant in “When Law Confronts Reality: Religious Minorities and the
Functioning of Justice in the Middle Ages.” Minorités et cohabitions religieuses au Moyen-ÂGE, Colloque International RELMIN, Nantes, France (October 2014).
· “Marriage, Divorce and Communal Boundaries in the Laws of the Syrian Churches under Early
Islamic Rule.”  Law and Religious Minorities in Medieval Societies:  Between Theory and Praxis, Casa Árabe, Córdoba, Spain (May 2014).
· “Matrimony and Apostasy: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Legal Concerns over Religiously-Mixed Unions in the Classical Islamic Period.” MESA Annual Conference, Washington DC (November 2014).


Dr.  Yaniv Fox:
· Lectured at the Irish Conference of Medievalists, University College Dublin (July 2014) on "The Political Context of Irish Monasticism in Francia".
· Lectured at the East and West in the EarlyMiddle Ages: the Merovingian Kingdoms in Mediterranean Perspective , Freie Universität Berlin (December 2014) on "Anxiously Looking East: Burgundian Foreign Policy on the Eve of Reconquest".


Future Events


Dr.  Alexander van der Haven:
Co-organizing an international and interdisciplinary conference at the Religionswissenschaftliches Institute, University of Leipzig (23-25 February 2015). Will give a lecture there, on "Madness and Religion in Daniel Paul Schreber's Revelations".


Dr. Ayelet Harel-Shalev:
International Studies Association Annual Conference, February 2015, USA, - "Power
Struggles, Ethnic conflicts, and Religion - Religious Conversion in the Indian Secular State


Dr. Yaniv Fox:
· Will participate as a Moderator in Prof. JuliaSmith (U. Glasgow) doctoral workshop. The
Historical Society of Israel, Shazar Centre (February 2015).
 · Will give a lecture at the Medieval Academy of America Meeting, University of Notre Dame, on "Ego Bar-Iona: Jews and the Language of Forced Conversion in Columbanian Circles".


Coming Conference


MAY 18-21, 2015


 Ben-Gurion University

MAY 04, 2015


Hebrew University


MAY 26-28, 2015


                                                      Van-Leer Institute
    Bar-Ilan University