Events by type: Panel Discussion

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In 1967, Stephen Birmingham published his best-selling social history of New York’s elite German-Jewish banking families and posited a new, Jewish, American aristocracy. A panel of historians and a journalist will evaluate the legend and the reality of “Our Crowd” and the impact of the institutions they created on American life.

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The 2016 film Germans & Jews explores the country’s transformation from silence about the Holocaust to facing it head on. Post-film discussion with Steven Sokol (American Council on Germany), Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz (Hebrew Union College), and attorney Steve Zehden (Noerr LLP).

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Nearly a century ago in Weimar Germany, a group of physicians and psychologists around Magnus Hirschfeld, many of them Jewish, fought to end the criminalization of homosexuality in Germany with arguments based on a study of human sexuality that was empirical and descriptive rather than normative. Legendary author and educator Ruth Westheimer joins historians Atina Grossmann and Robert Beachy to explore the legacy of German-Jewish gay rights and sex reform pioneers.

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How compatible are faith and reason, religious and civic loyalty, religious commitment and cosmopolitanism? These were the questions that shaped the Enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn’s biography and occupied his mind. Abraham Socher (Oberlin/Editor, Jewish Review of Books), David Sorkin (Yale), and Leora Batnitzky (Princeton) discuss how Mendelssohn’s answers still resonate today.

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Historian Michael Brenner imagines a world in which Walther Rathenau survived to save the republic in the new book What Ifs of Jewish History. He joins the book’s editor, Gavriel Rosenfeld, to discuss what factors and which actors contributed to the disintegration of a fragile pluralism in the 1920s, and what that means for today’s world.

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In a post-election essay for the New Yorker, the critic Alex Ross wrote that the “combination of economic inequality and pop-cultural frivolity” in current American life were precisely the fertile ground for an American catastrophe that the Jewish intellectuals of the Frankfurt School anticipated in their studies of antisemitism, mass culture, and the “authoritarian personality”. Jack Jacobs (CUNY), Jonathon Catlin (Princeton), and Liliane Weissberg (Penn) discuss how the Frankfurt School’s analysis of antisemitism in particular sheds light on the racism undergirding contemporary right-wing populist movements

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A 2013 Pew study alarmed some by showing rising intermarriage, falling birthrates, and dwindling religious affiliation among the non-Orthodox. Samuel Norich, (The Forward), moderates a discussion with Steven Cohen (Hebrew Union College) and Robin Judd (Ohio State University) about the parallels and contrasts between the situations of German Jews a century ago and American Jews today.

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Representatives of the German Justice Ministry and the authors of a new study on the involvement of former Nazis in the ministry’s early post-war history will discuss the role of the judiciary in the development and preservation of democracy.

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Made in 1989-90, at a decisive historical moment for Germany and Europe, Chronicle of Return documents the lives of German Jews who left Germany under the Nazi regime and returned to what would become the German Democratic Republic

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In conjunction with the exhibition, Stolen Heart, which deals with the expropriation of Berlin’s Jews, historian Elazar Barkan (Columbia University) will lead a panel discussion of the historical, legal, moral, and emotional aspects of restitution featuring journalist Sarah Wildman and psychiatrist and author Joanne Intrator.

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