Leonard Wolinsky lecturers examine the Ten Commandments

Recently, the Ten Commandments have played an ever-growing role in the North American media. Monumentalized and miniaturized, the stuff of Supreme Court cases, cinematic extravaganzas, stained glass windows, children’s books, bookstands and songs, the Ten Commandments have been more richly imagined in modern times than any other biblical symbol. Exploring this development and the theme of “The Ten Commandments in Modern Jewish Culture” are two leading US scholars who will present this year’s Leonard Wolinsky Lecture at York University.

What are the Ten Commandments, and how did they gain such prominence in people’s imagination and religious life? In his lecture titled “The Biblical Text and Its North American Afterlife”, Professor Marc Brettler (right) of Brandeis University will examine the meaning and problems of this text in its original context, and will highlight the problematic nature of its use in public contexts.

Jenna Weissman Joselit (left) will then present a lecture titled “When Moses Came Down From the Mountain: The Ten Commandments and its Hold on the Modern Imagination”. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, from popular culture to jurisprudence, the Princeton University professor will explore the ongoing resonance of the Ten Commandments and their impact on the practice of religion in the modern era.

Brettler is the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. He has written extensively on metaphor and the Bible, the nature of biblical historical texts, and gender issues in the Bible. He is the author of How to Read the Bible (2005), Biblical Hebrew for Students of Modern Israeli Hebrew (2001), Reading the Book of Judges (2002) and The Creation of History in Ancient Israel (1995). Brettler is also co-editor of the Jewish Study Bible (2004), which won a National Jewish Book Award. He was awarded the Michael A. Walzer Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Keter Torah Award

Weissman Joselit teaches modern Judaic studies and modern American studies at Princeton University. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture (1996) and is a frequent contributor to the magazine The New Republic. Weissman Joselit is currently at work on a history of North America’s fascination with the Ten Commandments.

The Leonard Wolinsky Lecture will take place Sunday, April 2, at 2pm, in the Robert R. McEwen Auditorium Executive Learning Centre in the Seymour Schulich Building on York’s Keele campus.

The Wolinsky Lectures are sponsored by York University’s Centre for Jewish Studies, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Education, in cooperation with the Toronto Board of Jewish Education. For more information, call the York University Centre For Jewish Studies at 416-736-5823.

This story was written by Bethany Hansraj, a student assistant in the Publications unit of York’s Marketing & Communications Division.