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The Vilna Gaon and the Making of Modern Judaism
Nov 7 2013


THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2013 | 7pm
BOOK TALK
Eliyahu Stern, Yale University; Jeremy Dauber, Columbia University (Moderator)

Click HERE to watch the video.

Winner of the 2012 Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication
Finalist for the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature


The beginnings of contemporary Jewry are often associated with Jewish figures in Western Europe such as Moses Mendelssohn. But in his book, The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism, Eliyahu Stern offers a new and provocative narrative for understanding contemporary Jewish life, which begins in the East, with the leading East European mystic and rabbinic scholar of the 18th century, Elijah ben Solomon, or the “Vilna Gaon.” Eliyahu Stern joined in conversation with Jeremy Dauber for a discussion about the Vilna Gaon, his influence on modern Judaism, and why his legacy has been claimed by traditionalists, enlighteners, Zionists and the Orthodox.

Eliyahu Stern was the Tell fellow at the YIVO Institute in 2004.


Eliyahu Stern is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University. From 2009-2010 he was the Junior William Golding Fellow in the Humanities at Brasenose College and the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. His first book, The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism, was published by Yale University Press in 2013. He has served as a term member on the Council on Foreign Relations, and a consultant to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland and is currently a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute.


Jeremy Dauber is a professor of Yiddish literature at Columbia University, where he also serves as director of its Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies and teaches in the American Studies program. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his doctorate from the University of Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. His previous books include In the Demon's Bedroom: Yiddish Literature and the Early Modern (2010) and Antonio's Devils: Writers of the Jewish Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literature (2004). Jeremy Dauber's most recent book, The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye (Randomhouse) was released in October, 2013. He frequently lectures on topics related to Jewish literature, history, humor, and popular culture at the 92nd Street Y and other venues throughout the United States.