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Conference Explores Zionist Ideology and Culture

Events include interview with director of “The Gatekeepers,” acclaimed documentary

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October 22, 2013 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Ideology and culture have been linked since ancient times. Now a three-day conference at Northwestern University will explore the relationship between Zionist ideology and modern Israeli cultural production.

“The Zionist Ideal in Israeli Culture: Dream and Reality” will take place Nov. 17 through Nov. 19 in Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place or Hardin Hall in the Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street, as noted, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. It is free and open to the public.

In a special session Nov. 19 in Hardin Hall, Dror Moreh, director of the highly acclaimed 2012 documentary “The Gatekeepers” will be interviewed by Northwestern faculty and filmmakers David and Debra Tolchinsky. The Academy Award-nominated film interviews six former chiefs of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.

The event is the inaugural conference of Northwestern’s new initiative on Israel Studies, which was significantly expanded last year with a generous gift from Renée and Lester Crown. The initiative aims to increase undergraduate teaching on modern Israel and support activities related to the culture, politics and society of a relatively small country that plays a significant role in the world.

In individual conference sessions, scholars from the United States and Israel will discuss Zionism’s influence on music and dance; theatre; visual arts; literature and cinema. At 4 p.m.  Sunday, Nov. 17, in Lutkin Hall, Yael Zerubavel, professor of Jewish and Israel Studies and history at Rutgers University, will deliver a keynote speech on “Memory and Identity in Israeli Culture; Historical Reflections.”

Following Zerubavel’s address, Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery, will introduce a performance by the MultiPiano Ensemble. A concert by the same group will take place on Nov. 19 at Lutkin Hall.

Launched in 2010 at Tel Aviv University, the MultiPiano Ensemble is comprised of students Daniel Borovitzky, Berenika Glixman and Nimrod Haftel-Meiri as well as their teacher, Tomer Lev. MultiPiano has performed throughout Israel and toured Asia and Latin America. For more on MultiPiano’s Nov. 17 performance and Nov. 19 concert, visit Northwestern News.

“We’ll be looking at the links between Zionist ideology and popular culture as well as its links to the visual, literary and performing arts,” said Elie Rekhess, Northwestern’s Visiting Crown Chair in Middle East Studies and founder of The Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel-Aviv University.

Among the questions the American and Israeli conference speakers will address are:

  • What were the cultural contents of post-1948 Zionist ideology?
  • How did the newly-established state of Israel use the legacy and perceived lessons of the Jewish past to promote a distinctive Israeli national consciousness?
  • Has the more recent “melting pot” ideology in Israel produced a cohesive cultural environment or shaped a cultural mosaic that preserves -- or disrupts -- distinct ethnic orientations?
  • What was the impact of the Arab-Israeli conflict on Israeli Jewish and Arab artists, authors, producers and performers? How has the image of the “other” – be it Israeli, Arab or Palestinian – changed?

The event -- the Inaugural Israel Studies Conference -- is co-sponsored by Northwestern’s Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, The Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies, the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies, the department of history, the Center for Global Culture and Communication and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, and The Israel Institute in Washington, D.C.  

For more information and a conference agenda, email jewish-studies@northwestern.edu, visit The Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies or call (847) 491-2612.

Topics: University