In 2020, the Stuart and Barbara Padnos Foundation provided a gift to the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies to establish the Padnos Engagement on Jewish Learning fund. The initiative facilitates annual public educational activities in Jewish Studies throughout the State of Michigan, with a focus on the western part of the state.

This year’s Padnos Public Engagement on Jewish Learning Event, to take place on November 1 at 7 pm, will feature Dr. Julian Levinson, Professor of English and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. Levinson will present a lecture entitled “'Remnants of a Mighty Nation': Jews Through the Eyes of American Christians” at the Loosemore Auditorium at the Richard M. Devos Center on Grand Valley State University's Campus. The event will also be virtually simulcast via Zoom. Immediately following the lecture, at approximately 8:30, there will be a light reception in the adjacent Lubbers Exhibition Hall.

Dr. Levinson prefaces his discussion:

What is it like to belong to a religious minority? For Jews in the United States, there have been countless challenges as well as unexpected benefits from living among a Christian majority. While some individual Christians have been highly critical of Jews for their beliefs and practices, others have been deeply respectful of Jews for being the original “chosen people,” for preserving the Hebrew language, and for maintaining traditions going back to the Bible. This talk will focus on the ways Jews were perceived in nineteenth-century America, when the origins of present-day Christian-Jewish relations were established. It will trace the formation of views that are still prevalent today, including the evangelical fascination with Israel. It will also consider how Jews have shaped their own identities in relation to the broader Christian environment.

Julian Levinson has taught at the University of Michigan since 2000, and he holds the Samuel Shetzer Chair in American Jewish studies. He offers a range of classes, including “American Jewish Literature,” “Jewish Storytelling,” “The Bible as Literature,” and “Literature of the Holocaust.” He is the author of Exiles on Main Street: Jewish American Writers and American Literature Culture (winner of a 2008 National Jewish Book Award), as well as articles and book chapters about modern Jewish culture and self-identity. He has also translated Flames from the Earth, a novel about the Lodz Ghetto written in Yiddish by survivor-novelist Isaiah Spiegel.