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

The Padnos family have been business and community leaders in Michigan for over a century. In 1988, the late Stuart Padnos created the Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation Visiting Professorship in Judaic Studies in commemoration of his parents, Helen and Louis Padnos, beginning a longstanding and productive relationship between the Padnos family and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies.

The inaugural Padnos Public Engagement on Jewish Learning Event, to take place on March 10 at 7 pm, will feature Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt University and Gabriele Boccaccini of the University of Michigan in discussion on “The Historical Jesus in His Jewish Context,” with a response by Jeremiah Cataldo of Grand Valley State University. The event, to be broadcast on Zoom, will present the latest research on the historical Jesus and explore its implications for contemporary Judaic Studies.

The scholars will examine the common history shared between Jews and Christians, and how this historical knowledge is necessary for a faithful biblical interpretation. “I am interested in how historical research and literary critical analysis can help people who hold the text sacred to correct all-too-common anti-Jewish preaching and teaching,” stated Levine.

Explaining how he became interested in the topic, Boccaccini added, “I was fascinated with Second Temple Judaism as the formative period of both Christianity and Judaism. I wanted to understand why some Jews, like Jesus and his first followers, despite having so much in common, went in one direction, while others took a different path.”

Levine and Boccaccini both commented that though they’ve been studying Second Temple Judaism for decades, they still find new and exciting things in their research. “Historians ask different questions; archaeologists unearth newt artifacts; theologians and ethicists pose alternative readings, and we biblical scholars — informed by all these riches and more — continue to have new insights. The text is inexhaustible,” said Levine.

Boccaccini added, “For me, the real excitement came when I realized that the real problem was not simply reclaiming the Jewishness of Jesus but understanding what kind a Jew Jesus was, as there were many different ways of being a Jew in the first century, as well as today. And when I realized that the New Testament was not a collection of texts that tells us something about Judaism, but a collection of Jewish texts that testifies to a distinctive variety of ancient Judaism.”

Advance Registration for this event is open now.