An expert on American Judaism traveled from Boston to New Orleans as a part of Loyola’s free public fall Jewish studies lecture.
On Wednesday, Oct. 30, Loyola hosted John Sarna, the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun professor of American Jewish History from Brandeis University. In his lecture, “American Jewish History, Backwards and Forwards,” Sarna discussed the identity of Jewish communities, the history of how they came to America, and how Judaism is practiced and perceived in the U.S today.
“I know some people at the school including Rabbi Loewy. Not many students know the history of Jews in America and I was excited to give the lecture,” Sarna said.
Sara Clark, events coordinator for the department of religious studies, said that Sarna was brought to Loyola with funds leftover from various donors.
“To hear about the unique shades of American Judaism from the person that the contemporary world feels is the top authority on the subject was not to be missed,” Clark said.
The religious studies department speaker selection committee, including department chairman Kenneth Keulman, professor Robert Gnuse, and instructor Rabbi Robert Loewy, collaborated to bring Sarna to Loyola.
“Dr. Sarna is an amazing and outstanding scholar,” Loewy said. “I’ve heard him speak before and he’s an engaging speaker with a unique style.”
The lecture began with introductions from Keulman, Loewy, Maria Calzada, dean of the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences, Morton Katz, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Carol Wise, president of the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana, and the Rev. James Carter, president Emeritus of Loyola.
As well as being a professor in Boston, Sarna is also the chair of the Horstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program of Brandeis University and the chief historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, and is also recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life.
The department of religious studies hoped to expose students and the surrounding community to Jewish-American history. Loewy hopes the lecture affected Loyola students in a positive way.
“Loyola students and the community now have the ability to understand American Jewish History, and to see New Orleans in that context, keeping Jewish studies alive in Loyola,” Loewy said.
The event was free and open to the public in Nunemaker Auditorium.
The lecture was sponsored by the Centennial Celebration of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, and with gifts from the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana, Lester and Beverly Wainer, the Luther and Zita Templeman Foundation, the Goldring Family Foundation and the Woldenberg Foundation.
Jesica DeBold can be reached at [email protected]
Shamara King contributed to this story.