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More than 100 students and colleague attended the inaugural LJSA conference 'Jews at Home: From Creation to Corona'

More than 100 colleagues, students and friends attended the first annual Leiden Jewish Studies Association conference 'Jews at Home: From Creation to Corona' in December 2023. The two-day event began with a keynote panel featuring Prof. Elisheva Baumgarten, a scholar with vast expertise in Jewish and Christian relations and 'home life' throughout early modern Europe, who joined the event virtually from Jerusalem.

Baumgarten spoke about the concept of 'Home as Haven' during different moments of crisis throughout Jewish history paying attention to the past as well as the present. Professor Baumgarten was joined by a fascinating array of Leiden-based scholars who considered 'home as haven' from their respective vantage points. Prof. dr. Jurgen Zangenberg spoke from his expertise in the Second Temple Period and the time after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Dr. Lital Abazon considered the topic of 'home' in Amos Oz’s modern Hebrew work. And Dr. Rebekka Grossmann addressed this theme using her skills in visual and migration histories. The panelists spoke as individuals and in conversation with one another as well as fielding questions from the large audience. After the keynote panel, Rector Hester Bijl arrived to deliver some welcoming remarks and hand out the inaugural 'Best Thesis in Jewish Studies' awards to BA and MA students from Leiden who were nominate for this honor.

The next day, the conference continued with five panels featuring 11 Leiden based scholars of Jewish Studies and advanced BA and MA students who engage the Jewish experience in their research. Speakers included: Dr. Jonathan Stökl, Prof. dr. Caroline Waerzeggers, Dr. Margarenta Folmer, Prof. dr. Jurgen Zangenberg, Prof. dr. Ab de Jong, Dr. Lital Abazon, Dr. Noa Schonmann, Dr. Rebekka Grossmann, Dr. Kate Brackney and Prof. dr. Sarah Cramsey. The conference was enriched by session chairs like Dr. Naomi Truan and Prof. dr. Katarzyna Cwiertka and the lively conversations which followed each panel and extended over lunch, coffee and a celebratory dinner. The last event of the conference was a public lecture in Dutch featuring Dr. Albertina Oegema.

The talent assembled and displayed at the event is unique in so far as it is based primarily at Leiden. Leiden, where students can study Aramaic inscriptions, archeological 'homes' that are more than two millenia old, early representations of the Holocaust and international relations in the Middle East, is an excellent place to learn more about the complexities, continuities and contingencies within the Jewish experiences across the world and throughout historical time. This successful event raised the profile of the Leiden Jewish Studies Association on campus, brought old and new colleagues together in conversation and served as a learning laboratory for Leiden students across disciplines.

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