Sunday, October 30, 2005

Protocols Revisited...Mind Recharged...Horizens Widened

As I mentioned in my previous posting, I'm participating in an international conference marking the centennial of the publication of the 'Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.' The conference is bein convened by the Center for Millenial Studies at Boston University and the Center for Judaic Studies at BU.

The idea for the conference was my friend's, Professor Richard Landes, who founded the Center for Millenial Studies. Richard is an extraordinarily gifted, creative and insightful scholar whose range of learning always leaves me stunned. One of the World's leading Jewish historians recently told me that Richard's scholarly corpus will set the agenda and serve as a focal point for medieval studies for the next twenty years. The great thing is that he shares his ideas and I find that I learn more and think more widely after a few days in his company than I do all year long. Talk about interdisciplinary. A case in point was his opening paper about the chronicles, in which he ranged from Plato to Yeats and was able in 30 minutes to distill the problems of language, rhetoric and politics that undergird the protocols and developed a fetching theory as to why they still exert their hold on Muslims, and on the political Right and Left.

A central point, which has been somewhat controversial but whose historical centrality I have come to appreciate is the importance of apocalyptic and millenial expectation as a motive force. It is true that this idea is much debated. However, one should bear in mind that a century ago scholars thought that Jewish mysticism was so much rubbish.

In general, the conference has brought together a very high level, creative group of scholars from all over the world. It's so refreshing to get to think out of the box, on subjects with which I don't often deal. Israel has a long way to go when it comes to inter-disciplinary work and cross-fertilization.

All in all, a good reason for leaving Israel for a week.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

yes -- i have also found richard intellectually remarkable. and he's a great guy, too!

if i may ask, who was that leading jewish historian?
we can, perhaps, even see richard's input in the area of jewish medieval history. witness the current discussion of millenialism in jewish france and germany by grossman, chazan, yuval, kanarfogel, etc...

D.C. said...

I'm looking forward to your Shabbos visit to Teaneck. What will you be speaking about?

Judith said...

I met professor Landes at the Pajama Media launch, in connection with his "Second Draft" project. Very nice guy and fun to talk to.