My Memorial Day Weekend began early with a trip to the Milwaukee Public Museum to hear Professor Emanuel Tov of Hebrew University lecture on “The Scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” After decades of analysis, the Dead Sea Scrolls, originally discovered in 1947, are still a source of public fascination and scholarly controversy.
Among the biggest debates: who wrote the scrolls? Were they written by members of the nearby Qumran community, or were they brought to Qumran from Jerusalem? In his May 27 lecture, Tov gave reasons why he believes “two-thirds of the scrolls were brought to Qumran from outside.” In this he agrees with University of Chicago Professor Norman Golb (head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the Oriental Institute), the most-forceful advocate of “the Jerusalem hypothesis.”
Before heading north, I listened to a newly-released course from The Teaching Company, in which Professor Gary Rendsburg (Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers) patiently guides us from “The Discoveries and Their Significance” (lecture one) through “Scroll Fragments and a New View of Judaism” (lecture 24).
“One would think that one’s religious affiliation would not matter in scholarship—that scholars seek objective truth without theological or denominational bias,” Professor Rendsburg says. “Unfortunately, that is not the case.” The Christian scholars “understood the Qumran community as an early celibate monastery… Jewish scholars paid more attention to the Halakhic material.”
Far from arcane, study of the scrolls provides great insight into the Roman conquest of Israel during the volatile period encompassing the destruction of the Second Temple, the birth of Christianity, and the rise of Rabbinic Judaism. To order The Teaching Company’s course (available in either CD or DVD format), visit: www.teach12.com. You can also download many of Professor Golb’s papers (for free) at: https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/projects/scr/
Special Screenings in the Loop
Cinema/Chicago, in collaboration with the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest, will show the 2004 film Avanim as part of this year’s International Summer Festival. Avanim (Stones) is a closely-observed, first-person film about “Michale.” Michale’s life reaches a crisis point when her father is drawn into plans to fund the expansion of a local yeshiva. The Rabbi is an old family friend, but Michale has her doubts about his new Gabai, a man intent on pulling the congregation in an increasingly Orthodox direction. Their acrimonious relationship leads to tragedy, exposing important rifts in contemporary Israeli life.
Israeli film lovers will spot many familiar faces in Avanim including Asi Levy (Aviva My Love), Shaul Mizrachi (Ushpizin), and Uri Gavriel (The Syrian Bride and The Band’s Visit). Screenings at the Chicago Cultural Center (Michigan and Randolph) are scheduled for Weds July 28 at 6:30 PM and Sat July 31 at 2 PM. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit: www.cinemachicago.org.
Meanwhile, the Gene Siskel Film Center (on State Street) has screenings of The Girl on the Train scheduled from July 11 through July 14. Set in Paris, this 2009 film is about a well-known Jewish attorney who becomes involved with the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. Most of the French cast members will be new to American audiences, but Catherine Deneuve plays the victim’s mother (once romantically-linked to the attorney) and Ronit Elkabetz plays his Israeli daughter-in-law. To purchase tickets, visit: www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
The highlight of this year’s Printers Row Lit Fest was a visit from Adam Langer, here to promote The Thieves of Manhattan, a new novel that takes aim at the New York publishing industry. Fresh off his recent memoir My Father’s Bonus March, Langer explores the line between fact and fiction in Thieves: “One of the things I found very irritating when I was writing Bonus March,” he told me, “was how all this fakery [from false memoirs like James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces to so called “reality shows” on TV] has changed what readers expect from a true memoir.”
“The truth is so murky and hard to get a hold of and so slippery that unfortunately it doesn’t make for great jacket copy. So there’s pressure to have definite answers—pressure from your publicity people and from the people interviewing you—when the truth of what I learned from Bonus March was all about uncertainty.”
Thieves is a great read, engrossing, quick, and funny, but look underneath the mayhem and you’ll find a thoughtful meditation by a hometown hero. Bravo!
Jan Lisa Huttner (Tziviah Bat Yisroel v’ Hudah) is the managing editor of Films for Two: The Online Guide for Busy Couples (www.films42.com). Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to: tzivi (at) msn (dot) com