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Series delves into Jewish mysticism


Visiting professor Daniel Horwitz discussed the dominant symbol in Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, or 10 Sephirot, at his lecture Thursday. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

The lecture series “Kabbalah & Jewish Mysticism” concluded Thursday afternoon with a lecture by visiting professor Daniel Horwitz at the Honors College Commons.

Kabbalah is an esoteric school of thought developed in Jewish theological circles. Originating from ancient Jewish mysticism, it began around the 12th or 13th century, as described in the lectures. The lectures were also intended to informally introduce a class that Horwitz will teach for the Jewish studies minor this spring.

“Kabbalah is one part of the broader field of Jewish mysticism,” Horwitz said. “There are many aspects to Jewish studies, such as Jewish history, Jewish law, Jewish prayer, Jewish theology, Jewish folklore and others. Jewish mysticism intersects with all of the above.”

The four lectures on Kabbalah were funded by the Martha Gano Houstoun grant, along with 11 other donors. The funding will also support the Jewish studies minor at the University.

“The people who provided the grant liked the idea behind the lectures,” said Jewish studies faculty member and professor Irving N. Rothman. “Since Dr. Horwitz is a scholar of ancient Hebrew texts, he can read them fluently and is able to interpret them, which brings a depth and perception important to this field.”

Although some of the faculty and resources for Jewish studies stem from the English Department, they are largely from the Department of Modern and Classical Languages of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Spearheaded by associate professor Marie-Theresa Hernández, the faculty integral to Jewish studies hail from departments across the University.

“Dean (John) Roberts has been a supporter of (Jewish studies), and Marie-Theresa Hernández brought together faculty to start the program three years ago,” said Jewish studies professor Bernice Heilbrunn. “Two years ago, we offered our first Jewish studies classes. This year, we are continuing and expanding the minor.”

The minor is open to all students, regardless of major, classification or religious background.

“At the four lectures, I was excited to see the diversity of people attending,” Heilbrunn said. “There were women with head coverings; there were people coming from Christian studies. Even people not affiliated with UH attended.”

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