John Efron at Centre for Jewish Studies, UC Berkeley @ Townsend Center for the Humanities, Stephens Hall, #2340 Geballe Room
Dec 2 @ 6:00 pm

Efron_GermanJewry_F15German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic
John M. Efron
Book Presentation: German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic
6 pm Reception, 6:30 Lecture
Koret Professor of Jewish History at UC Berkeley, John Efron will read from his new book, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic in conversation with Steven Zipperstein, the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University. The book explores the special place accorded to medieval Sephardic Jewry in modern German-Jewish culture, with a special focus on highly romanticized perceptions of Sephardic aesthetics.

Stimulating and provocative, this book demonstrates how the goal of this aesthetic self-refashioning was not assimilation but rather the creation of a new form of German-Jewish identity inspired by Sephardic beauty.

John M. Efron is the Koret Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Medicine and the German Jews: A History and Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de-Siècle Europe and the coauthor of The Jews: A History.

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Andrew Robinson @ Christ Church College @ Blue Boar Lecture Theatre
Dec 3 @ 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Andrew Robinson @ Christ Church College @ Blue Boar Lecture Theatre | Oxford | United Kingdom

Albert Einstein’s universal appeal is only partially explained by his brilliant work in physics, as Andrew Robinson demonstrates in this authoritative, accessible, and richly illustrated biography. The main narrative is enriched by twelve essays by well-known scientists, scholars, and artists, including three Nobel Laureates. The book presents clearly the beautiful simplicity at the heart of Einstein’s greatest discoveries, and explains how his ideas have continued to influence scientific developments such as lasers, the theory of the big bang, and “theories of everything.” Einstein’s life and activities outside of science are also considered, including his encounters with famous contemporaries such as Chaplin, Roosevelt, and Tagore, his love of music, and his troubled family life. The book recognizes that Einstein’s striking originality was expressed in many ways, from his political and humanitarian campaigns against nuclear weapons, anti-Semitism, McCarthyism, and social injustices, to his unconventional personal appearance.

Published in association with the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the book draws on this exceptional resource of Einstein’s private papers and personal photographs.

This new edition, published to recognize the centenary of the publication of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, includes an important new afterword by Diana Kormos Buchwald, the director of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology.

The contributors are Philip Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, I. Bernard Cohen, Freeman Dyson, Philip Glass, Stephen Hawking, Max Jammer, Diana Kormos Buchwald, João Magueijo, Joseph Rotblat, Robert Schulmann, and Steven Weinberg.

Andrew Robinson is the author of more than two dozen books, including The Story of Measurement, Genius: A Very Short Introduction, and biographies of Jean-François Champollion (Cracking the Egyptian Code), Michael Ventris (The Man Who Deciphered Linear B), and Thomas Young (The Last Man Who Knew Everything). He writes for many newspapers and magazines and is a former literary editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement.The Albert Einstein Archives: According to the terms of Albert Einstein’s will, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is the last depository of his personal papers and holds the copyright to his literary estate. Today this unique collection forms the Albert Einstein Archives, the world’s foremost such resource. Its goal is to preserve, restore, and expand its holdings, enhance accessibility to the material, administer Einstein’s literary estate, and increase public awareness of the scientific achievements, political activities, and moral and humane values of Albert Einstein.

Sheila Fitzpatrick at UC Berkeley @ Dwinelle Hall
Dec 3 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

On Stalin's Team jacketOn Stalin’s Team
The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics
Sheila Fitzpatrick

Book Talk

Stalin was the unchallenged dictator of the Soviet Union for so long that most historians have dismissed the officials surrounding him as mere yes-men and political window dressing. On Stalin’s Team overturns this view, revealing that behind Stalin was a group of loyal men who formed a remarkably effective team with him from the late 1920s until his death in 1953.

Drawing on extensive original research, Sheila Fitzpatrick provides the first in-depth account of this inner circle and their families, vividly describing how these dedicated comrades-in-arms not only worked closely with Stalin, whom they both feared and admired, but also constituted his social circle. Readers meet the wily security chief Beria, whom the rest of the team quickly had executed following Stalin’s death; Stalin’s number-two man, Molotov, who continued on the team even after his wife was arrested and exiled; the charismatic Ordzhonikidze, who ran the country’s industry with entrepreneurial flair; Andreev, who traveled to provincial purges while listening to Beethoven on a portable gramophone; and Khrushchev, who finally disbanded the team four years after Stalin’s death. Among the book’s surprising findings are that Stalin almost always worked with the team on important issues and that after his death the team managed a brilliant transition to a reforming collective leadership.

Taking readers from the cataclysms of the Great Purges and World War II to the paranoia of Stalin’s final years, On Stalin’s Team paints an entirely new picture of Stalin within his milieu—one that transforms our understanding of how the Soviet Union was ruled during much of its existence.

Sheila Fitzpatrick is professor of history at the University of Sydney, professor emerita at the University of Chicago, and the author of many books on the Soviet Union, including The Russian Revolution, Everyday Stalinism, Tear Off the Masks! (Princeton), and a memoir of Moscow in the 1960s, A Spy in the Archives.

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Jorgensen @ Politics and Prose @ Politics and Prose
Mar 5 @ 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Strange GlowMore than ever before, radiation is a part of our modern daily lives. We own radiation-emitting phones, regularly get diagnostic x-rays, such as mammograms, and submit to full-body security scans at airports. We worry and debate about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the safety of nuclear power plants. But how much do we really know about radiation? And what are its actual dangers? An accessible blend of narrative history and science, Strange Glow describes mankind’s extraordinary, thorny relationship with radiation, including the hard-won lessons of how radiation helps and harms our health. Timothy Jorgensen explores how our knowledge of and experiences with radiation in the last century can lead us to smarter personal decisions about radiation exposures today.

Jorgensen introduces key figures in the story of radiation—from Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of x-rays, and pioneering radioactivity researchers Marie and Pierre Curie, to Thomas Edison and the victims of the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Tracing the most important events in the evolution of radiation, Jorgensen explains exactly what radiation is, how it produces certain health consequences, and how we can protect ourselves from harm. He also considers a range of practical scenarios such as the risks of radon in our basements, radiation levels in the fish we eat, questions about cell-phone use, and radiation’s link to cancer. Jorgensen empowers us to make informed choices while offering a clearer understanding of broader societal issues.

Investigating radiation’s benefits and risks, Strange Glow takes a remarkable look at how, for better or worse, radiation has transformed our society.

Timothy J. Jorgensen is associate professor of radiation medicine and director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program at Georgetown University. He lives with his family in Rockville, Maryland.