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Moments of Enlightenment: German Jewish Interactions

April 13, 2019 - April 15, 2019



One way to encounter misrepresentations and stereotypes—and to understand its meaning—is to study history and culture. This was one of the scholarly goals of the late Jonathan M. Hess, who led the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies for its first 10 years, and later served as department chair of the department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures.


The Center is co-organizing, in collaboration with the department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, a symposium honoring Hess and his work. The symposium will capture the breadth and depth of his scholarship and teaching under the title: Moments of Enlightenment: German Jewish Interactions from the 18th Century to the Present and it will take place in Chapel Hill, April 13-15, 2019. This three day conference brings together colleagues and collaborators, as well as former students, of Jonathan Hess.

Saturday night, the conference opens with a keynote address by Martha Helfer, of Rutgers University, titled: Maurice Sendak’s Dear Mili: A Contrapuntal Elegy. In 1983 a “new” fairy tale by Wilhelm Grimm surfaced, and a media blitz ensued. Published in 1988 in English translation the book was an instant bestseller, in large part due to its famous illustrator, Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are.  Yet Sendak does not merely provide pretty pictures for Grimm’s tale. In his illustrations for Dear Mili, Sendak invokes images of the Holocaust and sets up a tacit dialogue with the German Romantic tradition. Martha Helfer is Professor of German and Acting Chair of the Department of German, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures at Rutgers University. Her publications include The Retreat of Representation and The Word Unheard: Legacies of Anti-Semitism in German Culture. She is co-founder of the German Jewish Studies Workshop and co-editor of Nexus: Essays in German Jewish Culture.

The next day is a full day of talks and roundtable discussions, which continue Monday morning. Nearly 50 colleagues and former students are scheduled to participate in the conference.

This conference is free and open to the public, no tickets or registration required.


Organized by: Carolina Center for Jewish Studies and the UNC Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

Co-sponsored by:

UNC-CH: Eli N. Evans Distinguished Lecture in Jewish Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Guy B. Johnson Professorship Fund, Department of English and Comparative Literature, John H. and Anna W. Hanes Professorship Fund, Department of Religious Studies, Department of History, and Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies.
Duke University: Germanic Languages and Literature, Center for Jewish Studies.

Learn more:

Keynote Schedule Venues About Jonathan


April 13, 2019
April 15, 2019
Event Category:


carolina center for jewish studies
View Organizer Website