Scholar in Residence: Autumn 5784

Professor Noam Pianko

Noam Pianko is the Samuel N. Stroum Chair of Jewish Studies and Professor in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Pianko’s research and teaching interests include modern Jewish history, Zionism, and American Judaism. His book “Zionism and the Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz Kaplan, Kohn” (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010) uncovers the thought of three key interwar Jewish intellectuals who defined Zionism’s central mission as challenging the model of a sovereign nation-state.

More recently, Pianko published, “Jewish Peoplehood: An American Innovation” (Rutgers University Press, 2015), which won the American Jewish Historical Society’s Saul Viener Book prize. The book traces the history of an idea that is deceptively straightforward and enduring. Pianko lectures widely on topics related to Judaism, Zionism, and Technology. He has been awarded a Mellon Foundation Fellowship, a UW Technology Teaching Fellowship, a Royalty Research Award, and a Wexner Graduate Fellowship. He lives in Seattle with his partner, Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum, and their three children.


Scholar in Residence Weekend Schedule

Friday, October 20th

6 PM | Klei Kodesh & Dinner 

8 PM* | A Brief History of “Am Yisrael”

A central component of modern Jewish identity, “Am” plays a relatively smaller and different role in Jewish sources and practice. We will explore historical paradigms of Jewish collectivity as a part of a broader set of theological, political, and cultural aspects of Jewish life.

If you missed the deadline to RSVP for dinner, please email Susannah

Saturday, October 21st

9:30 AM | Shabbat Morning Services followed by Kiddush Lunch

1 PM* | Zionism and the Invention of Jewish “Peoplehood”

Zionism played a crucial role in shaping the modern definition of Jewish collectivity from the central role of Am in Herzl’s The Jewish State to Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s popularization of the concept of “peoplehood” in the United States. Like so many aspects of modern Zionism, the movement integrated traditional Jewish concepts while radically changing their meanings to fit into the paradigms of nationalism. We will discuss how today’s concepts of peoplehood reflect the centrality of Zionism and its uneasy relationship with diaspora Jewish life.

Saturday, October 21st

6 PM | Israel Politics, Post-ethnicity and the Future of “Am Yisrael”

Wine and cheese (with vegan options) will be served during this talk. 

A commitment to Jewish notions of collectivity today faces a new set of challenges from progressive political movements and post-ethnic cultural trends. Where does Jewish collectivity fit against the backdrop of racial justice efforts to address structural inequalities? What role does the state of Israel play in defining inclusion in the Jewish people? Looking ahead, the challenges to a robust conception of peoplehood are significant. Should “am” remain a strategic priority for American Jewish leaders? If so, how might it be redefined to meet the realities of Jewish life looking toward the middle of the 21st century? 

*Time is approximate