Chrissy Walsh's picture
May 10, 2020 to May 11, 2020
Pennsylvania, United States
Subject Fields: 
Ancient History, Archival Science, Digital Humanities, Jewish History / Studies, Library and Information Science


This 20th year of the Manfred R. Lehmann Memorial Master Workshop in the History of the Jewish Book is dedicated to the Lehmann Family. Their prescience in launching and sponsoring this project has had widespread impact, both inside and outside the academy. By way of acknowledging the Lehmann Workshop’s pioneering role over the past two decades, this culminating workshop will devote the first day to sessions that explore a confluence of developments in the study of the Jewish book, and the second day to machine-based sessions that will expose participants to new horizons in this field, facilitated by the technological turn. To accommodate this format, the 2020 Workshop will be facilitated by three Master Teachers:

- Professor David Stern, Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University & Lehmann Workshop Founding Director

- Professor Moshe Koppel, Dept. of Computer Science, Bar Ilan University

- Michelle Chesner, Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies, Columbia University

Monday’s fifth Workshop session will be followed by a reception to celebrate members of the Lehmann family who will be in attendance. The Workshop events will conclude with a panel discussion on “The History of the Jewish Book: Past, Present and Future.”


Through the examination of texts and images, Professor David Stern will lead participants in an exploration of three case studies that illuminate a cluster of interrelated questions: What difference does the material shape of the book make for the way a text is read and received? How does the materiality of the book change the meaning of the text? What are the added benefits to considering materiality when studying a text? Session 1, “Moments of transition in the History of the Hebrew Bible,” will focus on two seminal moments in the history of the biblical artifact: the transition from the ḥomash (the single-book scroll) to the monumental Sefer Torah containing the entire Pentateuch, and the transition from the scroll to the codex in the 9th-10th centuries. Session 2, “The Talmud’s Glossed Page Format: Origins, Applications, Ramifications,” will trace the history of the Talmud’s glossed page format, i.e., zurat ha-daf, and examine its adapted application in Hebrew Bibles with commentaries, and in Talmudic texts – both manuscript and print. Attention will be paid to the impact of this page layout on approaches to Talmud study, and specifically, to the rise of pilpul. Through a focus on the great illustrated Ashkenazi mahzorim of the thirteenth century, Session 3, “The Prayerbook’s Cultural Meanings: Illustrated Ashkenazi Mahzorim,” will explore the functions of decoration and illustration, and reflect on Jewish liturgy’s paradoxical status as both a vehicle for worshipping God and a site for the expression of communal identity.


In Session 4, “Machine Learning: Frontiers in Studying the History of the Jewish Book,” Professor Moshe Koppel will expose participants to the tools of the DICTA search engine, which shortcut many of the tasks undertaken by researchers who work with traditional Jewish sources. Along with such timesaving features as the identification of citations in TaNaKh, Mishna and Talmud, and the comparison of variant printed editions, DICTA’s speaker recognition tools facilitate the identification of multiple authorial hands within a single work. This feature, among others, opens new horizons in the study of the Jewish book – making it possible to map out sequential strata in the composition of a Hebrew book, to identify the regional origins of contributing authors or editors and even to detect forgeries. In demonstrating the applications of these tools, Professor Koppel will recapitulate the process by which the Hasidic writings in the Kherson Archive were proven to be fraudulent.

In Session 5, “Journeys of the Jewish Book and its People: Footprints in Penn Libraries,” Michelle Chesner will introduce Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place – and guide Workshop participants in contributing to this database. By collecting scattered information from printed books, including title pages, inscriptions, owner’s signatures, censors’ marks, estate inventories, auction catalogs, and correspondence, Footprints’ open data digital platform makes it possible to track the chronological and geographic journeys of individual copies of books. As never before, this linkage of technologies and library science enables researchers to reconstruct networks of production, readership, collection and transmission. In this experiential session, participants, working in groups, will undertake guided research and actually contribute to the Footprints project of tracing the movement of individual book copies, from their printing to the present day. The paratextual markings to be discerned, and uploaded, occur in individual Jewish books that had been confiscated by the Nazis, recently acquired by the Penn Libraries.

A Reception to celebrate the 20-year run of the Workshop, and the Lehmann Family in particular, will be held on May 11th, as well as a concluding panel discussion on “The History of the Jewish Book: Past, Present and Future.” Panelists who will initiate reflections on this topic are: Professor Talya Fishman, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania; Professor David Stern, and Professor Joshua Teplitsky, Department of History, Stony Brook University. The panel discussion will conclude at 5 PM.

For information on how to apply and register: https://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jwst/events/2020/lehmann-workshop

Registration must be received by April 13, 2020.

Presented by the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania Library and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. This Workshop has been made possible by a generous contribution from the Manfred and Anne Lehmann Foundation.

Contact Info: 

Lehmann Workshop

c/o Jewish Studies Program

711 Williams Hall; 255 S. 36th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Tel: (215) 898-6654

Contact Email: