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YU News

The Holy Family

On November 20, 2019, Dr. David Shyovitz, Associate Professor in Northwestern University’s History Department, Director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies and author of A Remembrance of His Wonders: Nature and the Supernatural in Medieval Ashkenaz, addressed Straus Center faculty and the Wilf Campus Straus Scholars in a fascinating lecture that examined the family life and the afterlife in medieval Jewish thought.

Tracing sources spanning the Talmud, Saadia Gaon, Moses Taku, Eleazar of Worms, the Zohar, Sefer Hasidim, and contemporaneous Christian sources, Dr. Shyovitz examined differing beliefs on how families would be constituted following the resurrection of the dead. For example, R. Saadia Gaon took the opinion that such questions are not answerable and are best left unresolved, while the Sefer Hasidim contains a detailed description of how families would be reconstituted at the End of Days. As Shyovitz pointed out, this type of dispute highlights the difficulty in making a claim for the Jewish view on any particular issue as there often exists a plethora of perspectives.

Dr. Shyovitz’s current book project, “O Beastly Jew!” Jews, Animals, and Jewish Animals in the Middle Ages, explores the overlapping ways in which Jewish and Christian authors and artists distinguished humans from animals, and Jews from Christians, over the course of the Middle Ages.

Dr. David Shyovitz (far left) speaks to members of the Straus Center