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Conference to Examine 100 Years of Zionism


Maria Terrone
Executive Director of Communications
(718) 997-5591

Maria Matteo
News Assistant
(718) 997-5590


FLUSHING, NY, November 1, 2004 -- On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, the Queens College Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) and the Israel Studies Project at the CUNY Graduate Center are convening an international symposium, “Reflections on Zionism: Past, Present, and Future.” The symposium, co-sponsored by the David Berg Foundation, will be held on Sunday, November 21 at 1 pm in the Student Union building on the Queens College campus in Flushing. For directions, visit:

The symposium features distinguished scholars from the United States, Canada and Israel, including David Berger, Paula Hyman, Jacques Kornberg, Ilan Troen, Gideon Shimoni and Mervin Verbit. It culminates with a keynote lecture by Aviezer Ravitzky, professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. According to Benny Kraut, co-chair of the symposium and CJS director, Ravitzky “is going to discuss the achievements, challenges, failures, and possibilities of Zionism as it goes forward into the future. It will be a retrospective prospective.” Tickets for the afternoon symposium are $12 ($5 for matriculating students). The evening lecture is free. For more information, call (718) 997-5730/4530.

“There’s so much negative press on Zionism, so many misrepresentations and distortions,” he continues. “So what we decided to do was to create a conference that will offer a scholarly history of the Zionist movement, but whose sessions are not merely for specialists but accessible and appealing to all.”

Every facet of that history will be explored in the day-long series of lectures and discussions. “The symposium is structured to look at fundamental themes,” explains Kraut. These include the place of Zion in the course of Jewish history; the general currents of 19th century European and world history that ultimately converged in the emergence of the Zionist Movement; and Herzl himself—who this man was in his day and age.

“Additional sessions focus on different forms of Zionist ideologies, competing with each other as to how to define Zionism in the early decades of the 20th century; on Zionist settlement of the land from the turn of the 20th century to 1948 and the state of Israel’s creation; and the relationship of Zionism and the Jewish people from 1948 to the present,” says Kraut.

The conference will mark the fifth international symposium presented by CJS in as many years. Kraut, who also chairs the college’s Jewish Studies Program, one of the largest and finest B.A. Jewish Studies programs in the country, has been the director of CJS since 1998, when he succeeded its founder, Dean Ernest Schwarcz.

The mission of the Center for Jewish Studies is to serve as a Jewish intellectual and cultural resource for the campus and the surrounding community—particularly outside the formal classroom setting. Programs are designed for both academic and public consumption. “It’s a sort of 92nd Street Y with outstanding academics,” says Kraut.

“We are a beehive of programming—somewhere on the order of 30 to 40 programs a year,” he proudly declares. The center also serves as a patron for the Jewish Studies Program. It has a lay board of prominent businessmen and women who work to support both center programs and the college’s academic program. “That developed in a major way with the establishment of a post-doctoral fellowship in Jewish Studies,” Kraut says. Queens College, he notes, is one out of about a dozen colleges in the country, including Yale and Harvard, offering these post-doctoral fellowships.

In memory of its first director, the center also established the Ernest Schwarcz Visiting Professorship in Jewish Philosophy. “We attract people from out of the country who are specialists in Jewish philosophy to teach the courses,” Kraut says. “That’s another way the center helps the academic program.”

Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY) is dedicated to the idea that a first-rate education should be accessible to talented individuals of all backgrounds and financial means. Founded in 1937, the college offers an exceptional liberal arts curriculum, with over 100 undergraduate and graduate programs and a variety of specialized honors opportunities. Located on a beautiful 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. The 2005 edition of The Princeton Review annual college guide, The Best 357 Colleges, has ranked Queens College #6 on its list of America’s top-20 “Best Bargain—Public Colleges.” The rating, which is based on a combination of academics and tuition, puts Queens College ahead of the College of William and Mary (#9) and the University of California-Berkeley (#11).


 Office Information

Deputy Director of News Services
(Position vacant)

(718) 997- 5597

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services
Queens Hall, Room 270B
(718) 997-5593

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