AU Press Releases

Noted historian to present unique, Civil War story during Alfred University’s annual Lefkowitz Lecture

Professor Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, will deliver the annual Leonard and Saradona Lefkowitz Lecture in Jewish Studies at Alfred University on Monday, Oct. 22, at 5:15 p.m. in Nevins Theater, Powell Campus Center. The lecture is free and open to the public; a reception and book-signing will follow.

“When General Grant Expelled the Jews” is the title of Sarna’s lecture as well as his newest book, published by Random House (2012).  Janet Maslin’s review in The New York Times describes the book as “provocative,providing a “startling American story that will surely stimulate conversation.” 

The Alfred University Lefkowitz Lecture in Jewish Studies aims to do just this: develop awareness and provoke discussion and learning about Jewish cultural and historical experiences. The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is being marked by publications, lectures, and exhibits across the United States. Sarna’s lecture and book shed light on a little known event in American Civil War history, while delving into questions about what it meant and means to be an American Jew.

Sarna is uniquely qualified to pursue this question as the chief historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as well as the author of the critically acclaimed  “American Judaism: A History” (Yale University Press, 2004) and editor of “Jews and the Civil War: A Reader” (New York University Press: 2010).

A regular contributor to “On Faith,” The Washington Post’s online forum on religion and politics, Sarna directs the Gralla Program for Religion Journalists at Brandeis University as well as the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership.  A sought after commentator on American Jewish life, Sarna received the 2011 American Academy of Religion Martin Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.

Recognized for his outstanding work as an educator, Sarna’s scholarship and giftedness as a teacher have engaged audiences around the world, not only through his many and diverse publications, but through documentary films and radio programs. Forward newspaper named him one of America’s most influential American Jews in 2004.

Sarna’s lecture is the third annual Alfred University Lefkowitz Lecture in Jewish Studies, which brings to campus renowned scholars to speak on topics that will capture the interests of students and the broader Southern Tier community.  Dr. Leonard (AU ’57) and Mrs. Saradona Lefkowitz endowed this lectureship within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to help cultivate knowledge and understanding about Jewish culture and history. Dr. Mary McGee, dean of the College, notes that “Dr. and Mrs. Lefkowitz have had a lifelong devotion to Jewish heritage, culture and study, and this annual lectureship allows the Lefkowitzes to share their passion with Alfred University on an ongoing and long-term basis. We are especially fortunate to have Dr. Sarna for this distinguished lecture, as he is in particular demand during the Civil War sesquicentennial due to his expertise and his new book.”