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Inaugural Founders of Israel Lecture Series

Theodor Herzl, Derek Penslar

Theodor Herzl (left), Derek Penslar (right).

This year marks the 15-year anniversary of the Center for Israel Studies at American University, with a yearlong program of special events and performances to mark this milestone. Of particular note, the center celebrates the establishment of the Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies with the Inaugural Lecture Series: The Founders of Israel and Their Relevance Today. Three of the worldwide leading scholars in Israel Studies will speak about the central figures that helped to create the Jewish state. Introduced by Professor Michael Brenner, the inaugural Abensohn Chair at AU, they will discuss their legacy for the State of Israel today. 

The first lecture on Monday, September 9, will feature Theodor Herzl, the spiritual father of the State of Israel. In his lecture, entitled, Charisma and Leadership, Derek Penslar will discuss Herzl’s appeal to the masses and his ability to create a new political movement. Penslar is the Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History at the University of Toronto and the Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies at Oxford University. He has published numerous books on Jewish and Israeli history, among them Israel in History. Penslar is presently writing a biography of Theodor Herzl. This lecture takes place in the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. 

Weizman, Reinharz

On Tuesday, October 8, Anita Shapira will speak on Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. The title of the lecture is Leadership and the Shaping of History. Shapira, Professor Emerita of Tel Aviv University and senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, was the founder and first director of the Itzhak Rabin Center. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in History. She is the author of the much acclaimed book Israel: A History. She is currently writing a biography of David Ben Gurion. This lecture takes place in Mary Graydon Center room 5. 

Weizman, Reinharz

The subject of the final lecture on Tuesday, November 19, will be Chaim Weizmann: Statesman Without a State. When he became Israel’s first president in 1949, Weizmann could already look back to a lifelong career in the service of the Zionist movement, over which he presided for almost three decades. This talk will be presented by Weizmann’s biographer, Jehuda Reinharz. Reinharz is the President of the Mandel Foundation and served for seventeen years as President of Brandeis University, where he currently is the Richard Koret Professor of Modern Jewish History and Director of the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry. Reinharz’s two-volume biography of Chaim Weizmann has won many awards in Israel and the United States. He is presently writing the third and final volume of his Weizmann biography. This lecture will take place in the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. 

All lectures are free and open to the public and take place at 7:30 p.m.. The Penslar and Reinharz lectures will take place in the galleries of the AU Museum at the Katzen Arts Center and the Shapira lecture will take place in Mary Graydon Center Room 5. A reception will follow all lectures. To attend the lectures, please RSVP.