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Religious studies department hosts Jewish spirituality lecture

Loyola press release - January 30, 2012

Loyola University New Orleans College of Humanities and Natural Sciences’ Jewish Lecture Series presents leading scholar Yael Hirsch, Ph.D., in a lecture, “The Last Marranos: Examining 20th Century Jewish Converts to Christianity in Light of the Holocaust,” on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in Nunemaker Auditorium. A reception preceding the lecture will begin at 6:15 p.m.

Hirsch, a visiting professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, will discuss her current research that focuses on the shifting identities of European Jews who converted to Christianity. Her work examines the lives and writings of 30 Jewish intellectuals who either converted or were pressured to convert to Christianity, as well as 30 children who were born Jewish but had to hide and convert to Christianity in order to survive during World War II. Despite exhibiting a deep Christian faith, Hirsch argues that all of these converts still considered themselves Jews after their baptism. She also questions why they were unable to leave their Jewish identities behind and investigates possible reasons they felt Jewish even after they stopped observing Judaism.

In order to find new approaches to this very old issue, Hirsch uses interdisciplinary approaches that combine history, sociology, psychology and literary critique to explore the bond remaining between the Christian converts and their Jewish identity after baptism.

Hirsch earned a degree in comparative literature from Sorbonne University and later received her doctorate in political theory from the Paris Institute of Political Studies. Her research includes religious conversion, relations between Jews and Christians and the relationship between literature and politics. Her book on Jewish converts to Christianity will be published in French later this year.

This lecture series is organized by Loyola’s Department of Religious Studies and is sponsored by Susan and Bill Hess, Julian Feibelman Jr. and the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana.

For more information, contact Sara Clark at 504-865-3943 or srclark@loyno.edu.