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UAlbany Professor Martha Rozett Offers “Synagogue Scholars” Book Discussion at B’nai Sholom

B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation resumes its popular “Synagogue Scholars” lecture series with a book discussion by University at Albany Professor Martha Rozett of The World to Come by Dara Horn.

 Rozett will lead the conversation during the congregation’s Friday, January 23, Shabbat service. The service and program, open to all who wish to worship and learn, begin at 8 p.m. B’nai Sholom is located at 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, N.Y.    

 In the first few pages of Horn’s tale, Benjamin Ziskind steals a Chagall painting from an art gallery in present-day New York City.  The scene then shifts to the 1920s in Russia, where the young Chagall is teaching art to orphans at the Jewish Boys’ Colony.  Horn was inspired by an actual art theft, but she weaves her tale around the invented Ziskind family (Rosalie and her twin children, Benjamin and Sara) and the Yiddish-speaking artists and writers of the 1920s-1940s, moving back and forth in time from chapter to chapter. The novel was described by one reviewer as “almost romantic, almost tragic, almost comic, almost mystical,” and by another as “a collage of history, mystery, theology, and scripture.”

 Rozett’s own most recent work is When People Wrote Letters: A Family Chronicle (The Troy Book Makers, 2011), a story told through family letters and autobiographies about the travels and careers of her mother and great aunt and about a romance threatened by the differences between New England Episcopalians and New York Jews. A Shakespeare scholar, she authored Constructing a World: Shakespeare’s England and the New Historical Fiction, a look at the way historical novelists challenge our assumptions about the past, and Talking Back to Shakespeare, which examined the way Shakespeare’s plays have been appropriated and transformed. Rozett is a professor of English at UAlbany with an affiliate appointment in Judaic studies. She frequently teaches contemporary historical fiction, including fiction on the history of the Jews, and lectures in the community at Bethlehem Institute for Lifelong Learning and at the Albany Public Library.  Rozett holds a doctorate in English from the University of Michigan.

 Begun in 2004, the “Synagogue Scholars” lecture series spotlights B’nai Sholom congregants who are recognized scholars in their fields. Future lectures include:

 • February 20 – Dr. Joel Bloom, director of academic assessment and survey research at UAlbany, on “What a Jew Believes: Trends and Patterns in the Public Opinion of American Jews”;

• March 20 –Stephen Gottlieb, the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School, on “The U.S. Supreme Court and Jews – Update on Recent Issues”;

• April 17 – Sharona Wachs, Judaic studies librarian and monographic cataloger at UAlbany, on “Dance and Movement in the Bible and in Prayer.”

For more information about the “Synagogue Scholars” series, visit or contact the B’nai Sholom office at or phone 518-482-5283.

Click here for more information about the Adult Education programs at B’nai Sholom

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