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Unique B’nai Sholom Course Looks at Influential Political Theorist Hannah Arendt

Coined Now-Famous Concept of the “Banality of Evil” Reporting on the Trial of Nazi Leader Adolf Eichmann

            Hannah Arendt: Challenges of Thinking, Acting and Judging in Dark Times,” a special two-part course at B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany, will explore the life of Hannah Arendt, her response to the Adolf Eichmann trial and current challenges with rising right-wing nationalism, the status of truth and the place of politics.


            The course consists of:

  • Thursday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m.: A screening of “Hannah Arendt,” Margarethe von Trotta’s well-received 2012 bio-drama that focuses on Arendt’s response to the Eichmann trial. Using actual footage from the trial and weaving a narrative that spans three countries, von Trotta turns the often-invisible passion for thought into immersive, dramatic cinema.  The New York Times wrote that the film’s climax “matches some of the great courtroom scenes in cinema and provides a stirring reminder that the labor of figuring out the world is necessary, difficult and sometimes genuinely heroic.” 
  • Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 p.m.: Professor Laurie Naranch of Siena College will lead a discussion examining why Arendt still matters today. Naranch will explore the boundaries of political critique, migration and violence, friendships made and broken, fascism and memory.

            Both sessions will be at the synagogue, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, New York. Registration is required.  Cost is $15; for B’nai Sholom members, it is just $10.



            Arendt, who died in 1975, was a political thinker, refugee, German Jew, American and intellectual provocateur whose work has become even more relevant today.  Arendt is most notably remembered for her report on Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem first published in The New Yorker in 1963 and then subsequently in a book in which she responded to the controversy that surrounded her writing.  Coining the term “the banality of evil” to describe the thoughtlessness of Eichmann in his role as a bureaucrat in the genocidal killings was her attempt to make sense of how someone could be responsible for the horror of the Holocaust – not as the embodiment of radical evil, nor as a simple cog in the wheel, but as something else whose actions needed to be understood and condemned.

            Naranch is associate professor of political science and director of the Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Siena College.  Her work is in the area of democratic theory and political philosophy.  Naranch’s most recent publication is “The Narratable Self: Adriana Cavarero and Sojourner Truth” in the journal Hypatia (July 2019).

            For more information or to register, contact the B’nai Sholom office: 518-482-5283 or


            Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region, creating a vibrant Jewish present that links ancient traditions with the promise of the future.  Nearly 130 diverse households from eight counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom.  For information about B’nai Sholom and the benefits of belonging, visit  or contact the B’nai Sholom office at 518-482-5283 or


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