Joseph Benatov holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches Hebrew at all levels. He is originally from Bulgaria and a member of Sofia’s Jewish community. Dr. Benatov is the English translator of the contemporary Bulgarian novel Zift. He has also translated Israeli poetry, prose, and drama. His translations of plays by Hanoch Levin, Martin McDonagh, and Ethan Coen were all staged to wide acclaim in Bulgaria. Dr.Benatov has over 10 years of experience leading travelers across Bulgaria, including UNESCO representatives, 92nd Street Y visitors, JDC board members, and Anti-Defamation League officials. Dr.Benatov lectures regularly on the history of Jewish life in Bulgaria and has published on the fate of Bulgaria’s Jews during the Holocaust. His article on the topic appears in the anthology Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe (University of Nebraska Press).
Yoram Bilu is a professor emeritus of anthropology and psychology at the Hebrew University. His research interests include the anthropology of religion (focusing on saint worship, messianism, and religious healing), culture and mental health, the sanctification of space in Israel, and Moroccan Jewish culture.
Professor Bilu served as the chair of the department of psychology and the head of the Authority for Doctoral Students, both at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and as the president of the Israeli Anthropological Association. He has been a visiting professor at several American Universities. In 2013, he received the Israel Prize (most prestigious award in Israel) in sociology and anthropology. In 2015 he was elected to the Israeli Academy of the Sciences. His publications include many articles in important journals and two books published in English: Without Bounds: The Life and Death of Rabbi Ya’aqov Wazana, Detroit: Wayne State University Press and The Saints’ Impresarios: Dreamers, Healers, and Holy Men in Israel’s Urban Periphery.
Maritza Corrales is a Cuban historian who has dedicated her life’s work to researching the history of Jews in Cuba. Born in 1948, she is a graduate of the University of Havana (1972) and lives in Havana. She has been a consulting scholar to numerous research and academic institutions in Cuba and has published numerous articles on the history of Cuban Jews. She has lectured at universities in Israel, Spain, Mexico and Cuba.
Conor Ellard has guided several prior Jewish Museum trips to Ireland. Steeped in the land’s history, politics and people, Conor has worked with Dr. Maidenbaum for many years, guiding and helping organize many programs to Ireland. Conor is a delight to travel with and, if asked, might agree to sing a ballad or two with his beautiful baritone voice.
Iddo Katz is an archeologist and tour guide licensed by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism. Iddo is a 7th-generation born Israeli who graduated from Bar-Ilan University with degrees in Land of Israel Studies, geography and biology. A former lecturer at the Schools of Tour Guides at Bar Ilan University, Iddo has also lectured widely throughout the United States and Israel and was the area manager on archaeological excavation sites, including a well-known site at Shiloh.
Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Rabbi Amichai is a member of the Global Justice Fellowship of the American Jewish World Service, a founding member of the Jewish Emergent Network, a consultant to the Reboot Network, a member of the URJ Faculty Team and the Advisory Council of ORAM, an LGBT focused organization for refugees, asylum and migration. He was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Israel (2008-2009) and serves on the advisory committee of Faith House in Manhattan. Rabbi Amichai has been hailed as “an iconoclastic mystic” by Time Out New York, a “Judaic Pied Piper” by the Denver Westword, a “maverick spiritual leader” by The Times of Israel and “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world” by the Jewish Week. In 2016 The Forward named him one of the 32 “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in America. Rabbi Amichai hails from 37 generations of Rabbis, many of them in Poland.
Sid Leiman, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and Literature in the Department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and teaches at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. Prior to his arrival at Brooklyn College and Yeshiva University, he taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as well as Oxford and Yale where he served as Professor of Jewish History and Literature, administered graduate and undergraduate programs in Judaic Studies and served as Editor of the Yale Judaica Series of Yale University Press. A prolific and highly published scholar, he has contributed entries to Encyclopaedia Judaica, and Encyclopaedia Miqra’it. Currently, he is the Associate Editor of Tradition, where he contributes a column entitled “From the Pages of Tradition.” In the past Sid has traveled with us to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as well as Cuba.
Evry Mann, M.A. is a percussionist, composer and writer who holds masters degrees in religious studies and in music composition. Founder of the Center for Creative Education — a non-profit cultural center in Stone Ridge, New York — he was an artist in residence with the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico for six years, performing throughout the country. Ev has led over 50 trips to Cuba to study music, dance, and visual art, and authored the section on Music and Nightlife in Havana for the “Time Out” Guidebook. He has also studied traditional African music in Mali and Senegal and worked extensively with the Ballet Folklorico Cutumba of Santiago de Cuba.
Janice Meyerson, M.M. has sung with some of the world’s finest orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, National Symphony, New Orleans Symphony, and the Dallas Symphony. Leonard Bernstein conducted her professional debut and she has sung under Seiji Ozawa, John Eliot Gardiner, Sir Charles Mackerras, Leonard Slatkin, and Lorin Maazel among others. Ms. Meyerson has appeared at Teatro São Carlo, Lisbon, in Schnittke’s Faust Cantata; Carnegie Hall in Verdi’s Requiem; and in Bernstein’s Songfest at Tanglewood, London Proms, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and Moscow’s Gorky Park, all conducted by the composer. Miss Meyerson has also appeared at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, most recently as Mrs. Sedley in Peter Grimes, a role she repeated with the San Diego Opera Montevideo, Uruguay.
During the course of our program we will hear a live recital by Ms. Meyerson, a gifted mezzo-soprano and interpreter of song, who will perform Ladino and Hebrew examples of Sephardic music.
Raymond P. Scheindlin, Ph.D. is Professor of Medieval Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a former Guggenheim Fellow. Dr. Scheindlin’s main field of research is the encounter of Hebrew and Arabic cultures in Spain. His books on medieval Hebrew poetry — Wine, Women, and Death: Medieval Hebrew Poems on the Good Life, and The Gazelle: Medieval Hebrew Poems on God, Israel, and the Soul, reflect both the academic and the literary aspects of his career. He is the author of a widely-used textbook, A Short History of the Jewish People and co-editor of The Literature of Al-Andalus. His most recent book is The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi’s Pilgrimage.
Chaim Seidler-Feller recently celebrated his fortieth year of working with students and faculty as the Executive Director of the Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA. Currently Director Emeritus, also serves as Director of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals. An ordained Rabbi, he also completed a Masters in Rabbinic Literature. Chaim has been a lecturer in the Departments of Sociology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. He is also a faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute, North America, and of the Wexner Heritage Foundation and was rabbinic consultant to Barbra Streisand during the making of the film Yentl. The International Hillel Center has granted Chaim the Hillel Professional Recognition Award “for blending the love of Jewish tradition with the modern intellectual approach of the university.”