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Th Tru-ish Jewish Story of my Grandfather
and Pancho Villa

For more than a century scholars have debated why Pancho Villa attacked the border town of Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916—a deadly incursion and the only time in the 20th century that a major foreign army invaded the continental United States. For Stacey Ravel Abarbanel, the battle is the context for a family tale so spectacular that she always wondered if it was true: when Villa raided the village he was looking to kill her grandfather, Sam Ravel.

Abarbanel shares how Ravel, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, landed in Columbus and became entangled in this infamous encounter during the Mexican Revolution. Her essay about delving into this history was published in Tablet Magazine and she is now adapting the story for a documentary film
titled UnRaveling.

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From Shtetl to Sondheim

The songs of Broadway, which has its roots on Tin Pan Alley and was extended to Hollywood, helped make a diverse nation coalesce around popular and indelible melodies and the charm of exquisite lyrics.  For much of the twentieth century, Broadway enchanted not only America but the world as well.  One ethnic group played a very disproportionate role in exercising such influence, so that the exceptional role of Jews requires explanation as well as admiration.


A Summer Place!

Illustrated Slide Lecture

“Borscht Belt” entertainment was first-rate. Musicians like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Dean Martin, and comics Rodney Dangerfield, Henny Youngman, Woody Allen, and Jerry Seinfeld all toured the hotels. The “Jewish Catskills” were popularized in books and movies such as Marjorie Morningstar and made nationally famous through the vehicle of “Borsht Belt humor.” Importantly, the institutions of the “Jewish Catskills” helped shape American Jewish culture – enabling Jews to become more “American” while at the same time introducing the American public to immigrant Jewish culture.

Join popular lecturer Justin Ferate as we dermonen zikh (reminisce), sing, dance, swim, hike, play pinochle and mahjong, kvetch about food portions, and cavort in the beloved and long-lost memories of the Jewish Catskills.

“MORISCOS: Hidden Muslim Identities in New Spain”

When Spain conquered the last Muslim kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, Jews and Muslims were forced, under threat of death, to convert to Christianity or self-exile.  Now much is known about the conversos, the Jews who were forced to convert.  But what about Muslims who underwent forced conversion.  These people were the Moriscos.  What about them?  Did they also come to the New World and to New Spain?

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