Untold Stories of Jewish History: Lecture Topics
March 15, 22, 29, April 5; middday
The history of Jewish life in France
JCC Manhattan, Amsterdam Ave at 76st
New York, N.Y. 10023
March 20, 27 morning
The history of the Jews of France
Learning in Retirement
350 Roxbury Road
April 2, evening
Jews of Spain
Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford
333 Bloomfield Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06117
April 20, 27 morning
Food in the History of the Jews
Scarsdale Adult School
Scarscale Public Library
SAS Ph: 914-723-5278
April 25, evening
The real history of the Jews of Russia
Scarsdale Adult School
Scarsdale High School
SAS Ph: 914-723-5278
April 26, afternoon and evening
Cuba: its once and future Jews
Hofstra U. Hempstead L.I.
May 1, 17 morning
Food in the History of the Jews
Westport Center for Senior Activities
a week of history workshops
Berkshire Hills Eisnberg Retreat Center
Ph: 914-693-8952 (winter #)
NOTE: scholar-in-residence programs and
mini courses are regularly available.
The author is also experienced at handling
TV and radio interviews and moderating
SPECIAL OFFER - no charge for leading
book group discussions of her works.
Travel costs a problem? These can also be
arranged using a Skype video-hook up.
See "Book Groups" page for details.
Books for adults
"The Woman who Defied Kings" is the first comprehensive biography of Doña Gracia Nasi to be based upon the original 16th century documents, many of which are new findings. Doña Gracia was an international banker during the Renaissance who used her wealth and access to the royal courts of Europe to develop an escape network that saved thousands of victims of the Inquisition. She lived at various times in Lisbon, Antwerp, Venice, Ferrara and Constantinople and was one of the most politically powerful women of her day. She has been described by some historians as the most important Jewish woman since biblical times.*
(a finalist in the National Jewish Book Awards for 2003 and winner of the Mark Twain Award from the Connecticut Press Club)
"Russian Dance: passion and intrigue in Stalinist Moscow." This newest book tells the true story of a Jewish Bolshevik spy and the woman he loved. A romantic thriller that delves into Jewish history an entirely new way.*
(a first place winner, biography/history, in the 2005 national contest run by the National Federation of Press Women)
FOR YOUR BOOK/READING GROUP!
A list of discussion topics is available to accompany either of these books. For a free copy send an Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
OTHER LECTURE TOPICS
1. The History of the Jews of England. The Jews of England played a decisive, yet rarely-told, role in Jewish history through the centuries. It was in the north of England in 1144 that Jews were first accused of killing Christian children to make matzos for Passover – a murderous idea that blew like a hurricane through Europe. A community of hidden Jews in Tudor London was pivotal, some say, in alerting Queen Elizabeth to the arrival (and defeat) of the Spanish Armada. And it was the Balfour Declaration by the British government in 1917 that formally paved the way for the state of Israel.
2. The History and Culture of the Jews of Iran/Persia. Jews have been in Persia/Iran since biblical times. Why were they so prominent in the Persian Empire? What was their changing role in society? How were they treated over the ages? Why did they leave when the Shah was deposed in 1979? How have they fared in modern times in America? A lecture or mini-course.
3. Exploring Cuba: its once and future Jews. A recent visit to Cuba, plus additional research that has built upon my work with the conversos of Central and South America, finds a community in flux. The relaxation of restrictions both by the Americans and the Cubans themselves, has resulted in more and more people coming forward to reclaim a Jewish heritage, put on ice at the time of the revolution. A growing number of American Jews are now likely to visit. An exploration of the challenges and opportunities that the changes are now raising.
4. All about Doña Gracia Nasi This lecture will use brand-new findings to tell the life story of Doña Gracia Nasi, a 16th century Portuguese woman banker who developed an escape network that saved thousands of her fellow conversos (forcibly-converted Jews) from the terrors of the Inquisition. It will be based upon Brooks’ biography of Nasi, called "The Woman Who Defied Kings," which was selected as a finalist in the National Jewish Book Awards for 2003. The talk will also tell how the material was discovered. (Gracia goes to Google! This lecture was selected for delivery at Google headquarters, as part of its authors@google series, which has attracted such luminaries as Tom Brokow and Al Gore).
*You can order the book from this website (see below)
5. The Cradle of Jewish Life in Europe. Jews first came to Europe in late antiquity, settling heavily in the south of Italy and Sicily. Learn about the flourishing life of Jews in antiquity and early Italian Jewish life; and why both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews have ancestors from this area. And why Jews never tell about this important page from their past.
6. The Birth of Ashkenaz Who were the first Jews in Eastern Europe? How and why did they originally drift north from lands traditionally associated with Sephardic Jews? What are the true origins of some of their most common customs? An excursion to a shadowy time (topics 2 and 3 can be combined into: "The Origins of Jewish Life in Europe: how Ashkenaz was born").
7. The Jews in the Renaissance Contrary to popular perceptions, the Jews were extremely active in the Renaissance as scientists, translators, research physicians, writers, musicians and actors. Many had come from Spain in the wake of the 1492 expulsions and forced conversions. Learn about the most outstanding figures and why the rabbis felt so ambivalent about Jews participating in the explosion of ideas, arts and sciences. Find out how and why it all came to an abrupt end (this one available in greater depth as a mini course).
8. The History of the Jewish doctor. Why did Jewish physicians become so indispensable to royalty and a succession of popes? Where did they first get their advanced knowledge? Why were they always considered so much better than the Christian doctors around them? A full history of the mythic reputation of the Jewish doctor, tracing its origins to biblical times.
9. Five Hundred Years of Keeping a Secret: the strange saga of the Conversos: What do we know about the Jews who chose to convert and take their Judaism underground rather than accept expulsion from Spain in 1492? What was the real story behind those who fled to the New World long before traditional Jewish history suggested Jews were even here? In the summer of 1998 Brooks joined an expedition deep into the Amazon rainforest seeking the remains of one of their earliest settlements. This and other tales of their pioneering lives and contemporary efforts to return to Judaism after keeping a secret for 500 years (this one available in greater depth as a mini course).
10. The Origins and Lesser-known History of the Jews of Russia. This lecture will provide a contextual background to Brooks’ latest book, a romantic thriller called "Russian Dance." When and why did the Jews come to Russia? What role did they play in modernizing Russia? Why do we hear so little about the Jews outside the Pale? Why did some become captivated by the Bolshevik Revolution while others chose Zionism or emigration to America? A view many of us have never seen before. Winner - first place for biography/history in the 2005 annual awards sponsored by the National Federation of Press Women.
*You can order the book from this website (see below).
11. Our DNA, our history, our heritage. How DNA studies and genealogical research is expanding our understanding of Jewish history and our own backgrounds. A talk based upon the most recent scientific studies in this area, as well as Brooks' current work in the expanding realm of professional genealogy.
12. Magic, merchants and miracles. The 2,000 year-old history of the Moroccan Jews is filled with interesting tales; how they lived, their special customs, such as pilgrimages to the tombs of their "saints" and their unique language and beliefs. This illustrated lecture will revisit their long journey from ancient to modern times.
13. The Ancient Origin of Merchant Jews and their impact upon Jewish history. Jews have been international traders since ancient times. How and why did this happen? What impact did it have on the thread of Jewish history? Why have the merchant activities of Jews been downplayed when discussing Jewish history? (Can be linked together for a mini course with #13 - the Jews of China).
14. Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean : Yes, Disney, there were Jewish pirates too! This talk will explain how that could have happened. It will provide the historical background to their escapades. It will identify some of them by name and deed, and explain how and why the legendary skull and crossbones symbol can be seen, even today, on certain Jewish gravestones in the old pirate capital of Port Royal, Jamaica, where the author did field work.
15. The unusual history of the Jews of China. Jews have been in China since ancient times. Why did they go there? Where did they settle? A look at the story behind four of the communities, all of which were developed for different reasons at different times in history.
16. Our Past: Ourselves. One hundred years after some 2.8 million Jews arrived on our shores, primarily from Eastern Europe, we are sufficiently removed from that era to take a more objective look at their story and their descendants’ progression into the American mainstream. Much has comes down to us cloaked in nostalgia and still affects the way we think and behave. Fact v. legend. This lecture will be based upon new research compiled for a book by the lecturer on the Jewish immigrant and assimilation eras of the late 19th and 20th centuries (this one is available in greater depth as a mini-course).
17. A Woman for the Ages: the unlikely tale of Amelia Bassano. In the late 16th century there lived a woman of Jewish heritage - Amelia - who is now believed to have been a major influence behind Shakespeare and his canon. Using update research, we look at the brilliant and sexy Amelia and her multiple achievements: favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets; a likely collaborator on the plays who, in addition, became the first woman to publish a book of poetry in the English language. How this may alter our traditional view of Shylock and The Merchant of Venice. And it's all true!
18. Jewish Women Challenging the World. Jewish women have been the innovators behind countless social, political and artistic endeavors throughout the 2,000 years since biblical times. We will explore a sampling from different fields of endeavor: from the Jewish women philosophers of ancient Alexandria, the Conversa women of the Renaissance period, to the fiery revolutionaries whose voices affected hearts and minds during the chaotic politics of the early 20th century. A mini-course of 3-5 sessions.
NOTE: Scholar-in-residence programs, book group discussions and mini courses are also available. Brooks can also customize a lecture for a particular audiences and deliver customized presentations to the students in your school. Details upon request. Email: (email@example.com)
Upcoming Adult Lectures and Books
Untold Stories of Jewish History: Lecture Topics given by Andrée Aelion Brooks*
Want to drop in on a lecture?
See the locations and dates of recent and upcoming appearances below the list of topics.
NOTE: some of these talks can be modified for younger audiences.
*For additional bio information about Brooks or available books, please go her website: andreeaelionbrooks.com
Newly available as single lectures or as a mini course: