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Bible's Joseph is topic of lecture March 20 in NYC

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Daryl Lovell
Lauren Monroe
Patrick Shanahan/Cornell Marketing Group
Lauren Monroe, associate professor of Near Eastern studies.

The collaboration between Cornell’s Jewish Studies Program and the Center for Jewish History in New York City continues Monday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. with a lecture by Lauren Monroe, associate professor and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, on “The Joseph Traditions and the Genesis of Ancient Israel.” The talk will be held at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St.

Monroe’s talk will offer a new perspective on the evolution of the biblical narrative of Joseph and his brothers. According to Monroe, embedded in the story of Joseph and his brothers is an older, independent tale of a certain Joseph the Hebrew, alone in Egypt, with no connections to Canaan or the family of Jacob. Her talk will also explore the evolution of ancient Israel as a polity that emerged in the wake of the Late Bronze Age in Canaan.

With teaching interests that include the Hebrew Bible and biblical Hebrew, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, and ancient Israelite religious and social history, Monroe is particularly interested in the way what it meant to be “Israelite” changed over time, and how such changes are reflected in the stratigraphy of the biblical text and the archaeological tel. She has excavated at archaeological sites in Israel, including Tel Zayit, Tel Rehov and Abel Beth Maacah.

Monroe received her Ph.D. in Bible and Ancient Near East from the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. In her book, “Josiah’s Reform and the Dynamics of Defilement: Israelite Rites of Violence and the Making of a Biblical Text” (2011), Monroe explored the 7th-century B.C. religious reforms of the Judean King Josiah, whose rites of violence are a formative moment in the Bible’s representation of the emergence of monotheism.

In addition to her current work on the emergence of the Bible’s Joseph traditions, Monroe is engaged in a large-scale research project, “Tidings From Sheba,” which addresses how South Arabian Sabaean inscriptions from Yemen illuminate ancient Israelite society, politics and religion.

The Center for Jewish History in New York City provides a collaborative home for the American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, whose collections comprise the world’s largest archive of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel.

The final talk in the “Cornell Jewish Studies at the Center for Jewish History” program, which is spearheaded by Bruce Slovin ’57, the center's founder and former chair, will be Monday, May 1. It will be given by Kora Bättig von Wittelsbach, senior lecturer of Italian language in the Department of Romance Studies, on “Jewish-Italian Literature and the Long 20th Century.”

Tickets for Monroe’s March 20 talk are $10 general admission, $5 for center members and Cornell alumni, and can be purchased online.

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.