PLEASE NOTE: This event has been cancelled. Organizers hope to reschedule it at a later date with a similar program.
Sacred writings have always been central to Judaism. They’ve given us a rich and powerful tradition that has sustained us over many centuries. But as historical records, they often leave us with a fairly narrow impression of the past. Scribes and rabbis weren’t concerned with history as we know it.
This is especially a problem for ancient times, when the paper trail is exceedingly thin. To fill that gap, we can turn to archaeologists. They’ve worked painstakingly with the long-buried remains at ancient sites, and have come up with some remarkable findings.
One of the leading archaeologists of the ancient Jewish world is Jodi Magness, a professor at the University of North Carolina. She’s coming to Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, for its annual educational weekend, March 27-28, this year titled: “Uncovering the Holy Land: The Archaeology of Jerusalem, Masada and Huqoq.”
Magness’ first talk is on Masada, on Friday, March 27, at 5:45 p.m., before sundown. She knows the ancient fortress well, having led digs in the Roman siege works and camps, and recently published “Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth.” She’ll talk about what archaeology adds to the account given by first-century Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in “The Jewish War.”
On Shabbat afternoon, at 12:45, Magness will discuss “What Makes Jerusalem Special,” going beyond the descriptions of King David’s city in the TANAKH and elsewhere. She was a consultant on the National Geographic IMAX movie “Jerusalem,” and she’ll describe how this remote hill town became a center of religious life.
On Saturday evening at 8, Magness will talk about an ongoing dig at Huqoq, a village in the Galilee. The 5th century C.E. synagogue there flourished soon after the rabbinic academies compiled the Talmud. The site includes mosaics that expand our sense of Judaism in the era between Temple-based Judaism and what we now know as Rabbinic Judaism.
Along with the talks, there’s a Shabbat dinner and discussion starting at 7:30 on Friday, March 27, and a wine and dessert reception on Saturday evening at 7:45. The reception and talks are free; the dinner costs $22 per adult, $10 for children ages 3-12, or $50 per household. All events take place at Temple Emanu-El, 99 Taft Ave., Providence.
For more information, call 401-331-1616. Register at www.teprov.org/form/edweekend20.
JOHN LANDRY lives in Providence and serves on Temple Emanu-El’s adult education committee.