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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

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Author Meets Critics Book Panel

Alan Wolfe, Boston College (author)
Ben Birnbaum, Boston College
Susannah Heschel
, Dartmouth College
Kevin Kenny, Boston College
Moderated by Erik Owens, Boston College

Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
5:30-7:00 PM
Location: Murray Room, 4th Floor, Yawkey Center,* Boston College

Reception to follow

The Boisi Center will live-tweet this event. Join the conversation at #JewishDiaspora.

A live broadcast of this event can be watched at for those who can not attend in person.

*Please note the room change


"at home in exile"

Abstract: Many Jewish thinkers have considered it close to heresy to validate life in the Diaspora. But what if the Diaspora is a blessing in disguise? In At Home in Exile, Alan Wolfe, writing for the first time about his Jewish heritage, makes an impassioned, eloquent and controversial argument that Jews should take pride in their Diasporic tradition. It is true that Jews have experienced more than their fair share of discrimination and destruction in exile, and there can be no doubt that anti-Semitism persists throughout the world. Yet for the first time in history, Wolfe shows, it is possible for Jews to lead vibrant, successful and, above all else, secure lives in states in which they are a minority. Wolfe argues the Diaspora can be good for the Jews no matter where they live, Israel very much included—as well as for the non-Jews with whom they live, Israel once again included. Not only can the Diaspora offer Jews the opportunity to reach a deep appreciation of pluralism and a commitment to fighting prejudice, but in an era of rising inequalities and global instability, the whole world can benefit from Jews’ passion for justice and human dignity. At Home in Exile is an inspiring call for a Judaism that isn’t defensive and insecure but is instead open and inquiring. At this event, Wolfe will be joined by a distinguished panel of scholars who will review and critique this work.

head shot of alan wolfe

Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center and professor of political science at Boston College. He is the author and editor of more than twenty books, including, most recently, At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews (2014), Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (2011), The Future of Liberalism (2009), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006), Return to Greatness (2005), The Transformation of American Religion: How We actually Practice our Faith (2003), Moral Freedom (2001) and One Nation After All (1999). Widely considered one of the nation's most prominent public intellectuals, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, and Atlantic, and has delivered lectures across the United States and Europe.

ben birnbaum head shot

Ben Birnbaum is special assistant to the president of Boston College, executive director of its Office of Marketing Communications, and editor of Boston College Magazine. His essays have appeared in the Atlantic, Harvard Divinity Review, Image, MomentNextbook and the Jewish Review of Books, among other publications, and have been anthologized in Best American Essays, Best Spiritual Writing, and Best Catholic Writing. He is also the recipient of the 2006 Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Journalists Association. He is the author or editor of several books on Boston College history, including The Heights, an Illustrated History of Boston College, 1863-2013 (2014), and editor of the essay collection Take Heart: Catholic Writers on Hope in Our Time (2007).

susannah heschel head shot

Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. Her research focuses on Jewish-Christian relations in Germany during the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of biblical scholarship, and the history of anti-Semitism. Her books include Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (1998) and The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (2008). She is also the editor of Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays of Abraham Joshua Heschel (1997) and Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism (1998, with David Biale and Michale Galchinsky). Heschel has served as a Rockefeller fellow at the National Humanities Center, and on the Academic Advisory Committee of the Research Center of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is currently working on a book about Jewish scholarship of Islam, for which she received a Carnegie Foundation Scholar’s Grant in 2009. She earned her B.A. in Religion from Trinity College, her M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and her Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania.


kevin kenny head shot

Kevin Kenny is professor and chair of the History Department at Boston College, where he teaches courses on American immigration and global migration. He is the author of Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (1998), The American Irish: A History (2000) and Peaceable Kingdom Lost (2009). He is also editor of Ireland and the British Empire (2004) and has published articles on immigration in the Journal of American History and the Journal of American Ethnic History. Professor Kenny’s latest book, Diaspora: A Very Short Introduction (2013), examines the origins, meaning, and utility of a central concept in the study of migration, with particular reference to Jewish, African, Irish and Asian history. He received his B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Edinburgh, and an M.A., M.Phil, and Ph.D. in American History from Columbia University.




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"At Home in Exile" recaprecap


On September 8, 2014, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an excerpt of At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews.

Links to reviews of At Home in Exile are available here.

Related Events

"The Blessings of Exile"

September 24, 2013, interview with Alan Wolfe

"Diaspora: An Introduction"

September 19, 2012, interview with Kevin Kenny