AJT Perry Brickman honored

Rabbi Donald Tam (right), namesake of Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies, joins Perry Brickman and daughter Lori Brickman at the symposium March 30. Photo by Marcia Jaffe.

By Marcia Jaffe | mjaffe@atljewishtimes.com

Jewish scholars gathered at Emory University’s Woodruff Library on March 30 to honor Dr. Perry Brickman’s work in establishing a fellowship to enhance the Laney Graduate School’s support of the doctoral program in Jewish studies.

The money from the Brickman-Levin Fellowship — also named for the late Arthur Levin, a former Anti-Defamation League regional director — will help Emory compete to attract top-tier talent in Judaic studies.

The evening began with a handout listing 12 books published by recent Emory graduate alumni in Jewish studies. The topics ranged from Jews and Prohibition to the changes intermarriage has brought to American Judaism, the interactions of Czechs and Jews, the Davidic prototype for kings, and Jewish immigrants and the creation of the Argentinian national identity.

Those of us in attendance felt young and challenged to be in an academic environment where ideas blossom and are executed.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory,   said: “Fellowships allow students the extra edge to interview a source face to face or go see the real NEWS-Brickman Groupmanuscript. It’s the difference between a good and first-rate scholar. So thank you, Perry.”

Three academic stars who earned doctorates at Emory in the past couple of years took the stage to present overviews of their areas of study:

  • Marian Broida, apotropaic intersession, which involves clarifying the Hebrew Bible in terms of forestalling gloom or warding off evil. The Bible is not into magical speech, but is doom preventable?
  • Craig Perry, Medieval study of Jewish lives from 969 to 1250 relative to slavery. Perry translated for the audience an Arabic document from a Jewish man detailing gifts he was sending to his wife: red silk, pearls and a 6-year-old slave girl. Perry is a master of making ancient documents speak.
  • Michael Karlin, fieldwork observing contemporary practices in overlaying the Jewish religion with psychotherapy and dealing with trauma. An ethnographer, Karlin explored popular methods of self-mastery, life coaching and experiments done by Chabad and others in these areas.

Brickman took the podium and paid tribute to Levin, who was the lone man in public who took seriously the struggle of Jewish dental students against anti-Semitism at Emory from 1948 to 1961.

An oral surgeon, Brickman took up the cause last decade and documented the mistreatment of Jewish dental students. “This resulted in Emory’s apology, which set the standard for being genuine … not just sorry we were caught.”

That on-camera apology by Emory President James Wagner in 2012 is the last of the artifacts documenting Jewish Atlanta life in the new Breman Museum exhibit “18 Artifacts.”

Brickman applauded the huge changes at Emory today among Jewish students, faculty and curricula.

The next day, he was at the Hillels of Georgia Campus SuperStar event (see Page 25) and had this to say about the previous night’s tribute: “I was very impressed with how highbrow the three scholars were and that I actually understood what they were saying. I was so moved by the attendance last night and that Emory’s graduates are making names for themselves traveling around the U.S. and publishing books.”

He invited other members of the Jewish community to contribute to the endowment, which tops off the funding young scholars need in their doctoral work in Jewish studies. “An extra $2,000 to one scholar can make a big difference in attracting talent.”