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JCC Visiting Scholar

Learn and be inspired by our Osher Marin JCC Visiting Scholar, Noam Pianko, here for four sessions from February through May
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The Osher Marin JCC Visiting Scholar

Jewish Studies Scholar, Professor & Author of
Zionism and the Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn



Is There Such a Thing as the Jewish People?
Rethinking Jewish Membership for a Global Era


Learn with and be inspired by Osher Marin JCC Visiting Scholar Noam Pianko, here for four sessions from February through May. Pianko’s series explores our historical and modern conceptions of Jewish identity, and challenges us to consider new paradigms for Jewish peoplehood in our increasingly globalized world.

Pianko is Associate Professor and Samuel N. Stroum Chair of Jewish Studies in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. He is also chair of the University of Washington Jewish Studies program.

Presented in association with the Jewish Study Center at GTU and Lehrhaus Judaica

Pick one of two class options:

  1. Thursday evening sessions: 7pm at the OMJCC               - OR - 
  2. Friday morning sessions: 7:30am at Il Fornaio, Corte Madera

Contact Alaina Yoakum for info:, 415-444-8080



“…Thank you so much for bringing [Pianko] for the lecture series. The first one was so enlightening and thought provoking. Even though the topic had to do with Jews, I keep thinking about how the use of language and labeling, the notion of identity and some of the other issues apply to Catholics and Muslims as well. (I was raised as a Catholic and have studied a little bit about Islam.) I am grateful to Noam for the opportunity and provocation to exercise my brain cells! Looking forward to the next lecture.”

-- Elaine McKenna


What is "Jewish Peoplehood" and how is it changing in both the United States and Israel? Tremendous intellectual and financial resources have been invested to try to preserve the ties that connect Jews to one another. However, the assumptions about what peoplehood is are unclear and based on outdated paradigms of identity. Technological, social and political transformations have altered the landscape in this global area and the theory of Jewish collectivity lags behind.  These talks will explore probing questions about peoplehood past, present, and future to reassess the possibilities and limitations of Jewish identity today. 

Mar 7 or 8: Can Historical Models Expand the Possibilities for Sustainable Jewish Life Today? How did pre-modern Jews think about what connected Jews to one another? We’ll explore the diverse meanings of the “Jewish People” before the social and political transformations of the modern period. Long forgotten notions of Jewish identity and solidarity can help us imagine new models of Jewish life today.

Apr 4 or 5: Israeli Nation or Jewish People? Zionism and the Transformation of Jewish Identity. Many of the assumptions about what it means to be a Jew today have been shaped by modern theories of nationalism and Zionism. This lecture explores how modern political thought transformed popular and scholar conceptions of the Jewish people.  

May 2 or 3: Is Peoplehood Possible (or desirable) in a Global Era? Can (and should) the idea of a shared set of criteria linking all Jewish people around the globe be preserved? The final lecture explores the possibilities and limitations of making collective claims about Jewish unity and identity today.


I am a historian of the Jewish people dedicated to rethinking deeply internalized assumptions about Jewish nationalism and its relationship to modern political, social, and cultural trends. My first book, Zionism and the Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn (Indiana University Press, 2010) explores overlooked formulations of early twentieth century Zionism. By illuminating the diversity of Zionist ideologies before the establishment of the state in 1948, the book demonstrates the importance of expanding our understanding of Jewish nationalism’s scope and function.

My research presents an alternate narrative of Jewish nationalism that situates its evolution in a comparative and transnational perspective. The Jewish People: Boundaries Beyond Borders, my current book project, broadens my earlier scholarship by investigating changing historical notions of Jewish collectivity and considering their lessons for contemporary debates about group identity in an era of transnational ties, demographic shifts, and global networks. Both projects rely on archival research, new readings of published sources, and a willingness to consider often taboo topics in Jewish scholarship and public discourse.