Dozens of conference participants visited the Princeton University Art Museum to see the exhibition "By Dawn's Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation's Founding to the Civil War," which includes books, paintings, photographs and artifacts from the Princeton Library's Leonard L. Milberg '53 Collection of Jewish-American Writers as well as items from Milberg's personal collection and other museums. Watch this video to learn more about the exhibition.
On Saturday, students in the English course "American Jewish Writers," taught by Esther Schor, professor of English and the inaugural Behrman Professor in the Council of the Humanities, served as docents, each having chosen one object and researched it deeply.
Senior Olivia Robbins, an English major, discussed an 1852 techinot, a small book of prayers specifically for Jewish women, translated into English and compiled by a rabbi in New York City. "I have an interest in women's education," Robbins told several alumni gathered around her. "The final section, which I'm most interested in, are prayers that are said at various landmark moments in a woman's life â€” when she leaves her parents' house, when she gets pregnant, when she goes into labor, when she's at her son's circumcision. This genre still exists today. I think that this is a landmark text for American Jewish women because it's one of the first texts that acknowledges that they want to learn and they want to pray and they have a voice."
David Shrier, a 1980 alumnus, was impressed with Robbins' presentation and told her, "You're doing something more than hand in a paper; you actually put your mark on the world."
Shrier, who came with his wife, Helen Kapstein-Shrier, said the conference was put together "with a lot of thought and time and effort" and likened the weekend to "Reunions on steroids. At Reunions, we only see friends from our class," Shrier said, "but this weekend we're seeing many of our friends from different classes. It's a narrower focus but crosses more boundaries."
They'll be back next month to see their daughter Sarina graduate.