Judaic Studies lectures comes to C of I campus

The College of Idaho’s distinctive Craig Neilsen Foundation Lectureship in Judaic Studies is set to host Professor J.H. Chajes from the University of Haifa on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Professor Chajes will present two seminars for C of I students as well as the public lecture “Jewish Magic, Magical Judaism,” which is set for 7 p.m. in Lecture Hall 106 of the Kathryn Albertson International Center on the C of I campus in Caldwell. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The Feb. 16 public lecture will take a fascinating look at the place of magic in Judaism from ancient to modern times. Chajes will begin with an exploration of magic in the Bible and classical rabbinic sources, and then turn to medieval Jewish approaches to magic, examining techniques, critiques and legends. He will conclude with a look at the relationship between Jewish magic and contemporary Jewish culture. The lecture will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.

“Hosting a leading and brilliant scholar in the field of Jewish intellectual history and Kabbalah is a great opportunity for the College,” said Dr. Federica Francesconi, professor for The College of Idaho’s Howard Berger-Ray Neilsen Chair in Judaic Studies. “Professor Chajes’ lecture presents an exceptional and intriguing learning experience for our campus and the Treasure Valley community.”

Chajes is an associate professor in the Department of Jewish History at the University of Haifa. He earned his Ph.D. at Yale and is a recipient of Fulbright, Rothschild, Wexner and Hartman Fellowships. Chajes also was a visiting professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and has been a returning fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His book, Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism, was listed by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top-five books ever written on spirit possession. He’s currently working on another book, Magic Taboo.

In addition to the public lecture, Chajes will give two seminars for C of I students. He’ll lead “The State of the Spirit: A Discussion of Spiritual Trends in Israel Today” during the Zionism and Modern Israel course at 9:40 a.m. in Strahorn Hall room 314 and then present on “Kabbalah and the Visualizing of the Invisible” for the History of Jewish Art class at 2:40 p.m. in KAIC 107.

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Lectureship in Judaic Studies brings dignitaries, scholars and public figures to campus to speak about Jewish religion, interfaith dialogue, culture, history, arts and current events. It is part of the College’s Howard Berger-Ray Neilsen Chair in Judaic Studies, which was created to promote greater understanding of Jewish traditions, culture and philosophy in Idaho and the West.

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit