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October 29, 2001

UCSC conference explores translation of Jewish texts

"If one translates a verse literally, he is a liar;
if he adds to it, he is a blasphemer and a libeller."

-Rabbi Yehudah, discussing the Onkelos Targum,
in the Talmud B. Kiddushin 49a

Translating Jewish texts has been a Jewish practice from antiquity--with the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, along with the Onkelos translation into Aramaic.

The practice, which continues to this day, will be explored at a conference taking place at UCSC on November 11-12.

The two-day conference, open to the public, will attract scholars from on and off campus.

"Translating Jewish Texts: Modern Versions, Post-modern Understandings" will be held at the Silverman Conference Room at Stevenson College.

"Jewish multilingualism and multicultural participation in neighboring majority cultures has meant that the Jewish community needed translations of its classic works for its own understanding," noted Murray Baumgarten, UCSC professor of English and comparative literature and one of the conference organizers.

" And, of course, other peoples and cultures, drawing on the Hebrew Bible and Jewish interpretive, hermeneutic traditions--including Christianity and Islam--have turned to these texts as cultural resources for their own self-definition."

In the modern era, Jews writing in many languages, created literatures with intertextual references to classic Jewish texts and interpretive practices. A revived Hebrew literary culture relied on translation to create a bridge with modern literary traditions and flourished with the creation of the State of Israel until 1948. Translation simultaneously enabled Jewish communities to articulate a vital diasporic culture on several continents.

UCSC will explore aspects of this Jewish practice. The conference will focus on the challenges of Biblical translation, the complexities of Yiddish, the impact of Jewish texts on Russian and Spanish writing, and the movement of American Jewish texts to the Israeli scene.

The conference begins with the screening of the classic Yiddish film Grine Felder (Green Fields) as well as a screening of a film adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Enemies, A Love Story.

The screenings will be followed by a discussion of the role of film in the process of translation.

Support for this conference comes from the Koret Foundation, the Diller Family Endowment for Jewish Studies at Santa Cruz, the Neufeld-Levin Chair for Holocaust Studies, and the Institute for Humanities Research.

The conference web site includes a complete conference schedule.


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