Presentation to focus on America and the Ten Commandments

February 22, 2010

The depiction of the Ten Commandments in America lies at the heart of a presentation by acclaimed Jewish scholar and author Jenna Weissman Joselit, which will take place on March 1, at Penn State Harrisburg. Joselit is the Charles E. Smith chair in Judaic studies at George Washington University.

The presentation begins at 6:15 p.m. in the Olmsted Building Auditorium and is free and open to the public. It marks the final installment in a yearlong series of programs hosted by the college’s Center for Holocaust and Jewish Studies. For information, call 717-948-6039.

“Holy Moses! A Cultural History of the Ten Commandments in America,” is the title of Joselit's forthcoming book about America’s embrace of the ancient biblical text in popular culture.

“In modern America, the Ten Commandments is one of the most richly imagined of all biblical symbols," Joselit said. "Talisman as well as touchstone, it looms large in both American Christian and Jewish circles where it has functioned as a source of unity. But recently, this constellation of age-old do’s and don’ts has emerged as a symbol of divisiveness, pitting those who champion the strict separation of church and state against those who argue for religious expression in the public square. The changing fortunes of the Ten Commandments lies at the heart of my presentation. Drawing on sermons and song, broadsides and material culture as well as on film, it explores the broad and deep hold of the ancient text on modern American imagination.”

Joselit joined George Washington University in 2009 from Princeton University, where she was a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of American Religion. A founding member of New York University’s Working Group on Jews, Media and Religion, she also has been a fellow at Yale University’s Center for Art and Material Culture, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Judaic Studies, and most recently a distinguished visiting scholar at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress.

Last Updated February 23, 2010