Scholars Series Starts Off with a Laugh

Scholars Series Starts Off with a Laugh

Marx Brothers (A Day at the Races)_01
The Marx Brothers’ hilarity gets a scholarly examination in the first Scholars Series talk, by Professor Mark Winokur.

Like many people, I sometimes get my best ideas in the shower. In this case, the inspiration muse paid me a visit at May’s graduation ceremony for the Program in Jewish Studies.

I remember the instant she plopped onto my shoulder. Professor Elias Sacks – I heard Department Director David Shneer say – had just published a work on Moses Mendelssohn. Being on eagle-eye alert for topics of interest to my Menorah audience, I took a mental note to invite this new, highly-touted professor to speak at the Boulder JCC. All I had to do was track him down after the ceremony and make my pitch, which often involves a fair amount of pleading and eyelash-batting.

But then I looked around the room. It hit me that Old Main Chapel was chock full of interesting professors teaching all sorts of fascinating subjects. Indeed, over the past number of years many academics in the room had already generously taken time off from teaching half-awake students to venture into adult education, where everyone is already well-educated and really wants to be in “class.” Paul Shankman, Zilla Goodman and Paul Levitt, as well as David Shneer himself, have all cheerfully spent time at “Menorah University.”

Why should I settle for one professor, when I could invite an entire bevy of scholars? Why settle for one talk when I could present a series? I’ve got it! Let’s call it CU@theJ.

david shneer
Professor David Shneer, at last year’s inspirational graduation ceremony, usually wears more becoming hats.

I phoned David Shneer, who was, as is his custom, game. I did not have to explain the mutual benefit of showcasing his esteemed teaching team. We agreed on six lectures spread throughout the year. I sent out emails to the entire faculty. Within 24 hours I had 8 volunteers. (I made a mental note not to mention this detail to David.) Over the next few days I had more offers, and I sadly had to put them on the bench for next year.

Among the many pleasant surprises putting this program in place, one of the most delightful was an email correspondence with Mark Winokur, who I had never met. First of all, he wanted to talk about the Marx Brothers. Heaven – and a perfect series kick-off. I discovered he’s a film and media maven who appreciates the seriousness of Jewish humor. That’s my kind of professor.

I have also been thrilled to come across so many friends in the community who are  excited about attending the Scholars Series, which starts Thursday. It does seem the best of win-win situations. The professors bring their vast knowledge, and an appreciative audience gleans wisdom. And I get all the credit. 

CU at the Boulder JCC: A Scholars Series

Join Menorah for eight fascinating presentations by the esteemed faculty of the Program in Jewish Studies and discover why this relatively new CU department has established a national reputation for innovation and excellence. 

Tickets are available online for $12: $15 at the door

Series package $80 ($10 per program)

Free for students


To Register:

For students to register:

Mark Winokur does a great Groucho impression. “One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.”

The Marx Brothers and Jewish-American (literary) Identity. 

With Professor Mark Winokur

Thursday, Sept. 18, 7 pm

A professor in CU’s English department with a Ph.D. from the UC Berkeley, Professor Winokur publishes and teaches on race, ethnicity, film/media, and digital media. As an affiliate faculty member of the PJS, he teaches on the influence of Jewish filmmakers on film, Hollywood and American culture.


Sasha Senderovich shares the significance of Soviet-Jewish schreibers, as well as the meaning of alliteration.

Soviet Jews, Re-Imagined: New Literature by Russian-born American Jewish Writers

With Professor Sasha Senderovich

Thursday, Oct. 2, 7 pm

An Assistant Professor of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literature, and Jewish Studies, Professor Senderovich holds a Ph.D. from Harvard. Before joining the faculty of the Program in Jewish Studies, he was an Assistant Professor of Russian and East European Studies  at Tufts. His current CU courses include Jewish Literature: Jews Coming of Age, and Global Secular Jewish Societies.

Zilla Goodman offers a look at the fight for equality in her native South Africa. Mandela had a prior engagement.

Apartheid and the Role of South African Jews

With Professor Zilla Goodman

Thursday, Nov. 6, 7 pm.

Coordinator of Hebrew Language and Literature, Professor Goodman is Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Program in Jewish Studies. A co-founder of the Program in Jewish Studies in 2007, Professor Goodman received her doctorate in modern Hebrew literature from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, where she grew up.  


Liora Halerpin takes us on a virtual tour of Tel Aviv , including her favorite bars.

Tel Aviv: Urban History and Culture in Israel

With Professor Liora Halperin

Thursday, Dec. 4, 7 pm

A recent addition to the PJS faculty, Professor Halperin is an assistant professor of History and Jewish Studies with a Ph.D. in History from UCLA, where she focused on modern Jewish and modern Middle Eastern history. She currently teaches Introduction to Jewish History Since 1492; The History of Modern Israel; and Tel Aviv: Urban History and Culture.



elias sacks
Professor Elias Sacks will teach everyone how to spell Moses Mendelssohn at his talk on January 15.

A Living Script: Moses Mendelssohn’s Modern Judaism

With Professor Elias Zacks

Thursday, Jan. 15, 7 pm

An Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in the Program in Jewish Studies, Professor Zacks holds Ph.D’s in Religion from Stanford and Princeton, and an M.A. in Religion from Columbia University. His research focuses on the modern period, with particular areas of interest including Jewish thought, Jewish-Christian relations, philosophy of religion, religion and politics, hermeneutics, and religious ethics.


deb fink
Growing old can be fun. Come learn how with Deborah Fink.

 Spiritual Eldering: The Paradigm Shift Envisioned in Reb Zalman’s “From Age-ing to Sage-ing”

With Senior Instructor Deborah Fink Windrum

Thursday, Feb. 5, 7 m.

(Co-sponsored by Jewish Family Service)

A CU librarian since 1980, Professor Fink coordinates the library’s programming, events, displays, exhibits, permanent art collections, as well as all library media communications. Currently she is engaged in research on the spiritual eldering movement and manages the Reb Zalman Collection in the Library’s Archives.



Frequent Menorah speaker and fellow film aficionado Paul Shankman focuses on the American liberation of the Nazi death camps. Warning: This will not be as funny as the Marx Brothers.

The American Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps

With Professor Paul Shankman

Thursday, Feb. 26, 7 pm

A CU Professor of Anthropology since 1973 with a Ph.D. from Harvard, Professor Shankman has conducted fieldwork in Samoa since 1966. His most recent book focuses on Margaret Mead. He has been teaching courses on the Holocaust for several decades and currently teaches The Holocaust: An Anthropological Perspective for the Program in Jewish Studies, which he co-founded with Professor Goodman.


Paul Levitt2
Author Paul Levitt, who has shared insights into several previous novels with Menorah audiences, returns to share his obsession with American Nazis, gangsters and the Depression.

Dreams Bigger than the Night: A novel about American Nazis, Jewish gangsters, and the Great Depression.

With Professor and author Paul Levitt

Thursday, April 30, 7 pm

Professor Levitt was trained in modern drama, has written plays for the BBC, and has written more than 20 novels and 50 articles on topics ranging from the literary to the political to the pedagogical. He regards himself as a “utility infielder” who can play almost any position. He currently teaches Jewish-American Fiction in the Program in Jewish Studies. His novels often deal with Jewish themes and explore Jewish historical events.


More serious fun to come next year: Professors David Shneer, Janet Jacobs, Davide Stimille, Brian Catlos and more


About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn has spent her professional life writing about, teaching, and presenting the arts. Founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Kathryn was Director of Menorah and ACE at the Boulder JCC from 2003 through August, 2019. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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  1. It is a sad day. I cannot come to the Marx Brothers Class on Thursday night in Boulder because I am leading a shiva minyon in Denver at the same time. We all have losses I guess.