Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage, by Raymond Scheindlin

19 August 2008
US Fed News

Judah Halevi (ca. 1085-1141), one of the best-known and most beloved of pre-modern Hebrew poets, abandoned his home and family in Spain and spent the last year of his life traveling to Israel, where he hoped to die amid its sacred ruins.

Halevi's journey is the subject of "The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage" by Raymond Scheindlin (Oxford University Press, 2007). Scheindlin will discuss his book at the Library of Congress at noon on Monday, Sept. 8, in the African and Middle Eastern Division Conference Room (Room 220), located in the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited.

Touching on literature, religion and history, "The Song of the Distant Dove" provides an introduction to Judeo-Arabic culture as well as a closer look at the medieval poet, doctor, theologian and community leader at a pivotal period in Jewish religious history. In the only English-language book on the subject, Scheindlin traces the poet's journey and explores the meaning of his works using recently discovered letters and new verse translations.

Scheindlin received a bachelor's degree in oriental studies from the University of Pennsylvania, a master's degree in Hebrew literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York, a Ph.D. from Columbia University and a rabbinic ordination from the JTS. He is currently professor of medieval Hebrew literature at JTS, where he has served on the faculty since 1974 and as provost from 1984-1988. He also directs the seminary's Shalom Spiegel Institute of Medieval Hebrew Poetry. The recipient of the 2004 Cultural Achievement Award of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and a former Guggenheim fellow, Scheindlin served for three years as the part-time rabbi of the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn.

An expert in Arabic literature, Scheindlin compiled "201 Arabic Verbs," a popular primer for students of Arabic in the United States. A new edition titled "501 Arabic Verbs" will soon be published. A Festschrift in his honor, "Studies in Arabic and Hebrew Letters in Honor of Raymond P. Scheindlin," edited by two of his former students, has just been published by Gorgias Press.

The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world's knowledge in almost all of the world's languages. The African and Middle Eastern Division furthers this mission as the Library's center for the study of some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. The division's Hebraic Section is one of the world's foremost centers for the study of Hebrew and Yiddish materials. For more information on the division and it holdings, visit