Genevieve Wyner Annual Lecture: A Festival of Freedom

October 25, 2022 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. ET

Presented by Jessica Cooperman

The holiday of Passover is often referred to as a “festival of freedom,” but what do American Jews mean by freedom? The Passover haggadah, or seder narrative, retells the story of the Israelites’ divine redemption from slavery in Egypt, but American Jews have long used that ancient story to illustrate their commitments to far more modern quests for freedom and rights. This talk by Dr. Jessica Cooperman, the 2022 Genevieve Geller Wyner Research Fellow, will focus on materials in the collections of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center to explore some of the many ways that American Jews have interpreted the meaning of Passover in the 20th century. It will ask what celebrations of Passover can tell us about the place of Jews and Judaism in American society and allow us to consider the ways that Jews have shaped their identities as Americans through their celebrations of freedom.


Jessica Cooperman is Associate Professor of Religion Studies and Director of Jewish Studies at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. Her research focuses on 20th century American Judaism and Jewish History. Her book, Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism, was published by NYU Press and received an honorable mention for the Saul Viener Prize in American Jewish History. Her current research explores projects for promoting Jewish-Christian dialogue and understanding after World War II, and she is particularly interested in how Passover haggadot and celebrations defined new relationships between Judaism and Christianity in post-war America.