Jewish American Heritage Month Features: Inaugural Fine Fellow Announced

Laura Levitt has been announced as the inaugural Fine Fellow for 2024-25. The Fine Fellowship was created by the Department of Jewish Studies in the Dietrich School with the support of the Fine Foundation and in partnership with the Rauh Jewish Archives and History Program of the Heinz History Center. Her proposal, titled “Offerings of Grief, Offerings of Rage: Revisiting Tree of Life Synagogue and George Floyd Square," will explore how people individually and collectively grieve after mass, public tragedies.

Levitt is a professor of Religion, Jewish Studies, and Gender at Temple University and a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion at Carleton College. She has also published several books including The Objects that Remain (2020); American Jewish Loss after the Holocaust (2007); and Jews and Feminism: The Ambivalent Search for Home (1997).

Levitt will focus on The Tree of Life Synagogue here in Pittsburgh, and The George Floyd Global Memorial in Minneapolis, Minnesota for her research on the gifts visitors bring to these memorials. Levitt wants to answer the question: “How do these material objects embody both intimate and public expressions of loss?” and how these collections when viewed together, can teach us about racism and antisemitism.

“I come to this fellowship, having done a great deal of work in Holocaust studies and sort of dealing with questions of trauma and loss. I sort of tried to think about different losses as I use the language of touch, I'm interested in how important it is to think about different experiences of loss, not to make them one and the same, but to see what happens when we put them next to each other.”

She kept thinking about questions of justice. What is it that survivors, or those who have been harmed want and what will be meaningful to them? Levitt says that we keep these objects on display not only as a way to grieve and remember but also as a form of justice that goes beyond the judiciary system.

“We're holding them as you know, as this kind of evidence and as very powerful and meaningful pieces of the story. And so I think about doing justice as the work of engaging these pasts and telling these stories. It's not like there's one definitive story but what we have are partial access and partial visions.”

Levitt will begin her fellowship work by visiting the George Floyd Global Memorial this month and doing the bulk of her research over the summer. She plans to visit Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life Site in late December 2024/early January 2025 and host a presentation of her findings at the university in the Spring. Levitt would like to submit her research to several publications next summer including Material Religion or MAVCOR, The Journal of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion.  


You can also read PittWire's Feature on Laura here.