Madison conference on ‘Jews and Leisure’ | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Madison conference on ‘Jews and Leisure’ 

The Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison is hosting its 23rd Annual Greenfield Summer Institute, “Jews and Leisure,” from July 17-20, 2023. The summer institute features different topics relating to Jewish life and culture each year. 

This year’s programming will feature different scholars who will discuss the ways in which Jews have engaged with leisure activities throughout history. Topics will include Algerian villas, Sephardic barbeques, European taverns and cafés, New York City dance halls, Florida beaches, mahjong and more. 

“It was a really pleasant surprise to be able to find so many well-known scholars and journalists who work on Jews and leisure in all different ways and various facets. We were able to cover a pretty wide geographic range from Poland, to the United States, to North Africa, to Israel. We really covered a lot of ground,” said Tony Michels, director of the Center for Jewish Studies. 

In one previous year, the institute’s theme was Jews in business, so Michels feels like this year’s theme of leisure will offer new insight into Jewish life for participants, he said. 

“We have sports, we have dancing, we have travel, we have music, so I really think there’s going to be something for everyone,” Michels said.  

A scholar of Wisconsin Jews, and an area resident, Jonathan Pollack, will also present a program on vacation resorts and antisemitism in Wisconsin, he said. 

The institute has been running for 23 years now, and planning for this year’s programming has been ongoing since October 2022, said Amie Goblirsch, the outreach assistant for the Center for Jewish Studies.  

Since the pandemic, the Center for Jewish Studies has incorporated hybrid components into the institute, allowing guests to tune into different events remotely from their homes, Goblirsch said. 

This year, there will be film screenings in addition to lectures from guest speakers.  

“There’s a very exciting movie, in my opinion, called, ‘The Mamboniks,’ which is a recent documentary about the mambo dancing craze in New York during the 1950s. There was a Jewish love affair with Latin music, Cuban music and the dancing that went with it,” Michels said. 

“That film came out just a little before the pandemic hit, so I’m not sure that it got as wide circulation as it really deserved. We were able to contact the filmmaker, and he’ll be doing a Q&A with us by Zoom after we show the film. The audience will have a chance to hear from the documentary filmmaker,” said Gwen Walker, the associate director of the Center for Jewish Studies. 

The full in-person registration package is $225, and the online registration package is $175. Participants can also register for individual days of the programming. The cost is $60 per day Monday-Wednesday and $40 Thursday. Each meal is $25-35. Rates will increase for in-person events after July 3. 

“I think that coming out of the pandemic it’s kind of a light topic, in a way. It’s something that’s fun. How do people spend their free time, vacation, dancing, games, all of these enjoyable kinds of activities. We’re hoping that will be inviting to people,” Walker said. 

Visit to register or learn more about the events. 

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What: Greenfield Summer Institute, “Jews and Leisure”  
When: July 17-20, 2023 
Cost: $40-$235, depending on number of days, online or in person 
Register/more info: