Judaism has long avoided making artistic physical representations (based on the commandment not to make graven images) and many people have assumed that Jews have not been interested in aesthetic beauty. Yet Jewish thought has always been interested in the beautiful: perfection and imperfection, holiness, moral and immoral behavior, and the meaning of physical appearance. Together we will explore the relationship of physical appearance and moral judgment by looking at Jewish notions of beauty and ugliness.
Dr. Leah Hochman directs the Louchheim School for Judaic studies at the University of Southern California and serves as associate professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in religion and literature from Boston University, where she wrote her dissertation on Moses Mendelssohn’s theories of religion and language. Dr. Hochman spent a year in Berlin as a post-doctoral fellow at the Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum and has continued to return to Germany regularly to research and lead classes. Before coming to HUC in LA in 2008, she was assistant professor of religion and Jewish studies at the University of Florida. At HUC, she teaches classes in medieval and modern philosophy, American Judaism, modern history, and food ethics. At USC, she teaches classes on contemporary Jewish literature, Jewish identity and the academic study of Judaism.