ORONO, Maine — Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz will deliver the Howard B. Schonberger Peace and Social Justice Memorial Lecture at 7:30 p.m. today in Room 100 of the Donald P. Corbett Business Building at the University of Maine.
The lecture, “To Be a Radical Jew in the 21st Century,” will draw from Kaye/Kantrowitz’s book “The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism,” published last year.
Schonberger was a history professor at the University of Maine and a political activist in the Bangor area for 20 years before his death in 1991. In 1992, his family and friends established the annual Howard B. Schonberger Peace and Social Justice Memorial Lecture. The series celebrates his life as a scholar and activist by inviting speakers who represent that balance of commitments.
Kaye/Kantrowitz considers herself to be an activist and a progressive. Her philosophy was molded during her work as a young woman in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, she said in a phone interview earlier this week. Her most recent work has focused on Jews outside the United States and Europe.
“People have this idea of what Jews look like,” Kaye/Kantrowitz said, “but the Jewish people don’t come from just Western and Eastern Europe. In the former Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, Jews and Muslims lived together in an Arabic culture as neighbors. The women cared for each other’s children and nursed each other’s babies.”
In researching her latest book, the writer said she found there are Jewish communities in Africa, Asia and South America. Embracing that kind of multiculturalism is the key to fighting racism for progressive Jews such as herself, she said.
Kaye/Kantrowitz teaches Jewish studies, history and comparative literature at Queens College in New York City. She has taught in a variety of fields including women’s studies, urban studies, race theory, public policy, gender studies and queer studies.
She has written and edited books including “The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology,” “My Jewish Face & Other Stories” and “The Issue is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence, and Resistance.”
The writer, activist and teacher also will speak at 12:30 p.m. today in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union at UMaine on “Nice Jewish Girls: Lesbian and Feminist Activism 25 Years Later.”
Both talks are free and open to the public.