Annual Lectures

Ryterband Symposium

39th Annual Ryterband Symposium

The Ryterband Symposium is a major, ecumenical program co-sponsored by The University of Dayton, United Theological Seminary and Wright State University. The host for the symposium rotates each year among these three institutions. The annual Judaics Symposium began in 1978 under the leadership of Sanders Professor Emeritus, Eric Friedland. Since 2000 it has been coordinated by Dr. Mark Verman, Zusman Professor of Judaic Studies at Wright State University. It was originally known as the Sanders Symposium and has since been endowed, through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Louis Ryterband and Mrs. Natalie Roth. The goal of the Symposium is to promote mutual understanding between religious traditions, as well as advance social justice by exploring the interface between religious communities and the broader society.


  • 40th Annual Symposium: Dr. Benjamin Sommer, “The Bodies of God in Ancient Israel” and “Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition.”  Thursday, November 8th, 2018
  • 39th Annual Symposium: Professor Ruth Langer,  Rachel Adler, “Women, Lament and Social Grief: An Historical Perspective” and "From Feminism to Gender: The Evolution of a Jewish Feminist." Thursday, November 2, 2017.
  • 38th Annual Symposium: Professor Ruth Langer, “Can Jews and Christians Pray Together?” and  “The Origins of Rabbinic Liturgy.”  Wednesday, November 16, 2016.
  • 37th Annual Symposium:  Professor Amy-Jill Levine, “The Bible and Israel/Palestine: Jewish and Christian Dialogue and Disputation’;  “Hearing Jesus’ Parables through First-Century Jewish Ears,”  4 November 2015.
  • 36th Annual Symposium: Rodger Kamenetz, “The Soul of a Jewish Poet: Why Poetry Still Matters”;  “The Jew in the Lotus: Spiritual Encounters with the Dalai Lama, a Retrospective,”  17 November 2014.
  • 35th Annual Symposium:  Prof. Rachel Elior, Hebrew University Jerusalem, “The Origins of Hasidism”;  “The Dead Sea Scrolls---Who Wrote them, When and Why?”  20 November 2013.
  • 34th Annual Symposium: Dr. Richard Elliott Friedman, University of Georgia, “The World’s First Great Writers, or Nobody Believes That Anymore”; “The Death of the Gods, the Birth of Monotheism, the Disappearance of Gods,” 15 October 2012.
  • 33rd Annual Symposium: Dr. Daniel Matt, “To Eff the Ineffable: Translating the Zohar, the Masterpiece of the Kabbalah”; “How the Zohar Re-imagines God,” 14 September 2011.
  • 32nd Annual Symposium: Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, Brandeis University, “Jewish Gender Roles in Transition”; “Changes in the American-Jewish Hyphenated Identity,” 27 October 2010.
  • 31st Annual Symposium: Prof. Jon Levenson, Harvard Divinity School, “Resurrection in Judaism, Christianity and Islam”; “Re-Examining Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” Oct. 26th, 2009
  • 30th Annual Symposium: Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, New York University, “Biblical Interpretation in the Scrolls: God’s Word in Human Hands”; “Scholars, Scrolls and Scandals: Judaism, Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 15 September 2008.
  • 29th Annual Symposium: Dr. Daniel Boyarin, University of California at Berkeley, “Moses in Heaven, Hellenism in Babylonia: a Talmudic Satire”; “The Talmud as Novel: The Life of Rabbi Meir, Patron of Incongruity,” 10 October 2007.
  • 28th Annual Symposium: Dr. Reuven Firestone, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, “Holy War in Western Religions”; “Textual study on Abraham in the Western Religions,” 31 October 2006.
  • 27th Annual Symposium: Dr. Ellen Umansky, Fairfield University, “Reclaiming the Covenant: Jewish Women’s Spirituality”; “Spiritual Healing & American Jews,” 2 November 2005.

Piediscalzi Lecture

Piediscalzi Lecture

The Piediscalzi Lecture Series was inaugurated in 1989 to honor Nicholas Piediscalzi, the founder and long-time chair of the Wright State Department of Religion. Dr. Piediscalzi came to Wright State in 1965 one year after the University’s founding, and it was under his guidance that the academic study of religion became an integral part of the curriculum. For 23 years Dr. Piediscalzi taught a variety of courses concerning the relationship between religion and society and when he retired in 1988 his colleagues, and many of his students and friends decided that a lecture series in his honor would be a fitting tribute to his contribution both to the Religion Department and to the University. The aim of this lecture series is to create an opportunity for members of the University community to join with residents of the broader Miami Valley area to consider a current aspect of the relation between religion and society.

The 2018-2019 Piediscalzi Lecture in Religion

Speaker: Dr. Alicia Turner, Associate Professor Of Humanities and Religious Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada

Topic: "The Violence of Buddhist Tolerance: Escalating Religious Difference in Myanmar/Burma"

Thursday, April 4, 2019
163 Student Union (Discovery Room)
3:30-5:00 p.m.


This talk charts the genealogy of the idea of Burma as a place of particular religious tolerance starting in the 18th century, and its intersections with the European construction of Buddhism as a world religion in the second half of the 19th century. The content of what constituted tolerance shifted over the decades, but the comparators that evidenced exceptional Burmese tolerance did not: there were consistent positive comparisons with Europe that elevated Burma on the colonial civilizational scale and continual negative contrasts with Indian (and to a lesser extent Chinese) others, labeling Hindus and Muslims in particular as backward for their intolerance. By the twentieth century, the equation of Burmeseness, Buddhism, and tolerance fused within nationalist discourse and led to a drive to defend Buddhism against less tolerant Indian others. The themes compelling the contemporary violence—the radical difference between Burmese and Indians, the need to preserve free Buddhist women from Muslim men and the idea that a tolerant religion could be overrun by the forces of religious intolerance all originate in these secular colonial discourses of religious difference. 

The lecture of free and open to the public. For more information, please contact the Religion Department at 937-775-2274 or

Recent Lectures

  • 2017-2018: Dr. Tracy Fessenden, Arizona State University, "Religion Around Billie Holiday"
  • 2016-2017: Dr. Judith E. Tucker, Professor, "Understanding Islamic Law: Sex Crimes in Doctrine and Practice” 
  • 2015-2016: Dr. Darla Schumm, "Religion and Disability"
  • 2014-2015: Dr. Sarah Iles Johnston,“There and Back Again: The Story World of Greek Myth”
  • 2013-2014: Dr David Barr, “Jerusalem, Jesus and Jihad: The Politics of the End Times”
  • 2012-2013: Dr. Asma Barlas, Ithaca College, “The Qur’an, the Shari`ah, and Women’s Rights”
  • 2011-2012: “Dr. Steve Friesen, University of Texas, Austin, “Poverty in the Roman Empire: Four Early Christina Responses”; Dr. Alla Semenova, Dickenson College, “How Money Came About: Temples, Taxes, or Traders?”
  • 2010-2011: Dr. L. Carl Brown, Princeton University, “Looking at Ourselves Looking at Islam”
  • 2007-2008” Dr. Nicholas Piediscalzi, “Religion and Health: The Resacralization of Medicine and the Renaturalization of Religion in America Today”
  • 2005-2006: Dr. Judith Kelleher Schafer, Tulane University, “The Struggle to Stay Free People of Color in Antebellum New Orleans”
  • 2004-2005: Ellen Bruno, “Speaking Truth to Power”
  • 2002-2003: Dr. John Kelsay, Florida State University, “War, Peace, and Justice in Islam”
  • 2001-2002: Dr. Michael Barkun, Syracuse University, “Violence and the Millennium: Why Law Enforcement Got it Wrong about the Year 2000”
  • 1997-1998: Dr. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School, “Reclaiming the Power of Naming: Feminist Studies in Religion”
  • 1996-1997: Congressman Tony Hall, 3rd District, Ohio, “The Role of Religion in American Politics”
  • 1995-1996: Dr. Paul Boyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “666 and All That: Bible Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture"

Kristallnacht Lecture

Kristallnacht Commemorative Lecture

Each year Wright State University commemorates Kristallnacht, known as the "Night of Broken Glass.”  In November 1938 thousands of Jewish homes and businesses throughout Germany were ransacked, hundreds of synagogues were burned, and dozens were killed by Nazi storm troopers.  Additionally, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to concentration camps.  Kristallnacht is generally considered to be the start of the Holocaust, resulting in the murder of 6,000,000 European Jews.  WSU’s annual program is co-sponsored by the Dayton Holocaust Resource Center, the Frydman Educational Resource Center and the Zusman Chair in Judaic Studies and is coordinated by Prof. Mark Verman. 

Past Lectures

  • 2018: Mr. Samuel Heider, Holocaust survivor
  • 2017: Mr. Samuel Heider, Holocaust survivor
  • 2016: Mr. Samuel Heider, Holocaust survivor
  • 2015: Mr. Samuel Heider, Holocaust survivor
  • 2014: Dr. Ashley Fernandes, “Medicine, the Holocaust, and Religious Ethics.”
  • 2013: Renate Frydman, “My Mother, the Nazi Midwife and Me.”
  • 2012: Robert Kahn, “The Collapse of Moral Judgment in Nazi Germany.”
  • 2011: Sandra Schulberg, Columbia University, “The 1945 Nuremberg Trials,” a  film by Stuart Schulberg.
  • 2010: Dr. Mark Verman, Wright State University, “A Brief History of  Kristallnacht, Based Upon New Research.”
  • 2009: Dr. Miriamne Krummel, University of Dayton, “Anti-Semitism: A Literary  Analysis.”
  • 2008: Renate Frydman, the region’s premier Holocaust educator;  Ursula Duba, a German-American poetess, Prof. Henry Kasha,  retired physicist from Yale University; Reflections on their  Holocaust Experience in Poetry and Prose.
  • 2007: Dr. Mark Verman, Wright State University, “Genocide: Raphael Lemkin and Fellow Crusaders”
  • 2006: Dr. Felix Garfunkel, Ira Segalewitz and Felix Weil, “Important Lessons to be Learned from the Holocaust.”
  • 2005: Gustav Goldberger, Esq.,“Denmark and the Holocaust”
  • 2004: Rabbi Jacob Jungreis, Yeshiva Ateres Yisroel, “A Survivor’s Reflections.”
  • 2003: Peter Wells, Dayton Jewish Federation," Shattered Dreams: Picking up the Pieces."
  • 2002: Renate Frydman, Holocaust Resource Center; Prof. Tom Martin, Sinclair Community College, “Remembering  Kristallnacht.”

Erik C. Banks Lecture

Erik C. Banks Memorial Lecture in Philosophy

Dr. Erik C. Banks, professor in the Department of Philosophy, joined the WSU faculty in 2006. While at Wright State he made a major impact on both the university and his field, the history, and philosophy of science. A prolific scholar, he was the author of numerous journal articles and two important books, Ernst Mach's World Elements: A Study in Natural Philosophy (2003) and The Realistic Empiricism of Mach, James, and Russell: Neutral Monism, Reconceived (2014). Erik was also a creative and dedicated teacher, who taught demanding critical thinking and logic courses, and developed such innovative interdisciplinary classes as the Philosophy of Physics, team-taught with Physics professor, and Ancient Science, team-taught with a Classics professor. 

Following Erik's sudden death in 2017, his family generously endowed this lecture series as a lasting tribute to his memory. The series aims to create an opportunity for members of the university community to join with residents of the broader Dayton region to consider a topic of current philosophical interest. 

The 2018-19 Erik C. Banks Memorial Lecture

Speaker: Dr. Lydia Patton, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Topic: "Picturing Democracy: How Data Visualization Promoted the Free Exchange of Ideas"

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
163 Student Union (Discovery Room)
3:30-5:00 p.m.


Marie and Otto Neurath were a husband and wife team who incorporated graphic design and social interests into their intellectual work. They worked with artists including their friend Gerd Arntz to develop a pictorial language for statistics called Isotype. You have seen it before. For instance, Isotype is used in news articles to present budget statistics using small dollar sign icons, or population statistics using small icons of human beings. The picture language they developed was meant to explain features of life to the public, so that people would be able to understand current events in order to be able to react to them more effectively.  The work of Marie and Otto Neurath was strongly democratic, in the sense that they thought the public should be able to reason accurately and effectively about problems that concern them, rather than reserving public decision-making to an elite class. The Neuraths were among the first defenders of public and open research, and of scholars communicating their research to the broadest audience possible. Their lives are strong examples of how universities and researchers can conceive of themselves as, as Otto Neurath put it, "trustees of the public". 

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact the Philosophy Departments at 937-775-2274 or

Past Lectures

  • 2017-18: Dr. Don Howard, Notre Dame, "Ernst Mach's Vienna: The Place of History and Philosophy in Science"