Annual Lectures

Annual Kristallnacht Commemoration

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,” 31October 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

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 relation 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 2017-2018 Piediscalzi Lecture

The 2018 Piediscalzi lecture will be delivered at Wright State University on Thursday, March 29, from 3:30 to 5:00 pm, in the Endeavor Room, 156 Student Union.  The lecture, entitled “Religion Around Billie Holiday,” will be delivered by Dr. Tracy Fessenden, The Steve and Margaret Forster Professor in Comparative Mythology at Arizona State University.

Soulful jazz singer Billie Holiday is remembered today for her unique sound, troubled personal history, and a catalogue that includes such resonant songs as “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless the Child.” In this lecture, Tracy Fessenden will discuss the surprising ways in which Holiday and her music were also strongly shaped by religion. Mixing elements of biography with the history of race and American music, she will explore the multiple religious influences on Holiday’s life and sound, including her time spent as a child in a Baltimore convent, the echoes of black Southern churches in the blues she heard in brothels, the secular riffs on ancestral faith in the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, and the Jewish songwriting culture of Tin Pan Alley. Growing out of Fessenden’s most recent publication, Religion Around Billie Holiday (Penn State UP, 2018), the lecture aims to illuminate the power and durability of religion in the making of an American musical icon. 

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


Recent Lectures
  • 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

“Ernst Mach’s Vienna: The Place of History and Philosophy in Science”

Today we are locked in a vigorous debate over the place of the humanities in STEM education. In past times, however, this debate did not exist, for it was once widely assumed that history and philosophy played a vital role in the training of young scientists. In this talk, Don Howard will present that story by focusing on the career and work of the prominent Viennese physicist, Ernst Mach, who also became famous as one of the most important historians and philosophers of science in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Mach’s appointment to a chair in the history and philosophy of science at the University of Vienna in 1895 marked the beginning of a long and influential tradition of integrating history and philosophy of science in science pedagogy. Howard will also discuss the equally edifying example of Albert Einstein, who likewise prized the role of history and philosophy in science teaching and who acknowledged a great debt to Mach for having taught him this lesson.

Dr. Don Howard, Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

Thursday, March 22, 2018, 3:30-5:00 pm

163 Student Union, Wright State University

Don Howard is the former director and Fellow of the University of Notre Dame’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values, where he now functions as co-director of the Center’s ethics of emerging technologies focus area. He holds a permanent appointment as a Professor in the Department of Philosophy. With a first degree in physics (B.Sc., Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, 1971), Howard went on to obtain both an M.A. (1973) and a Ph.D. (1979) in philosophy from Boston University, where he specialized in philosophy of physics under the direction of Abner Shimony. 

A Fellow of the American Physical Society, Past Chair of APS’s Forum on the History of Physics, and past Chair of its Committee on International Freedom of Scientists, Howard is an internationally recognized expert on the history and philosophy of modern physics, especially the work of Einstein and Bohr. He served as Assistant Editor and Contributing Editor for The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein (Princeton University Press), and is Co-Editor of the Einstein Studies series (Springer). His video/audio lecture series, Albert Einstein: Physicist, Philosopher, Humanitarian, is available from The Great Courses, and a collection of his essays on Einstein is in preparation for the University of Chicago Press. Howard is also the co-founder (1990) of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science and was the founding co-editor of its journal, HOPOS (University of Chicago Press).