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Research Group: Big Data and Planets

big data

[RG # 157] Big Data and Planets

May 1, 2019 – July 31, 2019


Tsevi Mazeh (Tel Aviv University)

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Astronomy is in the midst of a transformation brought on by exponentially progressing technological advances in the information age. New detector capabilities and faster computation have created a new era in which the use of advanced data mining and inference methods could bring new answers to long-standing scientific questions. The proposed research group, which includes leading figures in data analysis of exo-planets will 

• prepare algorithms for analysis of data from the forthcoming TESS space mission, 

• apply Gaussian Processes and machine learning algorithms to model stellar variability in transit and radial-velocity studies of exo-planets, and 

• study exo-planetary system architectures by developing population models and confront them with the accumulating data, using new statistical tools. 

We expect the research group to provide a better understanding of the exo-planetary population via advanced statistical tools — a giant leap in one of the most exciting fields of present science. 


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Research Group: The Reception and Impact of Aristotelian Logic in Medieval Jewish Culture

medieval jewish

[RG # 156]  The Reception and Impact of Aristotelian Logic in Medieval Jewish Culture

Sept. 1, 2018 - July 1, 2019

Charles Manekin (University of Maryland),
Yehuda Halper (Bar-Ilan University)

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The purpose of the research group is to investigate: the reception, followed by the naturalization, of Aristotelian logic into medieval Jewish cultures in Europe; and the repercussions of the introduction of logic into the Jewish intellectual matrix in numerous other areas of Jewish thought, beyond the field of logic itself. The proposed group will bring together scholars from various corners of medieval intellectual history: two historians of logic (specializing in the history of logic in Hebrew and Arabic); historians of medieval science, medicine, and philosophy; and scholars who study medieval religious polemic and Biblical exegesis, with an emphasis on the use of logic therein. Among the questions to be considered will be: What was the place of logic in the overall transfer of rationalist philosophical/scientific culture to European Jews in the Middle Ages (12th-15th centuries)? How did the study of logic affect intellectual activity in various areas, including traditional Jewish subjects (e.g. religious polemics; medicine; biblical exegesis; Talmud study).

By highlighting the interdisciplinary importance of medieval logic in Hebrew, we anticipate that the impact of this group will extend beyond the history of medieval philosophy, into the fields of general European medieval culture and history, Christian intellectual history, history of philosophy and logic, history of medicine, kabbalah, etc. We hope to bring to the attention of scholars of Jewish intellectual history and historians of logic just how widespread the study of logic by Jews in the Middle Ages was, and how it impacted their other intellectual endeavors.


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Research Group: New Directions in the Study of Javanese Literature


[RG # 155] New Directions in the Study of Javanese Literature

September 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019


Ronit Ricci (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Javanese literature is among the world’s richest and most unusual literary traditions yet it is currently little known outside of Java, Indonesia. The vast majority of Javanese texts, in manuscript and print form, remain untouched by scholars.

The Javanese are the largest Muslim ethno-linguistic group in the world and the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, with their language spoken today by approximately 100 million people. Beginning in the ninth century and into the present they have produced a complex, diverse and intricate literary corpus that is a gateway to understanding Javanese writing practices, approaches to language, poetics, and translation strategies. Through its narrative histories, theological and legal treatises and interlinear translations from Arabic to Javanese, this literature also offers insights on Java’s remarkable transition to Islam, half a world away - geographically, culturally and linguistically - from Islam’s birthplace in the Middle East.

The study of Javanese in western universities has declined dramatically and it is currently on the verge of disappearance. The research group aims to revitalize this important humanistic field by:

  1. creating a rare opportunity for scholars to read, study and discuss Javanese texts collaboratively

  2. examining and analyzing yet unstudied Javanese works, thus broadening the basis of Javanese texts on which to generalize and theorize

  3. exploring anew previously studied texts, employing innovative methodological and theoretical perspectives from Comparative Literature, Islamic Studies, Cultural Studies and Performance Studies, and

  4. in light of the above, reconceptualizing and remapping major dimensions of the field of Javanese literature including periodization, contextualization, literary categorizations, and interpretive methods.

Mindful of the newness of Indonesian and Javanese Studies within Israeli academia, group members also aim to contribute (individually and collectively) to the expansion and strengthening of these fields in Israel. 


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Research Group: Rethinking Early Modern Jewish Legal Culture: New Sources, Methodologies and Paradigms

legal culture

[RG # 154] Rethinking Early Modern Jewish Legal Culture: New Sources, Methodologies and Paradigms

September 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019


Jay Berkovitz (University of Massachusetts Amherst),
Arye Edrei (Tel Aviv University)

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A substantial number of new sources for the study of Jewish history and law have come to the attention of scholars during the past fifteen years. Only recently, rabbinic and lay court records from Jewish communities in early modern Europe and the Mediterranean world have begun to be inspected, though very few systematic studies of these sources have yet been undertaken. Rabbinic and community court records are fundamental not only to our understanding of Jewish autonomy and politics. They also represent a basic tool for discovering how Jewish law functioned in practice. Our goal is to incorporate these sources into the historical narrative so that we can better understand the role that Jewish and general law played in the life of individuals and their communities.

The following questions are central to the year-long investigations that are planned:

  1. Did Jews engage in forum shopping between Jewish and non-Jewish courts, how was this viewed by rabbinic and lay authorities, and where there was opposition, what were the steps taken to prevent this?

  2. Were adjustments in Jewish law (halakhah) among these steps, how familiar were Jews with general law, and did Jewish jurists incorporate aspects of general law, such as the ius commune, into their decisions?

The proposed Research Group intends to use rabbinic and lay court records to (re)define the place of Jewish law in daily life through modern legal theory and historical investigation.

Toward this end, we will place historians and legal scholars in dialogue on the substance and ramifications of these recently rediscovered sources. 


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