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    Schemel Forum Seminars Cover Enticing Topics

    The Schemel Forum’s World Affairs Seminars for the spring semester at The University of Scranton will be presented by Rabbi Daniel Swartz of Temple Hesed in Scranton; Elzbieta Matynia, Ph.D., professor of sociology and liberal studies and director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies at the New School for Social Research; Kathy Johnson Bowles, executive director of Scranton’s Everhart Museum of Natural History, Science and Art; David N. Myers, Ph.D., Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA; Nomi Stolzenberg, founder and co-director of the USC Center for Law, History and Culture; Fredrik Logevall, Ph.D., Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University; and Jill Dougherty, former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief.
    February 9, 2022

    During the spring semester, the Schemel Forum’s World Affairs Seminars at The University of Scranton will explore insightful topics with timely perspectives and historical undertones.

    Six experts in their fields will lead discussions via a remote format as well as in-person when luncheons return to the campus. Each event will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. Admission is free for University students, faculty and staff and Schemel Forum members. For non-members, the luncheons $25 in person and $10 remotely.

    The series opens on Thursday, Feb. 10, with “Our Common Home: Vatican and Multifaith Engagement on Environment and Climate Justice,” presented by Rabbi Daniel Swartz of Temple Hesed in Scranton. He also serves as the executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), based in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Swartz joined 40 global religious leaders, 10 scientists and social scientists, and Pope Francis at the Vatican in October 2021 to take part in an ongoing multi-faith effort to address climate change. He will share highlights of that work and discuss the role of faith traditions to protect the environment and promote the common good.

    “The science of climate change has been clear for a while, but a combination of denial and disinformation, especially in the U.S., has delayed an appropriate response to the looming global crisis,” said Rabbi Swartz, who was invited because of his efforts to articulate the moral urgency of climate change and because those efforts are “on the ground” rather than administrative. One of only five participants from the U.S., he played a prominent role in writing the document presented a few weeks later at the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

    “At the Vatican, in the interest of social justice, we prepared a shared vision of how wealthy countries can come together to mitigate the even-harsher effects of climate change on poorer regions,” said Rabbi Swartz. “Hope is the belief that if you work hard enough, any situation can improve; and that’s something all faiths have carried since the origin of religion. This initiative is different from previous planning, because we made a commitment to continue the discussion locally and reconvene periodically to assess our progress and plan action steps based on those assessments.” The seminar will take place in remote format only.  A remote link will be emailed to those registered.

    On Friday, Feb. 18, Elzbieta Matynia, Ph.D., professor of sociology and liberal studies and director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies at the New School for Social Research, will present “Is Liberal Democracy Already History?” Dr. Matynia will explore the state of democracy today, at home and abroad and the evolution of illiberal democracies, particularly in eastern European countries. She will discuss the factors that made possible the societal hope that took root, the factors that facilitated unprecedented setbacks, and the factors that now sustain the promise of reclaiming democracy while addressing the issues of broader social justice. The seminar will take place in the Kane Forum of Edward Leahy Hall, and a remote link will be emailed to those registered.

     “Linneaus’ Legacy: Corrupting Color to Serve Discrimination and Exploitation” will be presented on Thursday, March 3 by Kathy Johnson Bowles, executive director of Scranton’s Everhart Museum of Natural History, Science and Art. Swedish botanist, zoologist and taxonomist Carl Linneaus (1707-1778) formalized a system of naming organisms still used today.

    “Linneaus’ theories have been expanded upon by several influential thinkers over the years,” said Bowles. “Reinforcing the notion that skin color, head shape and other physical characteristics determine the value of a group or individual is clearly discriminatory and racist.” Bowles will raise eyebrows by connecting those dots to the seemingly innocent naming of crayon colors and other ways that we inadvertently further these antiquated and harmful notions. The seminar will take place in the Rose Room of Brennan Hall, and a remote link will be emailed to those registered.

    Two prominent scholars from Los Angeles will team up on Monday, March 14 to present “Remarkable Tale of Law, Politics, and Religion: The Making of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic town in Upstate New York.” David N. Myers, Ph.D., a Scranton native, is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA, where he serves as the director of the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. He will join his wife and co-author Nomi Stolzenberg, founder and co-director of the USC Center for Law, History and Culture. This talk will explore the fascinating story of Kiryas Joel, a legally recognized municipality in New York made up entirely of strictly Orthodox Hasidic Jews. The seminar will take place in the Rose Room of Brennan Hall, and a remote link will be emailed to those registered. Copies of the book by Dr. Stolzenberg and Dr. Myers, “American Shtetl: The Making of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Village in Upstate New York,” will be on sale.

    On Thursday, March 24, Fredrik Logevall, Ph.D., Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, will present “Window Into the Presidency: The White House Tapes and Their Meaning.” For a brief eleven-year period, from 1962 to 1973, three American presidents secretly recorded high-level White House deliberations concerning top policy issues. Dr. Logevall will play some of these extraordinary recordings and discuss what they reveal about the affairs of state during a tumultuous period of American history. The seminar will take place in the Rose Room of Brennan Hall, and a remote link will be emailed to those registered.

    The series will conclude on Friday, April 22. “Russia and the Post-Truth Society” will be presented by Jill Dougherty, who formerly served as CNN’s Moscow Bureau Chief for almost a decade. An expert on Russia, she is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a CNN on-air contributor.

    “During the Cold War, the USSR tried to convince the world that communism was the future of humankind,” said Dougherty. “The U.S. tried to convince the world that democracy and capitalism gave people a better life. Today, propagandists still try to convince but, more and more, try to confuse and to overwhelm their target audiences with a firehose of mis- and dis-information.”

    Dougherty, who is currently teaching a course titled “Information Wars” at Georgetown University, will explore the new paradigm, what it means for Russia, and what it could mean for America. The semiar will take place in the Kane Forum of Edward Leahy Hall; and a remote link will be emailed to those registered.

    To register for the seminars, contact Alicen Morrison, Schemel Forum assistant, at 570-941-6206 or alicen.morrison@scranton.edu. To pay by credit card over the phone, contact Kym Fetsko at 570-941-7816, or to pay online, visit: www.scranton.edu/schemelforum.

    For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers, Schemel Forum director, at 570-941-4089 or sondra.myers@scranton.edu.

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