The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

GC Events

10/29 – Aviva Ben-Ur, A Jewish Community in a Slave Society  

The largest Jewish communities in the early modern Americas emerged in slave societies. Of these, the most unusual was that of the Dutch colony of Suriname, just north of Brazil. There, Jews were among the earliest white settlers, and could hence negotiate for religious liberty, their own court, and a communally owned village, located on the edge of the rainforest. This talk focuses on the negotiation process that transformed a fledgling settlement into the most privileged Jewish community of its time. Perhaps the most consequential outcome of these privileges was the conversion of people of African descent to Judaism, an example that highlights both the political autonomy of Jews and the violence endemic to all slave societies. 


Aviva Ben-Ur is Professor in the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Jewish Autonomy in a Slave Society: Suriname in the Atlantic World: 1651-1825 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020).

 October 29, 10am-11:30am

Register here: []

 Sponsored by the GC Center for Jewish Studies 

Co-sponsored with the Queens College Center for Jewish Studies and the History PhD Program. 


Penn Press is pleased to offer 30% off Aviva Ben-Ur’s new book, Jewish Autonomy in a Slave Society [], with code AUTONOMY30-FM  (valid 10/22 through 11/7)


Aviva Ben-ur flyer