Image of Jeff Levy

Jewish Social Services established the Levy Summer Series in 2013 with the generous support of Jeffrey C. Levy. We continue this partnership to bring you this years’ six-part program series. It is an opportunity to lifelong learners to interact with scholars, artists, and community leaders over a broad range of topics of interest. Meeting in June, July and August, the series is held at Nakoma Country Club, 4145 Country Club Road in Madison and consists of six high-quality programs, followed by an elegant lunch at a reasonable cost.  Scholarships are available. We look forward to seeing all of you at this years’ Levy Summer Series!

All events run from 10:30am to 1:30pm and contain a presentation followed by a seated lunch, as in previous years.


Jeffrey C. Levy

Madison businessman Jeffrey C. Levy is co-owner of Phillips Distributing. Jeff is a member of
Temple Beth El and Beth Israel Center. He serves on several community foundation boards
including United Way, Meriter-Unity Point, and Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Jeff and his family
have been committed supporters of Jewish Social Services for many years.
With his generous support, Jewish Social Services is moving into its ninth year of Levy
Summer Series programming.

Levy Series 2024 – Register Now!

Registration by phone:  608-442-4081 
Mail or in-person: Jewish Social Services,  
6300 Enterprise Lane #309, Madison WI 53719
Each program is $25: includes meal and presentation 

View our 2024 Series Brochure below:

Tuesday, June 4
Adam Schrager – “The Principled Politician: A Story of Courage”

One man’s courage offers timeless lessons for us all. In this presentation, Adam Schrager tells the story of Ralph Carr, who was drafted to run for governor of Colorado in 1938, turned down the chance to run as a vice presidential candidate in 1940, and was being discussed as a “future presidential candidate” by newspapers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Carr became a national figure when, after Pearl Harbor, he defended the constitutional rights of Japanese-Americans and stood against internment. His outspoken and unpopular stance would cost him greatly, both personally and professionally 

Adam Schrager is the author of four books, including “The Principled Politician,” which led to Colorado lawmakers naming the state’s new justice center and a state highway after its subject, former Gov. Ralph Carr. Schrager has an undergraduate degree in American History from the University of Michigan and a graduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from Northwestern University. 

Lunch: Nakoma salad, dinner rolls & mini muffins, Pesto Crusted Walleye or Roasted Vegetable Napoleon, jasmine herbed rice, steamed asparagus. Dessert: Tiramisu 

Tuesday, June 18
Erin Faigin – “I Don’t Want To Say a Valley Girl is a ‘JAP’: The San Fernando Valley, Valley Girls, and Postwar Jewish Upward Mobility” 

Erin Faigin will describe the relationship between the Valley Girl of the 1980’s and the Jewish American Princess as a way to understand postwar American Jewish upward mobility. Her research explores the relationship between upward mobility, misogyny, and antisemitism in the imagined and real lives of American Jewish women during the Reagan years and beyond. By looking at popular media (SNL, Valley Girl, Clueless), national scandal (the Monica Lewinsky tapes), and lived experience (including that of the nose job), Faigin’s research demonstrates the limits of the assimilationist paradigm to explain postwar American Jewish history. Even in Los Angeles, even blonde, Jews suburbanized as Jews. 

Faigin herself hails from the San Fernando Valley of Valley Girl fame, but she has lived in Madison since 2017. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in American Jewish History and has written and researched diverse topics such as Utah’s Yiddish utopias, Chicago’s interwar Jewish bookstore culture, and now, the Jewish American Princess. 

Lunch: Seasonal fruit plate, dinner rolls & mini muffins, Mahi Mahi with toasted kale Buerre Blanc or Sun-dried tomato and asparagus quiche in puff pastry, Yukon Gold potatoes, green bean bundle wrapped in carrot. Dessert: Dark chocolate ganache three-layer cake 

Tuesday, July 2
Dan Barker: “Faithful and Not-So Faithful: Some Favorite Jewish Composers and Songwriters” 

Many famous Jewish composers and songwriters were secular, not believing, but most showing some caring and appreciation of their Jewish heritage and community. Some were atheists and agnostics. But a few were not. Harold Arlen, son of a Cantor, never claimed to be a nonbeliever, though he did marry a Catholic. We don’t know if Dorothy Fields was a believing Jew, but in the absence of any statements from her, we might assume she was, at least nominally. And we do know some Jews who, like Aaron Copland, had no interest or little knowledge of the faith — Leonard Bernstein called him a “fake Jew.” 

Dan Barker is a talented pianist and composer who never fails to impress us with his musical stylings as well as the breadth of his knowledge about popular American composers. Dan Barker graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Religion and was ordained as an evangelist minister at the age of fifteen. He became a “freethinker” in 1983 and is now the co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. 

Lunch: Caesar salad, assorted artisan rolls & mini muffins, Broiled tilapia with caper picatta sauce or Goat cheese and spinach strudel, barley pilaf and steamed carrots. Dessert: Door County cherry pie a la mode

Wednesday, July 17
Daniel Stolz –  “Recent Research in Ottoman-Jewish History” 

This talk will provide an introduction to recent historical scholarship on the many Jewish communities that once lived across the vast Ottoman domains of the Middle East, the Balkans, and North Africa. Recent years have seen a wave of innovative studies explore Ottoman-Jewish history to shed light on topics such as modern citizenship, coexistence, international law, and the formation of national and diasporic identities. Rather than explore any one subtopic in depth, this talk will reflect on the broader significance of these histories. 

Professor Stolz is a gifted instructor, researcher and writer with a particular interest in the history of the late Ottoman Empire and the emergence of the modern Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His studies focus on how Ottomans used new kinds of technical knowledge to transform their society in the decades before World War I. Professor Stolz currently chairs the Turkish Studies Committee, which oversees the Kemal H. Karpat Center for Turkish Studies. 

Lunch: Cream of asparagus soup, dinner rolls & mini muffins, Atlantic Salmon or Tofu Poke Bowl with veggies, ginger soy sauce, and sesame seeds, honey glazed carrots, Dauphinoise potatoes. Dessert: Mango sorbet with pirouline 

Thursday, August 15
Lauren Strauss – “American Jews and the Impulse Toward Social Justice” 

When and why did America’s Jewish community begin to organize around issues of social and civic justice?  During the 20th century, the community began to engage with many social issues of the day – from immigration, labor, free speech, and women’s rights to civil rights and racial justice.  This talk analyzes Jewish American activism and organizational skills, which stayed constant even in a changing world. 

Dr. Lauren Strauss teaches Jewish history and Israel studies at the American University in Washington, D.C., where she also serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Jewish Studies Program. Dr. Strauss lectures widely and is a commentator at Jewish cultural events and in the press.  She is active in “shared society” groups and academic organizations in the U.S. and Israel, and she has curated or served as historian for several museum exhibits. Her published articles focus on Jews and the arts, gender, and political activism. 

Lunch: Nakoma salad, dinner rolls & mini muffins, Baked Cod with Toasted Spinach-Lemon Butter Sauce or Vegetable Phyllo topped with marinara and crème fraiche, roasted red potatoes, French beans and baby carrots. Dessert: Turtle sundae