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Sara Glasgow Cogan Memorial Lecture with Joshua Safran
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 7:00pm

The Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at Portland State University welcomes Joshua Safran to campus for the Sara Glasgow Cogan Memorial Lecture. Safran presents “Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid” (Hyperion, September 2013), his memoir that shows the darker side of the Age of Aquarius. Featured, too, will be the film, "Crime After Crime," which tells the story of Safran and his law partner working to free a battered woman from prison.

Wednesday, March 5, 7 p.m.
Native American Student & Community Center
710 S.W. Jackson St.

This event is free and open to the public. Safran will be selling and signing "Free Spirit" at the end of his talk.

In 2007, PSU Prof. Emeritus Nathan Cogan created the Sara Glasgow Cogan Memorial Scholarship and Lecture in his late wife's memory. The scholarship provides Judaic Studies minor-degree students the opportunity to intern for a local Jewish communal organization; this year the participating organizations are Jewish Theatre Collaborative and the Oregon Jewish Museum. The lecture highlights Judaic Studies' students of merit and, in the past, has brought to Portland noted guests like novelist Dara Horn and the late Jewish musician Debbie Friedman.

This year's lecture guest, Safran, is an attorney who channels his passion for fighting against domestic violence into “Free Spirit.”

Like many in her generation in the 1970s, Safran's mother was caught up in the search for what she believed would be a new age of peace and love. But when utopia didn't flower as expected, she found herself pregnant and single, giving birth to Safran amidst a coven of witches in a Haight-Ashbury commune and eventually in a doomed marriage with a physically abusive alcoholic guerilla/poet.

Her restless search for meaning put her on the road and Safran spent his childhood hitchhiking with his flower-child mother as she tried to establish a revolutionary community off the grid. As they wandered with a parade of strange characters on the margins of society Joshua sojourned in makeshift homes, including a van, an ice cream truck, and a lean-to on a stump. The sojourn over, Safran finds his way back to the Judaism his mother had long ago abandoned.

"Free Spirit" also describes Safran's profound journey of the spirit. He eventually summons the courage to fight back against his stepfather and the bullies who torment him, and to help his mother find refuge in a utopian commune by the Canadian border. He also details his own spiritual rebirth in the face of all that he saw and experienced and his deep reconnection with his Jewish roots. Married now, with a family of his own, he continues his legal work on behalf of women who survive domestic violence.

Joshua Safran is a writer, attorney, performer, and public speaker. His seven-year legal odyssey to free an innocent woman from prison was the subject of the award-winning film, “Crime After Crime,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and on the Oprah Winfrey Network. He has received numerous awards for his zealous advocacy on behalf of women, survivors of domestic violence, and the wrongfully imprisoned. He is also a recognized pioneer in the field of land use and local government law. He lives in Oakland, California with his wife and three daughters.

Connect with Joshua Safran at,, and on Twitter @joshuasafran.