Anti-Israel, pro-Israel weeks competing on U.S. campuses

Source: JTA, 2-28-11

Competing anti-Israel and pro-Israel weeks are getting under way on more than two dozen North American college campuses.

The seventh annual Israel Apartheid Week officially launched Tuesday and continues through the end of March. Campuses in 12 U.S. and six Canadian cities are planning events and hosting speakers protesting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Some campuses have scheduled similar events at other times during the school year.

To counter those efforts, Israel Peace Week will highlight the positive contributions Israel has made to the world at approximately the equivalent number of North American campuses.

The first Israel Apartheid Week was held in Toronto in 2005. Events this month are planned on campuses in California, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Texas and Missouri, and in four Canadian provinces.

The internationally coordinated campaign, which has close ties to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, is meant to draw comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa, and to harness the same protest mechanisms against Israel that brought down the former South African regime two decades ago.

Along with speakers and conferences, activities often include political street theater, such as setting up mock Israeli “checkpoints” on campus or constructing a model of the security fence, deemed the “apartheid wall.”

In many of those same campuses, pro-Israel students hand out information near the Israel Apartheid Week  events, and host their own conferences and speakers to present Israel’s case. Last year, Israel Peace Week was held on 28 campuses, but pro-Israel students conducted individual efforts at several other colleges and universities as well.

Hebrew U. Professor Robert Wistrich Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Source: Right Side News, 2-27-11

Wistrich Named Leading Scholar In The Field Of Anti-Semitism,

His Masterwork A Lethal Obsession Awarded ‘Best Book Of 2010’

The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced today that the Center’s director, Professor Robert S. Wistrich, has been awarded the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (JSA) ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in recognition of his lifelong scholarly contributions to the study of anti-Semitism.

Prof._Wistrich_1Because of his commitment to investigating anti-Semitism and fighting it in all its emerging forms, the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism is proud to acknowledge Prof. Wistrich as the leading scholar in the field and present him with this Lifetime Achievement Award,” the publication’s editors, Steven K. Baum, Neal E. Rosenberg, Lesley Klaff and Steven L. Jacobs, said in a written statement.

“We are appreciative of Prof. Wistrich’s scholarly efforts in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism and believe such acknowledgment is long overdue.”

Prof. Wistrich holds the Neuberger chair for Modern European History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the author and editor of 24 books, several of which have won international awards.  These include Socialism and the Jews, The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph (winner of the Austrian State Prize for Danubian History and Antisemitism), and The Longest Hatred (recipient of the H.H. Wingate Prize for non-fiction in the U.K.).

“His numerous books and articles and invaluable contributions to landmark film projects set the standard for other scholars and have paved the way for graduate students to continue his work in the study of anti-Semitism,” the statement concludes.

The JSA also named Prof. Wistrich’s magnum opus, A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House, 2010), the ‘Best Book of 2010’ on the topic of anti-Semitism.

A Lethal Obsession, an encyclopedic work spanning over 2,000 years of world history, provides a definitive look at the various streams of anti-Semitism through the ages, and explores the connections between the resurgence of global anti-Semitism and contemporary social and political issues….READ MORE

Menachem Z. Rosensaft: ‘The long road home’ for Jews after the Holocaust

Source: WaPo, 2-22-11

Most people would not consider a mere five years to be an “era,” that term generally being reserved for far longer spans of time. And yet, as is evident from Ben Shephard’s masterful The Long Road Home, The Aftermath of the Second World War, published this month, the five years following the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of World War II in the spring of 1945, when hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors as well as non-Jewish erstwhile forced laborers from various parts of Eastern Europe languished in Displaced Persons (DP) camps, indeed constituted an era.

“The concept of the ‘displaced persons,'” writes Shephard, “determined the shape of the Allied humanitarian effort after the war . . . because, as it turned out, the war’s most important legacy was a refugee crisis. When the dust had settled and all those who wished to had returned home, there remained in Germany, Austria and Italy a residue of some 1 million people who were mot inclined to go back to their own countries – Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and Yugoslavs.”

By way of full disclosure, my father, Josef Rosensaft, who headed both the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the British Zone of Germany and the Jewish Committee that administered the Bergen-Belsen DP camp, is featured in The Long Road Home, and Shephard graciously refers to me in his acknowledgments.

The complex, often haphazard efforts by the Americans and British military to regulate humanitarian relief efforts in the context of rapidly changing geopolitical challenges are laid forth in comprehensive detail in the book. So is the inability of the victorious Allies and different relief agencies to adequately deal with the physical and psychological human condition of the men, women and children who found themselves stranded in a political, cultural and economic no man’s land. The public anti-Semitic utterances of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan, the decorated British Army officer who served as Chief of Operations of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, proved to be a major distraction until he was eventually fired from his post.

It took the Americans and the British quite some time to figure out that Jews who had emerged from death camps and whose families, homes, and communities had been completely destroyed had radically different needs and aspirations than Polish or Ukrainian Christians who had endured a far different plight. While the Jewish DPs strove to rebuild their shattered lives and played a critical role in the struggle to establish the State of Israel, the non-Jewish DPs had no clear ideological or other mission other than to exist while waiting, mostly passively, for the next chapter of their lives to unfurl.

Shephard’s discussion of the critical rehabilitative function of Zionism for the Jewish DPs is especially instructive. David Ben-Gurion, who visited some of the DP camps in the fall of 1945, intuitively understood the public relations value of Jewish survivors of the death camps clamoring for a homeland. When Bartley Crum, an American member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, urged a young Jewish DP to have patience, the latter replied, “How can you talk to us of patience? After six years of this war, after all our parents have been burned in the gas ovens, you talk to us of patience?”

At the same time, Shephard neither idealizes the prevailing conditions nor ignores the obstacles faced by Jewish Holocaust survivors in their efforts to forge a destiny for themselves. When many of them ultimately decided to go to the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, Rabbi Abraham Klausner, a Jewish chaplain in the American Zone of Germany who had played a pivotal role in organizing the survivors there into a political force, argued that the DPs “should be forced to go to Palestine . . . They are not to be asked but told what to do.”

In sharp contrast, Shephard vividly describes my father’s disillusionment during an April 1949 visit to the newly independent State of Israel where he had been “received at the highest levels.” “His presence,” Shephard writes, “happened to coincide with the arrival of a transport of Jews from Belsen , and he was shocked by the living conditions in the transit camp they were sent to. A previous transport, forced to live in waterlogged huts, had even asked the Israeli authorities to send them back to Belsen.” Upon his return to Belsen, Shephard continues, my father “gave a powerful speech to the Jews in the camp, telling them that Israel was a wonderful but difficult country. He urged them to go there as long as they were prepared for the harsh conditions they would encounter there. He also warned them that they would be on their own. ‘Ben-Gurion will not meet you at the boat,’ he said, ‘and Eliezer Kaplan [Israel ‘s first finance minister] will not present you with a check.'”

With its a thorough and compassionate depiction of the DP era as a whole, The Long Road Home establishes beyond question the period’s pivotal importance as an integral element of, rather than a mere postscript to, the respective, intertwined histories of both World War II and the Holocaust. It is also a book that should be required reading for anyone who seeks to obtain an insight into the capacity of ordinary individuals to confront and, for the most part, overcome the consequences of persecution and dire devastation.

Menachem Z. Rosensaft is General Counsel of the World Jewish Congress, Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School , Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Syracuse University College of Law, and Vice President of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

Yeshiva Fair Is a Bastion for Jewish Books of the Printed Variety

Source: NYT, 2-11-11

Those who mourn the metamorphosis of books made of paper into digital versions for e-readers can find some solace by taking a trip to Washington Heights in Manhattan.

James Estrin/The New York Times

The sale offers gilded volumes of Torah and Talmud, and Jewish-themed novels, cookbooks and children’s picture books.

James Estrin/The New York Times

Mordechai Weiss went to the fair on its first day and found an armful of books to buy.

There, in a cavernous hall on its campus, Yeshiva University is holding its annual seforim sale — its book fair. It offers 150,000 new and incontrovertibly genuine books — printed and bound — of 13,000 titles. They include gilded volumes of Torah and Talmud, novels, cookbooks, biographies, humor collections, self-help guides and children’s picture books, all Jewish-themed.

The fair opened on Sunday and ends on Feb. 27; 15,000 people are expected to visit and to spend a total of $1 million.

The fair, managed by students, has been running for at least 25 of the university’s 125 years, but it has mushroomed in recent years and has become a highlight of the New York region’s Orthodox calendar — not quite on the level of Passover, but an important period nonetheless.

That is because it has become a must-do social event, where some of the 58,000 Yeshiva alumni, as well as observant students from colleges and high schools in the New York area, know they will bump into one another. And it is where eligible men and women meet up behind the fig leaf that they are there only to browse through the books. Mingling among them are sprinklings from other Jewish subcultures, from insistently secular to Hasidic.

On Sunday, among the skullcap-wearing men prowling the aisles, some with prayer fringes dangling out of their shirts, was Yishai Barkhordari, 23, a graduate of Yeshiva University now studying counseling psychology at Fordham University. He said he had run into 10 friends.

“Jews buy and read books, especially Jewish books,” Mr. Barkhordari said. “So you put a lot of books in one place, you’ll get a lot of Jews.”

The book fair also draws thousands of visitors to the neighborhood, from which, for a long time, Yeshiva University had remained relatively separate…READ MORE

American Historical Review: an unusual tale of a Baghdadi Jew in Shanghai

American Historical Review: an unusual tale of a Baghdadi Jew in Shanghai

Source:  IU Newsroom, 2-10-11

American Historical Review

The cover image of this month’s American Historical Review is a portrait of Shah Jahan Begum (1838-1901), the third in a succession of four women who ruled the princely state of Bhopal. American Historical Association president Barbara Metcalf reveals Shah Jahan as a complex and intriguing figure who advanced women’s rights but aroused fear in colonial officials who distrusted Islamic activism.

Silas Aaron Hardoon was said to be the wealthiest foreigner in Shanghai when he died in 1931, with an estate valued at $150 million. But questions soon arose: Would the inheritance of the estate be subject to the laws and traditions of Britain, the Ottoman Empire or the Jewish Diaspora?

In the latest issue of the American Historical Review, Sarah Abrevaya Stein recounts the extraordinary legal disputes over Hardoon’s fo

rtune and examines what they reveal about the place of Jewish émigrés in the shifting early 20th century landscape of empire, colonialism and national sovereignty.

A Jew born in Baghdad, Hardoon grew up in India, where he acquired the status of “British protected person.” He spent the last 60 years of his life in Shanghai, where he married and acquired a fortune. Iraqi relatives challenged Hardoon’s will, which left his fortune to his wife. But judges of His Britannic Majesty’s Supreme Court for China upheld the will on grounds that Hardoon was subject to British law.

In “Protected Persons? The Baghdadi Jewish Diaspora, the British State, and the Persistence of Empire,” Stein, a professor of Sephardic Studies in the Department of History at UCLA, concludes that the concept of “protected person” proved to be as malleable as the wax effigy of Hardoon that caused a stir at his funeral — and as malleable as the project of imperialism itself…READ MORE

Jonathan Sarna: The Jewish ‘Library of Congress’ Bounces Back From Debt, Then Advances Campaign

The Jewish ‘Library of Congress’ Bounces Back From Debt, Then Advances Campaign

Source: The Forward, 2-2-11 — 2-11-11

Facing a looming deadline to pay off $30 million in tax-exempt bonds, the Center for Jewish History has raised every dollar needed to settle its outstanding debt, the organization’s leadership announced on January 24. It is no small accomplishment for any not-for-profit in the current economic climate, particularly for one that, in recent years, has dealt with management woes and struggled to avoid a merger.

“We feel secure that we’ve gotten our message out to a substantial number of people,” Bruce Slovin, the center’s founder and chairman, said in an interview. “We’re going to embark on new projects and can work on the substance of the center.”

The center is a consortium of five organizations: the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Its campus, near Manhattan’s Union Square, opened in 2000.

With 150,000 square feet of on-site archive space, and another 10,000 square feet off-site, some 100 million individual documents and artifacts, and 500,000 volumes in its library, the center, which bills itself as the Jewish version of the Library of Congress, is the largest Jewish historical collection outside Israel.

But it has also had vocal critics, including the prominent American Jewish historian and Forward columnist Jonathan Sarna. Yet, Sarna said that the success of the center’s fundraising campaign has changed his perspective.

For many years, Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and a member of the AJHS’s academic council, argued that building the institution was a mistake. “The money, I said then, should have gone into scanning the documents [owned by the respective consortium members] rather than creating bricks and mortar as a memorial to the donors,” he said. “Now that it’s financially viable, it’s perfectly clear that it has found a place. One goes there and sees a variety of scholars and interested New Yorkers doing research.”

Sarna called the center “unquestionably the most important Jewish archive in the country and one of the most important in the world.”

Before raising the $30 million, which took 15 months, the center faced a debilitating financial burden. Terms for renewing its letter of credit were poor, and paying the required principal and interest on the existing credit line necessitated taking $1.5 million from its endowment each year. All this interfered with the center’s ability to raise operating funds — funds that otherwise might go toward creating new public programs and making archival materials available online….READ MORE

Jonathan Webber: Pepperdine’s ‘Traces of Memory’ exhibit reveals Poland’s Jewish past, heritage

Source: Malibu Times, 2-9-11

A courtyard in Rymanow, Poland, from the book, “Traces of Memory,” from which photographs are now on display at Pepperdine University’s Payson Library. Photo by Chris Schwarz

The most impacting portion to the Payson Library exhibit is dedicated to Holocaust sites of massacre and destruction. Upcoming events and speakers tied to the exhibit take place the end throughout February.

“Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland,” opened last week in Pepperdine University’s Payson Library. The exhibit, the first of its kind displayed in the campus library, portrays recent images of Polish Galicia in Eastern Europe, as photographed by Chris Schwarz, a late British photojournalist.

At once stark, historical, current and contextual, the objective behind the exhibit was to examine the reclaiming of Poland’s Jewish past and heritage, said Jonathan Webber, an Oxford University professor whose book “Rediscovering Traces of Memory” documents the journeys across Eastern Europe that he and Schwarz embarked upon during the course of a dozen years.

“The idea of this exhibition was to cover a number of emotions and feelings. You just can’t stereotype Poland and say, ‘It’s all in ruins, or it’s all gas chambers,’” Webber said during a phone interview from England last week. “You have to look at that they have gone back to these places and have tried to restore what was before.”

Webber and Schwarz, who died four years ago, undertook the assignment in 1993. The results portray a Poland deteriorated, though sometimes unchanged, since the devastations of World War II….READ MORE