Sarah Traister Moskovitz: CSUN Professor Emeritus Preserves Warsaw Ghetto Poetry in Online Book

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: San Fernando Valley Sun, 8-25-11

Sarah MoskovitzPolish Jews faced a cruel destiny in 1940. Nazis soldiers had crammed more than 400,000 Jewish citizens into 1.3 square miles of territory known as the Warsaw Ghetto. From there they would be taken by trains to death camps.

Left in ruin, with faltering spirits, shattered hope and deteriorating health, the people of the ghetto began collecting all kinds of information to document their history for the future. The group was called the Oneg Shabes — Joy of Sabbath group. It was organized by a history professor who was an underground leader and social worker in the ghetto named Emanuel Ringelblum.

Their work came to be known as the Ringelblum archives. They contained, among other things, underground newspapers, public notices by the Jewish council, stolen Nazi propaganda and poetry, which was all illegal to write and possess under penalty of death.

“I thought it would be very interesting to look at the Yiddish poetry,” said Sarah Moskovitz, professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge who compiled poems from the Warsaw ghetto into a new online book, “Poetry in Hell.”

“I became interested in the material and I knew it was housed in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. I was fortunate to learn from the historian Samuel Kassow that this poetry had recently been sent in microfiche format to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.”

In 2001 Moskovitz applied for a grant from the Emeritus and Retired Faculty Association (ERFA), proposing to translate the poetry. She was awarded $1,500 from ERFA and invited to come to the museum as a visiting scholar with an additional grant from the museum. With the help of her husband, Irving. spent three weeks going through the relevant microfiches to make copies to translate when she returned to California. He also made unreadable microfiche copies readable.

“It’s been a 10-year endeavor,” Moskovitz said. “I not only wanted the English translations, but wanted to keep the original Yiddish language in case future scholars wanted to see the originals, which has made getting it published very difficult.”

The collection contains 153 poems, most of which was written during the Nazi occupation of the Warsaw ghetto. Some were written by professional poets, some by amateurs. Several were not written in the ghetto, but were the favorites of people living in the ghetto so they were collected with them, Moskovitz said.

Moskovitz divided the poetry into five different groups: “Nature;” “Home, Love and Life;” “Ghetto;” “Hunger and Struggle;” “Death, Protest and Mourning;” and finally, “Tradition, Faith and Legacy.”

Moskovitz starts with “Nature” because she wanted to introduce a sense of familiarity to the reader. Each section deals with particular themes. “Home, Love and Life” is people recollecting normalcy. Poems about home life, parents. “Ghetto” is life in the ghetto, which included the daily struggles and hunger the poets suffered and witnessed. “Death, Protest and Mourning” deals with loss of family, attachments people one loves through illness, death, people being taken away, dying, disappearing. “Tradition, Faith and Legacy” deals with the underground, forbidden schools that were training young people who survived to continue with tradition.

Most of the poetry was written by adult males in their 30s. About one-fifth of them are anonymous, while the others have an author attributed to them. There are six poems written by women and one written by a child.

“What piqued my interest and made it intense was my own life,” Moskovitz said. “My parents were Polish Jewish immigrants. I never met my other family that both my parents left behind in Poland, like cousins, aunts and uncles. I have one picture of an aunt Rivele with her husband and three children taken in 1938. They disappeared in the Holocaust and were never heard from again. Murdered in Treblinka? Auschwitz? Babi Yar? Even the Red Cross Tracing Service does not know. By the time I was 13 I knew that if I hadn’t grown up in the United States and my parents had stayed in Poland, I wouldn’t be alive.

“In a way, I was uncovering what could have been my past and paying homage to the families that belonged to my family. I learned a lot about history. A lot of detail and a lot of courage it takes to go into it,” she said. “I wanted to know. I was inspired by the fact that there are people who can write even while living in tragedy. I, myself, shut down during tragedy. I admire that ability and it is inspiring that some people were able to do that.”

Sarah Moskovitz taught at California State University, Northridge for 28 yearsand retired in 1997. She taught human development and even developed a course in adult development. She also taught individual counseling, group counseling and family therapy.

She did research on people who were children during the Holocaust and established the first organization that gathered them together in the Los Angeles area called Child Survivors.

“In that first group, there were only 35 people,” she said. “Now there are thousands who meet internationally. These are people who lived in Europe during the war and survived. Some survived camps. I gathered them together and wrote a book in 1981 called ‘Love Despite Hate: Child Survivors of the Holocaust and their Adult Lives.'”

Moskovitz’s current poetry collection of the Ringelblum Archive Poetry translated from Yiddish to English can be found and freely downloaded online at www.poetryinhell.org. It contains a forward and introduction by two eminent historians: Professor Samuel Kassow of Trinity College in Connecticut and Professor Michael Berenbaum at American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

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Ruta Sakowska: Historian & Warsaw Ghetto expert dies at 89

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DEPARTED

Source: JTA, 8-23-11

Historian Ruta Sakowska, one of the world’s leading experts on the World War II Warsaw Ghetto, has died. Sakowska died Monday in Warsaw at the age of 89.

Sakowska, who was born in Vilnius in 1922, served as director of the Ringelblum Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

The archives, established clandestinely in the Warsaw Ghetto by the historian Emmanuel Ringelblum and his secret Oneg Shabbat resistance team, document every facet of life and death in the ghetto and also document the fate of many other Polish Jewish communities. The documentation was hidden in milk cans and metal boxes on the eve of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Some 25,000 pages of material were recovered from the ruins of the ghetto after the war. Ringelblum himself was killed by the Gestapo in 1944.

In 1997, Sakowska received the Jan Karski and Pola Nirenska Award for her work on the archives.

Barry W. Holtz Reviews Jonathan Krasner: How One Man Samson Benderly Shaped American Jewish Education

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Barry W. Holtz Reviews Jonathan Krasner: How One Man Shaped American Jewish Education

Source: The Forward, 8-19-11

Visionaries: Samson Benderly (front row, second from right) at the 1907 Zionist convention in Tannersville, N.Y., with fellow delegates including Rabbi Judah L. Magnes (front row, left) and Solomon Schechter (front row, second from left).
Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Visionaries: Samson Benderly (front row, second from right) at the 1907 Zionist convention in Tannersville, N.Y., with fellow delegates including Rabbi Judah L. Magnes (front row, left) and Solomon Schechter (front row, second from left).

The Benderly Boys and American Education
By Jonathan Krasner
Brandeis University Press, 496 pages, $95

In the early years of the 20th century, Samson Benderly stood with the legendary figures of American Jewish life: He was recruited to New York by Judah Magnes; he knew Henrietta Szold and Barnett Brickner; he battled Solomon Schechter; he met regularly with his benefactor, Jacob Schiff, and his closest friend was Mordecai Kaplan. Indeed, Kaplan wrote of Benderly, “He is to me the most positive force in Jewish life today.”

Benderly, more than any other single individual, shaped the institutions of American Jewish education that we know today; but aside from historians of American Jewry and scholars of Jewish education, his name is virtually unknown. Now, Jonathan Krasner, an assistant professor of American Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, has produced “The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education” (Brandeis University Press, 2011), a prodigious and clear portrait of Benderly and his world.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this volume is the most important piece of historical writing about American Jewish education to have appeared in a generation. Although many fine scholars have written about various aspects of Jewish education in America, no one until now has taken such a comprehensive view of it. Krasner’s book delves deeply into the crucial period of the field — the 20th century — and contextualizes the history of American Jewish education both within Jewish life and within modern education. The wonderful collection of photographs on display throughout the book adds to its charm.

Benderly, born into a traditional Hasidic family in Safed, arrived in America in 1898 from Palestine. Though he came to Baltimore for medical studies, he was drawn to Jewish teaching and eventually left medicine to become an educator.

Benderly was a visionary and was capable of inspiring others to follow his vision. He developed around him a group of remarkable young people who shared his excitement about changing the face of American Jewish education. These were the “boys” of the book’s title: Alexander Dushkin, Isaac Berkson, Emanuel Gamoran and many others. Krasner also points out the importance of a group of “Benderly girls” (such as Rebecca Aaronson Brickner and Libbie Suchoff Berkson), many of whom had important careers in Jewish education, though most of them did not go into the work of institutional leadership, which was more characteristic of male career paths at the time. An excellent companion to this book, therefore, is the 2010 book “The Women Who Reconstructed American Jewish Education, 1910–1965” (Brandeis). Edited by Carol Ingall, it comprises portraits of influential female Jewish educators.

When Benderly began his work, Jewish education was a hodgepodge of disorganized institutions, profoundly incompetent teachers, nonexistent textbooks and undefined curricula. Studies were often conducted in “dilapidated, dark, stuffy, and often filthy conditions.” Benderly’s main mission was to organize, modernize and Americanize Jewish education. He was, despite his traditional upbringing, a cultural Jew, and he saw Jewish education in the light of Ahad Ha’am’s Zionist dream and his focus on Jewish peoplehood. Therefore, Benderly placed a strong emphasis on Hebrew-language acquisition, with a focus on the Hebrew of the modern world, not that of the synagogue and traditional texts. It was Benderly more than anyone else who promoted the “natural method” in Hebrew education, using the approach that has characterized the ulpan, or Hebrew language school, in Israel and “immersion” techniques in foreign language learning today that have a strong emphasis on conversation and comprehension in real-life situations. In addition, Benderly introduced “technology” into Jewish education, developing magic-lantern (an early type of image projector) slides to use in instruction on Jewish holidays and the Bible. (If he were alive today, it would be fair to assume that he would be promoting social media and the Internet as means for Jewish education.)

Benderly also insisted on a system for training and accrediting teachers. He wanted to apply the findings of educational “science” (what we today would call “research”) to Jewish education. And he strove to create an organized, centralized system of support for, and supervision of, Jewish education, dealing with curricula, standard hours and classroom environments. He also understood the importance of the “informal” aspects of education, and one of his disciples, Albert Schoolman, was the prime mover in creating what is arguably the greatest and most original contribution of American Jewish education: the summer educational camp. All this flowed from Benderly and his followers….READ MORE

JBuzz News: Hebrew University Ranked 57th, Rising in Prestigious Poll

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UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: JTA, 8-18-11

Hebrew University was ranked 57th in a prestigious annual ranking of the world’s universities, moving up 15 spots from the previous year.

Seventeen of the top 20 universities in this year’s survey by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China were American, led by Harvard, Stanford and MIT in the top three spots.

Other Israeli universities joined Hebrew University, which was No. 72 last year, in the rankings.

Tel Aviv University, Weizmann Institute of Science and Haifa’s Institute of Technology were placed in the 102-150 grouping, and Bar-Ilan University and Ben-Gurion University were in the 301-400 spots. The groupings of the five schools were unchanged from a year ago.

Cambridge University in Britain was ranked fifth and Oxford was 10th. The University College of London rounded out the top 20.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University surveys 1,000 universities and ranks the top 500.

Yosef Yerushalmi: Wanderings This Time In Fiction

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Yosef Yerushalmi: His short story in The New Yorker is the only fiction the noted historian ever wrote.

Yosef Yerushalmi: His short story in The New Yorker is the only fiction the noted historian ever wrote.

Not long after Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi — perhaps the most esteemed Jewish historian of the last half century — died two years ago, at 77, his wife Ophra got a frequent question: “Is there anything else he’s written that hasn’t been published?”

What they meant, presumably, was other academic work, certainly not fiction. But it was fiction — particularly, a short story called “Gilgul,” which The New Yorker published last week — that was the only other thing Ophra knew of. “Nobody knew about it, just me and my son,” she told The Jewish Week in a phone interview. “Not even our friends knew he wrote fiction.”

Ophra remembered Yerushalmi working intensely on something for a few weeks in 2004, but not telling her what it was. Only when he finished, did he say, “Let me read it to you,” Ophra recalled. “He got very emotional about it.”

Yerushalmi never tried to publish it. But after all the questions following his death, Ophra decided to show it to a friend of theirs in Paris. The friend told her it was good enough to publish. A month ago, Ophra pitched it to The New Yorker.

“I didn’t know if they’d take it,” she said, “but it was my first choice.”

That the magazine published the only piece of fiction Yerushalmi ever wrote is all the more surprising. “I was impressed that it came from someone who has never written fiction before,” said Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor at The New Yorker. “It has a lovely lyrical line to it.”

The story follows a character not unlike Yerushalmi. Simply called Ravitch, he’s a scholar of Jewish history living in New York, who, on a whim, flees to Israel….READ MORE

Yudit Kornberg Greenberg: Rollins professor receives Fulbright grant

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: Heritage Florida, 8-15-11

Yudit Kornberg GreenbergYudit Kornberg Greenberg

Professor Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Endowed Professor of Religious Studies and director of the Jewish Studies Program at Rollins College, recently received a Fulbright Scholar grant. Dr. Greenberg will be teaching and conducting research during the upcoming fall semester at the University of Bucharest in Romania.

This September, Greenberg will travel to Romania to teach courses in Jewish studies and religious studies. As an expert in these disciplines, she will have the opportunity to share the knowledge and passion she has amassed in her accomplished teaching career. “My scholarship and teaching, my role as the director of the Jewish Studies Program at Rollins College, my leadership roles at the American Academy of Religion, and my international teaching and lecturing have well prepared me for this undertaking,” says Greenberg.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

“Immersion in foreign cultures has been a high priority in my professional and personal life. I consider travel both a privilege and an educational necessity,” Greenberg says. “Given my Eastern European family origins, I am interested in participating in Romanian multiculturalism, and in contributing to its academic life. I have followed with great interest the development of the field of Jewish studies in Eastern and Central Europe in the last decade and believe that my areas of expertise suit its goals.”

Greenberg is also particularly excited about expanding her knowledge of Romanian multiculturalism, religious traditions, history, and academic life. “This experience will forge academic associations with my home institution, and contribute to Rollins College’s internationalization and its commitment to global citizenship of its students and faculty.”

For more than 60 years, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has funded and supported programs that seek to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.

Elena Kagan’s First Year on Supreme Court Shows Judge With Chutzpah

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PROFILES

Source: Harvard Crimson, 8-7-11

Elena KaganpictureCrimson file photo

Kagan, seen during a champagne reception celebrating her appointment as HLS Dean in this April 2003 file photo, ascended to the position of dean only two years after receiving tenure.

It happens—or will happen—to all of us. And during her first year on the U.S. Supreme Court, it happened to Associate Justice Elena Kagan.

She got jury duty.

Like any Washington D.C. resident, she reported to the Moultrie Courthouse—a stocky, busy, fluorescent-lit federal building where the constant traffic has left a layer of grime on its facade. Kagan went to the third floor, stood in line at the jurors’ office, and proceeded to wait in the the jury room—a vast space with paintings of African tribal women on the walls and with windows that look down on a Cosi and an Au Bon Pan. Amicably chatting with the few people who recognized her, Kagan pulled out documents and began working away, making notes in the margin of a legal brief.

The image of Kagan, dutifully showing up for court with the rest of the city’s residents, is in one way representative of her brief tenure on the court. During that time, Kagan has made a point of making her opinions more accessible to the public, writing in a colloquial, approachable style that bears surprising resemblance to a fellow justice, Antonin G. Scalia.

Scalia has come to be indisputably recognized as the court’s best writer and as someone who forcefully and unabashedly expresses the hopes and ideals of conservative jurisprudence. And in two dissents this year it appears Kagan may be emerging as a similar figure for the left.

One year ago Saturday, Kagan was sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The early verdict on her first year indicates that Kagan is not only shaping up as the liberal bloc’s most eloquent voice but also as a consensus builder in the style of Chief Justice John G. Roberts ’67 who has proven to be highly influential in building majority coalitions.

Kagan’s first year—during which she recused herself from nearly as many cases as she judged—offers only a premature indication of her future on the court but does give a glimpse of a feisty jurist who seems to be quickly finding her voice as a justice….READ MORE

RENÉE LEVINE MELAMMED: His/Her Story: A Jewish warrior queen

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FEATURES — JEWISH HISTORY

The story of the Jewish Berber queen, her success as a warrior, and her own destruction.

MOUNT MORIAH achieved its holiness with Abraham
Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski

With the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Arab tribes sought to conquer North Africa and continue to Europe via Spain. The major obstacle to a conquest of the Magreb was the presence of a Berber queen in the mountains of presentday Algeria. Her tribe, the Gerawa, had converted to Judaism earlier in the century; their queen, Dahia al-Kahena, daughter of Mathia ben Tifan, either converted with them or was Jewish by birth.

This era signaled the end of the Byzantine dynasty in a geographical area that was home to Byzantines, Arabs and Jews, as well as Christian Berbers. The fathers of Kahena’s two sons were equally diverse, for one was Berber and the other Greek.

Kahena was a formidable warrior commanding a strong army. Hassan ibn Ne’uman, an Arab Egyptian prince, successfully defeated the Byzantines in Carthage in 687 and set forth to meet her in battle; she defeated him in Tunisia. Arabic lore relates that at the time of her victory, she released all hostages except one, whom she adopted in order to gain his loyalty. (In one version, she breastfed this new son in order to cement his loyalty to her; if he was a soldier, this would have been extremely odd.) Hassan returned to Egypt, where he awaited reinforcements for about five years…..

The story of the Jewish Berber queen is filled with fact and fiction; lack of contemporary sources makes it rather difficult to always be precise. There are contradictions in different versions: either her sons were killed with her in the battle near a well called Bir al-Kahina, or they remained with their adoptive brother, converted to Islam and conquered Spain together in 711. The latter version seems to be a much more romanticized one befitting medieval Arab historiographical trends. Her age and the duration of her rule are uncertain, although the shortest rule attributed to her is 35 years.

Yet even after peeling away the romanticization, certain facts remain undisputed and are supported by a Judeo-Arabic poem written by local Jews damning her for having created such devastation for her own people. Her success as a warrior stood her in good stead until she chose a selfdefeating means of withstanding a second attack by a strengthened Arab army. Her poor judgment led to her own destruction and that of Byzantine North Africa. The defeat that she suffered cleared the way for the Arab conquest of Spain in 711, the only country in Western Europe to experience Islamic rule.

The writer is a professor of Jewish history and dean at the Schechter Institute as well as academic editor of the journal Nashim. She has published books and articles on Sephardi and Oriental Jewry and on Jewish women.

Jeffrey Blutinger: Holocaust Studies CSULB workshop for teachers features talks by survivors, L.A. museum visit

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EVENTS

Source: Long Beach Press-Telegram, 8-4-11

Jeffrey BlutingerWhen it comes to teaching sensitive subjects like the Holocaust, Cal State Long Beach professor Jeff Blutinger says it’s important for teachers to have the right training.

For the second year in a row, Blutinger, an associate professor of history, is holding a free workshop at Cal State Long Beach with the goal of training local teachers in age-appropriate ways to teach students about the Nazi genocide. Holocaust education is a state standard that is usually taught in the 10th and 11th grades.

The weeklong intensive-training course, which begins Monday, features talks from Holocaust survivors, lectures and a visit to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Teachers receive a $100 stipend and up to two units of service credit.

Blutinger plans to have a different theme each year. Last year’s theme was “Children in the Holocaust,” and this year’s workshop will focus on “Art and the Holocaust.”

The first half of the course will explore how the Nazis used artwork as propaganda. Blutinger said he plans to show part of a film called “The Eternal Jew,” an anti-Semitic film that was shown in movie theaters in Berlin and played for Nazi troops before they would carry out massacres.

The second half of the course will explore how artwork was used by prisoners in concentration camps as a way to renew hope and reveal the truth about horrors they were experiencing.

Blutinger said he has received positive feedback from teachers who say the class has given them a deeper knowledge of the subject. Studying the Holocaust is important not only for learning about our history, he said, but also for our present and future. Holocaust education gives teachers tools to grapple with the subject in its complexity and use it to illustrate a variety of issues beyond what the Nazis did in World War II,” he said.

For information on the workshop, call Blutinger at 562- 985-2196.

Ohr Chadash Academy: New Modern Orthodox school opening in Baltimore

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EDUCATION NEWS

Source: Baltimore Jewish Times, 8-3-11

A new Modern Orthodox day school is opening in Baltimore three months after another shut down.

The Ohr Chadash Academy, which is opening Sept. 1, will be located at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center, where the Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Rambam held boys’ classes. Yeshivat Rambam closed in June because of financial problems.

Ohr Chadash will run from kindergarten through sixth grade and expects to have approximately 90 students in its inaugural school year, growing over the next two years to add seventh and eighth grades. The average class size to start will be about 14 students.

Shayna Levine-Heyfetz, a school board member, enrollment chair and art teacher, said Ohr Chadash will fill a niche in the Orthodox community vacated by Rambam.

“Rambam was the only school that espoused a philosophy of Modern Orthodox Judaism and the only school that provided a commitment to Jewish law and an excellent college preparatory program,” she said.

Levine-Heyfetz said 12 families have shown interest in sending their children to the Ohr Chadash kindergarten next year.

Orh Chadash teachers, who mostly are from Rambam, attended a weeklong training session in Brooklyn, N.Y., on catering to the individual needs of students. Ohr Chadash also has formed a partnership with Shemesh, a local organization dedicated to providing services and support for students with learning disabilities.

Levine-Heyfetz said Ohr Chadash will have an independent financial oversight committee to ensure fiscal responsibility. Committee members have backgrounds in nonprofit management and school finance.

In addition, the school has created a rabbinic advisory committee, chaired by Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, to ensure that Ohr Chadash remains connected to the community.

Students in grades 4 to 6 will have iPads that have been donated by benefactors. Each iPad will be loaded with free educational applications.

“The iPads will allow learning at the highest level,” said Noah Davidovics, the head of the technology department. “They will allow teachers to have activities directed at the students’ needs.”

Levine-Heyfetz is hoping that Ohr Chadash will become a staple in the local Orthodox community, like Rambam.

“Will it bring Modern Orthodox Jews back to Baltimore?” Levine-Heyfetz asked. “Time will tell.”

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett: The Woman Behind the Polish Jewry Museum

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INTERVIEWS — MUSEUM NEWS

Source: The Forward, 8-3-11

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has many titles: award-winning author, essayist and New York University professor, among them. Most recently, she’s been tapped to lead the core exhibition development team for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is now being built on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, and which recently made headlines with the surprise departure of its longtime director.

Long associated with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett worked with Polish-born scholar Lucjan Dobroszycki on the landmark 1976 exhibition “Image Before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life Before the Holocaust,” which later was made into a book and a film. Her latest book, “They Called Me Mayer July” (University of California Press, 2007), was a collaboration with her father, Mayer Kirshenblatt, who died in 2009 at the age of 93. It combined Kirshenblatt’s paintings depicting prewar life in his hometown of Opatow, Poland, with stories gleaned from interviews that his daughter began conducting with him in the 1960s.

Forward contributor Ruth Ellen Gruber caught up with Kirshenblatt-Gimblett in Krakow during the Festival of Jewish Culture and asked her about her Yiddish roots, her most enduring project and the current morale at the museum….READ MORE

Paul Bartop: Prestigious US posting for Holocaust scholar

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APPOINTMENTS

Paul Bartrop

AN Australian Holocaust and genocide scholar has been awarded a prestigious professorship in the United States.

Professor Paul Bartrop, a former head of history at Melbourne’s Bialik College, will take up his post next month as the first Australian to hold the Ida E King Distinguished Visiting Pro fessorship in Holocaust and Genocide studies at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey.

Previous scholars who have held the post include Michael Berenbaum, Yehuda Bauer and the late Franklin H Littell.

Prof Bartrop will teach a master’s program on Asian and African genocides, focusing on Cambodia, Timor Leste, Rwanda and Darfur.

“Stockton is the first university in the US to run a full graduate course in Holocaust and genocide studies,” Prof  Bartrop told The AJN.

As one of the top 50 liberal arts colleges in the US, it is significant that Stockton has such an extensive Holocaust and genocide studies curriculum, he said.

Prof Bartrop, who has been involved with the Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) since its inception in 1985, is an honorary consultant to the centre and helped rewrire the text used in its recently relaunched museum display….READ MORE

David Reich & Priya Moorjani: Genes Tell Tale of Jewish Ties to Africa

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JEWISH HISTORY NEWS

Exchange Between Groups Took Place About 2,000 Years Ago

Source: The Forward, 8-2-11

Genetic Melting Pot: David Reich (left) and Priya Moorjani found that Jews and Africans mixed genes about 2,000 years ago.

Genetic Melting Pot: David Reich (left) and Priya Moorjani found that Jews and Africans mixed genes about 2,000 years ago.

In the Book of Kings, Solomon is depicted as an international businessman of sorts who sent ships from the port of Etzion-Geber, near modern day Eilat, to trade precious metals and other goods with various parts of the world, including Africa. Solomon also famously received a visit from the Queen of Sheba, who is thought to be from what is presently Ethiopia.

Now, a new scientific paper offers a genetic timeline that could support these biblical tales. The paper builds on two studies published last summer that were the first to use genome-wide analyses to trace the history of the Jewish people through DNA.

“It demonstrated that there was a biological basis for Jewishness,” said Dr. Harry Ostrer, director of the human genetics program at the New York University School of Medicine, who led one of the studies.

Among its many findings, Ostrer’s paper indicated that Jews have African ancestry — an observation that David Reich, associate professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues decided to explore further.

Reich’s team analyzed more than half a million DNA markers across the entire genomes of people from seven diverse Jewish populations — including Ashkenazim from northern Europe; Sephardim from Italy, Turkey and Greece, and Mizrahim from Syria, Iraq and Iran. They then compared the genetic data with DNA from 15 sub-Saharan African populations.

Reporting in the April issue of PLoS Genetics, the researchers found that modern day Jews can attribute about 3% to 5% of their ancestry to sub-Saharan Africans, and that the exchange of genes between Jews and sub-Saharan Africans occurred approximately 72 generations, or about 2,000 years, ago.

Priya Moorjani, a doctoral student in Reich’s lab who led the research, was surprised that the degree of African DNA was so consistent across the various Jewish populations. She had expected, for example, that North African and Middle Eastern Jews would have a greater degree of genetic mingling than Europeans, based on their geographic proximities.

So the findings, Moorjani said, may point to a shared ancestry among the various Jewish groups. “It’s definitely suggestive that most Jewish populations have a common ancestral population,” she said.

Although the Harvard team couldn’t determine where exactly the exchange of genes took place, the results complement historians’ understanding of the Jewish narrative.

“This is interesting, and it gives me food for thought,” said Norman Stillman, a professor of Judaic history at the University of Oklahoma. “Does it prove something historically specific beyond the fact that we know the Jewish bloodline was open to some extent throughout history? No. But it fits in with the rest.”

Lawrence Schiffman, a professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at Yeshiva University, said two time periods came to mind that could support the geneticists’ findings. The first is during the First Temple Period, between about 950 B.C.E. and 600 B.C.E., when Solomon’s kingdom would have had contact with Africans.

Or, Schiffman said, the mixing of populations could have taken place a bit later, during the Hellenistic period, from about 320 B.C.E. to 30 B.C.E., when Jews were living all over the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and could have come into contact with Africans to the south of them.

Yet even though the biblical accounts offer possible explanations for the Reich lab’s findings, Schiffman stresses that he and other social scientists can only offer historical interpretations of the genetic data. “The facts are the ones that scientists are developing; the theories are what [historians] have,” he said. “We now have to take what they are giving us, and we have to add it to our picture of history.”

Stillman pointed out that Jews are often thought of as an insular group, because they tended to marry within their community. “But,” he said, “that doesn’t mean there wasn’t, all throughout history, an inflow of others into the group.”

As Reich sees it, genetics and history are not actually so disparate. His work, he said, is “a kind of complementary way of studying history.”

Jenna Weissman Joselit: Why More Jewish Studies Programs Are a Good Thing

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH STUDIES — UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: The Forward, 8-1-11

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Jewish Studies MA

M.A.s are the new B.A.s, The New York Times declared just the other day in its latest survey of goings-on within the world of higher education. The road to marketability is paved with lots of new master’s programs, it noted, singling out Rutgers’ recent decision to establish an M.A. in Jewish Studies as a case in point.

The tone of the piece, though, was something else again. It was hard to figure out where the Times stood, especially when it came to graduate programs in Jewish or Judaic studies.

On the one hand, it devoted a significant amount of coverage to the Rutgers initiative, which would suggest that it approved.

But then, sentences such as “Jewish studies may not be the first thing that comes to mind as being the road to career advancement” suggest otherwise, raising the possibility that the newspaper’s stance was far more critical than welcoming.

No matter. Any venture which contributes to a deepening of knowledge, the sharpening of critical ways of thinking and the creation of a community of individuals for whom ideas are of paramount importance can only be applauded. And if, along the way, said venture successfully enhances the marketability of its participants, so much the better.

Call me starry-eyed and naïve, but I can’t help thinking that, whatever form they take — traditional or newfangled — M.A. programs in Jewish studies end up being good for the Jews.

Ruth Ellen Gruber: In summer, Jewish studies flowers in Eastern Europe

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH STUDIES — UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: JTA, 8-1-11

In Austria and Poland recently, I couldn’t seem to get away from students, scholars and just plain interested folks who were taking or teaching summer programs in Jewish studies.

Visitors to the Auschwitz Museum Memorial in Oswiecim, Poland, enter the Arbeit Macht Frei gate on a rainy day. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

I myself spoke at a three-day “summer academy” in Vienna where more than 100 members of the general public turned up for lectures by international experts on Eastern European Jewish history.

In both Vienna and Krakow, I met informally with some of the 71 teachers from Jewish and public schools in North America and Israel attending a nine-day summer academy of lectures, travel and workshops organized by the Vienna-based Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation.

The programs reflected the remarkable resurgence of both Jewish informal learning and academic studies that has taken place in Europe since the fall of communism. This process has opened up opportunities and fields of scholarship to new generations of students and researchers. It also has gone some way toward repairing the damage wrought by the Holocaust.

About 750 institutions of European Jewish learning were “lost forever” in the war, according to the European Association of Jewish Studies, with many cities experiencing a “near total devastation of their Jewish studies resources.” In postwar communist Europe, teaching and research in Jewish and Holocaust studies was virtually taboo.

The pace of reconstruction has varied from country to country. But today the European Association of Jewish Studies lists nearly 450 academic institutions and universities in two dozen European countries where Jewish studies courses or classes are taught. Many other programs are associated with non-academic bodies.

Summer programs have a special place in this scheme, as they often are geared specifically to visiting foreign participants. Some of them, such as the 5-year-old Leo Baeck Summer University at Humboldt Unviersity in Berlin, are organized in partnership with North American or Israeli institutions.

The benefits of study abroad programs are well known: exposure to other cultures and languages, contact with new ideas, the opportunity to forge international connections….READ MORE