From reader to writer, a senior looks back fondly at her years with Fresh Ink.
When I was in sixth grade I read my first issue of Fresh Ink. Inside was an article which captured my interest written by a young woman about her experiences wearing tefillin. I was contemplating wearing tefillin at the time and was both surprised and impressed by the article. I was strongly affected by the fact that a legitimate newspaper was able to publish a human interest piece that appealed to me in a very specific way as an adolescent and a Jew. The writer spoke so well of her internal enrichment contrasted with the external controversy of a woman donning tefillin.
In 2009, the Center for Jewish History embarked on a landmark, multidisciplinary initiative with the generous support of the David Berg Foundation, The Einhorn Charitable Trust and The Pershing Square Foundation. The History of Genocide Initiative explored and informed the public about Raphael Lemkin’s life and the impact of his work on modern society.
In early 2009, I was invited by the Center for Jewish History to serve as an academic advisor for and to give a paper at a conference entitled “Genocide and Human Experience: Raphael Lemkin’s Thought and Vision.” The occasion brought me to the Center for the first time.
Wissenschaft des Judentums (Scholarly Study of Judaism) names a method of study and a hundred-year trajectory of texts originating in the early -19th century, which ignited fierce debates on the meaning of “Judaism.” The first of several “returns to Judaism” after the Jewish Enlightenment (haskala), this movement aimed to make the history of Jewish life and religion available to a German Jewry that had been alienated, or so its founders argued, from traditional practices.
The current revolution in computing and information technology is rapidly transforming the entire library world. The first indications of the potential of digitization emerged more than twenty years ago when libraries realized that they could convert their card catalogues to digital formats so that they could be much more easily searched. The next, obvious, step was to mount the digital catalogs (now called OPACs, or online public access catalogs) on the Worldwide Web.
Surrounded by Jewish conversion records from the Lithuanian Ecclesiastical Consistory, maps of the Pale of Jewish Settlement from the Evreiskaia Entsiklopedia (Jewish Encyclopedia, St. Petersburg, 1906-13), and secondary literature on imperial Russian Jewry, I comfortably settled into a year of dissertation research and writing at the Center for Jewish History in 2007-2008.
Yale University Press published the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe (2 vols.) in 2008. Since June 2010, the full encyclopedia, enhanced by more illustrations (more than 1200), interactive maps, as well as film clips and sound recordings drawn largely from YIVO’s holdings, has been on internet available without charge to anyone interested at www.yivoencyclopedia.org.
Close to one million Jews lived in an area stretching from Morocco to Iran as late as the middle of the twentieth century. Their sojourn in the Middle East dates back to ancient times. Many of these communities housed refugees expelled from Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century, forming original cultures that blended indigenous and newer Iberian cultural elements. Over the course of the centuries, each community developed highly original indigenous civilizations while also sharing many cultural bonds with other Middle Eastern Jewries.