Special Sections

The History of Genocide Initiative

05/02/2011 - 20:00

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.

Quest to End Genocide New York, 2009 Center for Jewish History

Raphael Lemkin and the Quest to End Genocide

05/02/2011 - 20:00

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.

Letters of Conscience: Raphael Lemkin

Digitizing a Movement

05/02/2011 - 20:00

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.

Die Gottesdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden, History of the Jewish Sermon, Dr. Leopold Zunz, Berlin, 1832. Leo Baeck Institute

The Online Revolution

05/02/2011 - 20:00

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.

Still from OPAC Digital Animation, New York, 2010. Center for Jewish History

On Being a Center for Jewish History Doctoral Fellow

05/02/2011 - 20:00

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.

Universal Access to the Civilization of East European Jews

05/02/2011 - 20:00

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.

YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, Gershon Hundert, ed. Yale University Press, 2008

The Sephardic World Preserved

05/02/2011 - 20:00

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.

Travel document issued by the Government of Greece to David Matza. Ioannina, Greece, 1920 American Sephardi Federation

Revisiting the American Soviet Jewry Movement

05/02/2011 - 20:00

In scholarship, as in all matters of taste, fashion rules. Soon after the 1989 fall of Communism, to cite but one example, the formerly overstuffed field of “Sovietology” was emptied almost entirely.

Rally on Simhat Torah in support of the movement to free Soviet Jewry,  San Francisco, 1983. American Jewish Historical Society

Making Jewish Culture Come Alive

05/02/2011 - 20:00

 In a recurrent dream of mine through the 1980s, I approach the YIVO building in New York at the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue—and find it reduced to a pile of rubble. The image of ruin came straight out of postwar footage of the former Jewish sections of Vilna and Warsaw, and the anxiety was almost certainly prompted by rumors that this citadel of Yiddish learning was about to be sold. I wondered what would happen to Yiddish culture without its “address” — a term used in Yiddish for a hub, a meeting place, the focal point of a movement or group.

Ov HoRachmon Sheet Music New York, ca. 1910 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Collecting History, Preserving Heritage

05/02/2011 - 20:00

 No culture saves everything. Time passes, timber burns, stone is eroded, documents are misplaced and memories become distorted and rendered unidentifiable.

All the more so for a people without a central political or religious authority; for a peripatetic people, like the Jews, without vaults that held treasures for millennia or longstanding archives. Who was there to gather the remnants of the past, to determine what must not be lost?

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