Jews as “Culture Brokers”

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“What a paltry fisher town was Livorno before the admission of the Jews; what a loser is Lisbon since they have been lost to it!” 

The Green Millionaire, New York, 1915

Re-Imagining the Jewish World

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The film opens in a small village in the Portuguese countryside: “Judeus? Judeus?” The director asks where the Jews live and sure enough, everyone in this village—which seems not to have changed very much since 1497, when Portugal’s Jews were forcibly converted—can identify them. Thus begins Frederic Brenner’s The Last Marranos, a film about the community of anusim, the descendants of forced converts who clandestinely maintained Jewish belief and practice for centuries in their native village of Belmonte in Portugal.

History’s Ultimate Nomads.  Directed by Shaul Keslassi. 2010.

New Research at the Center

GRADUATE Fellows for the 2011-12 Academic Year:
03/22/2012 - 20:00

Mina Muraoka (Brandeis University)
Dr. Sophie Bookhalter Fellow in Jewish Culture
“Jews and the Russo-Japanese War: The Triangular Relationship between Jewish POWs, Japan, and Jacob H. Schiff”

When General Grant Expelled the Jews

03/22/2012 - 20:00

On December 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, General Ulysses S. Grant issued the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.”

Telegram of Revocation of Grant’s General Order 11 Adolphus S. Solomons, New York, 1863.

Praying in Uniform: The Jewish Soldier in Diaspora Armies

03/22/2012 - 20:00

The army is the epitome of the modern state’s drive to homogenize men, to render them uniform by clothing them in uniforms.   From the late 18th through mid-20th centuries, literally millions of Jews served in diaspora armies.

Postcard (reproduction of Kol Nidre...). Hermann Junker. 1870. Leo Baeck Institute

Out of the Archives

03/22/2012 - 20:00

During Women’s History Month and throughout the rest of the year, the women’s collections at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS)—one of the five partners of the Center for Jewish History—can provide many resources of interest to students, scholars and the general public.  The largest collection of the Jewish women’s organizations at AJHS is the Hadassah archives, which has been located at AJHS since 2000. 

Junior Hadassah members at the Palestine Pavilion at the World’s Fair, New York City, 1940.  YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

The En Yaaqov: Jacob ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus

Marjorie Lehman (Wayne State University Press, 2012)
03/22/2012 - 20:00

In The En Yaaqov: Jacob ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus, Marjorie Lehman argues that the En Yaaqov’s anthologizer, Jacob ibn Habib, purposely sought to create a collection of Talmudic aggadah that resembled the Talmud in various aspects of appearance and feel. Ibn Habib did this in order to provide a foundational text that would enable Jews to perceive the Talmud as a constructive theological document.

Jacob ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus

A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: the Ladino Memoir of Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi

Aron Rodrigue and Sarah Stein, editors, with translation, transliteration and glossary by Isaac Jerusalmi (Stanford University Press, 2011)
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Composed over a nine-year period (1881-1890)—with numerous additions made until 1902, when the author was 82 years old and one year from his death—the first Ladino memoir ever written outlived wars; the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in which it was conceived; a major fire in 1917; and the Holocaust, during which Jewish texts and libraries, as well as Jewish bodies, were targeted by the Nazis for annihilation.  The document passed through four generations of the memoirist’s family, traveling from Salonica to Paris, from Paris to Rio de Janeiro and, finally, to Jerusal

The Ladino Memoir of Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi

Going Digital

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On November 9th and 10th of 2011, the Center for Jewish History gathered a remarkably diverse and distinguished group of 150 library and archival professionals, scholars, private collectors and community leaders.  This moment in time was part of a year-long set of events marking the 10th anniversary of the Center. Scheduling the conference during the two calendar days that mark the commemoration of Kristallnacht was self-conscious, though not made explicit in the public program.

Center for Jewish History Photograph by John Halpern

New York Places, Jewish Spaces: Life in the City, 1700-2012

03/22/2012 - 20:00

New York City’s Jews have helped shape the city and, in turn, been shaped by it ever since the 17th century, when they first arrived in what was then New Amsterdam. Never a majority of the population, even in their 20th-century heyday, Jews carved out a variety of public and private spaces as their own within the larger city. These spaces—synagogues, lodge rooms, businesses, neighborhood streets, tenement apartments and leafy, semi-suburban blocks—reflected the wide array of secular and religious Jewish identities that Jews in New York fashioned for themselves.

The corner of Essex Hester Streets. Drawing by John Durkin in Leslie’s Weekly. September 12, 1891.
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