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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News February 2011

April 4, 2011

Selected Publications Supported by the Memorial Foundation

Attached is a select list of publications supported by the Foundation that resulted from our doctoral, fellowship and institutional programs received at the Foundation during the academic year 2009-10. These publications provide ample testimony to the key role the Foundation plays in nurturing Jewish scholarship and creativity around the world. The Foundation has since its inception assisted in the publication of approximately 4,000 volumes covering all aspects of Jewish culture, broadly defined.

The enclosed also includes a number of monumental publications in the field of Jewish history which illustrate the powerful impact of the Foundation's grants in this area.


Jewish History

Since the Foundation's inception in 1965, the field of Jewish history has received the largest amount of support of any area of Jewish scholarship, both in our doctoral and fellowship, and our institutional grant programs. Among the more than 13,000 scholarship and fellowships the Foundation has awarded since its inception, we have helped train and support the academic work and the publications of the two generations, a literal "Who's Who" of distinguished Jewish historians, and their successors in the field. Among others, they include: Profs. Mordechai Altshuler, Yom Tov Assis, David Assaf, Israel Bartal, Yehuda Bauer, Menahem Ben Sasson, Haim Beinart, David Berger, Elisheva Berkowitz, Elisheva Carlebach, Jeremy Cohen, David Ellenson, Todd Endelman, Shmuel Ettinger, Immanuel Etkes, David Fishman, Isaiah Gafni, Abraham Grossman, Israel Gutman, Joseph Hacker, Paula Hyman, Yosef Kaplan, Deborah Lipstadt, David Meyers, Michael N. Myers, Dalia Ofer, Antony Polonsky, Leon Poliakoff, Dina Porat, Yehuda Ratzaby, Jehuda Reinharz, Moshe Rosman, Jonathan Sarna, Ismar Schorsch, Anita Shapira, Shlomo Simonsohn, Haym Soloveitchik, Michael Stanislawski, Shaul Stampfer, Menahem Stern, Shemaryahu Talmon, Jack Wertheimer, Steven Zipperstein and many others.

The Foundation has also supported the research and publication of historical projects undertaken at universities and academic institutions. The volumes resulting from both the individual and institutional tracks cover ancient, medieval and modern Jewish history.

In addition, the Foundation has commissioned several monumental studies in the field to fill important lacunae in the field. In the section that follows I will provide examples of both selected institutional and commissioned projects that provide a comprehensive history of important Jewish communities around the world. Two of the most important ones are drawn from the enclosed list.



The History of the Jews in Russia

The first volume of the monumental three-volume History of the Jews in Russia that the Foundation had commissioned from The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, published last year, appears on the attached list.

Prof. Israel Bartal, the Avraham Harman Professor of Jewish History and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University, is the overall editor of the series. The first volume, The History of the Jews of Russia: From Ancient Times to the Early Middle Ages was edited by Dr. Alexander Kulik. The next volume is being edited by Dr. Ilia Lurie, also from Hebrew University, is expected to be completed in about six months, and will cover the period encompassing Imperial Russia, from 1772 until 1914. The third volume, to be edited by Prof. Michael Beizer, also of the Hebrew University, will cover the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia.

The last major effort to write a comprehensive history of the Jews in the greater Russian empire was Simon Dubnov's The History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, published in the United States in 1916. Since the publication of Dubnov's three-volume history, it has taken 90 years for publication of the next comprehensive history of Russian Jewry, this volume commissioned by the Foundation. It is appropriate that the first volume of the new History of the Jews in Russia was completed the year in which we celebrated the 150th anniversary of Simon Dubnov's birth.

Since Dubnov, Jewish historiography has changed considerably, and whole new areas of research and archival resources of which Dubnov had neither knowledge nor access, have opened up. Most important, the new History of Russian Jewry will include chapters on Soviet rule from 1918-1991 and on the 20-year period after the collapse of the Communist regime.

Prof. Bartal, the editor, argues that the history of Russian Jewry in the 21st century should consist not only of those Jews remaining in Russia but also include the mass wave of Jewish immigration to the West and Israel in the last two decades. That mass movement to the West has and will significantly impact on Russian-Jewish historiography.

Our gratitude to Zvi Yekutiel, Executive Director of The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, for his role in the publication of this enormous undertaking, and for the long history of partnership with the Memorial Foundation on a number of important projects.


Italia Judaica

On the attached list of publications resulting from Institutional grants awarded by the Foundation, you will find two volumes on the Jews in Sicily. These volumes, covering the economic, social and religious history of the Jews in Sicily, are part of Italia Judaica, one of the most comprehensive Jewish historical ventures ever undertaken. This immense project, the life's work of Shlomo Simonsohn, Professor of Jewish History of the Tel-Aviv University, was initiated by him in 1969 to document the history of Jews in Italy.

The Italia Judaica project has four components — The first and most important is the Documentary History of the Jews in Italy. So far 32 volumes have been published in this series. When completed, it will contain archival documentation of all the Jewish communities in Italy from late antiquity to the emancipation. The second component is the Apostolic See and the Jews, Prof. Simonsohn's eight-volume history on papal policy toward the Jews in the middle Ages. It traces the evolving relationship between the Jews and the Catholic Church from the perspective of the papacy based on the documentation from Vatican archives never previously published, from 1492-1955. The third section is a four-volume annotated bibliography of scholarly books and monographs on the history of Jews in Italy. Four volumes have been published to date. The fourth section of the project is the historical-geographical lexicon of Italian Jewry, which contains articles on Jewish communities in Italy until the abolition of the ghetto. The lexicon is not published in book form, but is maintained and periodically updated on an Internet site, accessible to scholars and the general public.

According to Prof. Simonsohn, the survival of Italian Jews, like that of their brethren elsewhere, was not due solely to their steadfastness in the face of outside pressures. Luckily, the Jews of Italy enjoyed more halcyon days than stormy ones. It was during the peaceful intervals that Italian Jews created the substance of their existence and of their cultural life and values.

Italian Jews took an active part in the social, economic and cultural life of their environment, much more so than the Jews of Central Europe, and at least as much as the Jews in Spain. This did not detract from their Jewish identity.

What appears unique for the Jews in Italy is the combination of their strong Jewish convictions and their involvement in Italian life — cultural, scientific, social, economic and political — where their contributions were considerable, particularly if viewed in the light of the numerical insignificance of Italian Jewry. Nor was this limited to any one community or area of the country.

Italia Judaica, which the Foundation has funded almost from its inception, demonstrates the unique paradigm of survival achieved by Italian Jewry.


Hispania Judaica and The Sephardi Legacy

The Memorial Foundation has provided support for Hispania Judaica, a vast research project on the history of Spanish and Portuguese Jewry, including the Conversos, almost from its inception. Founded by Prof. Haim Beinart, it was aimed at the publication of monographs and documentary collections dealing with the history of the Jews on the Iberian Peninsula from the earliest times until the end of the Middle Ages. A representative number of communities that played a major role in Judeo-Spanish history are described anew and historically evaluated. Twelve volumes have been published in this series.

In 1992 the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Expulsion from Spain, commissioned Prof. Beinart to publish Moreshet Sepharad: The Sephardi Legacy. This volume of essays, published in English, Spanish and Hebrew, by the leading scholars in the field summarizes and celebrates the monumental legacy of the Jewish communities that resided within the historical boundaries of Spain for some fifteen hundred years. The volumes were presented to the King of Spain at his palace in 1992 by the officers of the Foundation and Prof. Haim Beinart.

According to scholars in the field, The Sephardi Legacy is undoubtedly one of the most important collections of articles on the history and cultural heritage of Sephardic Jewry, presenting a broad and comprehensive panorama of the development and cultural achievements of one of the most creative communities in Jewish history and its impact on Sephardic, Jewish and world culture. The Sephardi Legacy also amply demonstrates that the golden age of Spanish Jewry, which flourished under Moslem rule, continued under Christian rule and even after the expulsion from Spain, among Turkish and Balkan Jewry.


Kiyum VaShever (The Broken Chain)
The History of Polish Jewry

Kiyum VaShever (The Broken Chain), a two-volume History of Polish Jewry was also commissioned by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and published by the Shazar Center.

Edited by Professors Israel Bartal and Israel Gutman, it describes the vitality as well as the challenges Polish Jewry faced throughout the ages. The first volume, published in 1997, deals with the different periods of the history of Polish Jewry — the years in which the Jewish communities in Poland became established and were expanded, the difficult times between 1648-49 (the Chmelnytsky Pogroms) and the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, the fate of Polish Jewry during the three partitions (the Prussian, Russian, and the Austro-Hungarian), and Polish Jews during the 20th century — especially during the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939) and the Holocaust and post-Holocaust era. The second volume, published in 2001, was organized in a different format, focusing on thematic issues rather than on chronological developments. It includes chapters dealing with religious life, Torah and education, society, culture, politics, art and Jewish historiography.

Kiyum VaShever reflects a seismic change and radical shift in the historiography of Polish Jewry. Firstly, there is now a new generation of young scholars from Israel, the States and Eastern Europe who have both considerable knowledge and experience regarding the new materials, archives and primary sources in Poland, some of whom were recruited for this project. Their work represents whole new areas of research which have opened up in the last fifty years. Even more important, this new generation of scholars has a greater readiness to view Polish Jewry from a broader perspective. They no longer are preoccupied only with the internal life of Polish Jewry; the new Polish Jewry historiography views Jews as part of a broader Poland, emphasizing the importance of the Polish context in which Jews lived and Jewish culture developed.

The narrative of today's historians of Polish Jewry also helps us to focus not only on who we were and what we have learned from previous generations, but how we should address the new generation of Jews and Poles, and the need to re-examine the historical relationships between Poles and Jews.

In sum, this comprehensive collection of studies provides a mosaic of the unique and rich existence which characterized Jewish life in Poland, its role and contribution to Jewish history and its connection with Polish culture and society.


* * * * * * *

The Bible instructs us "zichor yemos olam", remember the days of yore. Prof. Salo Baron explains that Jewish history, like the Bible, is itself a text deserving our critical attention if we wish to comprehend Jewish civilization, past and present. This report of the history of several important selected Jewish communities in the Diaspora from the vast pool of volumes the Foundation has financed provides a sense of relevance of the Foundation's work to our comprehension of Jewish history.

Best wishes for a joyous Passover.

With warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President