Author Archives: h. holtschneider

Three good things in July: the BAHS Sheffield, a journal’s relaunch, and an essay prize

July’s conferences offered the welcome opportunity to recharge intellectual batteries and connect with scholars from far and near. Following the successful BAJS conference in Edinburgh, it was time to head south to Yorkshire and attend the British Association for Holocaust Studies Conference (BAHS) in Sheffield. Organised by Professor Sue Vice, participants were invited to partake of a rich and stimulating offering of papers read by senior scholars as well as emerging talents. Three days of listening and talking left me with a strong desire to return to Sheffield to get to know more about the city and its environs, and I came away feeling again ‘plugged in’ to the scholarly networks of the BAHS.

rhosThe BAHS Conference in Sheffield kindly offered the venue for Tom Lawson, James Jordan and myself officially to ‘relaunch’ the journal Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History. Now nearing the completion of its third year under the auspices of Taylor & Francis, the journal benefits from the rich infrastructure of a large publishing house. This year also celebrates 25 years of the journal’s existence, beginning in 1992 as the British Journal of Holocaust Education. The journal has a history of being ‘relaunched’ thereby also chronicling the development of the field of Holocaust Studies in Britain. Thus it was relaunched in 1995 as The Journal of Holocaust Education, and again in 2005 with its current title. Until the end of 2014 the journal was published by Vallentine Mitchell, testifying to the long-standing relationship the editorial team had with the London-based publisher. The journal was led to prominence by David Cesarani and Tony Kushner, who passed the editorship to representatives of the next generation of scholars, Tom Lawson and James Jordan, in 2005. Since then the editorial team has expanded to reflect the variety of articles submitted to the journal, first in 2010 with me joining the team, and again this year when Anna Hájková joined us for volume 23. Holocaust Studies prides itself on a strong publications record in cultural history, and its regular forays into religious history. Thus we are delighted to welcome Jo Pettitt, a literary scholar educated at the University of Kent, to the editorial team of four from 1 January 2018.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the journal, Taylor & Francis will publish a jubilee edition with 25 articles which reflect the main themes addressed by the journal since its inception. The collection will be available online in September 2017 and it will be open access for six months.

At the BAHS in Sheffield we editors also awarded the first annual essay prize for an article published in Holocaust Studies the previous year. The 2016 BAHS essay prize was awarded to Imogen Dalziel for her article ‘”Romantic Auschwitz”: examples and perceptions of contemporary visitor photography at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’, published in Volume 22:2-3. Congratulations, Imogen!

Conference season …

A4 - BAJS 2017 posterThis year, for me, the summer conference season kicks off right on my doorstep with the British Association for Jewish Studies 2017 gathering on the theme of Jews on the Move: Exploring the movement of Jews, objects, texts, and ideas in space and time. I have had the immense privilege and pleasure to serve this year as the BAJS president, and arrange the conference.

From the earliest accounts, travel and migration, movement across space and time have been a definitive feature of Jewish history. This is more than a historical fact, it is also a characteristic feature of the representation of Jewishness: Jews are associated with travel and migration, historically and in cultural production. In this history, no less crucial than the movement of people we see the movement of texts, objects, and ideas, which travel both physically and intellectually as generations in distant locations engage with them at different times and places. As you can see from the programme, this conference brings together a rich offering of papers, interpreting the conference theme in innovative ways, through various academic disciplines and time periods.

Much work has gone into the creation of this exciting line-up of panels and papers. First and foremost, this work has been that of each and every one who contributed a paper or panel proposal, and who is travelling from far and wide to present here, particularly our amazing keynote speakers. Those who have followed the organisation’s work over the past decades will have noticed a shift in the composition of the annual conferences. BAJS started out to showcase, promote, and bring together scholars at British institutions. When the BAJS conference was last held in Edinburgh in 1990, the then President, Peter Hayman, welcomed very much this kind of home crowd, promoting British scholarship in that sense. And, as you can see, the conference continues to do so, but now also attracts scholars from the European continent, and reaches academics further afield as well, from Israel and from Turkey, from right across Asia, from New Zealand and from the United States. This international outlook is not only a tribute to the strength of this comparatively small subject association, but also an encouraging acknowledgement and commitment to the place of British scholarship in the international community of scholars advancing the range of aspects of Jewish Studies, in terms of both research and teaching. As we will discuss in a number of forums during this conference, there are difficult times ahead for British scholars and we are delighted to see so much support for our work from outwith the British Isles.

The theme of this year’s conference draws not only on Jewish experiences across the ages, it also speaks to the location of this BAJS conference in Scotland, a country which has seen more Jewish emigration than immigration, and a country for whom immigrants are presently an important part of the nation-building project, of the public (re-)articulation of national self-understanding of pressing concern to many in Scotland today. The term ‘Scots by choice’, which is used by some Scottish political groupings, points to the desire to be inclusive, to welcome the stranger, and to invite immigrants to call Scotland their home. Jews became a noticeable group of immigrants most evidently from 1880-1914. However, its first Jewish community was founded two centuries ago, in 1817, here in Edinburgh. A couple of panels in this conference focus exclusively on Scotland, bringing together recent and ongoing research on Scottish Jewish history; another panel casts light on Jews in the British Isles, exploring the place of Jewish immigrants in wider British society. These panels are designed to contribute to a better understanding of an important part of Jewish and British history, and to draw attention to the place of this study in the development of Jewish Studies in the UK. At the same time, the year’s thematic focus on migration draws on the very evident place of the topic in current political affairs. During the AGM, we will also consider both the effects of Brexit on our own fields of study and likely future developments for collaboration between scholars based in Britain and elsewhere in the world, particularly on the European continent.

I very much look forward to the conference next week. Watch out for conference-related tweets at #BAJS2017 and follow the work of BAJS @JewishStudiesUK.

Fifth event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 11 July 2017, University of Edinburgh

Part of the British Association for Jewish Studies Conference 2017 at the University of Edinburgh

Venue: Elizabeth Templeton Room, School of Divinity, New College, Edinburgh

Time: 3:30-5pm

Hana Wirth-Nesher (Tel Aviv University),To move, to translate, to write: Jewish American immigrant voices

Hana Wirth-Nesher is Professor of English and American Studies at Tel Aviv University where she holds the Samuel L. and Perry Haber Chair on the Study of the Jewish Experience in the United States. She is also the founding Director of the Goldreich Institute for Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture at Tel Aviv University. Her main areas of research are modern American and British literature, multilingual American fiction, Jewish American writing, and urban literature. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Columbia University (MA, MPhil, PhD), Hana began her academic career at Lafayette College in 1976 before moving to Tel Aviv University in 1982. She is the author of two monographs Call It English: The Languages of Jewish American Literature, Princeton University Press, 2009; and City Codes: Reading the modern urban novel, Cambridge University Press, 1996, and numerous articles. Recently she edited The Cambridge History of Jewish American Literature, Cambridge University Press, 2015; and with Michael P. Kramer The Cambridge Companion to Jewish- American Literature, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

An immigrant’s geographical journey is followed by a linguistic and cultural one, where translation both to and from the mother tongue and culture becomes a daily preoccupation. Since not every word or concept is translatable, immigrant writers are often drawn to untranslatabilty, which they dramatize as moments of estrangement. This lecture will examine the significance of diverse forms of the untranslatable in the works of Jewish immigrant writers who wrote both in English and in Yiddish, among them Isaac Raboy, Lamed Shapiro, Mary Antin, Henry Roth, and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Switching gears …

With a wonderfully stimulating and busy April behind me – we travelled, visited family and friends, and I participated in two excellent conferences – May is the month of switching gears back to sustained writing (and some exam marking, but that comes later).

The first part of this week was spent tidying up lose ends, catching up on email, and attending a series of meetings. But today I had the happy experience of settling back into research mode and preparing to write by spending most of the day reading.

Transnational Traditions: New Perspectives on American Jewish History, edited by Ava Kahn and Adam Mendelsohn offers refreshing perspectives on migration in American Jewish history. Individual chapters present case studies of specific people and phenomena, but the overall drive of the beautifully crafted volume is a historiographical appetite to push beyond Jewish history within specific national contexts. Rather the aim is to discover more about the influence of and interaction between Jews migrating between different parts of Europe and America, and further West to the Australian Pacific coastal regions.

What intrigued me about this book, is the care the editors and contributors took to join eleven different chapters into a coherent whole by cross-referencing each others contributions and historiographical insights. This is what good scholarship and rewarding working together looks like, a mutually enriching endeavour just like good conference experiences and encounters.

And savouring the experiences of the past month and the intellectual delights of Transnational Traditions (which I have been invited to review), I return to my book draft on early twentieth century British-Jewish religious history. Oh happy month of May!

Fourth event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 9 May 2017, Durham University

9 May 2017, University of Durham

Elad Lapidot (Freie Universität Berlin), Deterritorialized Immigrant: The Talmudic Ger as a Cross-Border Figure

Ilan Baron (University of Durham), The International Cultural Politics of Israeli Cuisine

Elad Lapidot Ger is a non-Jew who becomes a Jew – a convert or more literality a proselyte, a new-comer. As such, the ger is a Jewish cross-border figure, the immigrant. In my talk I will reflect on the cross-border performance of the ger in the basic rabbinic text, the Talmud. Through several readings, I will look at ways in which the ger opens up inside the Talmudic texture a space of reflection on the borders – and core – of the rabbinic socio-political project, i.e. ‘Israel’. The immigrant ger, initially an outsider, will be unveiled as a paradigm of the rabbinic subject. The guiding question will concern the nature of the space in which the cross-border event of the ger takes place, namely the topo-logy of rabbinic Israel. The basic observation will be the shift from the highly territorial narrative of the biblical text to deterritorialized Talmud. The Talmudic ger will emerge as a pivotal figure for thinking borders, immigration and place in conditions of deterritorialization.

Ilan Baron In the past four years, at least sixteen Israeli cookbooks have been published in English. By itself, this is not an especially interesting number, but considering that prior to 2012 I have been able to identity only ten English-language Israeli cookbooks (excluding local community cookbooks with “Israeli” recipes), this increase provides an opportunity to explore the international cultural politics of the Jewish State. The cookbooks reflect the movements and migrations of Jews, of the various locations that have come to contribute to Jewish culture and which are manifest in the diverse array of foods that in these books have come to be described as “Israeli”.  This article explores the narratives produced in these Israeli cookbooks, suggesting that they provide a particular normative story about Israel’s history, identity, and values that is of relevance both for the Israelization of Diaspora Jewish identity and for how the idea of Israel is (re)produced as a cultural good for international consumption. Using contemporary political theory, and building on the hermeneutic and phenomenological traditions in continental philosophy, this articles provides a critique of the normative narratives produced in these cookbooks.

Third event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 26 April 2017, University of St Andrews

Co-sponsored by USTC and the School of History

Venue: Old Class Library, School of History, 69 South Street, St Andrews
Time: 2-4pm

Adam Shear (University of Pittsburgh), Jews and their Books on the Move in Early Modern Europe

Emily Finer (University of St Andrews), Jewish Migration and Metamorphosis in Early Soviet Fiction

Adam Shear is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History and Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Pittsburgh where he has taught since 2001. His 2008 book The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, 1167-1900 (Cambridge University Press) was awarded a National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship and the Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas for the best first book in intellectual history.

The early modern period in European and Mediterranean history is often seen as a period of increased mobility of people.  The rise of print is also seen as a distinctive element of early modernity.  In Jewish history, these two factors have been cited by many historians as key aspects of the early modern Jewish experience, most recently by David Ruderman in his Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History (Princeton, 2011). Although historians of migration and historians of the book have paid due diligence to the relationships between the two factors, this talk will more explicitly analyze the ways in which movement of Jewish books are linked to the mobility patterns of early modern Jews. In addition to looking at the pre-publication sharing of texts in new environments, the paper also considers the dissemination of books after publication and over time. The goal is to better understand how the history of migration is linked to the history of the book and how new tools in each subfield can complement knowledge in the other.

Emily Finer is Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Russian at the University of St Andrews where she convened the new degree in Comparative Literature. She is currently working on a second monograph exploring the vast cultural reception of Charles Dickens and his works in the Russian-speaking world. This project follows her monograph on the twisty relationship between the Russian Formalist, Viktor Shklovskii and the author of Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne: Turning into Sterne: Viktor Shklovskii and Literary Reception (Oxford: Legenda, 2010).

For a few years after the 1917 Revolution, Russian-Jewish writers felt empowered to explore issues of identity in print. Lev Lunts, a young writer who resisted his parents’ pleas to join them in emigration, chose instead to imagine a journey west in Crossing the Border (1922). His Jewish characters employ a range of linguistic and visual disguises which are ultimately unsuccessful. In Homeland (1923), Lunts’s atheist student goes through a door under the Choral Synagogue in Petersburg only to find himself in biblical Babylon. These and the similar stories to be discussed all end with the restoration of the status quo, but their writers test the limits of comedy and satire through their use of anti-Semitic stereotypes, making peculiar demands on the contemporary reader.

Second event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 21 March 2017, University of Manchester

Venue: A113 Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester
Time: 5-7pm

Sander Gilman (Emory University), Jews as Exiles and their Representations after 1933

Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester), German Jews and the Cosmopolitan Ideal in Exile from National Socialism

Sander Gilman is a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author or editor of over eighty books. His Obesity: The Biography appeared with Oxford University Press in 2010; his most recent edited volume, The Third Reich Sourcebook (with Anson Rabinbach) was published with the University of California Press in 2013, He is the author of the basic study of the visual stereotyping of the mentally ill, Seeing the Insane, published by John Wiley and Sons in 1982 (reprinted: 1996) as well as the standard study of Jewish Self-Hatred, the title of his Johns Hopkins University Press monograph of 1986.

In our age when the meanings associated with ‘exile’ and ‘asylum’ are radically shifting, it is valuable to examine how those not directly impacted came to understand such a political alteration after 1933. The transformation of European cosmopolitan intellectuals, at home in the world but also confortable with their role in high German culture, into exiles and asylum seekers was sudden and often unpleasant.  By late January 1933, such cosmopolitans, especially those publically identified as Jews or ‘political’ (or both) began to see their status changing, even prior to the introduction of punitive laws under the new Nazi state.  I shall examine two cases of how these exiles were seen by non-Jews in radically different political spaces:  Thomas Mann in exile writing his Joseph novels and Martin Heidegger, suddenly placed in a position of leadership in the new Nazi state, commenting in his ‘Black’ notebooks about Jews. I shall also think about what such positions mean for ‘Others,’ Jews and Germans (or both) in our age of the demonization of exiles and asylum seekers.

Cathy Gelbin is a Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Manchester. She specializes in German-Jewish culture, Holocaust Studies, gender and film. She is co-editor of the Oxford journal Leo Baeck Institute Year Book for the Study of German-Jewish History and Culture and serves on the Board of Directors and Trustees of the Leo Baeck Institute London, as well as on the selection committee of Studienstiftung’s international Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme in German-Jewish Studies. Recent publications include The Golem Returns: From German Romantic Literature to Global Jewish Culture (2011) and Jewish Culture in the Age of Globalization (2014, co-ed. with Sander L. Gilman).

The brief period between the two world wars saw concerted efforts by liberal and leftist-leaning German and Austrian Jewish writers to promote the cosmopolitan ideal. For a little over a century, the cosmopolitan dream of a united Europe had been nascent among Christian and Jewish intellectuals in the German-speaking realm. Following the nationalist disaster of World War I and the rise of antisemitism throughout the 1920s, the cosmopolitanist project assumed particular urgency for Jewish intellectuals. My talk examines the changes in cosmopolitanist attitudes that exile from National Socialism effected among German-Jewish writers and intellectuals, including Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig and Lion Feuchtwanger.