Projects

Jewish Cultures on the Map (JCM) | A web-based platform developed by Da’at Hamakom

Jewish Cultures Mapped (JCM) is an interactive web-based map currently being developed by Daat-Hamakom. It is based on innovative digital-mapping and information visualization technologies designed to explore and experience Jewish cultures in their historical development from a perspective of time and space. It was designed as a flexible platform for incorporating, presenting and sharing data from existing databases and archives. The map visualizes dynamic relations and trajectories characteristic of the Jewish world through a uniquely designed interface combining a map with a timeline. It will present multimedia documentary information,including sound,images, and film, along with quantitative geographic information (GIS). The map is intended to serve as a context for worldwide scholars and experts of all cultural fields to generate and share time-space based information. JCM provides Easy accessibility of high quality content to a wide range of publics, such as university researchers, schoolteachers, students and laypersons searching for information in a platform that differs from extant searching and data mining engines. Content Examples • Hatikvah – the sources, inception and reception of the national anthem based on documents, rare recordings and film clips. • Concepts and uses of the Telegraph by Jews of the 19th century from the perspective of Halacha … Read More

The Oral History Division (OHD) – Digitization of Interviews

The Oral History Division (OHD) The Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Our collection of more than 13,000 interviews in 20 languages constitutes a unique treasure of Jewish memories whose importance cannot be overestimated. The Oral History Archive of the ICJ began collecting oral histories for the purposes of historical research in 1959, with the assistance of pioneering Hebrew University scholars such as Yehuda Bauer, Dov Levin and Haim Avni. These interviews, covering a wide range of subjects (Holocaust, Zionism and the State, and the Diaspora), and conducted according to the highest professional standards, granted the ICJ the status of being the foremost academic collection of oral documentation in Israel. Over the years the Archive has received similar collections from other prominent research centers and private libraries.  Historians, social scientists, students, high school teachers and pupils, both in Israel and abroad, view the Oral History Archive as a unique and valuable research and teaching tool. Website of the Oral History Division Reels from the following projects were digitized with the assistance of the ICORE project. Jewish Life in Morocco (Project 105) The Jewish Community in Irbil, Iraq (Project 65) Jewish Life in Arab Countries; Jewish … Read More

Colonies Restored: Atlas of Jewish Agricultural Settlement in the Modern Era

Jonathan Dekel-Chen, Hebrew University The goal of this project is the publication of the first annotated atlas, in any language, of organized Jewish agricultural settlement in the modern world.  This atlas will include settlement projects as diverse as the tsarist-era colonies in “New” Russia during the first decades of the nineteenth century, through the ill-fated utopian Am Olam communes in North America of the 1880s, to the huge farming projects in Argentina and the interwar Soviet Russia, ending with the Zionist agricultural settlement in the Land of Israel before and after 1948. “Colonies Restored” will create both a rich atlas and internet database through the compilation of geographical and historical data from these settlement projects. The atlas will include original and reconstructed maps from these projects, as well as vintage art, media objects and photographs from the colonies. The grant provided by the Da’at ha-makom I-Core research group is dedicated to the preparation of a fully designed sample chapter for this annotated atlas. I will use this sample chapter – encompassing the history of the settlement project along the Black Sea littoral in the interwar Soviet Union – to “market” the publication project to major publishing houses. If successful, this … Read More

The Orthodox Rabbinate as a Global Network, According to HaMeassef, a Periodical Published in Jerusalem, 1895–1915

Zvi Zohar    Bar Ilan University Menahem Blondheim    Hebrew University The Orthodox Rabbinate as a Global Network, According to HaMeassef, a Periodical Published in Jerusalem, 1895–1915 HaMeassef represents a revolutionary turn in both Hebrew journalism and the orthodox rabbinate. It was a platform for rabbinic writing that was of worldwide scope of both contributors and subscribers. Founded in 1895 by the Jerusalemite Sephardic rabbi Ben-Zion Cuenca, the periodical appeared consecutively for 20 years, until the economic and political cataclysms of WW1 undermined its viability and forced its proprietor-editor to give up publication. A preliminary survey of the periodical’s issues reveals that articles and submissions were received from rabbis from all five continents, some of them well known, others quite obscure. Each monthly issue of HaMeassef included more than 20 textual units, composed by different rabbis. Many of them were responses to articles or comments printed in previous issues of the journal, and the strings of comments and responses relating to earlier posts could continue for several months. Each edition included a variety of rabbinic genres: responsa, novellae, sermons, biblical exegesis, et. al. HaMeassef thus served as a global network of rabbinic contact and creativity, whose central node was Jerusalem. … Read More

Preservation and restoration of rare films from the Steven Spielberg Archive

The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive was founded in 1969 to collect moving images that record the story of the Jews, to preserve these images, and make them accessible to Jews of all ages and in future generations. Today, the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive is the world’s largest collection of Jewish documentary film footage, holding over 10,000 titles on film and video. The vaults contain material shot in Israel since 1911, motion picture records of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, a rich collection of Holocaust related films and footage, and a growing collection of non professional films, which document both daily life and historic events in recent Jewish history.  In 1988, the Archive was named in honor of Steven Spielberg in recognition of his ongoing support of the Hebrew University. In antiquity, the Jews recorded their history on parchment to preserve their story for all time. Today, Jewish history is recorded and preserved in images of light and sound, adding vitality, clarity and emotional import to these records. These moving images will enrich generations to come with an intimate knowledge of their history and heritage, while safeguarding the truths of Jewish history against those who would deny its periods … Read More

Placing the Irreplaceable – Cultural Property and Restitution Documentation after 1945

The systematic destruction of European Jewish culture during World War II by devastation, spoliation and looting attained dimensions unknown in history before. The plundering of European cultural property reverberated throughout World War II and its aftermath. In the post-war years the policy towards the restitution of Jewish cultural property was discussed and disputed among various Jewish bodies and the institutions of the victorious Allies. It brought to surface tensions and disagreements over the Jewish past, the memory of the victims, and the link between the devastation of the European Jewry and the founding of the State of Israel. In the last decade there has been a growing interest among historians concerning the political, ideological and juridical aspects of the cultural property restitutions. In addition, as a result of the objectives of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, many archives, museums and other relating institutions in Europe and in the United States have decided to set up repositories of information on Nazi-confiscated cultural property and its redistribution following World War II. These repositories often offer online descriptions of archival records and, in many cases, digital images of the records that relate to cultural property and restitution. The contribution of … Read More

‘Lieux de Mémoire’ as Identity Quests: Yizker-bikher in Post-World War II Jewish Culture – Gali Drucker Bar-Am

The decades following World War II witnessed the publication of some 700 memorial books (Yiddish: yizker-bikher) worldwide. These commemorative volumes, published mainly in Yiddish and Hebrew (often with an English section as well), document the origins and histories of East European Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust. They feature narratives about the communities and their institutions, personal recollections, galleries of prominent local figures, family histories, and a record of the towns’ wholesale destruction. They were written, edited, and published by communities of mourners from all over the world (primarily in the U.S., Israel, and Argentina) – that is, by native sons and daughters, born and raised in these communities who emigrated before the war, or else by Holocaust survivors of those communities. What began before World War II as a sporadic and spontaneous display of grief to devastation of communities by pogroms, gradually became, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, an organized and even systematic phenomenon of cultural documentation, frequently sponsored by hometown associations (Yiddish: landsmanshaftn). David Roskies has described these works as “The memory bank of East European Jewry”. My aim is to write an extensive monograph examining the yizker-bikher from a historical-cultural perspective as ‘Lieux de Mémoire’ (sites … Read More

Halakhic Responses to Local Non-Jewish Realities: Government and Legal Institutions

The Jewish community in the Diaspora has been surrounded by non-Jewish government and legal institutions that have impacted Jewish life. These institutions, such as court systems and local and national government authorities, sought to regulate life in general, including Jewish life. They impacted Jewish life in a variety of arenas, such as marriage, migration, economics, employment, workers’ rights, internal governing structures, printing, and more. Research into Jewish law often focuses on the halakhic system as a closed system, without giving sufficient attention to the impact of surrounding mores and culture. The goal of this research group is to explore the influence of non-Jewish legal and government institutions on Jewish law in the modern period, in a range of locations. The research group will be comprised of scholars from different academic fields, whose research focuses on Jewish law in the modern period. The group will be headed by Professor Zvi Zohar, Professor Amihai Radzyner, and Dr Levi Cooper.

Shrine and Pilgrimage in Historical and Anthropological Perspectives: The Cult of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai in Meron

Prof. Elchanan Reiner Abstract The shrine of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai in Meron stands out as the most popular pilgrimage center in Israel. As a complex, multifaceted phenomenon, informed by a centuries-old tradition and attracting up to 250,000 celebrants on the saint’s hillulah day on Lag Ba’Omer, the cult of Rabbi Shimon calls for a comprehensive, interdisciplinary exploration. We seek to employ a combined diachronic and synchronic perspective in order to explore the textual, performative, and experiential aspects of the cult of the saint in Meron. Our primary goal is a detailed ethnography of the performative arenas of the precinct accompanied by a thorough investigation of the historical vicissitudes of the current rituals and processions, and the architecture of the sacred complex. Specific areas of investigation include: 1) The interethnic, interreligious and intercultural relations among the participants in the pilgrimage site. 2) The spatial history of the precinct with a special emphasis on the displacements and shifts that took place in various foci of the sacred complex and on the struggles of various groups and factions for staking a claim in and controlling the site throughout the centuries. 3) The interdigitation of religious symbols and personal experiences among the celebrants in … Read More

Emergence of a Jewish “National Optics” in Eretz Israel between 1920 and 1960 – Rebekka Grossmann

My PhD research deals with the emergence of a Jewish “National Optics” in Eretz Israel between 1920 and 1960, and the impact of visual material on the awareness of the Jewish state in the making. In particular I am interested in the ways the imagination of the Jewish national landscape was constituted through Zionist imagery abroad. I will look at films and photographs that were made in Israel by artists from different backgrounds and with different purposes, and that were exported to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences in Europe and North America, as part of the Zionist propaganda effort. The different origins of the artists resulted in a varied depiction of the industrial, cultural and social development in the Yishuv. Moreover, Jewish Palestine was envisioned and framed in conspicuously different ways to match the respective expectations, hopes and fears of the different target audiences. I argue that the Yishuv’s emerging national optics served not only as a means of ideological edification in the Zionist world but also as a signifier for an emerging new transnational political entity that communicated with its partners and observers around the globe through pictures and symbols, no less than through the written and spoken word. My … Read More

Artists’ Colonies in Israel – Alec Mishory

‘Art Colony‘ or Artsits’ Colony is a site in which artists of various media live and create as a collective, enjoying mutual inspirations. The earliest artists’ colonies in the modern period were created in Europe and in the United States in the 19th century. Between 1830 to 1914, more than three thousand professional artists are known to have moved out of urban centers to settle in rural areas. Artists made frequent visits during the summer to villages like Giverny and Honfleur in France. Others lived as full time residents in villages like Barbizon in France and St. Ives in England. Artists’ colonies had strong ties with the 19th century’s growing nostalgia for peaceful rural life when urbanization and industrialization were the signs of the time. Artists who decided to settle in rural sites had a specific economic reason to do so: the 1850s exhibited a large market for depictions of rural, simple village life. The art market preferred paintings that express the essence of escapist dreams of the Bourgeoisie, out of which derived the highest number of art collectors. The foundation of art colonies in Israel focused on the utopian aspect of the phenomenon; its initiators saw in their mind’s eye … Read More

Memoirs: The Return to a Place – Vered Madar

The publication of memoirs has undergone a revival in recent decades, thanks to the writers’ growing access to print publication and to other avenues of circulation. Moreover, this development is a direct extension of various critiques aimed at the mechanisms that shape memory and history, particularly into generalized categories such as national history. The postmodern and postcolonial discourses as well as feminist critiques have encouraged the dismantling of such categories, in favor of disparate units and local communities. The writing of memoirs is in fact one product of these trends, and it constitutes one link in a diverse chain of shapes and locales in which the memory of communal and familial past is formed and structured. Like in other immigrant societies, memory of days gone by is usually located in a place and a space that is different from the place where that memory was originally formed, and also from the context of that original place. The place of one’s childhood and past interacts in various ways with the place of one’s present, in which the memoir is written. These relations are the focus of my research, in which memoirs written by Jews from Yemen will serve as a test … Read More

The Revival of Hebrew Book Art in Weimar Germany – Gil Weissblei

Shortly after the end of WWI, Hebrew cultural activity flourished in Germany, mainly in Berlin. During the 1920s some of the most important artists, scholars and authors of the Jewish world gathered in the German capital, turning it into a center for the development of Hebrew culture, resulting in dozens of publishing companies which in a very short period of time published hundreds of titles, many of which became milestones in the history of the Hebrew book and Hebrew typography.  Most of the Hebrew book publishers were East European Jews, of Russian-Jewish origin, who during the early 1920s managed to print a large number of bibliophile publications of an extraordinary quality. Those first modern bibliophile Hebrew publications were produced by using the most advanced printing and binding techniques. These books caused a revolution in the Hebrew book world, changing the whole cultural concept of the Hebrew book design and book trade. Many of these books were published simultaneously in Russian and in Hebrew, and some of them had become best known for their influence on the history of Russian bibliophile book art.  Though the role of Hebrew book publishing as a main factor in the Hebrew cultural revival is well … Read More

Re-Orienting the History of Jewish Orientalism – Noah S. Gerber

The academic study of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums), originating in the German Kulturbereich and rapidly spreading its gospel in Eastern Europe, is usually perceived as having been a totally Ashkenazi affair; ultimately relocating to the United States and Israel. My research challenges this assumption by considering the Sephardi and Mizrahi reception of the movement. Even before Edward Said published his classic critique, Orientalism was considered a one way migration of knowledge; a western intellectual discipline whose practitioners studied a passive and unresponsive East. Only recently has this assumption been vigorously challenged and duly qualified by re-orienting the critical gaze westward and examining how traditional savants in the orient refashioned the fruits of Western scholarship. As a carrier of the German philological ethos, Chochmat Yisrael not only captured the hearts and souls of many traditional scholars in Eastern Europe but also made inroads amongst some members of the Jewish intellectual elite in the Lands of Islam; in North Africa, in the Levant (including Palestine/Eretz-Israel) and even in the Persian Kulturbereich. Most of these local savants were deemed of a ‘native’ frame of mind by their European brethren in faith when it came to matters scholarly. Yet this did not deter Sephardi … Read More

Displaced Heimats: The National Landscape in the works of German-Jewish Émigré Filmmakers and Photographers

כנס תבנית נוף מולדתו | מושב ראשון כנס שאול טשרניחובסקי - במלאת 70 שנים למותו 1:39:57

Research conducted by Dr. Ofer Ashkenazi My proposed research project examines the contemplation of the German concept of Heimat by Jewish intellectuals and artists who were in exile between the years 1933 and 1945. Loosely translated as “homeland,” the notion of Heimat traditionally embeds an organic territory, a landscape which gives rise to the unique characteristics of the national community. Based on generic representations of the local place as a metaphor for the imagined nation, Heimat iconography was a vital component in the formation of modern German national identity. In its emphasis on homogeneous authenticity, however, this concept had often appeared to undermine the fundamentals of assimilation. Despite and perhaps because of this tension Heimat had become a vital trope in the literature and visual art of German-speaking Jews. In focusing on the visual aspects of Heimat-culture, my research will analyze the utilization of generic Heimat imagery in the works of Jewish émigrés. The focus on their participation in and criticism of the production of Heimat imagery would highlight two hitherto understudied phenomena. First, it would explore how the artistic contemplation of place enabled men and women of Jewish ancestry to play a significant role in the German national identity … Read More

Responsa literature as transborder communication between Jewish immigrants to America and their European communities

A map of jewish migration from Europe to USA 1910-1930

Research by Prof. Menachem Blondheim and Dr. Zef Segal The great Jewish migration to America in the turn of the 19th century was researched excessively, specifically concerning its causes and the incorporation of the immigrants into the American society. However, research has scarcely dealt with transborder communication between individuals and communities in the “new world” and communities in the “old world”. This kind of contact is particularly significant with regards to the Orthodox community, since rabbinical authority was largely based on communication networks. This research focuses on the European responsa literature as a source for dialogues between the European orthodox world and the American orthodox world. This literature comprises a body of written Halakhic decisions given by rabbis in response to questions addressed to them. Unlike other genres of rabbinical literature, such as Halakhic codifications, responsa represents time- and place-bound supplementations to previous codes or accepted practices, due to new contingencies for which no previous provisions have been made. The circumstances of American migration to the orthodox society could, to say the least, be considered such a contingency. By using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, it is possible to spatially analyze the level of connections between European congregations and America. … Read More