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Edited by James A. Diamond and Aaron W. Hughes

The term “medieval” performs a great deal more intellectual work in modern Jewish Thought than simply acting as a referent to a particular historical era. During the nineteenth century, often for Jews who were increasingly alienated from their own tradition, the “medieval” functioned primarily as a bearer of identity in a rapidly changing and secular world. Each chapter in Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought addresses a different return to the medieval, ranging from the Enlightenment to the contemporary period, that clothed itself in the language of renewal and of retrieval. The volume engages the full complexity and range of meaning the term “medieval” carries for modern Jewish Thought.

Shahar Marnin-Distelfeld

. It is this key characteristic that dictated this article’s corpus of research. Implementing an interdisciplinary methodology and drawing on theories from the field of cultural studies, this article integrates an analysis of visual images and artwork with a qualitative approach based on interviews

Birobidzhan
An Experiment to Create a Soviet Jewish Homeland

Birobidzhan Collection at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
The Yivo library and Archives possess a unique collection of printed and archival materials about the Jewish Autonomous region in the former Soviet Union commonly known as Birobidzhan, the region's capital city.

The Birobidzhan experiment was an exotic and controversial attempt to establish a socialist Jewish homeland in the Russian Far East. Birobidzhan still exists today as a remnant of the Communist Party's effort to create a territorial enclave where a secular Jewish community rooted in Yiddish and socialist principles would serve as an alternative to Palestine. The experiment in Jewish territorialization appealed to many Soviet and foreign Jews who desired to build a national Jewish territory dedicated to the building of socialism in the Soviet Union.

In December 1927, after lengthy and often heated debates, and after several years of "lobbying" by Jewish political activists, the Soviet government decided to create a national territory for Soviet Jews along the Sino-Soviet border, which comprised 36.000 square kilometers with 11.000 inhabitants, mostly Russians. In March 1928 the first Jewish settlers arrived in the area and began constructing the new Soviet Jewish homeland, officially known as the Jewish Autonomous Region (J.A.R.) since 1934. The main goal of the Birobidzhan project was the "productivization" of Soviet Jewry by encouraging Jews to become farmers and workers. In addition, the Kremlin intended for Birobidzhan to reflect the socialist aspirations of the Jewish people whose national language was Yiddish. During Birobidzhan's first decade of existence, Yiddish did play a significant role in the life of the region, though it cannot be denied that the Jewish content of Yiddish materials was diluted. Gradually, the role of Yiddish diminished, and the expression of Jewish national consciousness among Jewish inhabitants of the J.A.R. was limited to the designation of Evrei (Jew) in their internal passport.

Leftwing Jews throughout the world hailed the decision to establish the J.A.R. This support led to the formation of various organizations whose purpose was to promote the Birobidzhan project by collecting money and publicizing its existence in various forms. During the 1930s and 1940s, such important cultural figures as Albert Einstein and Marc Chagall were among the scores of prominent Jews who welcomed the creation of the J.A.R.

The collection at YIVO represents both pro and anti-Birobidzhan sympathies. It main be divided into following categories:
• Periodicals, books and pamphlets from the Soviet Union.
• Periodicals, books and pamphlets from abroad.
• Archival materials of the pro-Soviet organizations "ICOR" and "Ambijan"* (USA)
• Archival materials from Birobidzhan and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
• Art albums, posters, slides, videos.

Periodicals
The collection includes more than 30 periodicals published from the late 1920s through late 1940s in the Soviet Union, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands, England, the United States, Argentina, Uruguay and South Africa.

Among the most interesting publications of the 1930s-1940s is the monthly magazine Naylebn (New Life), the official organ of the pro-Soviet Jewish organization ICOR ( Idishe kolonizatsya organizatsye, Association for Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union). This monthly publication was issued on an excellent quality paper in Yiddish and English from 1928 to 1935 under the title Icor, and from 1935 to 1950 as Naylebn. The magazine features articles, photos, literary works, including poetry, fiction, humor, satire and other materials covering virtually all aspects of life in the Jewish Autonomous region. Browsing the pages of " Naylebn" we can trace the lives of American families who immigrated to Birobidzhan before 1937 and remained there. We can also vividly see how the propaganda apparatus of Icor worked praising even the tiniest achievements of the J.A.R. on the one hand (for instance, the day of establishment of the J.A.R. was pronounced on the pages of Naylebn as the greatest event in the Jewish history), and, on the other hand, neglecting crucial happenings, such as repressions and dismantling of Yiddish culture. The magazine aggressively defended any attempt of the " Forverts" to write negative information about Birobidzhan. On the pages of the " Forverts", on the contrary, one can find numerous articles about Birobidzhan as well, with emphasis on its problems and impossibility to become a genuine center for Jewish life. There we can encounter many personal revelations of miserable existence of Jews who decided to connect their destiny with the Soviet Zion. Any article of this sort was immediately counterattacked by " Naylebn" and occasionally by the Communist daily " Morgn Frayhayt", which in it’s turn wrote numerous materials about Birobidzhan "achievements". In unison with aforementioned pro-Soviet periodicals from the Unite States the Birobidzhan myth was propagandized and advertised by the following publications:
" Unzer veg", [1935-1936 the years reflect YIVO holdings]; " Gezerd" [1932] (Antwerp); Iberboy [1936] (Brussels); Der Idisher poyer [1928, 1930], Nay- erd [1933-1934], Prokor [1927], Heymland [1949](Buenos Aires); Gezerd vort [1932-1934] (Johannesburg); Naylebn [1936] (London); Prokor-buletin [1932], Birobidzshan [1948-1950] (Montevideo); Ikor yor-bukh [1932, 1933, 1936], Ikor-bazar [1938-1930], Ikor almanakh [1943], Ambijan Bulletin [1946-1949; in English] (New York); Gezerd-tribune [1936] (Paris); Nayerd [1930-1934] (Riga); Iberboy [1933-1935] (Warsaw).

Books and booklets
The Birobidzhan collection also contains more than 150 books and booklets published from 1927 to nowadays in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Most are in Yiddish, Russian and English. Besides clearly propagandistic works published in the 1930s there are some serious works that objectively analyze the experiment. Among them the closest attention require the following works:
• Sadan, Dov. Der emes vegn der Yevsektsye un Birobidzshan. Buenos Aires, 1935.
• Fink, Viktor. Evrei v taige. Moscow, 1930.
• Yosef. "M’antloyft" fun Erets-Yisroel, men "loyft keyn" Birobidzshan. Tel Aviv, 1932
• Jewish National Fund. Der emes vegn der Yevsektsye un Birobidzshan. Jerusalem, 1933.
• Ronkin, Jizchak . Birobidjan-Palaestina. Prague, 1937

Wall Newspapers
A unique possession of the YIVO archives is a set of almost 100 wall newspapers from Birobidzhan. Handwritten or typed, this 1933 set was a supplement to the local newspaper Birobidzhaner Shtern. It is the only one of its kind in the world. These newspapers will enable researchers to learn more about the lives of Jewish pioneers of Birobidzhan. On the pages of the wall newspapers there may be found more critical materials than in the official Birobidzhaner Shtern, which was, in a way, as any official newspaper, a translated version of Pravda.

Works of Art
YIVO also owns two art albums, A matoneh tsu Biro-Bidjan = A gift to Biro-Bidjan (Chicago, 1937) and Ikor (New York, 1929), which are devoted to Jewish Colonization in Birobidzhan and are represented by well-known artists, such as B. Aronson, W. Gropper, L. Lozowick, Z. Maud, Y. Ryback. Biro-Bidjan – catalog of the 1936 exhibition of works of art presented by American artists to the state museum of Birobidzhan innumerates some 210 works of American artists to support Birobidzhan project. YIVO archives have also materials related to this exhibition. Interestingly enough, this exhibition traveled over several cities of the United States, reached Moscow, had a large review in Soviet and American press and … disappeared, never reaching Birobidzhan. In the best scenario it ended somewhere in the reserves of one of Moscow galleries.

The archives of YIVO possess the materials related to Birobidzhan both from Russia and from the United States. There one can encounter materials on the National Committee ICOR, manuscripts, articles, essays on Birobidzhan, as well as correspondence, personal documents, reports, photographs and clippings of leaders and activists of pro-Soviet Jewish organizations, which supported the Birobidzhan project. YIVO photo and film archives own a silent film "A Scientific Expedition to Birobidzhan" (1929), produced by the faculty of Brigham Young University and ICOR activists.

Julia Flaum
The latest acquisition of YIVO on Birobidzhan is the archive of the Jewish actress Julia Flaum (1914-1995), who played in Birobidzhan State Jewish Theater in the 1940s. It has playbills of Birobidzhan State Jewish Theater, photos of it’s actors and actresses, personal correspondence of the years spent in Birobidzhan, clippings from Russian and Yiddish press about Birobidzhan State Jewish Theater.

Contemporary Works
YIVO library and archives holdings of contemporary works published both in the former Soviet Union and abroad up to year 2000 are also impressive. The publications of 1960s-1990s include scholarly works on the subject in various languages from the former Soviet Union, Israel, United States, France, Germany; literary compositions of Birobidzhan local writers, poets and journalists; the complete run of the local newspaper " Birobidzhaner Shtern" (1973 – to present); personal memoirs of the persecuted Jews from Birobidzhan; methodological materials and textbooks to teach Yiddish published by the Birobidzhan branch of the Russia’s Ministry of Education, art albums and posters, sound recordings of the local Yiddish radio, a documentary "Jews under the Red Star", on contemporary Jewish life in the city of Birobidzhan (1989), slides and newspaper clippings on revival of Jewish culture in the late 1980s early 1990s, correspondence of professor Bernard Chossed (United States) on Jewish revival in Birobidzhan.

*Ambijan – American Birobijan Committee, a pro-Soviet organization, which supported the colonization of J.A. R. and was especially active in the 1940s.

Maya Balakirsky Katz and Steven Fine

Olin and Catherine Soussloff, began as a product of this project in North America. The success of Images is the success of the movement that Peg incubated and that she continues to nurture. Peg’s artistic, scholarly, and curatorial projects have focused on a variety of methodological issues, ranging

"The Former Jews of this Kingdom"

Sicilian Converts after the Expulsion, 1492-1516

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Nadia Zeldes

This book examines the presence of the converted Jews in Sicily following the 1492 expulsion, discussing their legal status, economic activities and integration into Sicilian society, and the phenomenon of conversion and return of many exiles. The research is based on the account of books of the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily and other contemporary sources. Detailed inventories of confiscated property offer insights into the converts' cultural world, and can also be of interest to the scholar of social and material history in Early Modern Europe.
By focussing on royal policies towards the converted Jews, and on the process of establishing the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily, the study sheds new light on Ferdinand the Catholic's politics in Sicily and southern Italy.

Ilia Rodov

iconographic methodology that is embraced here is at odds with Shafer’s stated intention of following the approaches of reception studies and semiotics, which reject the belief in the eternality of symbols. 18 The Sha‘ar ha-shamayim in Cairo exemplifies European historicist reflections on the return of

Katrin Kogman-Appel

–135). 6 Several sections discuss to what extent the images in the Sarajevo Haggadah represent realia. This is the most original and the most successful part of this volume. Sabar opens with a cautious statement about the methodological difficulties associated with seeking elements of daily life in

Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide

An Intellectual History, 1929–1948

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Ferenc Laczó

Hungarian Jews, the last major Jewish community in the Nazi sphere of influence by 1944, constituted the single largest group of victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide Ferenc Laczó draws on hundreds of scholarly articles, historical monographs, witness accounts as well as published memoirs to offer a pioneering exploration of how this prolific Jewish community responded to its exceptional drama and unprecedented tragedy. Analysing identity options, political discourses, historical narratives and cultural agendas during the local age of persecution as well as the varied interpretations of persecution and annihilation in their immediate aftermath, the monograph places the devastating story of Hungarian Jews at the dark heart of the European Jewish experience in the 20th century.

Joey Orr

book, Men Like That , John Howard makes the case for using stories and hearsay, since they are the only way particular social practices and populations can be known by us at all. 17 Hearsay, therefore, enters the world of historical methodology by recuperating what would never be legible without it