EAJS Conference Grant Programme 2021/22
Schismatics, Heretics, and Religious Crisis: Frankism and the Turbulent 18th Century in East Central European Jewry
Summer school in Jewish studies, Palacký University Olomouc
Kurt and Ursula Schubert Center for Jewish Studies (CJS), Faculty of Arts
11-21 August 2022
Dr. Ivana Cahová, Head of CJS
The international summer school “Schismatics, Heretics, and Religious Crisis: Frankism and the Turbulent 18th Century in East Central European Jewry”, intended primarily for graduate and undergraduate students of Jewish Studies and related study programs, was designed to help to heighten participants’ knowledge about the dynamic quality of Jewish religious history, with a focus on early modern Jewish heterodoxies. In particular, the course centered on topic of Sabbatean and Post-Sabbatean Movements.
The summer school took place in the Moravian region of the Czech Republic: this region played a very important role in the 18thcentury development of the Sabbatean and Frankist heresies. Nevertheless, due to various historiographical reasons, Moravian sources have not been utilized in research and in teaching to the degree they deserve. The summer school remedied this situation by focusing on Moravian historical phenomena interpreted in a broad European and global context. Moreover, the event co-organized by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the most prestigious strongholds of Jewish Studies in the world, brought together some of the internationally renowned researchers of early modern Jewish religious history, experts on Sabbateanism, Frankism, and Czech Jewish history as well as local experts of Moravian religious and social history (including both Christian and Jewish history).
The event was hosted by the Kurt and Ursula Schubert Center for Jewish Studies at Palacký University in Olomouc; which, since its establishment, has played a significant role in revitalizing the research of the Moravian Jewish heritage. The Center used its excellent relations to other Moravian institutions, including museums, archives and libraries to create a broad cultural program. The very close cooperation with the Jewish community in Olomouc enabled participants from abroad to get to know local religious and communal life. The Center has an appropriate Judaica library with many Moravian sources which was fully available to the participants.
In general perspective the international summer school was aimed to bring together European, Israeli and other students of Jewish Studies, who were to be exposed to interactive instruction and who were to bring important newly acquired knowledge home. The exchange of knowledge, taking place in a cross-cultural group of participants, both students and faculty, should allow for new and shared perspectives on Jewish Studies across borders, languages, and scholarly specialties. International learning encounters between university students and academics from the Czech Republic, Israel and other European and non-European states should enrich the experience for all concerned, stimulating new kinds of intellectual, cultural, and social interaction.
Although the event was initially planned to be held already in August 2020, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation the international summer school “Schismatics, Heretics, and Religious Crisis: Frankism and the Turbulent 18th Century in East Central European Jewry” took place at the Kurt and Ursula Schubert Center for Jewish Studies (CJS), Faculty of Arts, Palacký University in Olomouc on 11-21 August 2022. This academic event was organized by Ivana Cahová, Head of CJS, Palacký University in Olomouc (UPOL), in close collaboration with the staff and faculty of CJS and in cooperation with Eli Lederhedler, Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) with the generous support and financial assistance of the Conference Grant Program of the European Association for Jewish Studies (EAJS) and Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility Program. Faculty have been selected with the goal of bringing together the most experienced and widely acknowledged experts in the relevant fields of study, so that the sophistication and quality of the course is a defining feature:
- Avishai Bar-Asher (Department of Jewish Thought, HUJI)
- Martin Elbel (Department of History, UPOL)
- Hadar Feldman Samet (Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University, Mandel-Scholion Center, HUJI)
- Eli Lederhendler (Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
- Pawel Maciejko (Department of History, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore)
- Pavel Sládek (Prague Center for Jewish Studies, Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague)
- Daniel Soukup (Kurt and Ursula Schubert Center for Jewish Studies, UPOL)
- Tamás Visi (CJS, UPOL).
The summer school was open mainly for graduate and undergraduate students of Jewish Studies (and related study programs), experts in Jewish Studies and all who are interested in Jewish history, culture and philosophy. The Call for Applications and the preliminary program of summer school was published in March 2022 in the Newsletter of EAJS and on the official webpage and Facebook page of CJS. In the process of selection of participants, the organizers prioritized European graduate and undergraduate students, doctoral candidates and recent doctoral graduates of Jewish Studies. 20 successful applicants were selected, 11 from European countries (Czech Republic, Italy, Ukraine), and 9 from Israel, who received the EAJS financial support. 2 applicants (from USA and Israel) participated at their own expense. Following the end of the selection process the final program was published (see below). All confirmed participants of the summer school were registered in the registration system of the Palacký University STAG, so that ECTS credits could be awarded to them after completing the course and meeting all the conditions of attestation.
The program consisted of the intensive instruction (35 instruction units, 1 instruction unit = 45 minutes) in the morning and/or early afternoon and cultural and social events in the afternoon and evening. Instruction included lectures, seminars, and practical teaching during the field trips. Cultural program included guided tours in Olomouc and its neighborhood, excursions and trips to attractive destinations in the Czech Republic, and cultural events in Olomouc and its neighborhood. The language of instruction was English.
The organizers created a Google Drive platform on which important organizational information and materials, including detailed Summer School Guide, was shared with all participants. Folders with recommended reading and complementary sources for seminars and lectures were also created there. Two student coordinators were appointed, who communicated with the participants in a less formal manner through e-mail and established group on a social network. A welcome Zoom meeting took place in the second half of June.
Thursday, August 11
Arrival, registration, accommodation
Evening: Festive opening (Rector of Palacký University Olomouc, Chair of the Jewish Community Olomouc, Head of CJS, workshop leaders, program presentation), reception at the Jewish Community
Friday, August 12
Morning (9-12AM): Opening lecture Eli Lederhendler: “Jewish History and Society in the 18th Century”
Afternoon (2-5PM): Palacký University Olomouc, guided tour; Jewish Olomouc, guided tour
Evening: Jewish Community Olomouc, Shabbat celebration
Saturday, August 13
Morning (9-12AM): Jewish Community Olomouc, Shabbat celebration
Afternoon (2-4PM): Ololoď (boat trip, optional); alternative informal activity in Olomouc within walking distance
Sunday, August 14
Morning (9-12AM): Seminar Avishai Bar-Asher: “Messianism, Redemption, and Soteriology: From Medieval Kabbalah to Early Modern Jewish Mysticism”
Afternoon (2-7PM): Field trip to Mikulov
Monday, August 15
Morning (9-12AM): Seminar Hadar Feldman Samet: “Cultural Crossings and Communal Confines: Sabbateanism in its Muslim Contexts, 17th – 19th Centuries“
Afternoon (2-4PM): Palacký University Interactive Science Center Olomouc, guided tour and screening in the planetarium
Tuesday, August 16
Morning (9-12AM): Seminar Pawel Maciejko: “The Portrait of the Kabbalist as a Young Man”
Afternoon (2-4PM): Memory of Nations Institute in Olomouc, guided tour
Wednesday, August 17
Morning (9-12AM): Seminar Tamás Visi: “Kabbalah and Popular Religion in Early Modern Moravia”
Afternoon (2-5PM): Seminar Pavel Sládek: “Was There a Crisis of Rabbinic Authority in The Early Modern Period?”
Thursday, August 18
Morning (9-12AM): Seminar Daniel Soukup: “Jewish Conversions to Catholicism in 17th and 18th Century Moravia and Bohemia”
Afternoon (2-6PM): Field trip to Holešov
Friday, August 19
Morning (9-12AM): Seminar Martin Elbel: “Heresy and Witchcraft in 17th and 18th Century Moravia”
Afternoon (3-5PM): Olomouc non-Jewish history, guided tour
Evening: Jewish Community Olomouc, Shabbat celebration, festive dinner
Saturday, August 20
Morning (9-12AM): Jewish Community Olomouc, Shabbat celebration
Afternoon (3-5PM): Conclusion; consultation (on demand)
Evening: Informal coffee in Cafe Library
Sunday, August 21
Topics of Lectures/Seminars and Discussions Summary
Eli Lederhendler: “Jewish History and Society in the 18th Century”
In the introduction of the lecture, the question of how to approach the research of history was posed. Are we interested in the “mainstream” or normative social and cultural discourse to establish the patterns of the past? Furthermore, how should we proceed toward the marginal phenomenon, such as Jewish messianic movements of the early modern period? May the study of the “odd” reveal the attitudes and actual practice of the “normative” society and its history? The social and political development of Europe in the 18th century suggests corresponding questions concerning the Jewish individuals and communities being “within” but also “separate” from these trends. Such development constituted for its adoption and adaptation by Jewish society in Europe. The lecture offered the historical background to the 18th century Jewish life in Europe – spreading of late waves of Sabbateanism, geo-politics of Frankism, emergence of Haskalah in the West and Hasidism in the East. The last but not less important discussion dealt with the perception of this dynamic period in Jewish history either as that of order (gradual relief from civil disabilities, enhanced quality of life, absence of major persecutions etc.), or disorder (internal disruption gradually leading to secularization, assimilation and conversion, crisis of self-government motivating external authorities to intervene etc.).
Avishai Bar-Asher: “Messianism, Redemption, and Soteriology: From Medieval Kabbalah to Early Modern Jewish Mysticism”
The early modern period was witnessing a rise of two messianic movements – Sabbateanism and Frankism, both of which were building intricate foundations of thought and myth. Although Jewish messianism might appear as innovative in conception, it was developed in light of medieval Jewish thought and literature. In the lecture, the historical background of evolving ideas (rooted in medieval Jewish mysticism) was discussed also adding and comparing various scholarly approaches, furthermore, the discourse was enriched by exploring several medieval mystical texts that influenced the later stages of Jewish messianism, namely Kabbalistic Zohar literature and writings of R. Moses Nahmanides. The lecture and the text analyses supplied essential information to the background of early modern Jewish messianism and its thought evolution.
Hadar Feldman Samet: “Cultural Crossings and Communal Confines: Sabbateanism in its Muslim Contexts, 17th – 19th Centuries“
The lecture was opened with illustrative examples witnessing that Sabbatean thinking is still alive in the present worldview. Further, it was presented that the birth of the original Sabbatean movement itself was based on a crisis and consequent transformation within the context of early modern Jewish history. Although Sabbateanism as a mass public movement was to a great extent extinguished by the conversion of Sabbatai Tsvi to Islam in 1666, it kept on resonating inside Jewish settlements in the Ottoman Empire which were established mainly after the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. A case of a noteworthy Sabbatean community that was settled in Salonika was discussed. In the 19th century, the late Sabbateanism was flourishing in Ottoman society and it had a huge impact even on later generations whose descendants are searching for an understanding of their almost forgotten Sabbatean identity until today. Primary sources which were read during the lecture included a 19th-century poem based on a 5th-century love story of Lucretia and Sextus Tarquinius depicting Sabbatai Tsvi as Don Kreensia, on one hand a feminine aspect of Divine, and on the other hand a male aspect of Sabbatai Tsvi’s real personality.
Pawel Maciejko: “The Portrait of the Kabbalist as a Young Man”
The lecture followed the story of an individual which revealed the bigger picture of contacts between Sabbateans and Frankists and Bohemian and Moravian thinkers and nobility in the early modern period. Analysis of the portrait of Count of Waldstein family connected him, through the painting’s foreground, to the Kabbalistic writing Zohar, more specifically to a text with messianic significance. Since the depiction of perfectly readable, and traceable, text was not common in this period a question concerning the historical context of the painting was posed. Another hint appears in the Arabic inscription, also present in the painting, that alludes to the Count having contacts in the Sabbatean and Frankist milieu. The lecture continued the discussion of historical background and introduced the unique milieu of Czech Sabbateans and Frankists and their interactions with local Christian noblemen. Bohemian and Moravian followers of Frank and other Sabbateans remained predominantly Jewish (did not convert to Catholicism as their Polish counterparts); and in the second half of the 18th century they established exceptional contacts with Bohemian and Moravian noblemen who were interested in freethinking; in this context Sabbateans were mediators of the Kabbalistic thoughts.
Tamás Visi: “Kabbalah and Popular Religion in Early Modern Moravia”
The seminar focused on participants’ group work with assigned texts which varied in expected Hebrew language competence benefiting from the native speakers among the students. The chosen texts illustrated the spread and significance of Kabbalah in the Moravian Jewish communities in the early modern period (early 17th to late 18th century). Amid the texts was a gravestone inscription, letter, compendium, chronicle report and biblical commentary, all of which developed the picture of Kabbalah as being well respected knowledge heralding social prestige, as being accessible to avid students like Shlomiel Dressnitz through books but also through the local rabbis who in case of Moravian rabbi Moses Altschuler claimed rabbinic authority over mystical activities. The biblical commentary was a curious case of Sabbatean writing probably by Leib Judah Prossnitz which was dealing with the concept of redemption. The seminar, through active participation of the students, explored the Kabbalistic background of the early modern Moravia and its social significance, furthermore, it suggested a certain continuity or “preparing of the ground” – from the learners and self-learners of Kabbalah to later followers of Sabbatean and Frankist movement and thought.
Pavel Sládek: “Was There a Crisis of Rabbinic Authority in The Early Modern Period?”
The perception of the 17th and 18th century as that of a crisis comes from David Ruderman’s research suggesting major rejection of rabbinic authority caused primarily by the messianic figure Sabbatai Tsvi releasing waves of change across Europe. The seminar illustrated the historical context of the early modern period in Moravia and Bohemia describing the complicated Jewish self-government systems, the lack of rabbis in communities and the reliance of both individuals and communities on rabbinic rulings (especially in the issues concerning family and kashrut laws that were in the rabbinic hegemony), thus indirectly opposing, or rather locally differentiating, the extent and/or direction of said crisis. The depiction of local historical reality shed light on how potentially receptive was the environment to which Sabbatean and Frankist ideas arrived. As a specific case in historical reality the seminar discussed the significance of Hebrew book printing in terms of availability and perceived threat to the rabbinic authorities who were issuing permits or banishments to books; specifically banning books on certain topics (messianic visions included).
Daniel Soukup: “Jewish Conversions to Catholicism in 17th and 18th Century Moravia and Bohemia”
The religious context of the early modern Czech lands was marked by recatholization, and the Habsburg intent to homogenize the society and dispose of heterodoxies; one of the oppressive tools in these endeavors was conversion. Local Jewish communities were simultaneously subjected to institutionalized oppression and missionary activities, both of which were supposed to lead to reduction of the Jewish population. The primary topic of the seminar was the phenomenon of Jewish conversion. The seminar explored the methodological issues and specifics of conversion studies; then the focus turned to discussion of the historical background of Bohemia and Moravia at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries and the implication of conversion being a tool for reducing Jewish population (highlighting specific local cases of conversions – mass conversions, child conversions etc.); the picture’s complexity was supplemented by an analysis of Jesuit missions among Jews, catechetical literature, and the image of the ideal Jewish convert.
Martin Elbel: “Heresy and Witchcraft in 17th and 18th Century Moravia”
In the first part of the lecture, the situation which led to persecution of all that posed a threat to an obsolete system was outlined. The focus was on the Roman Catholic Church in early modern Czech lands and its power struggle with Protestantism which was born in response to the people’s dissatisfaction with the actual condition of the Church. Significant milestones on the way to the maintenance and predominance of Catholicism were presented, e. g. the Third Prague Defenestration, or the Battle of White Mountain in 1618. In the second part, practices associated with witch hunts in Moravia were discussed, and a case study of the Šumperk region in the 17th century was described. Infamous inquisitor Boblig, during his 14-year career, succeeded in executing about 100 people, among them local priest Lautner. These absurd trials, which were common practice in some countries in Europe, lasted until the late 18th century when the last victim was executed. It is reasonable to consider it as the manifestation of the crisis of the old culture which had to be replaced by the modern one. The same sort of crisis was expressed also by the Sabbatean movement. Thus, it is not surprising that both of them were born in the turbulent times of the 17th century.
On the last day of the summer school all successful participants received the graduation certificate. The summer school required submission of a final paper (2-3 pages, double-spaced) reflecting on one (or more) idea/s that participants acquired during the course. Use of the course reading was welcome. Upon successful submission of the final paper, the course participants received Transcript of Records for 6 ECTS credits.
During the course of the summer school, participants gained the general overview of the dynamic quality of Jewish religious history in the early modern era, with a focus on Jewish heterodoxies and mysticism. The gained knowledge increased participants’ ability to identify the concepts of religious dissent, heresy, and conversion in the broader context of Jewish and Christian history; to correctly identify and distinguish between various forms of Jewish mystical and messianic thought and to correlate analogous issues of heterodox religious behaviors as these may be compared in between Jewish and Christian sectarian history in the early modern era. Field trips, guided tours and off-campus lectures complemented classroom instruction by anchoring gained knowledge in a specific geo-cultural milieu where crucial events took place and left their trace in the local historical record. After the end of the summer school, each participant worked on a short academic paper reflecting on one (or more) idea/s that the participants acquired during the course.
In addition to these educational outputs, the European participants of the summer school benefited from the close social and co-learning contact with their Israeli peers, both with regard to Jewish Studies-related areas of common interest and to Hebrew-language exposure. Israeli and other non-European students left with a deeper appreciation for the East-Central European context of early modern Jewish history as well as the ongoing character of the Jewish communal, cultural, and scholarly presence in today’s Europe.
The event also provided a distinctive opportunity for scholars, from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, to meet and discuss their respective work. It has, therefore, broadened the academic networks of all the participants. This successful summer school contributed to the development of Jewish Studies in the Czech Republic and in Europe, and engaged young scholars in the field. It helped to establish an international network of students and faculty in Jewish Studies and supported student and faculty exchange practices. Moreover, it upgraded local-level inter-university cooperation between Jewish Studies programs in the Czech Republic (CJS in Olomouc and PCJS in Prague), while it also reinforced inter-university ties between Europe and Israel (HUI), thereby enabling a wider range of common projects in the future.
The summer school brought also some important “soft products“. The encounters between the students from different places and backgrounds contributed to the course from the social and cultural perspective, which was recognized and appreciated by everyone involved. The evening social event organized by students themselves in a pub next to the dormitory was a huge success, and that atmosphere carried on throughout the second half of the course. An additional “soft product” that emerged from the summer school was the encounter with the local Jewish community. The encounter was a positive element for both, students from abroad and especially from Israel, and also for the community itself since it brought an influx of new faces, new voices and showed many common and connecting elements.
In conclusion, this successful event and its final evaluation among the organizers provided a basis for the establishment of further summer and/or winter courses.
The EAJS Conference Grant Program in Jewish Studies enabled the organizers of this summer school to provide full 10 days program of the summer school, including 35 instruction units (1 instruction unit = 45 minutes), opening and closing reception, coffee breaks, entrance fees during the field trips, guided tours and excursions to all participants of the event; in addition to accommodation, travel expenses within the borders of the Czech Republic, and lunches to 20 supported students, to 3 local lecturers and 2 coordinators.
The event was published through the following channels:
- Website of EAJS: https://www.eurojewishstudies.org/conference-grant-programme-reports/2019-20-and-2020-21/
- Webpage of Kurt and Ursula Schubert Center for Jewish Studies, Palacký University Olomouc: https://judaistika.upol.cz/aktuality/ and https://judaistika.upol.cz/fileadmin/users/120/Summer_school_2022_PROGRAM_official.pdf
- Facebook of Kurt and Ursula Schubert Center for Jewish Studies, Palacký University Olomouc: https://www.facebook.com/events/2861600524136322
- Webpages of H-Judaic: https://networks.h-net.org/node/28655/discussions/10241338/cfa-eajs-summer-school-frankism
- Webpage of Prague Center for Jewish Studies, Charles University in Prague: https://pcjs.ff.cuni.cz/cs/summer-school_olomouc/
- Personal channels of individual participants
A summer school poster and guide were printed and distributed at the start of the event.
An article about the summer school was published in the university bulletin Žurnál UP, and a report was broadcasted on the Czech Radio Olomouc.