EAJS Conference Grant Programme 2020/21
SEFER: Twenty-Seventh Annual International Conference on Jewish Studies
The Moscow Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization (SEFER)
Online (Moscow): 11-13 July 2021
The 27th Annual International Conference on Jewish Studies was held online in Moscow on 11-13 July 2021. 218 scientists from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, Israel, Great Britain, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Lebanon, Sudan, as well as numerous guests, graduate students participated in it.
The conference was organized by the Sefer Center with the support of the European Association for Jewish Studies, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, the Russian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group, and the Russian Presidential Grants Fund.
The variety of problems discussed at the conference was reflected in the structure of its program, which included 42 sections devoted to traditional and up-to-date areas of Jewish studies (Biblical Studies, Jewish Thought, Jewish History of different periods, Eastern European Jewish History, Judeo-Christian relations, the Holocaust, Israeli studies, Mountain Jews and Non-Ashkenazic Communities studies, Languages and Literature, Art, Theatre, Digital Ethnology, Archival sources, etc.). Several round tables were organized during the conference on the actual topics of Jewish Studies, and they attract a lot of visitors and participants.
Previous experience of combining the international conference with a youth conference, which received a positive evaluation, was continued this year, as a result young researchers could submit their presentations to be discussed by the academic community.
The organizing committee of the conference consists of 13 international and Russian scholars, including: Svetlana Amosova (junior researcher, Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences); Oleg Budnitsky (Prof., HSE University); Mikhail Chlenov (Dr., Center “Sefer”); Dmitry Elyashevich (Prof., St. Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies); Victoria Gerasimova (Dr., Omsk State University; Center “Sefer”); Maria Kaspina (Dr., Russian State University for the Humanities; Center “Sefer”); Irina Kopchenova (junior researcher, Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences; “Sefer” Center); Olga Levitan (Dr., Tel-Aviv University; Hebrew University of Jerusalem); Artur Markowski (Prof., Warsaw University); Victoria Mochalova (Dr., Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences; Center “Sefer”); Mikhail Seleznev (Dr., HSE University); Anna Shaevich (Center “Sefer”); Mikhail Vasylev (Center “Sefer”).
We have developed a special website both in Russian and in English for this conference and its program. Please see the program here: https://www.sefer.ru/eng/conferences/conference/
At the opening of the conference the Director General of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, one of the sponsors of the conference, Haim Ben-Yakov, and President of the Russian Jewish Congress Yuri Kanner, delivered their welcoming speeches.
The presentation of new editions of the Center “Sefer” and the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences was also held, and the following books were presented:
- Tirosh. Works on Jewish Studies, Vol.20;
- Collection of articles Family and Family Values in the Slavic and Jewish Cultural Traditions, Vol.22 (which includes the papers delivered during the annual International Judeo-Slavic Academic Conference)
- Academic Judaic-Slavic Journal in Russian
Maria Kaspina and Mikhail Vasilyev presented an internet database of ethnographic, epigraphic and archival data. SFIRA; Anna Shaevich and Irina Kopchenova presented other Sefer programs, summer and winter student schools, as well as grants for research on Russian Jewry and projects in Jewish studies.
According to tradition, the conference also included a presentation of the newest Judaica publications of the last year by colleagues from different countries. Within the framework of the conference, presentations of the latest editions on Jewish studies in the Russian Language were also held. New books were presented by; the publishing house “Knizhniki” (Borukh Gorin), the publishing house of Mikhail Grinberg, as well as Oleg Budnitsky, Leonid Terushkin and Giula Shamili.
According to the feedback of all the participants the conference was well prepared and of a high level, as well as being interesting and useful in various ways. Presentations are including more diverse topics, and the Sefer conference year on year is becoming better and more informative.
Here are the reports, impressions and comments on the conference from the chairs of the different sections:
12 papers were presented at the section “The Bible: Translations and Interpretations” (Chair M. Seleznev).
The range of topics was very wide: from the ancient Eastern roots of the biblical tradition to Hellenistic Judaism, Targums and the “search for the historical Jesus.” All 12 reports were of a high level.
It is very joyful that the section has become “younger”: out of 12 speakers, 5 were postgraduates or undergraduates, and this did not in any way affect the high level of reports. A significant number of the speakers were in one way or another connected with the High School of Economy, which is not surprising, given the recent establishment of the Center for the Study of Biblical Studies and the History of Ancient Israel. At the same time, traditional centers for the study of Jewish studies, such as the Russian State University for the Humanities, St. Petersburg State University and PSTGU also presented.
The Semitic Philology and Epigraphy section (Chair: Alexey Lyavdansky) went very well, the papers were accompanied by excellent presentations (especially from Matthew Morgenstern). The researchers united in this section have already formed their own circle, which this time was joined by the largest specialist in Syrian magic bowls, James Ford from Israel. In general, the sessions were very interesting.
The section “Hebrew Manuscripts” (Chair: Dr. Alexander Gordin) was quite successful and left a pleasant impression, there were almost no technical failures, the speakers were interesting and professional.
Reuven Kiperwasser talked about the technological problems of preparing a publication based on handwritten sources. For me, this was the most interesting presentation, stimulating further research, the speaker shared his experience of working on the texts of the Midrash of Ecclesiastes.
Shimon Yakerson presented a series of poetic colophons in Spanish and Portuguese incunabula, performed in a sophisticated manner that has no analogues in manuscript material. Interesting results, inspiring for further research, at the intersection of book history and the history of poetry.
Alina Lisitsina examined the composition of the manuscript collection of the Schneerson library, kept in the Jewish Museum in Moscow. This talk was more technical and therefore inevitably boring, but valuable first-hand information is very important for all those involved in library work with Hebrew manuscripts.
Alexander Gordin’s report was devoted to handwritten sources such as colophons and other accompanying texts of Hebrew manuscripts, shedding light on the teaching and study of astronomy in Late Byzantine and early Ottoman Constantinople. Probably, the topic was somewhat exotic for the majority of listeners, but I hope it was interesting.
We were especially pleased with the performances of the younger participants, who spoke at a very professional level. Ekaterina Belkina spoke about the history, description and actual composition of Ivanov’s Bukhara collection. The fascinating story also contained intrigue, regarding the possible presence of as yet unknown earlier manuscripts, we await the results of further research.
Mikhail Arseniev examined Karaite manuscripts from the Second Collection of Firkovich, containing biblical texts in Arabic script. A detailed analysis of spelling features, line alignment and other characteristics reveals several systems with peculiar influences from both Arabic and Jewish written traditions. The topic seems to be very promising, I am glad that in St. Petersburg, where the manuscripts themselves are kept, there is someone to study them.
The reports were accompanied by questions and discussion. In general, we barely met the time allotted to us. Many thanks to all the organizers, let’s hope for new meetings.
The section Jewish Classical Texts and Thought (Chair: Mikhail Wogman) included both Russian and English language presentations on the different topics; Jewish Classical texts, such as Apocrypha, Rabbinic and Medieval Literature, Talmud and Midrash, Maimonides works, as well as interesting aspects of Jewish and Non-Jewish European Philosophy. The most interesting presentations were of Uri Gershovich, Arcady Kovelman and Mikhail Wogman.
The section “History of the Jews of Eastern Europe” (Chaired by Dr. Semyon Goldin) included 5 reports (three of them in Russian and two in English). Among the speakers were two “venerable” teachers (from Moscow and Jerusalem) and three young researchers; two doctoral students (Warsaw and Klagenfurt) and one undergraduate student (Warsaw). The topics of the reports and their chronology were extremely diverse; from the religious wars of the 17th century to the Holocaust. In general, the section was quite successful, the discussion of the reports was quite active. I would like to thank the organizers for the opportunity to take part in an important conference.
During the conference, 3 sessions of the section “History of the Jews of the Russian Empire” (Chairs: Artur Markovsky and Dmitry Elyashevich) were held, at which 14 reports were presented. Most of them were devoted to the period of the late 19th – early 20th centuries and had a local history character. In general, all the papers were distinguished by a fairly high academic level, although they were of unequal quality. Practically every presentation caused a series of questions and discussion. Among the most interesting and informative are the papers of D. Feldman, I. Barkussky, A. Bezarov, A. Markovsky. Among the reports of young researchers, undoubtedly the best was the report of M. Moldaver.
The traditional section “Jews and Christians: the problem of relationships” (Chaired by Dr. T. Khizhaya) was attended by Russian scholars and researchers from the United States. As always, the chronological coverage of the events, phenomena, processes, trends in the field of interreligious interaction considered by the speakers turned out to be wide: from the 9th century to the present. The geography of the presented studies were extremely varied. This is the phenomenon of crypto-Judaism of the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews and their return to Judaism (report by Jenny Milgrom, USA), the relationship between Jews and Christians in late medieval Castile (Isabella Biletskaya, Moscow), Christian apocrypha in a Byzantine work, where the theme of the Old Testament is touched upon ( Polina Ukhanova, St. Petersburg), the Sabbatarian movement in modern Europe and discourses of its perception by Jewish researchers at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. (Tatiana Khizhaya, Vladimir), “Russian world” in Palestine ΧΙΧ-ΧΧ centuries, and modern Israel, which includes Orthodox pilgrims and Russian-speaking Jews (Mikhail Shapovalov, Omsk).
All papers were accompanied by presentations, which is very important for the format of a virtual conference, when you do not always see the faces of the participants, but you can watch the slides. Jenny Milgrom, a descendant of the Spanish crypto-Jews (“Marrans”), who, thanks to the documents of the Inquisition, restored her Jewish ancestry up to the 15th century, gave the audience an excellent presentation.
The performances of the young participants delighted with the use of serious sources, medieval documents and monuments, which were subjected to thorough research (Isabella Biletskaya and Polina Ukhanova).
A rather lively and dynamic discussion took place, all the speakers were asked more than one question. Mikhail Shapovalov’s report on “Russian Palestine” aroused a lot of questions, the material turned out to be topical. Many thanks to V.V. Mochalova, who did not just ask, but gave valuable recommendations, to the moderator Anna Shaevich (the section was conducted without technical failures) and the translator Larisa Privalskaya!
Section on The Study of Anti-Semitism (Chaired by Dr. V. A. Shnirelman).
Judging by sociological data, anti-Semitism in Russia has been declining in recent years, and this affects the decline of interest in its scientific discussion. Therefore, if in the past years the section recruited at least a dozen speakers, this year there were only five applicants. Nevertheless, the meeting was very interesting. Topics not covered by earlier studies were discovered, new approaches and interpretations appeared. For example, in a report on Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries, Dominika Stefania Vysochinska showed that anti-Semitism was not always directly related to Jews. It turned out that representatives of the nobility used it in court intrigues to undermine the positions of their rivals. In turn, Y. Oreshina highlighted the little-studied issue of anti-Semitism in Georgia, which is denied there and does not become a subject of discussion. Meanwhile, in the XIX century in Georgia there were cases of blood libel, the train of which in the form of rumors reached the second half of the 20th century. In a report on the notorious hieromonk Iliodor, Maxim Khizhiy showed him not so much as a convinced anti-Semite, but rather greedy for entertainment and scandalous theatricality. He was a populist and easily changed his views. He only tried to adopt the image of the spiritual leader of the movement, but never organized pogroms. In the report of V.A. Shnirelman, an attempt was made to show the paths leading to anti-Semitism. The biographies of a number of leading contemporary Russian radical right ideologists were analyzed. It turned out that people came to anti-Semitism at different ages, in different social contexts and for different reasons. The turning point happened in their youth, when people met with injustice, experienced disillusionment with ideological clichés, entered into confrontation with the regime and faced life troubles, or even ended up in prison for political reasons. To this was added a connection with Russian nationalist organizations, as well as an acquaintance with Orthodox Judo-phobic literature. It is noteworthy that good relations and friendship with individual Jews did not prevent some of these figures from constructing the image of a consolidated malevolent Jewry, allegedly dreaming of world domination and enslavement, or even genocide of everyone else, above all, of course, the Russian people. In connection with this thesis, an interesting discussion followed the section on the distinction between the private and the general, the individual and the mass.
At the section “(Un) open pages of archival documents” dedicated to the memory of Efim Iosifovich Melamed (Chairs: Alexander Ivanov, Dr. Alla Sokolova), 6 papers were presented.
The section was opened by a short report by Aleksandr Ivanov on the works of Y. I. Melamed in the field of archival Jewish Studies, and, in particular, on the preparation of a three-volume guidebook “Documents on the history and culture of Jews in the archives of Ukraine”.
The presentation of T. Shishkina, a recent graduate of the National University “Kiev-Mohyla Academy” – “The participation of the Cabinet of Jewish Culture in the preparation of materials for the” Black Book “, in fact, continued the research of E.I. Melamed on the study of the history of this institution. The author of the presentation used numerous archival documents, including previously unpublished ones, as well as a visual way of presenting material using network analysis methods. This study is in its early stages and during a discussion some ideas were expressed regarding further work on this topic.
The paper of the head of the Center for Jewish Studies at the Department of Cultural Heritage Research of the National Library of Lithuania Lara Lempertienė; “From Library to Archives: A New Look at the Judaica Collection in the National Library of Lithuania” was dedicated to a new approach to working with the collection of Jewish handwritten and printed materials that came to the funds of the Jewish Studies Center. The author of the presentation suggested considering this collection as a whole without dividing handwritten documents and printed books into separate sets of materials, taking into account the links between them formed in the process of creating the collection. The paper also described the history of the formation of this collection and its fate during the Second World War and the post-war period.
The presentation of an independent researcher from Brno and a representative of East View Information Services in the Czech Republic, Yuri Snopov was about Jewish religious life in Moscow in 1945-1953 through the eyes of S. Besshaposhnikov, Commissioner for Cults in Moscow and the Moscow Region, and his correspondents. The paper presented an analysis of the materials of F. R-6991 (GARF), on the basis of which the main directions of the activities of the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, in work with Moscow Jewish religious organizations in the post-war period, were demonstrated.
In the lecture of Vladimir Kolesov, representing the Kuban State University of Krasnodar, the case of Jegonas Mountain Jews in modern digital archives on the history of the XX century (source study aspect) were discussed.
In addition, reports were presented by the chairs of the section, Alla Sokolova, researcher at the State Museum of the History of Religion and the St. Petersburg Judaica Center of the European University in St. Petersburg, “Jewish” museum cuisine “in the light of the accounting records of the 1930s.” and Alexander Ivanov, Research Fellow at the Petersburg Judaica Center of the European University in St. Petersburg “The Fate of the Archives of the Jewish Section of the State Museum of Ethnography in Leningrad”.
In conclusion, it should be noted that, in general, the section was successful, without any technical problems; on all the presentations during their discussion, questions were asked and comprehensive answers were received from the speakers.
The papers, which were made at the section Non-Shkenaz Jewish Communities (Chair: Maxim Gammal), were devoted to the history of the Karaites and Krymchaks.
It is worth noting the presentation of the Polish researcher Marzhena Zawanowska, compiled in the genre of “history of ideas” and dedicated to the role of Yehuda Halevi in the formation of the medieval myth of the connection between Sadducees and Karaites.
Most of the papers (Gammal, Kondratyuk, Prokhorov, Dobchinsky) were related to the history of the Karaite and Krymchak communities in the New and Modern times. A characteristic feature of this block of reports is the introduction of new archival materials into circulation. In this regard, I would like to note the report of a researcher from Kazan, Doctor of Historical Sciences G.N. Kondratyuk “Krymchaks in the conditions of political and socio-economic transformations of the interwar period (1920s – 1930s)” as an excellent example of the balance between “archival” and “analytical” components.
History and culture of Mountain Jews (Chair: Dr. Boris Rashkovsky)
This year, Mountain Jews were separated from non-Ashkenazi. The meeting was successful, the problems of preserving heritage in the diaspora were touched upon. There were reports on both antiquity and the current state of the communities. The report of Irina Mikhailova, which contained very interesting material, deserves publication. The reports were accompanied by a discussion.
At the section “Yiddish: Language and Literature” (Chair: Dr. Mikhail Krutikov) there were five presentations: two on linguistics, two on literature and one on the intersection of two disciplines. All papers were successful and sparked a lively discussion. In the presentations of Valentina Fedchenko and Alexandra Polyan, previously unknown archival sources were used. I was pleased that both speakers found their place in research projects on Soviet Jewish culture at two German universities, Regensburg and Dusseldorf. Velvl Chernin’s talk on the language of modern Yiddish prose showed that this literature continues to evolve. All reports were in Russian, but the speakers came from five different countries: Russia, Israel, USA, France and Germany, which indicates that Russian-speaking researchers are well integrated into world science.
At the section “Jewish Literature” (Chair: Dr. Victoria Mochalova) all the speakers announced in the program were from Israel, Germany, Hungary and Russia.
Konstantin Bondar presented on the theme of the “Jewish voice” in Ukrainian literature of the 19th-20th centuries. Nicholas Dreyer explored the Jewish theme in the works of the Ukrainian-Russian writer Daniil Mordovtsev (1830-1905), paying particular attention to the motivation of non-Jewish intellectuals who viewed Jewish history as part of their cultural and spiritual heritage.
Galina Eliasberg discussed the heroes and literary types of stories and plays by Lazar Karmen (1876-1920), usually considered in the context of Russian-Jewish literature, the “Odessa text”, presenting a literary analysis of the heroes and literary types typical for stories, reports and plays of L. Carmen, and considering their speech characteristics.
Victoria Mochalova analyzed the shimmering identity of the Austrian writer Josef Roth (1894-1939), who was born on the border of cultures and absorbed the multicultural atmosphere of the Habsburg Empire, which became the basis of his European identity.
Elena Sidorova analyzed Jewish speech in Russian in the works of Friedrich Gorenstein, whose prose is deeply rooted in Jewish life and language. The writer, according to the speaker’s conclusion, perceives the speech of his characters as a kind of intangible “place of memory.”
Anna Branchase focused on the American poet John Berryman’s (1914-1972) essay Imaginary Jew (1945), tracing the language and rhetorical figures associated with Jewish identity and represented both in this text by Berryman and in his other works (Diary of Anne Frank “, “Black book”).
In general, the topics of the reports presented concerned the linguistic and literary aspects of the studied texts, the reflection in them of the processes of national self-awareness and identification.
The reports were made at a high scientific level and were accompanied by a lively discussion.
The theatrical session “Eternal Wanderers of the Jewish Theater” (Chair: Dr. Olga Levitan) was attended by 6 speakers, 5 from Israel (in the past two of them – from Russia) and 1 from the USA (in the past from Germany). Almost all participants are active scholars with an international reputation. The session was very successful with excellent presentations, good questions and discussions on each report. Thematic interconnectedness of the papers exceeded the expectations of the chair person and other participants. Each of the speakers offered their own point of view on the problems of wandering in connection with the Jewish theater, from midrash and ritual to historical wanderings, tours of Jewish theater figures, philosophy of culture and language in a theatrical context and ethno-performance. Almost every report presented an original research at the intersection of theatrical historiography, critical analysis of theatrical texts
Jewish Art and Cinema (Chairs: Dr. Vilma Gradinskaite and Svetlana Pakhomova)
All eight participants of the section; Tatiana Tereshchenko, Massimiliano Tinini, Vilma Gradinskaite, Anna Berezovskaya, Natalya Ogorelysheva, Svetlana Pakhomova, Elina Vasilyeva and Hana Verena have made reports.
All reports were professionally prepared, informative and revealed many new facts and presented interesting research in different areas of Jewish art, cinema and heritage. Most of the reports were accompanied by visual presentations, which greatly facilitated the assimilation of information. The discussion was fascinating, each participant was asked questions, followed by detailed answers.
The triumph of visuality was revealed at the section: visual arts, architecture, preservation of cultural heritage and the problems of monetization of this heritage, relevant for the post-Soviet space and the countries of the social bloc (report by Anna Berezovskaya).
Exploring cinema, all the speakers talked about the ratio of the national to the universal, about the complex national identities that filmmakers are trying to reconstruct on the screen.
The section went smoothly, without technical problems. Translator Marie Morris worked professionally, although the workload was intense and some of the texts were complex.
“Jews in the USSR (part 1)” (Chair: Dr. Gennady Kostyrchenko)
Of the six speakers included in the program, all spoke, except for D. Nechiporuk (Tyumen State University), who notified the Organizing Committee of the impossibility of participating in the conference for a good reason. In this regard, and thanks to the rather substantial time limit initially allocated to the section by the Organizing Committee, the speakers had the opportunity to reveal their topics in detail, speaking an average of 25-30 minutes. In addition, they were able to answer in detail the questions asked to them. Since there were at least 20 of them, we can assume that the section was quite active. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why up to 16 outside observers watched the reports and discussion in the section online. In my opinion, A. Kushkova (“Petersburg Judaica Center” of the European University) and K. Mogarichev (State Archives of the Republic of Crimea) made the most qualitative reports, accompanied by illustrative presentations.
As the chair of the section, on behalf of all its participants, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Organizing Committee of the Conference for its excellent preparation in scientific, organizational, informational and technical terms, and also to note the high professionalism of the section moderator.
At the section “Jews in the USSR (part 2”) (Chair: Dr. Gennady Estraikh) four reports were presented, all excellent, not just new topics, but also new directions. Good discussion, but mostly a social gathering. Only a few people have connected to this session. I don’t know if this can be interpreted as a weak interest in the history of Jews in the USSR. Two out of four reports were in English, and I got the impression (or even the belief) that not all Russian-speaking participants understood the speakers.
Within the section “Jews in Siberia: Identity, Migration and Interethnic Interaction” (Chairs: Dr. Victoria Gerasimova and Dr. Vladimir Levin), 5 reports were presented by researchers from Russia, Israel and the United States. Researchers dealing with Siberian topics presented their papers in different optics. As part of a personal approach, Elena Berman presented lecture about Solomon Beilin, an Irkutsk government rabbi and an outstanding folklorist, and Irena Vladimirski about Yakov Frizer, a gold miner and philanthropist. Vladimir Rabinovich made an attempt to generalize and comprehend the adaptation strategies of the Jewish minority and its relationship with the surrounding population in Siberia. The papers by Polly Zavadivker and Victoria Gerasimova discussed the evolution of the idea of a Jewish immigration center in Siberia, which emerged during the First World War. After the presentation of the reports, a general discussion was organized, in which both the participants of the section and the audience had the opportunity to speak. As part of the general discussion, questions were raised about the origins and types of anti-Jewish violence, the specifics of the Siberian regional Jewish identity and the prospects for comparative studies of Jewish-immigrant communities in Siberia, the United States and the Scandinavian countries. The upcoming issue of “Judaic-Slavic-Journal” will be devoted to the Jewishness of Siberia, among the authors of which will be the participants of this section.
All 10 participants from Russia and France, mentioned in the program, presented their reports at the session of the section “History of the Holocaust” (Chair: Dr. Ilya Altman). 7 of them are young scholars, who, during the discussion, were given recommendations by the presenter and participants for the continuation of the research. About 20 scholars, including from Belarus, took part in the discussion.
The topics of the speeches were divided into 3 parts: the History of the Holocaust in occupied Europe and its reflection in foreign historiography; source block with analysis of different types of sources; problems of memorialization and opposition to Holocaust denial. Almost all participants based their speeches on the sources introduced into scientific circulation for the first time.
New topics deserve attention; an analysis of the attempts to emigrate Jewish anarchists to the United States (M. Tarasova) and the role of UNESCO in preserving the memory of the Holocaust (N. Koteneva), the initial stage of studying the Holocaust in the United States (M. Gileva).
However, in the case of subsequent publication, almost all reports should be finalized, first of all, to exclude generally known information and emphasize more the display of new or debatable problems.
10 researchers were to take part in the section “Holocaust Memorialization, Traumatic Memory and the Present Situation” (Chairs Dr. Irina Rebrova, Dr. Arkady Zeltser).
The presentations were on different topics – historical, like Babi Yar (V. Khiterer), film studies (Liat Stern Livni), and interesting topics of recent years with combination of historical and modern approaches. The presence of contemporary topics led the discussion in a slightly different direction than is customary in the purely historical section, and led to a discussion of the problems of relevance and problems of methodology (Alexander Fridman, Anna Kirzyuk, Milda Yakulite-Vasil, Mikhail Kizilov). The positive side of this combination was a more lively discussion than is usually the case. Perhaps ZOOM also contributed to the revitalization of the discussion, as it turns the meeting into something more intimate and free. The disadvantages of ZOOM are also obvious: lack of personal communication, lack of understanding of what people are working on outside of their presentation, etc.
At the end of the papers, we had the opportunity to organize an additional general discussion on these topics, including discussing methodological problems.
It should be noted that the meaningful discussions and questions after each presentation, clarified the topic of the speech, and some took them into a new discussion on related up-to-date topics, such as the ethics of memorializing Holocaust victims in Germany in the form of Stolperstein, politicizing the memory of the Holocaust in the post-Soviet space, the relevance of a sociological approach in studying holocaust memory carriers.
Of the shortcomings, only general fatigue from zoom can be noted, since it is difficult to sit for three or more hours and actively participate in discussions without changing your attention. Breaks do not help, however, it would be almost impossible to assemble such a panel in real conditions. Thanks again to the conference organizers and presenters for such a good panel.
The section Digital Ethnography in Jewish Studies (Chairs: Dr. Maria Kaspina, Dr. Irina Dushakova) brought together researchers, most of whom were also participants of the Summer and Winter Schools on Digital Ethnography in Jewish Studies, organized by Center Sefer in 2020 -2021. In many cases, young researchers clarified the topics they started working on in schools and presented refined research. In our opinion, the section has become both a good platform for discussing the intersection of topics in research to clarify the plan for a future monograph, and a good way to learn about the progress of research that begun in schools. So, obviously, a strong collection of studies of Jewish religious communities of different directions is being formed, which allows us to create a more complete picture on this topic, since we have data for comparison. At the same time, it is important that in their reports the researchers relied not only on observations, but also, in most cases, on interviews with religious leaders. At the intersection with the topics, there was a lecture on socially approved ways of representing the Holocaust in the digital space. The section level appears to be high. If we continue to work in this direction, over time it will be possible to fill the current gap in the field of digital ethnography, where the object would be Jewish culture. We would also like to note the difference in the level of methodological training of participants who went through the school and those who did not, this seems to be the best confirmation of the effectiveness of the schools conducted by Sefer.
Gender Studies (Chair: Dr. Galina Zelenina) The session was good, we learned that not all the wives of the Jews were obedient to their spouses, that the image of a muscular Jew was invented a decade and a half before Nordau, and that women rabbis and male rabbis structure their sermon in different ways during a pandemic: the former share their experiences, the latter prefer to play the role of an expert and patron.
The Jewish Identity section (Chair: Dr. Mikhail Chlenov) was conceived as a podium for discussing the dynamics of Jewish identity of the last century, its transformation in different historical, political, and ethnic environments. The focus of the presentation of Zeev Khanin (Israel) “From Post-Soviet Jewry to Transnational Diaspora. Formation of a new model of Russian-Jewish identity” was precisely on the dramatic change in the character of Jewish self-consciousness of modern Russian-speaking Jewry after the collapse of the political, administrative, and geographical environment in which it was formed. As expected, it was this lecture that caused the most heated discussion, at the center of which was the concept of modern Russian-speaking Jewry, put forward by the author as a transnational entity, settled both in the territory of the former USSR and in many countries of the world, mainly in Israel, the USA and Germany. Indeed, this concept, for all its controversy, was quite interestingly viewed and analyzed both in comparison with the non-Russian-speaking diasporas, and against the background of the Soviet atheistic and exclusively ethnic model of Jewish identity that is receding into the past. The presentation of Elizaveta Zabolotnykh (Russia, Yekaterinburg) “I knew that the Mashiach had to come – the metamorphosis of Jewish festive rituals in the conditions of a Soviet city” was devoted to her analysis, which also provoked a lively discussion. All other reports were, contrary to expectations, devoted to other non-Russian-speaking Jewish diasporas and were very interesting and in many ways unexpectedly new for the usual Sefer audience. Alexander Bar (Great Britain) devoted his report to the identification torments of the famous poet of the early 20th century Tristan Tzara, who was born to a Jewish family in Romania, but then lived most of his life in France and wrote in French. The complex identification processes in the practically unknown Russian-speaking audience of the Jewish community of Chile were highlighted by Jimena Gökke (Chile) in the presentation “Jewish Literature “About Me”: Autobiographical Texts for a Cosmopolitan Identity Archive,” focusing on the evolution of Jewish identity during the Pinochet dictatorship. The report of Boris Cherny (France) “Solomon Reinak and the” Jewish question “in Russia” was devoted to the comparison of the Western European understanding of Jewry and the pre-revolutionary Russian Jewish identity.
I would like to note that a colleague from Egypt Hussein Hassan was present among the audience of the section. The section “Identity” was successful, it was attended by about 20 people from many countries, topical problems of the evolution of Jewish identity, which are especially acute in our days, were raised and discussed.
The round table dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Sovetsh Heimland magazine and organized by the Sefer Center, the Russian Jewish Congress and the VEK International Yiddish Center (Chairs: Maria Makarova, Victoria Yuse, Mordechai Yushkovsky) included three sessions where various issues were discussed: the life of the editorial board of the magazine and literary courses (Vladimir Beider, Mikhail Krutikov, Alexander Lokshin, Wolf Moskovich, Mikhail Chlenov, Gennady Estraikh, Mordechai Yushkovsky); how the Sovetish Heimland magazine formed a generation of writers (Shlomo Groman, Moisey Lemster, Boris Sandler, Felix Khaimovich); is there a future for literature and journalism in Yiddish in Russia and in the world today (Mikhail Krutikov, Alexander Lokshin, Elena Sarashevskaya, Roman Spektor, Gennady Estraikh).
During three sessions it was possible to consider the phenomenon of “Sovetish Heimland” from very different angles. The participants of the round table actively contributed in the discussions, very vividly shared their memories and opinions, and kept the audience’s interest without interruption for three and a half hours! We are glad that everyone was given the opportunity to speak and express themselves on this important topic close to the speakers. Thank you very much to all the organizers for such a productive, professional and warm cooperation, it seems that this very good experience should be continued. We would like to discuss the idea of publishing a processed transcript of the round table, supplemented by the memories of those who could not attend, articles and other materials.
A Round Table ‘Rybnitser Rebbe: Biography, Hagiography, Cult’ (Chair: Dr. Dov-Ber Kerler, Indiana University, Bloomington) was held at the conference, which presented the results of the international research project. As part of the round table, studies were presented on the role of the Hasidic tzaddik, Chaim Zanvl Abramovich (1896 – 1995) in the Jewish life of the Soviet city of Rybnitsa (Transnistria). The main plots and motives of hagiographic stories featuring him, were characterized by and parallels with, the early Hasidic literary and folk tradition. In addition, unique stories about the emigration of the rebbe from the Soviet Union to Israel and USA, the media perception of the rebbe’s narratives, and the linguistic features of stories about the tzaddik in English, Hebrew and Yiddish were analyzed. The round table aroused the interest of the audience and listeners, there was a meaningful and fruitful discussion on each presentation.
Another Round Table was devoted to “Jews of Lithuania and Russia: Languages of Memory” (Chair: Svetlana Panich, Moscow / Berlin). The opening word was said by the Ambassador of Lithuania in Russia Eitvydas Bajarūnas. The participants include Markas Zingeris, historian, writer, former director of Vilna Gaon of Jewish History (Vilnuis), Alla Sokolova, State Museum of the History of Religion, curator of exhibition programs of St. Petersburg Judaica Center of the European University in St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg), Irina Shcherbakova, historian, a director of the educational programs of the International Memorial (Moscow), Nikolai Epple, Memory Studies scholar, publicist, translator.
One of the participants of the conference, Prof. Shaul Shtampfer notes: I thought the conference was good. The technical side was superb – the Zoom really worked well. There is always a problem with so many talks but only one at a time can be heard. It was difficult to ‘see’ people who were in other sections. It might be desirable to find a way to enable people to connect more. I will try to think of more ideas.
All the sections, that include non-Russian speaking participates, followed by simultaneous English translation. Each section was also technically moderated.