EAJS Conference Grant Programme 2016/17
24th International Annual Conference on Jewish Studies and International Youth Conference on Jewish Studies in Moscow
Sefer Centre, Moscow, 30 January – 2 February 2017
Organisers: Dr. Victoria Mochalova, Mrs Svetlana Amosova, Mrs Irina Kopchenova
On 29-31 January 2017, the Twenty Fourth Annual International Conference on Jewish Studies was held in Moscow Hotel Izmailovo. About two hundred researches from scholarly centers and universities in the USA, Israel, Lebanon, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Serbia, Hungary, Czech, Poland, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia took part in this event. The conference was organized by the Sefer Center with the financial support of the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee, Russian Jewish Congress, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Philanthropy Group Genesis, and sponsors who prefer to remain anonymous. Furthermore, as a result of EAJS travel grants, 18 PhD students and early career researchers had the opportunity to participate in the Conference.
This year we decided to combine the Conference with the Young Students conference, which usually takes place in summer. Our goal was to unite generations of Jewish studies students, and to raise the level of research through discussions at the sessions planned in advance. Included in the conference was a young researchers sections. At the Conference, there were also the presentations of new publications and projects in Jewish Studies, as well as award presentations for the Professor Eugene Weiner grants. The conference program included 18 sessions, as well as the meeting of the Sefer Academic Board; discussions with Polish colleagues about the planned Summer School in Poland; and consultations about the new scholarly magazine publication.
Since 1993 the Sefer Conference has become a major meeting place for the exchange of ideas between researchers in the field of Russian-speaking Jewish Studies. At the moment our conference is the largest in this field and brings together a large number of researchers in the former Soviet space (approx. 200 people meet annually at the conference).International conferences on Jewish Studies organized by Sefer Center take place every year in Moscow. It is a meeting place for researchers from all over the world (most of them are Russian speakers) who work with different aspects of Jewish Studies – from Biblical Studies to the History of the State of Israel, from Jewish philosophy to Jewish-Christian relations, Jewish literature and art, history of the Jews in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, etc.The main working language of the conference is Russian. There are several large conventions in the field of Jewish studies, but the working language is mostly English. For Russian researchers and researchers from a number of Eastern European countries the question of language is often a very important point. English is the second working language.
Each summer during the students’ holidays (generally in the first half of June), Sefer organizes the International youth conference on Jewish Studies. We are planning to connect the two conferences on the same site this year. Holding two conferences on the same site at the same time will allow young researchers to communicate with experienced scientists in the field of Jewish studies in post-Soviet community and to present their own research projects.
Many sections covering such topics as Biblical study and Semitology, Jewish thought, Jewish history, Ethnocultural ties, Israel studies, Jewish literature, arts and music, social studies and psychology, and others are in work during the conferences. Attention of the conferences’ participants is also paid to the contemporary State of Israel, its internal situation and foreign affairs. Students from Russian and FSU countries benefit from these conferences, as they contribute to solving a problem of learning and teaching academic Jewish studies and its aspects, enlarging their knowledge in culture, history, arts and traditions of the Hebrew nation, and learning Hebrew and the Yiddish languages.
Aramaic and Hebraic Studies (Chairs: Alexey Lyavdansky, Matthew Morgenstern).
The session was organized by Alexey Lyavdansky of Moscow State University, who spoke about the use of the qa-particle in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, and demonstrated that it seems to be used with certain types of verbs alone. Matthew Morgenstern of Tel Aviv University (Israel) discussed grammatical forms in Babylonian Aramaic and Mandaic which fell out of use or were lost in the process of later textual transmission. Kristina Benyaminova of Moscow State University (Russia) talked about some unusual features the North-East New Aramaic Dialect Tal (subdialect Badaraye), while Tatiana Fine discussed some problems in defining the fine semantic meaning of some words in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. Gaby Abou Samra of the Lebanese University in Beirut brought evidence for connections between the magic bowl texts from Late Antiquity and later Syriac magical manuscripts. Two papers dealt with Hebrew. Victor Golinetz of the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien in Heidelberg (Germany) adduced evidence of Greek translations to propose that in several cases the matres lectionis in the Massoretic Text of the Hebrew bible reflect an erroneous textual reading. Finally, Yulia Budman examined the terms for “root” in the works of mediaeval Hebrew linguists.
Scriptures of Ancient Israel in Historical Perspective (Chairs: Dr. Sergey Tischenko, Dr. Mikhail Seleznev, 18 presentations).
Vera Duerrschnabel from Bern delivered a very good presentation on the magic bowls (with spells written on them in Aramaic). The highlight of the meeting was the report of Alexey Volchkov about the Book of Jonah in the context of deconstruction, and many participants of the meeting were involved in the subsequent debate. The youth session was generally successful, bright and stimulating, not only for young scientists, but also for the more experienced members of the academic community. The section was also honoured by the participation of the well-known scientist, Alexander Grishchenko.
Yiddish Literature (Chiars: Dr. Valery Dymshits, Dr. Alexandra Polyan)
The session, “Yiddish Literature,” included 8 papers, two of which were in the youth part. Presentations were given in three languages: six papers were in Russian, one in English (Arnaud Bikard (PhD), “About what shall I bear witness? Expressing the trauma of life as a refugee in the USSR during World War Two in Yiddish literature”), and one in Yiddish (Leonid Roitman, “Lexical Wordplays in Sholem Aleichem`s Works”). Other papers in first section were: Valery Dymshits, “The Jewish Chronotope. Space and Time in the Traditional East European Jewish Mentality”; Alexandra Polyan (PhD), “Glueckel of Hammeln’s Memoirs as a Baroque Text”; Ber Kotlerman (Prof.), “Der Nister the Publicist on the Post-Holocaust Jewish Reconstruction”; and Valentina Fedchenko (PhD), “I. Bashevis-Singer`s Double Corpus: Soul expeditions vs. Shosha”. In the youth section there was my paper, and a presentation by Victoria Alexeeva (BA), “Comparison of Literarishe bleter Magazine and Kultur Lige Organization: Historical and Ideological Aspects”. The geography of the section was wide: two persons from Israel (Ber Kotlerman and Leonid Roitman), one from Germany (Ekaterina Kuznetsova), one from Moscow (Alexandra Polyan), and the others from St. Petersburg. The section was interesting both for professional researchers and for the wider audience. Comparing the session to that of previous years, it was a sign of the success and effective development of the Yiddish section. The themes of papers were focused on the Yiddish literature and its different aspects: historical, linguistic and social. The order of papers in the section was chronological: from the medieval Yiddish texts through to the 20th century. Valery Dymshits spoke about a specific attitude to geography that exists in Yiddish written texts starting from Binyomin of Tudela to Tevye der milkhiker. Particularly he concentrated on the fact that locations with no Jewish population are “blind spots” in the Jewish geographical mentality. Then he demonstrated that Sholem Aleichem showed a very interesting fusion in the concept of time in his character Tevye the Dairyman, using in the text Jewish religious, Christian religious, and Russian state holidays as time markers. Dymshits’ presentation was followed by an intensive discussion with many questions, mostly about the Tevye’s regularity of exceptionality for the Yiddish culture of the end of the 19th century. Alexandra Polyan proposed a new view on the well-known text – memoires of Gluckel of Hammeln. This text was never before analyzed as an example of baroque literature, and Alexandra Polyan proved that it bears all the necessary features to be viewed as such. Leonid Roitman analyzed linguistic games in Sholem Aleichem’s works, particularly in Tevye the Dairyman and Railroad stories. He detected several types of distinct bilingual humor in them, concentrating on the examples of misinterpretation of Hebrew quotes. Arnaud Bikard presented research based on the analysis of diaries and memoires written by the Jewish refugees (mostly from Poland) in the USSR during the 1930-1940s. The second most discussed paper was the one by Ber Kotlerman. He used different sources, including Soviet movies about WWII and the partisan movement, personal memoires, and literary essays by Der Nister. Prof. Kotlerman showed the shift in Der Nister’s views on the future of the Jewish nation in the USSR – the writer used Biblical prophetic hints in his articles which can be understood as sympathy to the Zionistic movement. The fact of appearance of such texts in the mid-1940s is very interesting. Valentina Fedchenko presented a very thorough comparison between English and Yiddish versions of the novel “Shosha” by I.B.Singer. It has been the subject of her research for several years. Particularly she explained the differences in literary methods in two versions, the presence and absence of irony in them, and the difference in the general meaning (i.e. English version is more psychological, while Yiddish one is more mystical and philosophical).
Jews in Diaspora: Contacts and Conflicts (Chairs: Dr. Maxim Khizhy, Dr. Victor Shnirelman)
This session included 10 presentations. The presented papers were on very diverse topics covering almost 400 years, and a wide geographical area, including Poland, Russia, Latvia, and even France. In principle, our proposed experiment to combine the meeting with the youth section was quite justified. Victoria Mochalova’s paper, “The Image of the Jews in the Polemic Literature of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the XVII century,” was dedicated to the analysis of published texts written by Polish Catholic intellectuals which discussed the so-called demonic origin of Jews. One of the most impressive details of the presented research was the social background of Polish authors who were not only nobles but commoners as well. Maxim Khizhiy’s paper, “Rabbi Shneerson and Russian Authorities in 40-50-s of the XIX century: the attempt of dialogue,” dealt mainly with the case of the imprisonment of Lyubavich Rebe Menachem-Mendl Shneerson. This case was described in the article of Israeli researcher Zoya Kopelman, but the author of the paper analyzed the materials which were not studied by Kopelman. Dr. Khiziy tended to examine this case in the general imperial political, legal and confessional context, and came to some very important conclusions. The key idea of the author is that whilst it may sound paradoxical, the Russian empire, in the case of Rabbi Shneerson, appeared to be a real legal state where the law stood above all confessional and social issues, and no anti-Semitic or confessional conflict in general was relevant in this case. In my opinion this idea deserves special attention since it shows that every case in Jewish-Russian relations must be studied carefully before judging it as anti-Semitic and aimed specifically against Jews. Dmitriy Bratkin’s paper, “Unpublished Biography of D.A. Khvolson from Saint Petersburg Brunch of the Archive of Russian Academy of Science: semitologist-amateur, blood label and Soviet Russia,” was dedicated to the detailed study of the unknown personal archival collection of a famous scholar of Jewish origin Daniil Khvolson. To my mind, the most important part of this research was connected to Khvolson’s activity in the sphere of Russian-Jewish dialogue. As Dr. Bratkin said, professor Khvolson was “the most eastern” representative of Wissenschaft des Judentums and did a lot to bring Jewish topics to a scientific level. Khvolson hardly recognized himself separate from the Jewish people. Gita Umanovskaya’s paper, “It happened in Varaklyany: How Jews beat Latvian students (1925),” presented a close study of one local episode of violence in Jewish-Latvian relations. Opposite to the common situation, the Jews of small shtetl Varaklyany became not victims but aggressors who decided to use physical violence against their offenders. In the paper, there were some very important details, such as that the leader of Jewish aggressors was an Old Believer and that the reaction of local representatives of the Catholic Church was very tolerant to Jews (they actually defended Jews from students’ accusations).
Jewish Thought session (Chairs: Dr. Arkady Kovelman, Mikhail Wogman)
This session included 13 presentations which were connected by the common theme, “the Thought – and the Commentary”. The chronological spectrum was wide: from the ancient times to the 20th century. Some of the participants shared their own experience of the translation of Jewish philosophical texts from Hebrew into Russian.
Field Research: Epigraphy (Chairs: Ida Shenderovich, Michail Vasilyev)
This session became a meeting point for both young and amateur researches engaged in documenting, preserving and cataloguing Jewish Cemeteries across Eastern Europe. The session included 5 presentations. The first lecturer, Alexanda Fishel (Kiev), analyzed the phenomenon of extensive quotation of the biblical Book of Job in Hebrew inscriptions on traditional Jewish tombstones. Ida Shenderovich, as an invited speaker, provided a comprehensive overview of the Jewish cemeteries remaining in the Mogilev region (Belarus). The young career researchers Ekaterina Karaseva (Saint-Petersburg) and Julia Len’(Minsk) presented some preliminary results of documenting the Jewish Cemeteries in Sestroretsk and Berdichev respectively. Finally, Mikhail Karanaev (Kazan), addressed the methodical issues of the epigraphic field expeditions organized by Center Sefer.
Field Research: Linguistics, Folklore Studies and Oral History (Chairs: Dr. Dov-Ber Kerler, Dr. Olga Belova)
All the reports in this session were very interesting due to the new field and archival data. There were materials presented from the regions which in recent years have led the folklore-ethnographic and linguistic studies by Russian and foreign scientists (Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Latgale, Russia, Ukraine). The participants were not only able to compare the subjects that represent today the Jewish tradition in different regions, but also to discuss the problem of cataloging and digitalization of materials.
History of Jews in the USSR and Post-Soviet Countries (Chairs: Dr. Gennady Kostyrchenko, Alexander Ivanov, Dr. D. Shevelev)
The first presentation, by A. Ivanov, was devoted to the expedition of the St. Petersburg State museum of ethnography to Birobidzhan in 1937. The presenter has noticed that a main objective of the specified expedition was to demonstrate the process of modernisation of the Jewish population in the USSR in the post-revolution period. In this connection, participants of the expedition (D. Pozdnev, I. Pulner, etc.) were engaged in the gathering of statistical data about developments in agriculture and industry, and were engaged in the search of ethnographic materials. The author has drawn conclusions that the expedition work was not effective as Birobidzhan was boundary territory, and their research was supervised by bodies of People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. On a life of the Jewish population, small exhibits which have caused negative responses in visitors of exhibitions have been collected. A. Lokshin’s presentation was devoted to “not opened secrets of black years of the Soviet Jewry: 1946 – 1953”. The lecturer noticed that the specified period as a whole has already been thoroughly studied by historians. Nevertheless, in his opinion, there are such “white stains”, such as the reasons of concealment of the facts of reprisals against Jews, the reasons of difference of the Anti-Jewish reprisals of 1930 and post-war years, and the reasons of masking murder of Mihoelsa as accident. According to A. Lokshin, during the second half of the 1940s, Jews in general began to present as enemies of the people, without accusing them of concrete crimes. The third presenter discussed two questions: the reason of registration of the press of the Minsk community in Hebrew and whether by believer of the prayer book to the representative of local authorities (with the latest request to return) the fact of transfer has been connected with political policy change. According to the lecturer, the press of the Jewish religious communities throughout the 20th century was made out in Hebrew (sometimes – also in Russian) as Hebrew was the language of religious divine services. In Yiddish, the press of the Jewish Soviet establishments (it was characteristic for the 1920s-1930s) could be made out only. Concerning the second question it has been noticed that delivery and prayer book return have occurred throughout a short time interval and have not been connected with power change in republic. It is possible to explain such behaviour of the believer that fact that about the fact of receipt of prayer books from abroad anyway it would become known in KGB, on the other hand inhabitants of the Belarus cities felt sharp deficiency of the new divine service literature. G. Kostyrchenko, in his presentation, analyzed reprisals against the “Helsinki group”. Problems of cooperation of representatives of intelligentsia with bodies of the KGB, position “otkaznik” in the USSR, rehabilitation have been mentioned. The presentation of A.M. Basauri-Zjuzinoj was devoted to the works of Ukrainian scientist M. Shahnovich. D. Shevelev’s presentation was devoted to the revival of the Jewish religion in Belarus in 1990. The youth section, which had A. Krohichev, K. Barkan, M. Shishigina and J. Stonchius as participants, contained reports on topics such as Zionism, the activities of religious communities, and anti-Semitism in the Soviet republics.
The State of Israel (Chairs: Dr Dmitry Mar’yasis and Dr Mikhail Shapovalov)
This session consisted of three parts: the History of the Zionist Movement, the State, and the Society of Contemporary Israel. Together with the seasoned participants who have attended the conference for many years, there were also young researchers who presented their first serious scientific results.
Jewish Art: Music and Theatre (Chairs: Dr. Eugenia Khazdan and Svetlana Pakhomova)
Participants from Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg.), Switzerland (Geneva), Belgrade (Serbia) and Israel, presented on various aspects from the spectra of musicology. Questions were raised about the theory and practice of academic and folklore studies, the interaction of music and poetry, music and theater, and music anthropology, covering the period from the formation of Jewish musicology to the present. All the speakers demonstrated a very high level of research.
Jewish Arts: Cinema (Chair: Dr. Eugenia Khazdan and Svetlana Pakhomova)
This area is a very young, developing area of research. The presentation, mostly relating to the language of cinema itself, was by Elina Vasilyeva from Daugavpils.
Jewish Art (Chair: Lidia Chakovskaya)
Lidia Chakovskaya (Moscow), “The New Perspectives in the Research of Byzantine Synagogues in the Light of the New Finds”; Irina Chernetsky (Jerusalem), “The Presence of Jerusalem in Florence in the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Centuries”. Dagmara Budzioch (Krakow), “Two engraved amulets against Lilith (Nitra 1832, Wroclaw 1839) – their description and comparison”; Anna Moiseeva (Moscow), “Decorative Arts of the Jewish community in Yemen”.
Jewish Literature (Chair: Leonid Katsis)
This literary communications session consisted of 10 presentations, of which 3 were by young scholars. The themes were various: poetry, prose, drama. Special attention was paid to the problems of translation (Olga Karasik), to the problem of literary influences and allusions (Anna Waisman, Yury Orlicky), and to the reflection of the relations between Jews and other nations in literature. The panel focused on the methodology of the history of literature and the problems of the Jewish (Hebrew) literature in general.
Round Table on Khazarian History and Culture
In this round table session, the discussions were extremely interesting and vibrant, especially as this is not a regular topic for Sefer conferences. The participants had plenty of things to discuss in the limited time available. Three presentations were delivered, by Olga Kulikova, Oleg Bubenok and Igor’ Semenov.
List of PhD students and early career researchers who received travel grants
- Basauri Ziuzina Anna Mariya (Kiev, Ukraine), PhD, Early Career Researchers
- Blagojević Gordana (Belgrade, Serbia), PhD, Early Career Researchers
- Budzioch Dagmara (Krakow, Poland), PhD, Early Career Researchers
- Chernetsky Irina (Jerusalem, Israel) PhD, Early Career Researchers
- Duerrschnabel Vera (Bern, Switzerland) PhD student
- Fleck Einav (Tel Aviv, Israel) MA student
- Gerasimova Victoria A. (Omsk, Russia), PhD, Early Career Researchers
- Hain Milan (Olomouc, Czech Republic) PhD, Early Career Researchers
- Karpekin Konstantin (Vitebsk, Belarus) PhD, Early Career Researchers
- Kladova Victoria (Barnaul, Russia), PhD student
- Kuznetsova-Wolfrum Ekaterina (Regensburg, Germany) PhD student
- Legenovich Juliana (Vilnus, Lieteau) MA student
- Olszewska Magdalena M. (Warsaw, Poland) PhD student
- Podbelska Alicia (Worchester, USA) PhD student
- Shapiro Grigory (Rostov-on-Don, Russia), PhD student
- Shishigina Maria (Perm, Russia), MA student
- Sinilo Anatoly (Bogushevichy, Belarus) Early Career Researchers
- Van Camp Bieke (Montpelier, France), PhD student
Personal feedback from PhD students and early career researchers
Thank you so much for your generosity, helpfulness and kindness during the Sefer conference. I really enjoyed to participate and to be in Moscow. Sefer was the perfect place for me to find new impulses for my own work, to meet interesting people and share mutual research interests. I look forward to come back to Moscow next year. In order to facilitate the communication, I had my first Russian lesson this week and I will continue to learn the language because I think that it will be a real benefit for my scientific work. (Vera Duerrschnabel)
I liked the atmosphere of the conference but – given my inadequacy in Russian language – couldn’t attend most panels and presentations. In spite of it, I was glad to be a part of an event with such tradition and prestige and I hope I’ll be able to come back some time in the future. Big thanks to the organizers! (Milan Hain)
It was a very nice meeting with interesting people. The conference gave me the opportunity to get know a lot of things and stories. For the future it will be nice to know earlier about a participation’s confirmation in the conference (more time for preparing a visa). Probably, it will be better to have an opportunity to stay longer in a hotel’s room during the last day of the conference. It will be great if we visit and see some special Jews collection in Moscow. (Magdalena M. Olszewska)
My general feedback on the conference and its organization is over all very positive, the timeframes were respected, and everything was organized in a clear and punctual way. The fact that the organization asked for powerpoint presentations to be in English helped the understanding of the presentations in Russian. (Bieke Van Camp)
There is no doubt that annual conference organized by “Sefer” is the most remarkable event in Jewish Studies on the post-Soviet space. It brings together researchers from quite distant parts of the world and gives them the unique opportunity to share their ideas, observations and conclusions. This conference provides a multidisciplinary field for research, helps to create new connections, build new projects based on personal communication, and educate a new generation of scholars. In my opinion, the experiment of the unite conference for both experienced and young researchers held this year appeared to be a successful and promising one. I would like to thank all the organizers, promoters and sponsors for giving me the chance to be a part of this amazing event. (Victoria Gerasimova)
I would like to thank the Sefer Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization for inviting me to this conference and for proving me a grant that made my participation possible. The conference included a variety of interesting topics, spread from Biblical to modern times, fascinating lectures and insightful discussions. The atmosphere was pleasant and friendly. The organization was perfect. In this context, I would like to particularly thank Svetlana Amosova for her boundless patience and help! (Irina Chernetsky)
It was a very rewarding experience for me to participate in my first academic conference, and particularly so since the conference took place in Russia, a country that I have never visited before. Our convener, Alexey Lyavdansky, took great effort to ensure that we were all welcome. The papers covered a variety of topics, and our session was extremely warm and friendly. I am looking forward to further collaborations with the other participants, and it was a great opportunity to get to know researchers from around the world. (Einav Fleck)