EAJS Conference Grant Programme 2017/18
11th Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies
“Searching for the Roots of Jewish Traditions”
15 July – 19 July 2018
The 11th Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies took place in Krakow. The main venue for the sessions was the Auditorium Maximum of the Jagiellonian University, and sessions were also conducted in lecture halls of the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Jagiellonian University, the Pedagogical University of Krakow, and the National Museum in Krakow. The proceedings were held in parallel in 22 rooms. The event was organised by the Institute for Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University and the Alef Foundation for Promotion of Jewish Studies. The theme of the Congress was “Searching for the Roots of Jewish Traditions”, which reminds us of the roles of Krakow, Lviv, and Galicia in the shaping of culture, traditions, and customs of Jewish peoples spanning the 18th and 20th centuries.
From the start, an immense number of scholars showed interest in the call for papers for the Congress, and at the close of the call 1,040 applications had been received. Of those, 735 papers were delivered during the Congress, and that number includes only those who were officially registered as individual or panel participants; the number does not include the dozens of papers presented (within the program) as part of the roundtables and workshops accompanying certain sections. One important innovation which made the program more appealing was an initiative of the Secretary of the EAJS, Dr. François Guesnet, supported by the Executive Committee; the announcement of a competition to distinguish the organisers of panels proposing innovative topics. There were two categories to the competition, one for professional researchers and the other for post-graduate students. The award was a special distinction in the Congress program for the selected panels – the EAJS Distinguished Panels and the EAJS Distinguished Graduate Student Panels – as well as the selected panel participants’ congress fees being covered by the EAJS. As a result of the selection committee’s deliberation, the following six panels received special distinction: “The Imprint of Exile: Three Historical Perspectives”; “From Cairo to Amsterdam: Hebrew Scrolls from the 10th to 18th Centuries”; “Rabbinate and Halakha in Italy between Innovation and Conservation (18th and 19th Centuries)”; and “The Trajectories and Transformations of Kabbalah in Early Modern Period II”; and as graduate student panels, “Jews in the European Labour Movement: Between Internationalism and the Nation-State in East and Central Europe during the 1920s”; and “Actors of Jewish Migrations from East Central Europe, 1870s-1930s”.
On the day of the close of the Congress, 779 people were registered on the list of participants (several of whom registered during the course of the Congress). In total, taking into account the large number of guests invited to take part in events both directly and indirectly related to the Congress, more than 800 people participated. At least 38 countries from all over the world were represented at the Congress by the participants. The largest representations were as follows: Israel (194 participants), Germany (113), Poland (111), the United States (67), the United Kingdom (45), France (28), Spain (19), the Netherlands (19) and Italy (19). There were also significant representations from Ukraine (18), Russia (10), and the Balkan countries (15).
The list of sessions and panel topics was arranged to include not only a broad cross-section of Jewish Studies, but to also take into account to a large extent issues covered under the motto of the Congress. As a result, the program consisted of 25 major thematic sessions and dozens of panels, roundtables and workshops:
- Ancient Jewish History and Archaeology – 40 participants
- Biblical Literature – 17
- Talmud, Midrash and Rabbinics – 29
- Medieval Jewish Thought – 23
- Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History – 39
- Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Literature – 47
- Hebrew Manuscripts – 53
- Modern Jewish History – 24
- Contemporary Jewish History – 16
- Jewish Mysticism – 30
- Hasidism – 8
- Modern Jewish Thought and Philosophy; Modern Judaism – 66
- Modern Hebrew Literature – 16
- Yiddish Literature – 17
- Linguistics and Jewish Languages – 18
- Jewish Culture and Arts – 52
- Jewish History in Central-Eastern Europe – 48
- South-eastern European Jewish History and Culture – 28
- Polish-Jewish Heritage – 21
- Holocaust Studies – 32
- Libraries, Archives and New Technologies; History of the Book – 24
- Jewish Museology – 31
- Karaite Studies – 6
- History and Culture of the State of Israel – 21
- Jewish/non-Jewish Relations; anti-Semitism – 30
Some events accompanying the Congress took place before its official opening. The first of these, the roundtable “Teaching Jewish History and Culture at Universities: Exchange of Experiences and New Visions,” took place in the early afternoon of 15 July (the second part was on 19 July). Its organiser was Jurgita Verbickiene (Vilnius University, Lithaunia); this event was made possible thanks to the support of the German Stiftung ‘Verantwortung, Erinnerung, Zukunft’ (EVZ), Berlin. The aim of this roundtable of invited representatives from various European academic centres conducting Jewish studies was to discuss new programs and teaching methods, as part of ways of guaranteeing and maintaining a high level and range of educational opportunities that will provide their graduates with various career options in the future. In addition to the invited guests, the meeting also drew a large group of Congress participants interested in its subject matter. The subject of this roundtable was again addressed, although in a slightly different format, on 19 July, during another Congress event, namely the EAJS Forum: “Challenges and Perspectives for Teaching in Academic Jewish Studies”. This was chaired by Prof. Martin Goodman and Dr. François Guesnet.
The second event preceding the opening ceremony of the Congress was the opening of the exhibition, “The History of the Jews of Krakow: Sources from the collection of the National Archives in Krakow”. This exhibition, prepared by the National Archives in Krakow, together with its extensive catalogue, was aimed at acquainting the participants of the Congress with the history of the presence of Jews in Krakow through the prism of documents kept in the archives. The exhibition was opened by the director of the National Archives in Krakow, Prof. Wojciech Krawczuk.
The opening ceremony of the Congress began at 4:15 PM on 15 July in the Large Hall of the Auditorium Maximum. It commenced with a welcome from Prof. Edward Dąbrowa (President of the EAJS, 2014-2018, and Chair of the Organizing Committee). The next speaker was Dr. François Guesnet (Secretary of the EAJS, 2014-20180, on behalf of the Rector of the Jagiellonian University, Dean of the Faculty of History at the Jagiellonian University, Prof. Jan Święch. The second part of the ceremony was the Keynote Lecture, delivered by Prof. Antony Polonsky (Brandeis University / Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews): “Polish Statehood and the Jews: Reflections on the Centenary of Polish Independence”. After the lecture, participants and invited guests enjoyed a party sponsored by The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. The evening was devoted to a gala dinner at Krakow City Hall, attended by the Mayor of the City of Krakow, Jacek Majchrowski.
The scientific program of the Congress within individual thematic sections was implemented in accordance with the announced program from 16 to 19 July. In addition, a series of events took place during those days, addressed either to all participants or to selected groups. On 17 and 18 July, the EAJS Emerge forum took place. This was a forum for, and organised by, Student Members of the EAJS: Katha Grosse-Sommer (College for Jewish Studies, Heidelberg), Nethanel Treves (University of Bologna), and Rebekah Vince (University of Warwick). The EAJS Emerge forum consisted of brief presentations of the topics of doctoral dissertations prepared by young researchers from different countries, and discussions concerned with the academic careers of young researchers after obtaining a doctorate.
In addition to issues related to Jewish Studies programmes, their future, the topics of current doctoral dissertations, and academic careers of Jewish graduates, there was also a discussion related to the use of electronic tools in Jewish studies, and their usefulness as well as their limitations. This discussion took place during two meetings of the EAJS Digital Forum, on 16 July. The theme of the first meeting was “New Philologies: Hebrew Manuscript and Print Cultures in a Digital Key”, and the topic of the second meeting was “Humanities in the Mirror: Writing Jewish History in a Digital Key”. Both meetings aroused a great deal of interest, as evidenced by the presence of significant numbers of participants in each of them. This forum was prepared by Andrea Schatz (King’s College, London), and the detailed issues of Digital Humanities methods were expounded by a group of several researchers.
The “Jewish Studies in Krakow” session was addressed to all participants of the Congress (16 and 17 July). It consisted of one part devoted to academic studies carried out in the academic institutions of Krakow, and another concerning Jewish life and the place of Jewish culture in contemporary Krakow.
On 17 July, the EAJS General Meeting took place, which elected the new EAJS honorary officers for 2018-2022. The election of the honorary officers was preceded by the Keynote Lecture by Prof. Irene Zwiep (University of Amsterdam): “And Now for ‘Something’ Completely Different: Leopold Zunz and the Cultural Turn in Jewish Scholarship”.
The closing ceremonies of the Congress took place on the afternoon of 19 July. During the ceremony, Edward Dąbrowa, François Guesnet, Sarah Pearce (Secretary of EAJS 2018-2022), and Elisabeth Hollender (President of EAJS 2018-2022) took the floor. At the end of her speech, the new president of the EAJS extended an invitation to the 12th EAJS Congress, which will be in Frankfurt am Main.
In addition to these events, the 11th EAJS Congress was accompanied by a number of cultural events exclusively prepared for participants. One was the above-mentioned exhibition devoted to archives concerning the history of Jews in Krakow. Another event was “A Night in Kazimierz”, which took place during the evening of 16 July, in Kazimierz, a district of Krakow inextricably linked to the presence of Jewish people, in which the rich Jewish cultural heritage has survived to this day. Those participating in this event had the opportunity to become intimately acquainted with Kazimierz, visiting all of the seven preserved synagogues of the district, as well as institutions conducting social activities for the local Jewish community, and educational activities related to the propagation and research of Jewish history and cultural heritage (the Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University, the Galicia Jewish Museum, and the Jewish Community Centre). On the last day of the Congress (19 July), after the closing ceremony, all participants were invited to the National Museum in Krakow for the opening ceremony of the new permanent Jewish Art Gallery and the presentation of the catalogue of Judaica found in the collection of this museum. This collection is among the largest stored in Polish museums, and had not previously been made available to the public for many years; the 11th EAJS Congress provided the opportunity for the collection to once again see the light of day. The Gallery was created with the cooperation of the National Museum in Krakow, the Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University, and the Organizing Committee of the 11th EAJS Congress.
During the Congress, all participants bearing congress ID had the opportunity to visit all branches of the National Museum in Krakow and most of the branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, free of charge, as well as having free admission to the Polin Museum in Warsaw.
In the case of such a major scholarly event as the 11th EAJS Congress, it is difficult to give a detailed assessment of all the speeches presented during the event. There is no doubt, however, that during its course considerable amounts of new information and data was brought to the attention of a wide circle of researchers, which not only provided knowledge of new facts and events, but also opened new vistas of research. The popularity of some issues which arose in a number of the presentations indicates both an interest in new problems within the areas that have been studied for a long time, as well as a return to certain topics after a period of dormancy. However, this reflection should not be treated as a general remark referring to the broader context of Jewish studies, but rather as a characteristic feature of the Congress. The group of presentations worth mentioning includes a number of those from scholars from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, who based them on new, previously unavailable source materials, or presented events and forms not often present in the literature on the subject. It also behooves us to note the great contribution of young researchers to the Congress program. At the 10th EAJS Congress in Paris in 2014 their presence and activities were certainly noticed, and in the present edition even more so, thanks to the events in the Congress program which they organised, as well as their significant number of speeches in individual thematic sessions and panels. This opinion is also based on the number of participants registered in this category, with 90 researchers under the age of 35, and 130 students. In percentage terms, the groups accounted for 28,25% of the total number of participants. Such a large representation of young researchers was possible thanks to the financial and material support that the organisers of the Congress, with the help of sponsors, offered to this group of participants. It included a total of 32 people from different countries. This support covered the reimbursement of the fee, and partial or complete coverage of travel and accommodation costs. Regardless of the organisers’ resources, 16 participants of the Congress from Ukraine received financial support from the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Foundation (Canada).
The 11th EAJS Congress was prepared by the Organizing Committee: Edward Dąbrowa (chairman), Przemysław Dec, Michał Galas, Edyta Gawron, Anna Jakimiszyn-Gadocha, Alicja Maślak-Maciejewska, Krzysztof Niweliński (secretary), Łukasz Sroka, Marek Tuszewicki, and Ewa Węgrzyn. The Honorary Patrons of the Congress were: Marshal of the Małopolska Region Jacek Krupa, Mayor of the City of Krakow Jacek Majchrowski, Rector of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow Prof. Wojciech Nowak, and Rector of the Pedagogical University in Krakow Prof. Kazimierz Karolczak. Organizing and conducting the Congress was possible thanks to the financial and material support of many Polish and foreign institutions: The Małopolska Region, the City of Krakow, the Faculty of History of the Jagiellonian University, the Foundation for Polish Sciences, the Polin Museum of History of Polish Jews, Taube Philanthropies, the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, the Association for the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, the Global Education Outreach Program, Arizona State University, the EAJS, Pedagogical University of Krakow, National Museum in Krakow, National Archives in Krakow, Historical Museum of Krakow, Association of Cracovians in Israel, Galicia Jewish Museum, Austeria Publishing House, and the Jewish Religious Community in Krakow. The organisers are also indebted to the help and commitment of many Polish and foreign colleagues who took on the tasks of assessing the submitted proposals and then organising individual sessions, panels, roundtables and workshops. The efforts of the employees of the Department of Communication and Marketing – Conferences of the Jagiellonian University were vital to the smooth running of the Congress. Their professionalism enabled effective and quick solutions to various organisational problems. The group of over a dozen dedicated volunteers was highly appreciated as well, as their presence and assistance during the Congress proved to be invaluable.
Report Author: Edward Dąbrowa (President of the EAJS 2014-2018 / Chair of the Organising Committee)