Jerzy Tomaszewski (1930-2014)

Professor Jerzy Tomaszewski, an eminent Polish historian, died in Warsaw on November 4, 2014. Professor Tomaszewski was a leading presence in the research community in Poland that devotes itself to the history of Jews in Poland.

Professor Tomaszewski was the author of numerous works on the history of Jews in Poland. He was a professor of history at Warsaw University, where he also served as the Director of the Mordechai Anielewicz Centre for the Study and Teaching of the History and Culture of Jews in Poland.

For many years, he was connected with the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. A member of the its Scientific Council since 1970, he was also elected in 1985 to serve on the Institute’s Board of Directors and, in addition, served as Deputy Chairman of the Jewish Historical Institute Association. In 2005, he was one of the signatories, along with the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and the Mayor of Warsaw, to an agreement officially establishing the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

He served on the Editorial Board of the Jewish Historical Institute’s publications: The Bulletin of the Jewish Historical Institute, The Quarterly of the History of Jews, and an annual, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry. He continued to work on his research even after his retirement in 2002. He also served on the Programme Council of the “Open Republic” Association Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia.

In 1998, Professor Tomaszewski was the recipient of YIVO’s Jan Karski and Pola Nirenska Award, and thereafter served on the Karski Award Committee.

YIVO deeply mourns his passing.

If Books Could Talk: The Story of Three Jewish Treasures Rescued from the Vilna Ghetto

by ROBERTA NEWMAN

Diary of young Theodor Herzl, kept from 1882 to 1887. YIVO Archives.

Diary of young Theodor Herzl, kept from 1882 to 1887. YIVO Archives.

On Monday, November 24, at 7:00pm, Professor David E. Fishman will deliver a lecture at YIVO, “If Books Could Talk: The Story of Three Jewish Treasures Rescued from the Vilna Ghetto,” about three artifacts rescued from looting by the Nazis in Vilna (present day Vilnius, Lithuania):

  • Theodor Herzl’s diary
  • The minute-book from the Vilna Gaon’s synagogue
  • An original manuscript of Jacob Gordin’s classic Yiddish play Mirele Efros.

Two of these works made their way to YIVO in New York after World War II, but the third work encountered a very different fate in Soviet Lithuania.

Continue reading

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank: The World of Jewish Letterheads

Assemble the letterheads of Jewish organizations, institutions, and individuals in Europe, North and South America, and Palestine from the 1890s to the eve of World War II in 1939 and you have a portrait of the Jewish world: transnational; diverse in language, political, and religious orientation; and flourishing.

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank (The Whole World on a Letterhead) is an experiment in building that portrait. Here, we hope to bring you several times a month, a different example of letterhead from a single collection in the YIVO Archives, the Papers of Kalman Marmor.

Continue reading

A Radio Tour of YIVO’s Photographic Archives (1965)

WEVD LogoOn April 11, 1965, YIVO Chief Archivist and historian Ezekiel Lifschutz visits the studio to talk with host Sheftl Zak about YIVO’s photographic archive, which documents Yiddish culture and life in Eastern Europe, and whose oldest images date from the 1860s.

From 1963-1976, YIVO had its own program on WEVD, the radio station established by the Socialist Party of America in 1927 (its call letters stand for the initials of American socialist leader Eugene V. Debs), which was purchased by the Jewish Daily Forward in 1932 and became a major venue from Yiddish programming.

YIVO used its spot on WEVD for Yiddish-language interviews and discussions with leading New York Yiddish cultural figures, as well as for reporting on its own scholarly and cultural work.

A new podcast of this program in the order in which it was originally broadcast will be posted here every two weeks.

Presentation of series curated by Matt Temkin, YIVO Sound Archives.

Listen to the program [in Yiddish].

“We need more Jews”: Interview with Polish Jewish Activist Konstanty Gebert

How do we understand the burgeoning interest in Jewish culture in Poland today? Does this interest, which manifests itself in a plethora of festivals, restaurants, art, etc., help Poland’s Jews? Against the backdrop of the official opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews just a few weeks ago and the renewed conversation about the significance of Jewish life and history to Polish life, YIVO,  the Polish Cultural Institute and Tablet Magazine will present a public forum at 7:00pm on November 20 to discuss these and related issues: “Towards Life: Reviving Jewish Life in Contemporary Poland,” a roundtable discussion with leading activists, scholars, and writers.

Attend the event.

Helena Gindi, Public Programs Director at YIVO, interviewed one of the panelists, Konstanty Gebert, a foremost Jewish activist in Poland.

Konstanty Gebert

Konstanty Gebert

Konstanty Gebert is an international reporter and columnist for Polish and international media; associate fellow for the European Council on Foreign Relations; and media consultant for the Media Development Investment Fund. Gebert was a democratic opposition activist in the 1970s, and underground journalist (pen name: Dawid Warszawski) in the 1980s. He has covered the Polish Round Table negotiations in 1989, the wars in Bosnia, the Middle East, and the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. Gebert was also co-founder of the underground Jewish Flying University and the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, and founder of the Polish Jewish intellectual monthly Midrasz. He is author of eleven books, in Polish, about Poland’s Round Table negotiations in 1989, the Yugoslav wars, Israeli history, commentaries on the Torah, and a panorama of the European twentieth century. Gebert has served as Visiting professor at UC Berkeley, Grinnell College, and Hebrew University.

Continue reading

Publication of Protocols of Justice: The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court, 1771-1789

Pages from the Pinkas (Register) of the Metz Rabbinic Court, 1771-1789. (YIVO Archives)

Pages from the Pinkas (Register) of the Metz Rabbinic Court, 1771-1789. (YIVO Archives)

In Fall 2013, Professor Jay Berkovitz of the University of Massachusetts presented a series of programs at YIVO and the Center for Jewish History about the Pinkas (register) of Metz, two leather-bound volumes preserved in the YIVO Archives.

His book on the topic has now been published by Brill Academic Publishers. Presented here to the public for the first time in print, the Pinkas of the Metz Beit Din is the official register of civil cases that came before the Metz rabbinic court in the two decades prior to the French Revolution. Brimming with details of commercial transactions, inheritance disputes, women’s roles in economic life, and the interplay between French law and Jewish law, the Metz Pinkas offers remarkable evidence of the engagement of Jews with the surrounding society and culture. The two volumes of Protocols of Justice comprise the complete text of the Metz Pinkas Beit Din, which is fully annotated by the author, and a thorough analysis of its significance for history and law at the threshold of modernity.

Continue reading

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank: The World of Jewish Letterheads

Assemble the letterheads of Jewish organizations, institutions, and individuals in Europe, North and South America, and Palestine from the 1890s to the eve of World War II in 1939 and you have a portrait of the Jewish world: transnational; diverse in language, political, and religious orientation; and flourishing.

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank (The Whole World on a Letterhead) is an experiment in building that portrait. Here, we hope to bring you several times a month, a different example of letterhead from a single collection in the YIVO Archives, the Papers of Kalman Marmor.

Continue reading

Dr. Max Weinreich Reminisces About the Early Days of YIVO (1965)

WEVD LogoThis episode, originally broadcast on April 4, 1965, presents excerpts from a speech delivered by Dr. Max Weinreich at a staff luncheon on the occasion of YIVO’s 40th anniversary. The talk covers the founding of YIVO, influential individuals in its history, and sources of funding in the earliest days of its existence.

From 1963-1976, YIVO had its own program on WEVD, the radio station established by the Socialist Party of America in 1927 (its call letters stand for the initials of American socialist leader Eugene V. Debs), which was purchased by the Jewish Daily Forward in 1932 and became a major venue from Yiddish programming.

YIVO used its spot on WEVD for Yiddish-language interviews and discussions with leading New York Yiddish cultural figures, as well as for reporting on its own scholarly and cultural work.

A new podcast of this program in the order in which it was originally broadcast will be posted here every two weeks.

Presentation of series curated by Matt Temkin, YIVO Sound Archives.

Listen to the program [in Yiddish].

The Bund in Sweden: Forgotten History Rediscovered in YIVO Archives

by ROBERTA NEWMAN

Jewish refugees brought to Sweden by the Jewish Labor Committee, 1947. YIVO Archives, RG 120 Territorial Photographs – Sweden, General)

Jewish refugees brought to Sweden by the Jewish Labor Committee, 1947. YIVO Archives, RG 120 Territorial Photographs – Sweden, General)

“No one has ever written about it. No one has ever known about it.” Swedish labor historian Håkan Blomqvist pointed to the documents from the Bund Archives spread out in front of him in the YIVO Archives. “This is an aspect of Swedish history that has gone unexamined.”

Blomqvist, a professor of philosophy in history and the director of the Institute of Contemporary History at Södertörn University in Flemingsberg (a suburb of Stockholm), Sweden was at YIVO last week on one of the research trips he has been taking for several years, since he first learned of the existence of materials at YIVO documenting the Jewish Labor Bund in Sweden. A scholar who has written several books on Swedish labor history with a focus on nationalism and antisemitism related to the Swedish labor movement, he initially came to YIVO in 2010 to research those topics and was then alerted to the Bund materials by YIVO archivist Leo Greenbaum. This most recent trip was funded by a grant from The Foundation for Baltic and Eastern European Studies. He is being assisted in his research by Dr. Paul Glasser, former Dean of YIVO’s Max Weinreich Center.

Continue reading

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank: The World of Jewish Letterheads

Assemble the letterheads of Jewish organizations, institutions, and individuals in Europe, North and South America, and Palestine from the 1890s to the eve of World War II in 1939 and you have a portrait of the Jewish world: transnational; diverse in language, political, and religious orientation; and flourishing.

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank (The Whole World on a Letterhead) is an experiment in building that portrait. Here, we hope to bring you several times a month, a different example of letterhead from a single collection in the YIVO Archives, the Papers of Kalman Marmor.

Continue reading