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French and Jewish: Defining a Modern Jewish Identity in the 19th Century
Dec 9 2013

MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2013 | 6:30pm
Jay Berkovitz, University of Massachusetts; Lisa Leff, American University; Maurice Samuels, Yale University

Click HERE to listen to the audio.

In Fall 2013, the YIVO Institute and the Center for Jewish History present an exhibition, a conference and four public programs that explore the Jewish community in Metz, France in the 18th and 19th centuries. These programs were inspired by the Pinkas (Register) of the Metz Rabbinic Court, a rare and little-known document from the collections of the YIVO Archives.

The exhibition and program series are made possible by the generous support of The David Berg Foundation, The Selz Foundation, and Emil Kleinhaus.

For the Jews of France, the attainment of citizenship in the early 19th century was far more than a political triumph. The transition from ghetto to emancipation heralded a major transformation in Jewish status, and nowhere was the metamorphosis more striking than in Metz. Looking at the Jews through the lens of French literature, politics, and religion, three scholars considered the far-reaching impact of Jewish emancipation on the meaning of being Jewish in the modern world.

Jay Berkovitz is Professor and Chair of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. An expert in early modern Jewish history and culture, he specializes in Jewish law, ritual, and communal governance. He is the author of several books on the Jews of France, including Rites and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860 (2004) and Protocols of Justice: The Rabbinic Court of Metz, 1771-1789, which is scheduled for publication in Fall, 2013. Berkovitz was the 2011-2012 Inaugural National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Scholar Fellowship, co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish History. He currently serves as joint editor-in-chief of the academic journal Jewish History.

Lisa Leff is Associate Professor of History at American University. Her research focuses on Jews in France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has published a book, Sacred Bonds of Solidarity: The Rise of Jewish Internationalism in Nineteenth Century France (2006), and is currently at work on a history of Jewish archives in the twentieth century.

Maurice Samuels is the Betty Jane Anlyan Professor of French at Yale University, where he also directs the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism. He is the author of The Spectacular Past: Popular History and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France (2004); and of Inventing the Israelite: Jewish Fiction in Nineteenth-Century France (2010), which won the Scaglione Prize given by the Modern Language Association for the best book in French studies. He recently co-edited a Nineteenth-Century Jewish Literature Reader (2013). He is currently working on a book about French philosemitism from the French Revolution to the present.