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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News October 2013

October 8, 2013

Nachas Department

Anita Shapira, Adin Steinsaltz, Deborah Dash Moore and Laura Jockusch, Foundation Recipients, Awarded Prestigious Jewish Book Prizes

The Jewish Book Council of the United States awarded prizes this year for outstanding books in the field of Jewish literature and scholarship to four past Memorial Foundation recipients. Among the recipients were Anita Shapira, the distinguished Jewish historian for her recent book, Israel: A History; Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz for the new Koren edition of Talmud Bavli; Deborah Dash Moore for editing three volumes of City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York and Laura Jockusch for Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Post-War Europe. All of the above individuals were recipients of doctoral scholarships and/or fellowships which helped launch their careers as outstanding literary and cultural figures in Jewish life.

Anita Shapira, Professor Emerita of Jewish History at Tel-Aviv University and former President of the Memorial Foundation, received two fellowship grants early in her career in 1990 and 1991; Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz received institutional support almost since the inception of his pioneering translation and commentary of the Babylonian Talmud; Deborah Dash Moore received fellowships early in her career in 1983 and Laura Jockusch, a doctoral scholarship in 2004-05. Laura Jockusch's prize is for the volume that resulted from her doctoral dissertation that we supported.

Eight other Foundation recipients were finalists.

Israel: A History

Prof. Shapira's book, Israel: A History — both popular and scholarly — documents the extraordinary development of the modern democratic state of Israel and its vibrant and evolving culture. In it, she provides both context and analysis, creating a prism through which the reader can understand and more fully appreciate the challenges in Israel of nation building, mass immigration, the shifting cultural and religious norms, and the creation of democratic institutions and civil society.

Prof. Shapira was also the recipient of, among many other distinguished awards, the Israel Prize in Jewish History in 2008.

Although Israel and Zionist studies have grown remarkably in recent years, they have not yet achieved the full recognition they deserve within the larger field of Jewish history. This Jewish Book Council award and her Israel Prize in Jewish History acknowledge the importance of the history of Zionism to which Prof. Shapira has devoted her career.

The Koren Edition of Talmud Bavli

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who two years ago completed his translation with commentary of 46 volumes of the Babylonian Talmud, was awarded the Jewish Book Council award for the Koren Talmud Bavli, a groundbreaking edition of the Talmud in English translation and commentary. The Memorial Foundation has supported the publication in Hebrew of 16 volumes of his Hebrew edition of the Talmud, translation into Russian of his The Thirteen Petalled Rose on Kabbalah, one of the first books published in the former Soviet Union after Glasnost by the Memorial Foundation, and a number of his Talmud volumes also in Russian. We are pleased that we were able to contribute to his life-long mission of returning the fundamental Jewish texts of our heritage to the Jewish people.

Rabbi Steinsaltz, like Anita Shapira, was awarded the Israel Prize in 1988. Both of them are among the 45 previous recipients of Memorial Foundation fellowships and doctoral scholarships who were awarded the Israel Prize, the most distinguished international award in Jewish life.

The World Congress of Jewish Studies

The World Union of Jewish Studies, a member agency of the Memorial Foundation, this summer organized the 16th World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, one of the largest in its history. It is certainly the most prestigious international assembly for Jewish scholarship in which distinguished scholars from all over the world participate. The program covered all areas of Jewish scholarship, including Bible; History of the Jewish People; Literatures; Languages and Arts; Contemporary Jewish Society and Research and Technology.

Four hundred and nine, or one of four, of the 1600 participants were awarded either scholarships or fellowships by the Memorial Foundation; many of them when they were students, helping them launch their scholarly careers. Those 409 recipients were awarded a total of 839 Foundation grants — a little more than two to each of those scholars.

Given the very broad geographical, scholarly and ideological range of the participants, it is compelling evidence indeed of the impact that the Memorial Foundation is having internationally on Jewish scholarship and culture. And a source of great nachas to us.

The Foundation also supports the Ephraim Urbach Post-Doctoral Fellowship program, named after the late President of the World Union and the Vice President of the Memorial Foundation, which is organized in close cooperation with the World Union. In the last decade, 66 of the most outstanding young scholars who completed their doctorates with distinction around the world have received these fellowships. A number of those who received the Urbach fellowship during the last four years were given the honor of presenting their work at the Congress.

Other Nachas

Prof. Ephraim Kanarfogel, who received four doctoral scholarships in the 80's from the Foundation, was the co-winner of the Goldstein-Goren Book Award for the best book in Jewish thought from the International Center for Jewish Thought, Ben Gurion University. His book, The Intellectual History and Rabbinic Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz was selected as a winner from a record-breaking 80 plus submissions.

Selected Publications Supported by the Memorial Foundation

Attached is a select list of publications received in the Foundation's office in 2012-13, supported by the Foundation that resulted from our doctoral, fellowship and institutional programs. These publications provide ample testimony to the key role the Foundation plays in nurturing Jewish scholarship and creativity all around the world.

The Foundation has since its inception assisted in the preparation and publication of close to 4,000 volumes covering all aspects of Jewish culture, broadly defined. I should like to call attention in this report to one project on the attached list, the monumental three volume series on the History of Russian Jewry.

History of the Jews in Russia

The last major effort to write a comprehensive history of the Jews in the greater Russian empire was Simon Dubnov's The History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, published in the United States in 1916. Since the publication of Dubnov's three-volume history, it has taken 90 years for the next comprehensive publication of the history of Russian Jewry, the three volumes that the Foundation has commissioned from the Shazar Center for Jewish History in Israel.

Since Dubnov, Jewish historiography has changed considerably, and whole new areas of research and archival resources of which Dubnov had neither knowledge nor access, are now available. Almost all the researchers in Volume II, as well as the other two volumes, belong to a new generation of young scholars from Israel, the United States and Eastern Europe, all recruited especially for this project because their work represents new research areas which have opened up only in the last 50 years. Even more important, this new generation of scholars has a greater capacity and readiness to view Russian Jewry from a broader perspective, developed by new socio-historical and cultural studies in recent decades, which in turn, will provide us with a better and more complete picture of the Jewish past in Russia.

Prof. Israel Bartal, the Avraham Harman Prof. of Jewish History and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities of Hebrew University, is the overall editor of the three-volume series. The first volume, The History of Jews in Russia: From Ancient Times to the Early Middle Ages, edited by Dr. Alexander Kulik, was published in 2010. The second volume of the history, edited by Dr. Ilya Lurie, published in 2012 encompasses Imperial Russia, from 1772 until 1914.

Volume II is devoted to "The Imperial State and the Jews," an in-depth survey of the Jewish political agenda to both transform and integrate the Jewish community into Russia while dealing with the hostile and repressive policies of the empire. The second section describes the vast variety of social and religious forms of Jewish life in Russia. The major focus of this section is on the three main streams characterizing Russian Jews in the 19th century — Hasidism, Misnagdim, and the Jewish Enlightenment. The next section, "Ideology and Politics," deals with the variety of ideologies and political programs among Russian Jewry in this period — Zionism, Jewish Socialism, autonomism, and Jewish liberalism — including also the involvement of Jews in the all-Russian parties. The final section of the book is dedicated to the rich cultural heritage of Russian Jews embodied in three languages, Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian and the role of the visual arts, music and theatre in the formation of the Jewish national culture in the Russian empire.

The third volume, edited by Prof. Michael Beizer, which will cover Soviet Rule from 1918 to 1991 and the 20-year period after the collapse of the Communist regime, has been completed and will hopefully be published next year. Prof. Bartal, the editor, argues that the history of Russian Jewry in the 21st century should consist not only of those Jews remaining in Russia, but also include the mass wave of Jewish immigration to the West and Israel in the last two decades. That mass movement to the West has and will continue to significantly impact on Russian-Jewish historiography about which we hopefully will learn when that volume will be published next year.

With warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President