Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News April 2002

April 22, 2002

THE 36TH ANNIVERSARY REPORT

We have just completed our 36th Anniversary Report, a voluminous document of over 800 pages listing all the grants awarded by the Memorial Foundation since our inception. This report provides a detailed and comprehensive picture of the Memorial Foundation's fulfillment of its mandate to reconstruct Jewish cultural life around the world after the Shoah, and the evolution of our programs over the last three decades.

Because of its bulk and the cost incurred in mailing this report, we decided to highlight in this letter some of the Foundation's most important contributions in the creation, preservation and dissemination of Jewish culture in the post-Holocaust era in this Board Briefing.

Since its inception in 1965-66, the Foundation has allocated $75,500,000 for Jewish cultural and educational activities. The Foundation has granted $29,739,000 for 11,895 scholarships and fellowships and $45,761,000 for 5,836 institutional grants. The former include 2,895 Fellowships, 3,034 Doctoral Scholarships, 3,234 Community Service Scholarships and 2,733 Post-Rabbinic Scholarships.

 

Scholarships and Fellowships

The men and women supported by the Foundation's Scholarships and Fellowships constitutes a mosaic of the new generation of scholars, writers, academics, rabbis, researchers, intellectuals and artists that filled the vacuum created by the decimation of the Jewish cultural elite in Europe during the Holocaust. The replacement of the generation of cultural and intellectual leaders that perished in the Shoah is the primary mandate of the Foundation.

Most impressive among the list of Foundation recipients who received such support are the thirty-two recipients of the Israel Prize, the most distinguished award in Israel. Among them are such individuals as Professors Menachem Elon, Gershon Shaked, Haim Beinart, Chaim Dimitrovsky, Eliezer Schweid, Moshe Bar-Asher, Joseph Dan, Adin Steinsaltz,Yehuda Bauer Aviezer Ravitsky and the most recent awardee in 2002 Prof. Nahum Rackover, for his pioneering work on Mishpat Ivri.

No less important are the hundreds of young men and women from the Diaspora who, with Foundation support, studied to prepare for professional careers in Jewish educational and communal work, and returned to Latin America, Western Europe the former Soviet Union, Africa and Australia to serve there.

Through the Scholarship and Fellowship program, the Foundation has played a central role in the dynamic recovery and growth of the Jewish people in the post-World War II period, fostering remarkable cultural creativity and service to the Jewish Community and assuring the continuity of Jewish civilization.

 

Institutional Grants

Through the Foundation's program of institutional grants, almost 4,000 books were published in all areas related to Jewish culture in 30 languages, covering all fields of Jewish culture.

Among the classic works of Jewish scholarship that we have supported are the Steinsaltz Talmud, Torah Shelayma, Otzar Haposkim, and The Encyclopaedia Talmudit. Other important works include The Great Dictionary of Yiddish Language, The Language Tradition and Bible Projects of Hebrew University, Hispania Judaica, History of Jews in Muslim Lands, and the Documentary History of Italian Jewry at Tel Aviv University.

The Foundation has also commissioned popular and scholarly works like The Sephardic Legacy, edited by Prof. Haim Beinart, published in Hebrew, English and Spanish; The Scroll of Testimony, by the late Abba Kovner; The City of Hope, Jerusalem from Biblical to Modern Times, published in Hebrew and English; The Jewish People in the 20th Century, originally published in Hebrew, soon to be published in English, French, Spanish and German; and Kiyum Vashever, a two volume comprehensive history of Polish Jewry from its inception to the Holocaust.

 

Eastern Europe and Russia

One of the most important areas of the Foundation's work over the last three decades has been in the former Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc countries in Eastern Europe.

Through our publication program, we helped Russian Jewry to re-connect with their cultural roots which had been almost completely severed during the decades that Eastern Europe was under Communist rule. Through our scholarship and fellowship programs and the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, we have assisted Russian Jewry in developing the cadre of leaders to revive and rebuild Jewish communal and cultural life there.

The 936 institutional grants we awarded to projects dealing with Russian Jewry have lead to the publication of close to 700 books dealing with Jewish culture in Russian, including Zionism, Jewish History and Jewish religion, and the Orot library for children, young people and families. We have also supported a whole library of classic Jewish texts, including the Russian translation of the Pentateuch by Shamir, and more recently the Hertz Chumash, selections from the Mishna and Talmud, the writings of classical Jewish philosophers like Maimonides' Moreh Nevuchim and Yehuda Halevi's Kuzari, classical Jewish poets like Ibn Gabirol, and the publication of an abbreviated Encyclopedia Judaica, recently completed. These books were smuggled into the former Soviet Union prior to Glasnost. These volumes, that grew out of our pro-active stance in the pre-Glasnost era, are now the core books in most of the libraries now functioning in schools and synagogues in the C.I.S.

But books alone, as crucial as they are, did not a revolution make. Revolutions, cultural ones too, are made by people. In this area, we too played an important pioneering role. Long before Glasnost, when the iron curtain seemed impenetrable, the Foundation was supporting the training of Russian young men and women for future service to the Russian Jewish community.

The 1,654 grants to individuals awarded in the former Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc countries and now in the CIS have helped train many of the leaders for the Russian Jewish community globally. Among them are former prisoners of Zion and dissidents Yosef Mendelevich, Yosef Begun, Yuli Edelstein, Eliyahu Essas, Shimon Grilious, Zeev Dashevsky and Benjamin Fein, the two current Chief Rabbis of Russia, Beryl Lazar and Adolf Shayevich, the religious leaders Yaakov Bleich, Pinchas Goldschmidt Zinovy Kogan, and many of the other rabbis, educators, communal workers and Klei Kodesh who are the mainstays of Jewish religious and cultural life in the C.I.S., ranging from Chabad to the Reform movement, now serving in Bishkek on the Chinese border, all the way to Tallin, across the bay from Finland. We have also supported communal leaders Iossif Zissels and Gregory Krupnikov; educators Gregory Lipman, Mark Groubarg; Grigory Shoihet and Hana Rotman; the scholars, writers, intellectuals, artists who are providing the cultural leadership of the community, people like Professors Mikhail Krutikov, Vladimir Shapiro, Arkady Kovelman, Alexander Militarev, Ilya Dvorkin, Ilya Altman and Mark Kupovetsky; writer David Markish and composer Mikhail Gluz.

The finest example of our role in community building in the CIS is the Association of Jewish Schools of the C.I.S. and Baltic States. The major achievement of the Association has been the seventeen seminars that the Association has sponsored over the last decade. It has also been critical in strengthening the Jewish schools in the C.I.S. as the cultural center of the community, helping transform the schools into a conduit for the dissemination of Jewish values and culture throughout the C.I.S. The growing role of the schools as one of the vital transforming institutions in the community, seeded and nourished by the Association, is a major Foundation achievement.

 

Holocaust

The Holocaust has received special attention since the Foundation's inception. In the beginning, the focus in our work on the Holocaust was largely on history, documenting the facts of the Holocaust and recording the full dimension of this tragedy. The most important accomplishment in this phase of our activities, now completed, was The Pinkassei Hakehillot — the history of the destroyed Jewish communities in Europe, published by Yad Vashem. Other volumes were published in numerous languages, with Foundation assistance, by leading international Holocaust scholars, like Professors Yehuda Bauer, Deborah Lipstadt, Geoffrey Hartman, Franklin Littell, Lucy Dawidowicz, Martin Gilbert, Israel Gutman and other researchers, resulting from the grants made by the Foundation in the area of research, documentation and commemoration of the Shoah.

Even during this first phase of our work, we deemed it important for the Foundation to initiate effective programs on Holocaust education as well. We developed an excellent collaborative relationship in this area with Yad Vashem, which has resulted in a veritable library of Holocaust educational programs and curricula, and the training of thousands of educators all around the world through the International Center of Holocaust Education at Yad Vashem, for which the Foundation provided initial seed money.

The Foundation believes it is imperative to move beyond history and education, the activities to which we have devoted our major resources in the last three and a half decades, to the vital task of integrating the Holocaust into Jewish philosophy, thought and theology.

In that connection, the Foundation organized two pioneering colloquia in Ashkelon, Israel, that dealt with the impact of the Shoah in Jewish theology and religious thought, and the implications for Jewish education. Two volumes, including the papers presented there, and a Reader on Holocaust Theology, will be published by the Foundation in the very near future.

 

Nahum Goldmann Fellowship

The Nahum Goldmann Fellowship is a pioneering venture designed by the Foundation to develop leadership for Jewish communities around the world. It provides an intensive experience in Jewish learning, living and leadership. Ten successful Nahum Goldmann Fellowships have already been held since 1987 in Western Europe, the CIS, and Latin America, in which 358 Fellows participated from 49 countries, from Uruguay to the Ukraine, Guatemala to Greece, Cuba to Croatia.

This diversity is not only geographic but ideological as well. The Fellowship resembles the Jewish rainbow — liberal, secular, Orthodox, and even marginally affiliated Jews from widely divergent backgrounds who are seeking to secure their Jewish future personally, as well as that of their Diaspora communities.

The alumni of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship are now serving in positions of communal and cultural leadership in Jewish communities — large and small — on six continents. Among them are Lena Posner-Korosi, President of the Stockholm Jewish Community, Frederic Brenner, the internationally known photographer, Jacqueline Goldberg of the Institute for Policy Studies in London, Zinovy Kogan, leader of the Reform Movement in Russia, Rabbi Yitzhaq Haleva, Deputy Chief Rabbi of Turkey, Leszek Piszewski, former President of the Warsaw Jewish Community, Marcelo Cynowitz, a leader in the renewal of Jewish education in Montevideo, Uruguay, Reina Roffe, one of the first activists in the revival of Jewish life in Cuba, Grigori Lipman, Chairman of the Association of Jewish Schools in the CIS and Baltic States, Rebecca Neuwirth, special assistant to the Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Committee, Jo Toledano, Director of the Andre Neher Institute in France, Motya Chlenov, President of the Association of Jewish Graduate Students in Russia, Jacques Sebag, a leading educator in Morroco, Don Kantor, Secretary General of the Finnish Jewish Community, Daniel Hoenig, Vice President of the Sydney Jewish Community and Igal Permouth, a community leader in Guatemala.

 

Assuring the Jewish Community's Cultural Vitality

Over the last thirty-six years, the Foundation has evolved into the only global body dealing exclusively with the cultural challenges facing the Jewish community. In that capacity, we have attempted to confront one of the most vexing problems faced by the Jewish people today. In almost all Jewish communities in the West, the emphasis for Jews has largely shifted from the perpetuation of Jewish cultural distinctiveness to their integration into the larger society. Even in Israel, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, enormous effort was expended for the physical and material reconstitution of the Jewish people. In the transformed global society and Jewish community in which we now live, the "normalization" of the Jewish people poses major challenges, and opportunities, to the Jewish people's continued cultural vitality.

In addition to the close to 18,000 grants we have made to individuals and institutions for the creation, intensification and dissemination of Jewish culture around the world, we have also developed pioneering and innovative programs to assure the continuity and cultural vitality of the Jewish people globally. These include the Jewish Heritage On-Line cultural magazine reaching 40,000 readers monthly; programs to involve the Jewish cultural elite in Jewish communal life; training communal and professional personnel and developing educational materials for dispersed Diaspora Jewish communities; developing model community programs in Eastern Europe (Riga) and South America (Montevideo); Mishpacha — a trans-denominational virtual community — for engaging marginally affiliated Jewish families; dissemination of the new technologies in Jewish schools around the world; and organization of seminars and commissioning of popular scholarly books to increase Jewish consciousness and learning in Diaspora communities.

Our record in fulfilling our historical mandate of reconstituting Jewish cultural life around the world after the Holocaust and our efforts to secure and strengthen Jewish cultural vitality in the 21st Century, amply documented in the Foundation's 36th Anniversary Report, should be a source of great pride to all associated with the Memorial Foundation.

Warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President