Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jewish Travel goes Academic......

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Scholars at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania are analyzing Jewish travel in a fellowship program called "On the Road: Travel in Jewish History." Robert Leiter writes about the program in The Jewish Exponent. He reports that there were about 170 applications, which were whittled down to 12 scholars for the first semester and 14 for the second, now under way. (Full disclosure -- I applied for a fellowship but was not accepted.)

Travel as ennobling -- an educational pursuit that broadens knowledge and sharpens perceptions -- is a 20th century concept, according to German-born scholar Martin Jacobs. [...] 
Jacobs joined Ora Limor of the Open University in Jerusalem and Joshua Levinson of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, who first broached the topic, in fashioning the proposal they eventually presented to David Ruderman, the head of the center. [...] 
Two scholars who consider modern-day notions of Jewish travel are Jackie Feldman, a native New Yorker who now lectures on social anthropology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and Nils Roemer, a non-Jew born in Germany, who teaches Jewish subjects at the University of Texas in Dallas.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Poland -- Travel story on Lodz

Artur Rubinstein street sculpture monument. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The New York Jewish Week runs a lively travel story by Hilary Larson on Lodz, Poland, highlighting the city's Jewish heritage as well as its new spaces and places -- which include Manufaktura, a big shopping center in the transformed red-brick factory that was once run by Lodz's wealthiest Jewish industrialist, I.K. Poznanski...

This onetime outpost of the Russian and German Empires was among the world’s most Jewish cities before the Holocaust, with a quarter-million Jews, a good third of the city’s total. Every year, thousands of heritage travelers come to bear witness to Lodz’s wartime ghetto and the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe.
So fixed is that mournful image that it takes a mental leap to consider what Europeans already know: Lodz is suddenly the coolest place in Poland. 
“It’s where all the hipsters and artists are going,” said my Polish friend Piotr. “They are in Warsaw for the jobs, in Krakow for the universities. But they come to Lodz for the scene.” [...]
This so-called “City of Four Cultures” (Polish, Jewish, German and Russian) is polyglot and full of surprises. There are 19th-century Orthodox churches, baroque Teutonic mansions, Soviet housing blocks with underground cafes. Though Jews are few today, Jewishness continues to pervade the city — a subtle but persistent overlay of nostalgia, and a belatedly appreciated cultural influence.
I'm glad to see Lodz get such coverage. I have always greatly enjoyed my visits to the city and walks down ruler-straight Piotrkowski street, looking at the old mansions and the street sculpture of Rubinstein, Tuwim and others.

Piortrkowski st. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber)

Larson doesn't mention however, two of the key Jewish and "Jewish" sights..... the large and fascinating Jewish cemetery, with Poznanski's immense domed tomb, and the "Jewish" restaurant Anatewka, which, since I first saw it, has been one of the Platonic ideals for me of the "virtually Jewish world"..... where, the first time I visited, in 2005, the waiters were dressed as Hasids, and where guests are (or were) all given little figurines of Jews clutching coins as sort of favors.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Jewish Heritage Europe web site

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I've been neglecting this blog for a little while, as I've been involved in getting the Jewish Heritage Europe web site that I am coordinating for the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe ready for launch.... 

I'm happy to say that JHE is now online and functioning (more or less) fully... there are still a few teething problems, as expected, and I still have a lot of information to load on the home pages of the 48 countries covered.

JHE is an expanding web portal to a wide range of news, information and resources concerning Jewish monuments and heritage sites all over Europe.JHE aims to aggregate information, shed light on Jewish heritage issues, and stimulate discussion and exchanges among professionals and the interested public. 

It has a constant newsfeed -- and I will be cross posting on this blog from it (and vice versa).

The new JHE builds on, revamps and expands a previous version of the site that was launched after the major 2004 conference in Prague on the future of Jewish heritage in Europe and was coordinated by Sharman Kadish, Syd Greenberg, and Samuel D. Gruber. 

The current version was conceived as a follow-up to the seminar held in Bratislava, Slovakia in March 2009 that discussed the state of Jewish heritage sites in Europe as well as strategies for their restoration, use and upkeep. 

As I reported on this blog at the time, that seminar, attended by international Jewish heritage experts as well as by representatives from Jewish communities in more than a dozen countries, resulted in a statement of specific “Best Practices” about how to deal with Jewish heritage sites.