Past GEOP workshops
“Between Experience and Memory: Refuge and Asylum in Polish-Jewish History, Politics, and Culture”, September 2023
- Haifa University
- Jagiellonian University
The workshop “Between Experience and Memory: Refuge and Asylum in Polish-Jewish History,Politics, and Culture” intends to track the many ways in which Polish Jews experienced refuge and asylum, and re-examine the memory of this experience and its impact on modern Polish-Jewish history, in particular politics and culture. By complementing the discussion of refuge with the analysis of the experience of asylum, it seeks to challenge the longstanding narratives and shift the scholarly focus from persecution and victimhood to a holistic approach to the phenomenon of displacement.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshops scheduled for 2020 were held in 2021.
Affective Encounters: Jewish Objects and Emotions in Poland and East-Central Europe after the Holocaust
- Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnov
- Leipzig University
- Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The workshop explored the afterlife of Jewish objects in Poland and East-Central Europe since 1945. It focused on the reciprocal relationship between the material and the human world and investigates the extent to which post-Holocaust Jewish things generate emotional and affective power and interact with individuals and societies.
Bringing together scholars from different disciplines and curators from POLIN Museum, the workshop examined the fate and evolution of private and communal property, everyday items, sacral remnants, artifacts and commemorative objects, as well as their literary representation and musealization. Analyzing the emotional and affective aspects of post-war Jewish objects and tracing their changing meanings, perceptions and symbolic status, this workshop offered a unique platform for rethinking the material, cultural, social and psychological aftermath of the Holocaust.
Representations of Polish Rescuers of Jews in a Comparative Perspective: Lessons from the Holocaust for Contemporary Europe
- University College London
- Pedagogical University in Kraków.
Given the growing scholarly and popular interest in rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust on one hand, and the increasing misuses of the history and representations of rescuers of Jews in political culture and public memory and history writing on the other, this workshop explored how the history of Polish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust has been represented in historical education in state education and in independent non-profit educational programs in museums between 1990 s till the present. Comparisons between representations of rescuers in post-communist Poland and other European countries (and also Israel) were made in order to identify global and local/national trends and differences and commonalities in themes and strategies of presenting rescuers in different political, cultural and historical contexts.
This project was envisaged as a means of creating an intellectual community of scholars, educators and curators engaged in breaching the gap between contemporary research on rescuers of Jews and history education on the subject.
After the Void: New Perspectives on the Shtetl in the Postwar Polish-Belarusian-Ukrainian Borderlands
- Institute for Advanced Study Berlin
- Humboldt University Berlin
- Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage.
Bringing together some of the most renown experts on Jewish history and memory in the region and young scholars in the field, the workshop had the goal of presenting the first, preliminary results of the new cutting-edge research in this area, as well as addressing some overarching methodological questions about the challenges of investigating the Jewish absence (and presence) in the post-Holocaust and post-Soviet rural setting.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Yiddish in the Socialist Bloc, 1941/44-1991
- Columbia University
- Wrocław University
- Free University Berlin
- Jena University.
The (hi)story and role of Yiddish in the postwar Socialist Bloc has been studied only selectively and is yet to be told in a comprehensive manner. A lachrymose idea of post/war Yiddish in general and of Yiddish behind the "Iron Curtain" specifically has long justified this neglect: while Hitler killed the readers and Stalin killed the writers, the small portions of Yiddish-speakers who did survive in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union and decided to stay, gradually had to assimilate to Russian, Polish or other hegemonic languages around them – or so the story went. Building on important scholarly exceptions that started to fill this lacuna, the workshop aimed to bring together scholars of Yiddish Studies to discuss Yiddish culture – its web of meaning and cultural expressions – and the role of mame-loshn – be it symbolic, ritualistic, cultural or political – in the communist countries after the Second World War until the collapse of the Socialist bloc.
Building Culture and Community: Jewish Architecture and Urbanism in Poland
- Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
- Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- University of Michigan
- University of Wrocław.
The workshop explored the role of the built landscape in creating, reflecting, and problematizing Polish-Jewish identity. Among the key questions the organizers addressed were: what building types and patterns of settlement did Jews create in the lands that were controlled by Poland at different points in history? How did they seek to assert their presence through architecture, and what can architecture tell us about the interactions of Jews and non-Jews? How is the Jewish character of a space represented in various texts and how have museum and memorial practices sought to reflect the rupture of the Holocaust?
Employing various disciplinary lenses (including history, literature, art history, and anthropology) and scales (ranging from the individual structure to the neighborhood, shtetl, and city), the workshop’s participants considered how and by whom Jewish architecture was produced, used, represented, and remembered.
The Jewish Inn: From Architecture to Phantasm
- University of Chicago
- Institute of Polish Culture, Warsaw University.
The workshop focused on the cultural ‘institution’ of the Jewish tavern and its past as well as present. The critical evaluation covered such themes as the typology and materiality of the inn as a specimen of vernacular architecture; the inn’s image in literature and other arts; the inn as a site of social interactions and the meeting ground for diverse social, ethnic and religious groups; the site of political and / or illegal activities; the conduit for introducing Jewish cuisine and music to the wider society. What was the role of music and food in this culturally coded revival?
The workshop’s participants also attempted to ascertain how the phantasmatic postwar absence of the Jewish inn has been changing in the recent years into a revived presence. Hence, the participants also inquired why the karczma became the living proof of Jewish culture’s viability.
The Activities of ‘the Joint’ in Poland and Neighboring Countries 1945-1989: Reality and Perceptions
- JDC Archives
- JDC Poland
- Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University
- Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University.
The Workshop was dedicated to the work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)in East Central Europe during Socialism. It had been the most important foreign social welfare organization supporting Jewish Life in various countries of the region. During Stalinism communist propaganda blatantly distorted JDC’s activity and depicted it as a spy organization, which was consequently banned from socialist states. Later on it was invited to return. The organization funded a variety of Jewish communal, youth and cultural institutions. In periods of political upheaval such as in Hungary in 1956 and in Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Joint also assisted those who chose to leave the countries behind the Iron Curtain.
In the course of this Workshop a group of international scholars took a closer look at the activity of the JDC in East Central Europe. They analyzed the role and contribution of the organization to the continuity of Jewish life in the region and investigated how JDC was able to navigate the political constraints in the region in order to provide assistance to Jewish communities. The scholars also addressed the question how the attacks against the Joint in Communist propaganda had to be understood.
Representations of Jewish-Slavic Relations in Museums and Internet Databases
- Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization “Sefer” (Moscow)
- Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow)
- Polish Academy of Sciences.
The workshop was dedicated to discussions on developing standards of proceeding with regard to the organisation and construction of museum exhibitions as well as internet databases on Jewish-Slavic relations by museums. The socially crucial issue of relations between communities analysed from both sides - the positive and the negative aspects of those relations - as well as through the diffusion of culture, ideas and rituals formed the basis for debates on exhibition formulas and combining them with the electronic system of supporting education in museums.
Scholars from the Russian Federation, USA, Poland and Czechia attempted to reflect upon the compatibility of the two forms of museum communication. Ideas for exhibitions (some of them virtual) developed by various museums and devoted to the history of Jews all over the world were demonstrated during the workshop, alongside the electronic systems of databases used by museums in Russia, Poland and Czechia.
Deported, exiled, saved. History and memory of Polish Jews in the Soviet Union (1940– 1959)
Organizers / Sponsors:
- European University Viadrina
- Jewish Historical Institute Warsaw
- Deutsch-Polnische Wissenschaftsstiftung
- Die Zeit Stiftung
- Szloma-Albam Stiftung.
The aim of the workshop was the presentation and historical classification of the events and experiences of Polish Jews in the Soviet Union during World War II, to date largely underresearched Part of the Jewish wartime experiences, the history of Polish Jews in the Soviet exile is to be integrated in the general understanding of the Shoah.
With this workshop, the organizers wished to re-examine the existing historiography on the topic and add new layers to our understanding of Jewish life in the Soviet Union during WW2. Last but not least, this particular Jewish experience ought to be recognized as a part of Polish and European history. Such approach provides a hitherto disregarded starting point for the historical analysis not only of the Shoah and its aftermath, but also of the complex history of the Eastern European Jewish experience in the 20th century.
The organizers aimed at creating a space of exchange and mutual assistance. A topic of such complexity and size calls for a collective research effort, which the workshop aimed to establish. The workshop gathered experts from Poland, Russian Federation, the USA, Israel, and Germany, including young researchers plus experienced commentators with great expertise in the field.
R. Kalonymos Shapira: New Directions in Scholarship
- Emory University
- Zefat Academic College
- Herzog College.
The subject of the workshop was the legacy of Rabbi Kalomymos Shapira who authored some of the most important theoretical works in Hasidism and, between the wars, ran the largest Hasidic academy for young men in Warsaw. The organizers aimed to gather a leading group of interdisciplinary researchers (historians, anthropologists, and religious studies scholars) from Poland, Canada, USA and Israel. The workshop participants applied the newly available critical texts both to re-evaluate Rabbi Shapira’s wartime writings and, for the first time, to examine systematically their relationship to his pre-war publications on the education of children, training of emotions and social challenges facing Jews in pre-war Poland.
Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Crimes: New Resources for Polish and East European Scholars
- The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN)
- The International Tracing Service (ITS)
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (USHMM).
This research workshop was a continuation of the inaugural Warsaw-based Seminar on the International Tracing Service Digital Archive for Polish Scholars launched in September 2016. This research workshop sought to provide Polish and east European scholars with research opportunities in the holdings of the ITS digital archive and other IPN holdings related to World War II, as well as resources holdings accessible at POLIN, including genealogical databases at its Resource Center.
‘Space’ as a category in the research of the history of the Jews in Poland (16th – 19th centuries)
- German Historical Institute in Warsaw
- The Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The aim of the project was to show how the category of space formed by Henri Lefebvre can be used in research on the history of the Jews in Poland from the 16th to the early 19th century. Following Lefebvre’s criteria the workshop was divided into 3 sections in which the participants will examine different aspects of space: spatial practices, representation of spaces, lived spaces as a response to space and its representation in symbols. The participating scholars represented diverse fields and so the encounter of several perspectives and viewpoints will help to develop new methodological approaches.
The Heritage and Legacy of Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof: Between Judaism and Esperanto
- University of Amsterdam
- University of Turin
- Humboldt University in Berlin.
The workshop participants focused on the examination of the legacy of Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, the inventor of the international language – Esperanto and the creator of a mode of communication carried by universal humanitarianism. The project debated the question of the extent to which this unique potential of Esperanto can be attributed to the Jewish traditions of thought. The aim of the event was to put together experts in the field of Esperanto Studies, Yiddishkeit and Judaism in order to clarify both Zamenhof’s heritage and his legacy along three axes: linguistics, philosophy, and culture. The workshop undertook an appropriately wide historical contextualization.
The 5th Polish-Israeli Young Scholars Workshop on the History and Culture of Polish Jews
- Institute for the History of Polish Jewry and Israel - Poland Relations, Tel Aviv University
- Institute of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University
- Department of Jewish Studies, University of Wrocław
- Marcell and Maria Roth Chair in the History and Culture of Polish Jewry, Bar Ilan University.
The event encompassed presentations on the history and culture of Polish Jewry divided into the following research panels: ‘The 19th century’, ‘Interwar Period/Second Republic’, ‘Holocaust’, ‘Life of the Ghetto’, ‘Yiddish Literature’, ‘Hebrew Literature’, ‘Memory, Holocaust, Art’.
The workshop participants were young doctoral students from Poland, Israel, Germany, USA, and Russia. Distinguished professors from Israel and Poland took part in the project as mentors. The range of research fields represented during the workshop resulted in thought-provoking discussions and vivid exchange of ideas. The project offered a good opportunity for young scholars to receive feedback on their doctoral research from experienced academics as well as peers from other research institutions worldwide.
Awkward Objects of Genocide: The Holocaust and Vernacular Arts in and Beyond Polish Museums
- Concordia University
- Research Centre for Memory Cultures, Jagiellonian University
- University of Bremen.
The workshop focused on the survey and discussion of preliminary results gathered in the first phase of the research project “Awkward Objects of Genocide. Vernacular Art on the Holocaust and Ethnographic Museums” (itself part of a larger multi-country collaboration entitled “Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts: From Intervention to CoProduction”, Horizon 2020 program - Reflective Societies). The goal of the project is to change the status of “vernacular Holocaust art” within ethnographic collections, and also bring a new category of creative production into view within the more general discourse on “Holocaust art.”
The workshop offered the opportunity to discuss in an interdisciplinary setting the holdings identified in Polish institutions, and the ways these have been categorized, presented, and interpreted. Participating scholars represented various disciplines and research fields, including Art History, Ethnography, Literary and Cultural Studies. Curators and visual artists also took part in the meeting. The involvement of specialists from so many different backgrounds led to intensive exchange of ideas and helped to overcome the ways of seeing and interpreting the objects of the art to which we are used to.
Polish-Jewish everyday coexistence, the participants contributed to the growing body of knowledge on Polish-Jewish history, everyday coexistence and its cultural memory. The scholars explored the core exhibition of POLIN Museum through the lenses of representation and cultural memory and learned how the museum had redefined both the Polish-Jewish everyday coexistence in different periods and the contemporary dialogue with it.
Seminar on the International Tracing Service Digital Archive for Polish Scholars
- Institute of National Remembrance
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The workshop took place at POLIN Museum and at the Institute of National Remembrance. Nineteen participants discussed the problem of migration, and the usefulness of the International Tracing Service Digital Archive for Polish researchers. They took part in the workshop sessions and lectures delivered by:
- Suzanne Brown-Fleming from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- prof. Jerzy Dąbrowski from Institute of National Remembrance
- prof. Jerzy Kochanowski from University of Warsaw
- dr. Anna Rosner from the Jewish Historical Institute.
The key-note lecture was delivered by prof. Paul Shapiro from USHMM.
A Present Past: Modern Representations of Polish-Jewish Everyday Coexistence in Word and Image
- University of Haifa
- University of Wrocław
The event brought together senior scholars and early career researchers in Polish-Jewish history, art and literature from Israel, Poland, United Kingdom and Lithuania, and provided a scholarly platform for cross-cultural exchange of ideas. The motto of the workshop was the ‘present past’. The project examined how different generations of modern historians, writers and artists remembered and represented Polish-Jewish coexistence and how they mediated the multiple layers of ‘living together’ to their audiences.
Migration and Citizenship: Jewish Migration within and from Eastern Europe, 1815-2015
- Leonid Nevzlin Research Center for Russian and East European Jewry
- Hebrew University, Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University.
During the workshops twenty international scholars presented their research on Jewish Migration from nineteenth century to 2015.
Global Education Outreach Program was made possible thanks to the Taube Philanthropies, the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.