Sefarad Interpreted: The Historiography of Jewish Spain and National Debates, 1914-1941
Resarch project of Pablo Bornstein
The project seeks to study the presentist concerns that informed the interest of Spanish historians in turning toward the medieval history of the Jews at the beginning of the twentieth century, from the perspective of the history of science. These concerns had to do with living issues of the cultural and political contemporary reality in Spain such as Church-State relationship, the construction of a national historical narrative attached to the modern nation-building process, and the efforts for cultural and intellectual regeneration after the vast social crisis Spain suffered as a consequence of the 1898 Hispano-American war. More interestingly, the study of the cultural Semitic legacy during the fist decades of the twentieth century became entangled with a Catholic apologetic movement that stood up in defense of “Catholic science” against the attacks on religion that were perceived coming from scientific positivism. The vindicators of Catholic science stressed the compatibility of reason and faith and thus sought to reconceptualize the modern debate between science and religion in neo-scholastic terms.
Some questions that the research project looks to answer can be posed as follows: How was the emergence of a modern historical scholarship regarding the Iberian Jewish past mediated by the pressing demands of Spanish social and intellectual life? What role did transnational ties between scholars play in shaping the agenda of Jewish studies in Spain? What factors account for the fact that Spanish historical scholarship on the Iberian Jewish past was promoted predominantly by scholars of rather conservative and Catholic leanings? What were the connections between the interpretative schemes designed by the Arabist scholars and the development of historical studies on the Iberian Jews? What specific images of the Iberian Jews were conveyed through this development in Jewish studies?
Pablo Bornstein obtained his PhD in 2019 at Tel Aviv University. He studied History at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and later received his MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. He is a fellow of the Isaac Abravanel Center at the Institute of International Politics at Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. His book Reclaiming al-Andalus: Orientalist Scholarship and Spanish Nationalism, 1875–1919, based on his doctoral dissertation, is about to be published by Sussex Academic Press:
Research project of Adrián Krupnik, 2019-2020
Adrián Krupnik’s research stands at the intersection of Latin American and Israel studies by uniting two strands of modern Jewish history: development and change in a Diaspora community whose members integrated successfully into the host society, and the evolving relationship of that community with Israel. He contends that return migration played a key role in Israel-Diaspora relations even though this notion had been excluded from the Zionist narrative. Argentine returnees from Israel represented a significant proportion of the total number of Jews in Argentina. Their Jewish identity, professional paths, and contributions to both the Jewish community and Argentine society at large were influenced by their experience in Israel. Krupnik draws from Israel studies, Argentine history, migration studies, sociology, oral history, and Israel state documents to expose the tensions that contributed to unreliable records of returnees and various conflicting narratives about them.
Adrián Krupnik obtained his Ph.D. in history at Tel Aviv University. He previously studied sociology at the University of Buenos Aires. Currently, he is a fellow of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. During his stay at the University of Potsdam he published his book chapter Unsafe Havens for Jewish-Argentine Migrants: The Rise and Fall of the Third Peronist Government and the Traumatic Effects of the 1973 Yom Kippur War,
and completed his first book manuscript, “Between Two Homelands: Jewish-Argentine Return Migration from Israel, 1948-2006.” Krupnik has begun planning his next major project, “German-Argentine and Jewish-Argentine Youth in Radical Times: Ethno-Political Identities and Transnational Bonds in Comparative Perspective, 1966-1976.”
The Role of Scientific Knowledge in Commentaries on Maimonides' Works
Research project by Idit Chikurel, 2018-2019
This project offers a new perspective on the integration of scientific knowledge in commentaries on Maimonides' works, showing its significance in forming novel philosophical stances. In turning to science for resolving metaphysical questions, commentators followed Maimonides (1135-1204). It is often claimed that scientific knowledge is used by Maimonides for his philosophical needs, yet not actively shaping them. This study aims to show how, in the commentaries, scientific knowledge contributes to the formation of novel philosophical arguments and explores how it is used for educational or rhetorical purposes.
The examination includes six commentaries on two of Maimonides' well-known works, Guide of the Perplexed and Millot ha-Higgayon [Treatise on Logical Terminology], written by four commentators: Moses ben Joshua Narboni (1300-1362), Mordecai ben Eliezer Comtino (1420-1487?), Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) and Salomon Maimon (1753-1800). All four commentators are rationalist thinkers, addressing science as means to arrive at or better understand religious and metaphysical truths. Whereas the question of Maimonides' use of scientific knowledge has been addressed by several scholars, little has been written on this issue in regards to the commentaries on Maimonides' works. The main hypothesis is that scientific knowledge had an active role in forming these commentaries and helped resolving philosophical debates rather than merely being used as rhetorical means for philosophical purposes. Moreover, the various ways in which these commentaries were used to build a bridge between Jewish tradition and non-Jewish European culture of their time, such as German Enlightenment, are to be explored.
Haskalah in Dialogue
Juda Jeitteles and Juda Leib Ben Ze'eb as Exegetes of the Elightenment Era
Juda Jeitteles (1773-1838) und Juda Leib ben Ze’eb (1764-1811) were Jewish Enlightenment philosophers in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Under the title Kitve Qodesh (Holy Scriptures) they translated texts from the Hebrew Bible into German, including a modern commentary for a Jewish readership. The project analyzes the exegetical works of those nowadays widely forgotten thinkers and sheds new light on the Jewish Enlightenment in Bohemia and Austria at the beginning of the 19th century.
conduct: apl. Prof. Christoph Schulte, PhD (Universität Potsdam), Prof. Hannes Bezzel, PhD (Universität Jena)
project staff: Louise Hecht, PhD, and Grit Schorch, PhD
The project is funded by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) from 2016-2018 totalling 252.750 €.
Jewish Cemeteries in Brandenburg
The online project Jewish Cementaries in Brandenburg documents the Jewish Cemeteries in the federal state of Brandenburg, with the goal of a comprehensive documentation of all those cementaries. The documented cemeteries are accessible to the public on the project's website and database, which is continuously expanded.
A brochure about the Jewish cemetery in Potsdam was published by the university press: „Spurensuche auf dem Jüdischen Friedhof Potsdam. Eine Handreichung für den Unterricht“. It iss the result of a project that was sponsored in 2015 and 2016 by the foundation „Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft“. It gave pupils of the Humboldt-Gymnasium in Potsdam the opportunity to learn about the Jewish heritage of their city.
The book is available via book trade as well as free download on the publication server of Potsdam University.
The Yiddish State Theater in Bucharest
Since September 2016 Prof. Corina L. Petrescu is researching the history, aesthetics, programs, actors and performance practice of the Yiddish State Theater in Bucharest after World War II. The project is funded by a research grant of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Within the scope of this project Prof. Petrescu examines the Bercovici Collection of the Potsdam University Library. This collection includes 3000 volumes on Yiddish theater, poetry and prose. The Yiddish poet Israil Bercovici (1921-1988), who privately compiled the collection, was the longstanding director of the Yiddish State Theater in Bucharest in the time of the Ceaucescu dictatorship. His library is a unique source for the history of Yiddish theater, not only in Romania.
Tracking the Origin of Judaica from Nazi Spoils
Provenance resarch at the Potsdam university library
From 2014 until summer 2018 the research project examines Judaica in the collection of the Potsdam University Library in order to determine the provenance of books, that were potentially looted by the Nazis. More information can be found on the project's website, here.
Several books have already been returned to the descendants of their former owners. One of this restitutions even made it into The Jerusalem Post. To the article
The research group »…Oder jüdisch?« emerged in 2011 from the research project frankfurt-oder-juedisch, which was concerned with the Jewish history of the town Frankfurt, which lies at the Oder river. The project was organized within the scope of the modul "academic practice" of the Jewish studies master degree course. In 2012 the area of research was extended on Jewish communities in the German-Polish borderland.
The project looks back on and reappraises Jewish history in the Oder-Neisse borderland, while conceiving Jewish history as an integrative part of European history. The project's website can be found here (in German).
haskala.net - Digital Archive of the Jewish Enlightenment
haskala.net is an open academic project, that provides information about the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment philosophers of the 18th and 19th century and their writings. The website of this project haskala.net is run by a group of researchers at the University of Potsdam.
haskala.net is provided openly for academic research and teaching, as well as for the interessted public.
Haskala.net presents research findings of projects at the University of Potsdam, which are fundet by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the German Research Foundation, the German-Israeli Foundation, as well as the Minister of State for Culture and Media of the Republic of Germany.