Monday, February 25, 2013

SEMINAR: Archival & historical research

USA: Center for Jewish History Seminar on Archival and Historical Research

This upcoming seminar may be of interest to some of my academic readers - or their students.  Please pass this information on.

Center for Jewish History
Seminar on Archival and Historical Research
May 20th-22nd, 2013

The Center for Jewish History Seminar on Archival and Historical Research is a three-day program for rising college seniors, recent university and college graduates, M.A. students, and first- and second-year doctoral students to learn the skills and methods of conducting archival research within one of the premier research libraries in the United States.  The seminar's focus will be geared towards learning a variety of tools to access information and incorporate archival and library research into specific projects. In addition, participants will be introduced to the vast holdings of the Center's partner organizations, and the ways those collections are created, stored, and preserved.

The 2013 research seminar will welcome students from various disciplines including history, Jewish studies, literature, religion, politics, sociology, anthropology, as well as area and regional studies. Teaching sessions will be led by scholars familiar with the collections housed at the Center; archivists and librarians of the Center's five partner organizations; staff members of the Center's Lillian Goldman Reading Room; and CJH Graduate, Post-Doctoral, and Senior Scholar Fellows. Each participant will have the opportunity to conduct their own research in the Center's Reading Room, utilizing the full complement of the available research tools.


*         Applications are welcome from rising college seniors, recent university and college graduates, M.A. students, and first and second year PhD students.

Application Guidelines

*         Cover letter that briefly addresses your interest in participating in the research seminar, knowledge of foreign languages, and previous use of archives or special collections.

*         Three-page proposal addressing why you would benefit from participating in the Center for Jewish History Research Seminar and how the seminar fits in with your long-term goals.

*         Curriculum Vitae.

*         One letter of recommendation from a faculty member. Applications are due by March 4, 2013. All application material should be submitted as one continuous PDF or Word file to>. Letters of recommendation should be submitted under separate cover.

Ethan Zadoff
Coordinator of Fellowship Programs
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Film Premiere: The Longest Journey: The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes

 Rhodes, Greece. Synagogue interior.  Photo: Timothy J. DeVinney from N. Stavroulakis, Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece

Film Premiere: The Longest Journey: The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes
by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) On March 13, 2013 a new documentary on the Jews of Rhodes, directed by Ruggero Gabbai and produced by the Shoah Museum in Rome, will premiere at the  museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.   The film recounts the history of the Jews of Rhodes and the destruction of the centuries-old community by the Nazi's during the Shoah.  

The release of the film is timely.  The memory needs to be protected and the story told.  Just last October, a memorial to the Shoah victims of Rhodes on island's Jewish Martyrs Square (the old Jewish Quarter) was vandalized.  The monument, on which is inscribed on each of six sides - in six different ;languages - the words "Do not ever forget the eternal memory of the 1,604 Jews of Rhodes and Kos who perished in Nazi death camps"  was dedicated in 2002 and has been vandalized several times.  Rhodes Jews has survived the Italian Fascist occupation, but in the fall of 1943, when Germans took control, their fate was sealed.  Today, there are few survivors of the Rhodes community, and only the historic synagogue (with a museum in the former women's' section), the well-reserved (and well documented) cemetery and the monument give testimony to the long history of the community.

You can learn more about the Rhodes community and surviving identifiable Jewish sites on the island on the Rhodes Jewish Museum website here.
Here is information form the Museum about the film:

The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes
The Museum of Jewish Heritage
Edmond J. Safra Plaza | 36 Battery Place
Tickets: 626-437-4202

In 1938, the Italian Racial Laws stripped the Jews of Rhodes of their civil rights and livelihood. Amidst the indifference and compliance of the Italian authorities, three high school professors, known for their antifascist leanings, held unofficial classes for the Jewish boys and girls. In the fall of 1943, in spite of a much greater military force, after a brief resistance the Italian governor surrendered to the Germans. Many of the soldiers were deported to German labor camps.

With the Germans in military control of the island, the Italian civilian authorities took the oath to Mussolini and remained in their positions. They continued to protect Italian interests as well as the Italians who had not fled.

The Jewish community, by and large impoverished and unaware of what was happening to the Jews in Europe and even in Greece, witnessed the events following the armistice in complete isolation. Even though they were all Italian citizens, they were left out of the communication network that might have helped them make informed decisions.

On July 19, 1944, 1,800 of them, including elderly and children, all of them Italian citizens, were summoned to the air force headquarter and reported promptly to the authorities. Four days later they were loaded on boats and transported to Athens. They arrived in Auschwitz on August 16. Only 42 Turkish citizens were spared thanks to the intervention of the Turkish consul.

Today little remains of the culture and history of the Jews of Rhodes and this film is a precious contribution in tracing a continuity from that lost world to ours.

For additional information visit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

USA: Big Turnout For Bialystoker Home Landmark Designation Hearing

USA: Big Turnout For Bialystoker Home Landmark Designation Hearing
by Samuel D. Gruber

There was a big turnout at the public hearing today (February 12) on the proposed designation of New York's former Bialystoker Home  as a protected New York City Landmark.   Several dozen people spoke on behalf of designation and no one spoke against.  I wrote a letter - similar to my recent blogpost - that was read into the record by a member of Friends of the Lower East Side. 

You can read more about the testimony here in an article on The Lo-Down, and about some possible prospects for the 1931 Art Deco tower.

Conference: New Papers on Modern Jewish Buildings at College Art Association

 Woodmere, NY. Cong. Sons of Israel (1948-1950). Fritz Nathan & Eugene Schoen, archs. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Conference: New Papers on 20th Century American Jewish Buildings at College Art Association

This week is the annual College Art Association meeting at the Hilton Hotel in New York City.  It is the largest gathering of art historians and art educators in the United States.  I'll be speaking at one session devoted to the role of architecture in shaping post-World War II American Jewish identity.

 Hamden, CT. Cong. Mishkan Israel. Fritz Nathan, arch. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

One should be registered for the conference to attend. One can also register for the day or a single session. Go to:

(but this is the last afternoon so who knows if they'll checking badges!) 

Here is the session schedule:

Saturday, February 16, 2:30 PM–5:00 PM

Making Inroads, Paving the Way: Postwar Architecture, Design, and the Formation of Jewish-American Identity
Sutton Parlor Center, 2nd Floor

Chairs: Kai K. Gutschow, Carnegie Mellon University; Lynnette Widder, Columbia University

Newish and Jewish from Europe: Refugees, Survivors, and the Spread of Modernism in Postwar America
Samuel D. Gruber, Syracuse University

Non-Jewish Architecture for Jews: The Jersey Homesteads after Auschwitz
Daniel S. Palmer, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

A Symbolic Landscape for Suburbia: Baltimore Chizuk Amuno’s Hebrew Culture Garden
Jeremy Kargon, Morgan State University

The Faith of Albert Kahn
Claire Zimmerman, University of Michigan

Here are the session abstracts:

CAA Session
Sat. Feb. 16, 2013, 2:30-5:00pm, NYC Hilton
Session Title: Making Inroads, Paving the Way: Post-war Architecture, Design and the Formation
of Jewish-American Identity
Chair: Kai K Gutschow
Co-Chair: Lynnette Widder

Session Abstract:
What role did Jewish-Americans play the establishment of modern architecture and design in the postwar period? What role did modern architecture and design play in (re)establishing Jewish identity in post-war America? This session seeks papers that explore alternatives to the dominant story of moder architecture and design in America, which often leaves out questions of identity politics. The abstraction functionalism, and mechanized production of modern architecture and design, as well as the values of American nationalism and American hegemony in a globalizing post-war world, seemed to allow little space for the overt promotion of identity. Assimilation was the order of the day, and at times conformity seemed to be implicated in even the newest "good design." The post-Holocaust world demanded new answers to questions of identity, assimilation, political engagement, and self-assertion from American Jews. At the same time the new, the upwardly mobile middle class, of which so many Jews were a part, often used modern architecture and design to express their intent to become patrons, producers and tastemakers. The confluence of these two trajectories can be traced throughout Jewish contributions topopular” and “high” cultural production of the period. This development threads through stories as diverse as Rudolph Schindler’s 1946 house for showman Samuel L. 'Roxy' Rothafel; the synagogues of Percival Goodman; Julius Schulman’s role in creating the image of modern architecture; Paul Rand’s work as art director at ‘Apparel Arts’ and ‘Direction’ magazines; the work of the Levitt brothers in establishing Levittown; or the work of Edgar Kaufmann Jr. and Sr. in promoting “good design” in Pittsburgh and New York. The single family house, the backbone of the “American Dream,” alongside the developer suburb, and the commercial and cultural centers of communities provide a particularly fertile ground to explore identity formation. Families, developers, and institutions often sought out particular architects and builders to realize their own milieu. The media’s role in creating the myth of modernism and the American Dream, particularly at the scale of the domestic interior and its wide range of consumer goods, in the local strip mall, or in the community church or temple, is also implicated in this storyline. This session welcomes proposals in the areas of architecture, design, film, media, and cultural studies in order to consider the broad spectrum of design activities and societal practices that bring together modernism and the (re)-creation of Jewish- American identity in the postwar era.

Paper title: Newish and Jewish from Europe: Refugees, Survivors and the Spread of Modernism in the Post-World War II American Jewish Community
Speaker: Samuel Gruber, Syracuse University

Abstract: The architecture of the American Jewish community was transformed following World War II by émigré and refugee architects engaged to design synagogues and Jewish Community Centers. Eric Mendelsohn’s synagogues for St. Louis, Cleveland and elsewhere are well known but the work of Frit Nathan, Mendelsohn’s German-Jewish contemporary, is virtually forgotten. Nathan arrived in the Unite States in 1940 and designed synagogues, teamed with émigré artists, in the New York and New Haven metro areas. Both architects helped create the architectural language for Jewish institutional buildings that was adopted by American. We can now add the work of refugee architects David Moed of Antwerp (arrived 1939), and Norbert Troller from Brno who after surviving Terezin and Auschwitz came to Americ and designed scores of JCCs from the late 1940s through the early 1960s for small Jewish communitie across America. Other Jewish refugees and survivors also championed a modern aesthetic for synagogues.

Paper title: Non-Jewish Architecture for Jews: the Jersey Homesteads after Auschwitz
Speaker: Daniel S. Palmer, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Abstract: The post-1945 transformations of the community and buildings in the Jersey Homesteads (present day Roosevelt, NJ) demonstrate how Jews assimilated into the culture of suburban America. The government established this agro-industrial cooperative in 1933 to relocate an entirely Jewish population of immigrant garment workers from New York City’s slums to a rural garden city of modernist concrete housing with a clothing factory so they could be self-sufficient. Once the government divested itself of sponsorship and the community became fragmented, leftist co-operation gave way to a suburban enclave of commuters with Jewish religious life in a newly built synagogue as one of the few remaining cohesive elements. This paper analyzes the town’s adaptations after World War II, when demographics diversified and many homeowners altered their houses to look more conventional. These changes show an important dimension of the complex relationship between American Jews and the architecture of the “American Dream.”

Paper title: A Symbolic Landscape for Suburbia: Baltimore Chizuk Amuno’s "Hebrew Culture Garden"
Speaker: Jeremy Kargon, Morgan State University
Abstract: The embrace of modern architecture by American Jewish institutions was historicall coincident
with many Jewish communities’ migration from city centers to suburban environments. This geographic shift, accelerating after World War II, reflected changes in widely-held attitudes towards landscape as well as towards architecture. A useful case study is a design for Baltimore’s Chizuk Amuno congregation, which in 1954 began planning a suburban campus with New York architect Daniel Schwartzman. Among the congregation’s most important initial requests was a “Hebrew Culture Garden,” inspired by Cleveland’s ensemble of public ethnic-cultural gardens dating to the 1920’s. Chizuk Amuno’s original interpretation of this earlier example and its development throughout the synagogue-planning process illustrate the Baltimore Jewish community’s changing engagement with patterns of settlement, public space, cultural consumption, and the balance between religious and secular Jewish identities.

Paper title: The Faith of Albert Kahn
Speaker: Claire Zimmerman, University of Michigan
Abstract: Albert Kahn (d. 1942) is a foil to the heroic figures of modern architecture. His factory complexes exemplified conditions of modern building in the 20th century, but also helped establish precisely what modern architecture was not—raw function, and service. As Kahn’s own history ended, architects materially influenced by images of his work fled Europe for the United States. Not all Jewish the émigrés were nonetheless associated with forced emigration. The most successful, perhaps no surprisingly, were not Jewish, seemingly able to separate work from ethnicity. The “international style directly associated with Jewishness by the Nazis, was deployed in the U.S. to suppress ethnic affiliations and maintain architecture as elite aesthetic practice. Here, then, two not-modernisms: industrial building; and Jewish identity in architecture. In Kahn, these two coincide, suggesting a new story to whic mainstream postwar modernism now becomes the foil: an architecture that embedded ethnicity and professionalism at once.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bosnia: Sarajevo Haggadah to Stay in Bosnia - Despite Museum Closure
by Samuel D. Gruber

I've written in the past about the Sarajevo Haggadah, perhaps the best-know medieval Jewish illuminated manuscript. There was celebration in Bosnia when the book was put back on view a few years ago in a specially designed room in the Bosnia National Museum.

Then, last fall, the museum closed due to lack of funds, and once an speculation has run wild about what will become of the precious Haggadah. Ruth Ellen Gruber reports that the Bosnia Commission for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage has decided - at least for now - that the book will remain in Bosnia. A proposal from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for a long-term loan appears - like the book - to be going nowhere.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

USA: Bialystoker Home (NYC) Landmarks Hearing Scheduled

 New York, NY Bialystoker Home.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2005)

USA: Bialystoker Home (NYC) Landmarks Hearing Scheduled

In December I wrote about New York's Art Deco Bialystoker Home (1931) at 228 East Broadway and the community wide effort to designate the building a New York City landmark, a status that would prevent its demolition and provide guidelines on its future development - keeping its size and exterior detailing intact.  

Now the New York City Landmarks Preservation Board has scheduled a public hearing on the building for next Tuesday, February 12, regarding designation of the Bialystoker Home.

If you live in New York, I urge you to write to the Commission - and preferably attend the hearing on the 12th - to show your support for this designation.  You can read my earlier blog post for information, or get much more material form the Friends of the Lower East Website. If you live elsewhere - you can still write about this building to show there is widespread interest in its survival. It is very easy to send a 150 word message to the Commission electronically.  You can do it in a few minutes right here.

Although no time has yet been set, Bialystoker is on the agenda as Item #1, usually 9:15 a.m.  (the listing appears on Friday, Feb.8, so you can check the website of the Friends of the Lower East Side for updates and details).

The long-awaited Public Hearing is a major step forward. Then there is a wait - sometimes very long.  If designated by the Commission, the action still needs the approval of a City Council committee and then the full Council vote. Activists feel confident that Council Member Margaret Chin, in whose district the building is located, will continue to support the effort.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jamaica: Documentation of Orange Street Cemetery Continues

Jamaica: Documentation of Orange Street Jewish Cemetery Continues

(ISJM) Architect and ISJM vice-president Rachel Frankel reports that she recently led a team of Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions (CVE) volunteers to continue documentation of the historic Orange Street Jewish Cemetery.   The group has previously worked at the 18th-century Hunt's Bay Cemetery. CVE began recording the Orange Street cemetery, the only Jewish one in Jamaica still receiving burials, in 2009. The team's goal for Orange Street is to document all burials through 1880, after which civil records exist.  The process is expected to take through 2014, since work only proceeds for a short period each year.  

This winter the research team also located the Jewish cemetery at Savannah La Mar where they discovered eight 18th century-gravestones, many tombstone fragments, a remnant brick wall, and terrain that suggests that a two acre cemetery once existed. 

Ms. Frankel, who previous has documented (with Aviva Ben-Ur) the Jewish cemeteries of  Jodensavanne in Suriname,  hopes to digitize and create a website of all the cemetery inventory materials.  Sponsors for this work are still needed.   Ainsley Cohen Henriques, Honorary Secretary of Shaare Shalom Congregation of Jamaica, under whose auspices the research team works, hopes to raise interest and funds to conserve and maintain the physical Jewish cemeteries. 

Volunteers on the project were  Lauren Stahl, Liz Lorris Ritter, Andree Brooks, Debra Klein and Chuck Young.  ISJM donated funds for basic equipment for this project.

Read more about work to document and preserve Jamaica's Jewish cemeteries here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

UK: Commemorative Stone Marks Location of Oxford's Medieval Jewish Cemetery

Oxford, England, UK. Dedication of new commemorative stone on the site of the medieval Jewish cemetery (July 2012).   Photos: Alison Ryde with permission of the Oxford Jewish Heritage Committee

UK: Commemorative Stone Marks Location of Oxford's Medieval Jewish Cemetery
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Apropos of my recent post about the 19th-century Deane Road Jewish Cemetery in Liverpool, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at how older Jewish cemeteries are documented and recognized in England.   

Read further to learn about the placement of a new commemorative marker last summer on the site of the medieval Jewish cemetery of Oxford. I'm beginning to look at the treatment of all the known pre-Expulsion (1290) English Jewish cemeteries to see what lessons can be applied (or avoided) in dealing with medieval Jewish cemeteries in others countries where Jews were expelled and where cemeteries were long forgotten - especially Spain, France and (southern) Italy - but are now coming to light through research or new urban development.

It is estimated that there were between 100 and 200 Jewish communities throughout England before the expulsion of Jews in 1290. These, at least, were places where Jews were known to live at one time or another. Some of these communities were doubtless quite small, and others had fallen onto hard times in the decades before 1290, when the activities  of Jews were more restricted. Many Jews were also highly mobile, so some settlements may have only lasted a short while. Jews were allowed only one cemetery - that of London - until 1177 when  King Henry II allowed others to be established.  To date, only a few others have been identified.  

The Jewish cemetery of medieval London at Cripplegate, which was the oldest, largest and most important in the country, was already pillaged for stone (and worse?) already in the Middle Ages. Excavation in the area after World War II when later accretions to the area were bombed away, indicate the possibility that some human remains were removed at an early date. It is unknown whether this was done with reverence - perhaps at the time of expulsion - or whether it was a desecration. 

The history and archaeology of the site are described by Marcus Roberts at  Go to his essay that is number 105 on his list of places of interest. Reading Roberts account, it does not appear that there is any signage giving the history of the site. Gravestones from this site are not known. Presumably, they were long ago pillaged. Hebrew inscriptions on London buildings mentioned in the 16th century  by John Stow as coming from houses (see for example under "Ludgate") were in fact re-used funerary stones. Such re-use of Jewish gravestones is widely known from many countries. For a detailed discussion of the cemetery and the inscriptions see M.B. Honeybourne, "The Pre-Expulsion cemetery of the Jews in London," in the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, XX (1959-61), 145-159.

Elsewhere, a much debated medieval Jewish cemetery was discovered and excavated in York in the 1980s. Nearly 500 skeletons were excavated of the estimated more than 1,000 burials in the cemetery. Only part of the cemetery threatened by the car park was excavated.  The remains were reburied nearby  in 1984, in a ceremony presided over by Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits before members of York’s modern Jewish community.

I have previously reported Marcus Roberts' re-discovery of gravestone fragment in Norwich and his subsequent suggestion for the Norwich Jewish cemetery location. 

I missed, however, a ceremony in Oxford last summer when a new plaque was installed on the site of the medieval Jewish cemetery in that famous University town Oxford Jewish Heritage Committee.  According to the Committee's website:
"The Jewish Cemetery was set up on areas of land the medieval Oxford Jews purchased shortly after 1177, which were in fact water meadows by the Cherwell river. The land is now owned by Magdalen College and the Botanic Gardens.  Much of this land North of the High was appropriated from the Jews in 1231 by the Hospital of St John leaving only a small area of the meadows, located near the Rose Garden which remained as the Jewish Burial Ground until 1290, when all Jews in England were expelled.  A plaque is fixed to the Gates of the Botanic Garden, unveiled by the City Council in 1931, to commemorate the site as the ancient Jewish Cemetery....The footpath from these Gardens to Christ Church Meadows linked the Cemetery to the Medieval Jewry along what is now St Aldates, and has long been known as 'Deadman's Walk,' a name still used today.  The University of Oxford Botanic Garden was established at the beginning of the 17th century as a 'physic garden' on the site of the original Jewish cemetery which lay just outside the East Gate of the Ancient City Walls."
According to the Committee the 1931 plaque misidentifies the graveyard’s location. The proper site was discovered by Pam Manix who identified the location after examining archives of  Magdalen College. The medieval site is located under the Rose Garden, close to the Oxford Botanical Garden. The new stone has been placed between the York stone steps by the Rose Garden. Here is the text:
From BBC: