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The Rothschild Europe Project

Here is a list of projects that were done within the Rothschild Europe Project by the Isaiah Berlin Fellows during the year of 2011-2012.

Kriat Hatorah

My project is a training to become a “baal koreh” – a public Torah reader. It aims at making it possible for me to fully lead services, especially in progressive communities in Poland where there is no person knowledgeable in reading the Torah, and which only sporadically are visited by the rabbi from Warsaw. I hope to help the Jewish progressive communities in Poland to lead an active and full religious life. The skills acquired through this project in addition to the knowledge gained from studies at Paideia will also enable me to help train other members of communities where I will serve, and where the rabbi’s visits would not be so frequent, e.g. help in bar/bat mitzvah preparation of members of the community.

Anna Katarzyna Silverman, Poland, is a singer, teacher, translator/interpreter and shlicha tzibur in training, member of Beit Warszawa progressive Jewish community.

Inter-Religious Summer School: Jewish Holidays in Judaism and Christianity

The project deals with the study of Jewish traditions and holidays which have a strong connection to the history of the Jewish people. This connection is observed in historical texts and Jewish religious texts as well. Through studying these holidays, it is possible to learn about general issues of Jewish and Christian cultures and history, their interaction and to compare some historical events. After learning and discussing participants will engage in artistic work and will be able to express their own understanding and to create piece of arts which will be possible to use in Jewish community for preparing classes concerning Jewish traditions. The main goals of the project are to draw historical parallels between Judaism and Christianity; to analyze different traditions of holidays in different Jewish communities in the world; to read, comment and discuss texts, both historical and religious; to express one’s own understanding, perception of texts and emotional conditions in artistic shapes; to promote communication and strengthening friendship and mutual understanding among Jewish and Non-Jewish participants. The project is oriented for students 18-22 years old from Ukraine and Ukrainian Jewish communities, who are interested in Jewish culture, history and the study of texts. This project will support education in Jewish culture and history, help to develop tolerance in Ukrainian Jewish and Non-Jewish Ukrainian society.

Hanna Abakunova, Ukraine, is a PhD candidate in History and holds an MA in History and Psychology.

A Reportage on Swedish Jewish Life

Interactive communication between different Jewish Communities is an important part of their everyday life. So I see my task as introducing some experiences from the Swedish Jewish Communities to the Jewish Community of Kazakhstan. The main goal is to create an interactive information exchange about current events, problems and investigation of the Jewish Communities in two different countries. The objectives of the project are searching of information and preparing a number of articles in English and Russian.

Anna Gorbenko, Kazakhstan, works as a freelance journalist in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Read one of the articles pubiched in Russian here: http://www.izvestia.kz/node/22303

The Role of  Religious Law in the Legal System of the State of Israel : Divorce in Israeli Law

My project is about Jewish law, and more pricesly Israeli law. It focuses on the issue of divorce in Israeli law system. This topic is also the theme of my master thesis in Hebrew studies. I have chosen this topic because it is interdisciplinary and because there have been written almost nothing on this topic in the Czech Republic. I will write my paper in both in English and Czech and my primary target group is Czech people. I would also have a chance to publish a part of my project in a Czech magazine (it is called Novy Orient) which specializes in the Near East issues. There are not many people in my country who are interested in Jewish law or Israeli law and, in my opinion, it is important to offer an oportunity to Czech people to get to know Jewish law because Jews have been a part of the Czech society for many centuries but Czech people know almost nothing about Jewish law. Unlike other religious law, for example canon law, Jewish law is not taught nowadays at Czech law faculties and, in my opinion, it is necessary to change this situation.

Dominika Sedlakova, Czech Republic, is a student of Hebrew Studies and Law at Charles University in Prague with an interest in interdisciplinary research in Law and Jewish studies.
Read the full paper here:
The Role of Religious Law in the Legal System of the State of Israel : Divorce in Israeli Law


A Short Film: A Yiddish Folktale in Life

Yiddish folktales constitute a significant part of Jewish life and tradition. Most people are familiar with folktales of the brothers Grimm, but Yiddish folktales, often grown and nurtured on the European soil, remain untold. My wish is to tell a Yiddish folktale by intertwining it with true account of family story of a young girl delivered in the form of interview. Twists and turns in the lives of her ancestors exchange with occurrences in a Yiddish folktale called The Clever Girl.

I decided to arrange the folktale and personal account in a short film, using images related to the plot of the folktale, reading of the folktale as audio background and excerpts from the interview. By combining an existing Yiddish folktale with a particular personal account, a new old story emerges.

Ena Schulz, Croatia, studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. She’s been engaged with various theatrical expressions and worked a program coordinator for Zagreb Jewish Film Festival.

A Game Called Holocaust

In my paper I would like to discuss the great tradition of Polish academism, which was once a strong voice commenting on reality. Hence my project relating to the Holocaust in modern culture, in which I would like to show various extraordinary methods of playing with the Holocaust idea and modifying its core concept for different needs and purposes. We have to start interpret this game called holocaust in our special post-holocaust country. My project is based on reaching people who experienced the Holocaust (or – if not possible – reaching their original texts), who exist in culture not thanks to their own original texts or utterances, but by the agency of other people. In Poland, such a situation happened to Etka Daum, Rumkowski’s secretary from Lodz ghetto. Etka’s family asked Polish writer to restore her missing diaries basing on testimonies left by this very interesting figure. The result is not an original testimony but its changed, literary form, re-written by someone else. I know more examples similar to this and their analysis educates us, how far are original texts from their literary equivalents, which ethical aspect is not always clear. Also, it shows how much different can be the truth carried by the original text and fiction basing on them, often more appreciated from aesthetical point of view. However, the most important issue is to deepen the discussions about Holocaust in contemporary Poland and the re-vindication of collective memory and national identity.

Michal Bojanowski, Poland, is an MA student of Polish philology at the Centre for Culture and Languages of the Jews at the University of Wroclaw.

Creation in Jewish Mysticism

The first book of the Torah as well as many books of alchemy have a rich world of ideas and images that have made it into the memory of modern man, despite the fact that they are not accessible to everybody but are hidden in old manuscripts or prints that are waiting to be brought up in the light. Many themes from the Torah can be found in various cultures. One such theme is the cration of the world. The creation of the world has its own story in every field of studies – in philosophy, Talmudic commentaries, rabbinic literature, biblical exegesis, kabbala or alchemy. My project will be about the creation of the world and the divine human form in rabbinic literature, alchemy and mysticism. Creation has both physical and mystical approaches that have empowered the imagination of the world of arts and film industry.

Diana Mihaela Calota, Romania, is a PhD student at the University of Bucharest, pursuing research in Kabbalah and Mystical Movements at the Faculty of Philosophy.

The New Generation

This project is aimed at young Jews in Ukraine who are active in their Jewish communities. What future do they see for their Jewishness, especially in Ukraine? How do they see the future of the Jewish people outside of Israel? And do they see their future as Jews and what does it mean? Young people form a very big part of Ukrainian Jewry and the future of it is dependant on them. So the idea of this project is to investigate possible ways of development of Jewish life in Ukraine, considering the fact that most of them are children of mixed marriages and approximately half of them are not hallachicly Jewish which means that they are rejected by orthodox and Hasidim who are the majority of religious Jews in Ukraine. The project will be conducted as a survey and qualitative analysis.

Luba Shynder, Ukraine, holds a BA in Sociology and Social Work from. She worked with Jewish informal education as Jewish summer camp counselor, conductor of a Jewish cinema club and as project leader for a social-cultural project on Shoah memory for students.

Converting the Pope

The project is a full length movie script based on the life story of Abraham Abulafia. The main issues of the movie are the strength of personal belief and a confrontation between God’s will and man’s will. As the story is dealing with one of the most prominent Jewish thinkers, great attention will be given to the basic moral principles of Judaism and the Jewish culture. The format of a movie script (and in prospective a feature film) enables to carry these issues to a large public, giving the opportunity to learn and increase the interest in the Jewish culture.

Polina Urvantseva, Russia, holds a diploma in Linguistics and Translation/Interpretation from the Chelyabinsk State University.
Read the script here:The Book of Human Desires

Echoes of the Jewish Culture in the Contemporary European Arts

For my project, I would like to write a series of interviews with Jewish artists Europe-wide. I want to begin with Paideia alumni who actively work with music, literature, photography, painting, crafts, filmmaking, etc. The purpose of these interviews would be to expose a larger public to the creative,” fun” part of the thriving Jewish culture.  The underlying theme of the interviews is to see if and how the religious world of Judaism that is not widely accessible to both Jews and non-Jews work together with the demands of contemporary culture to be relevant, entertaining, current, and secular. I am interested in how specifically studying of the Jewish foundational texts and Judaism at large on the academic level influenced, defined, or shaped their artistic vision. After disseminating the material through the websites, it can be used as a basis for seminars in the Jewish communities which would include traditional reading and understanding of the religious texts (the Torah, the Talmudic literature, the Kabbalah, etc.) coupled with/ complemented by the contemporary cultural interpretations and approaches. The arrangement of the visits of the interviewed people is also a possibility. I want to start interviewing people in Stockholm that I can reach to and actually see their work. If it goes well, I’d like to interview more Jewish people in Europe concentrating on the youth.

Mariana Pryven, Ukraine, holds a BA in Philology from Kyiv National Linguistic University and has done an MA in Comparative Literature as a Fulbright grantee at Washington University in St Louis, USA.

“The right of return” – New Israeli Art in Berlin

My final project deals with the delicate relationship that is still being built between Israelis and Germans. The vast majority of Israelis have a clear opinion concerning Germany. This opinion is derived from either being a second or third generation of holocaust survivors or of Jewish German refugees who had to escape their homeland, or just by growing up in the Israeli Society which puts a big emphasis on the tragedy of the Jewish people during World War II. During the past 10 years the Israeli migration to Germany especially to Berlin has grown tremendously. A big part of these immigrants are Israelis who have a double citizenship (as me): an Israeli and a German one (since their parents / grandparents escaped Germany) and are involved in the art fields (musicians, actors, movie makers, dancers etc.) In my project I want to check through art works made by Israelis who migrated to Berlin, how young Israelis, living in Berlin deal with this inner conflict: living on the one hand in a multicultural and dynamic city which they feel comfortable being in, but on the other hand having doubts, shame and guilt feelings derived from the fact that they chose to come back to the land where their nation was once kicked out of.

Michal Blum is born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel. At the age of 25 following her curiosity in her German roots (both of her fathers parents came in the 30th to Israel from Germany), she moved to Berlin and there she discovered the developing growth of the Israeli community which, like her had some personal connection and mixed feelings to the land.

moishe_houseMoishe House Stockholm

My goal is to open Moishe House Stockholm (MH Sthlm) by Pesach  2012. The basic idea of Moishe House is that 2-3 young individuals move in together in a shared home which becomes the hub of a local micro-community of young Jews who participate in Moishe House programs. Moishe House residents are required to organize a number of events each month in return for which they receive rent subsidy and program budget from external foundations. MH Sthlm could fill a gap in Stockholm Jewish life by providing Jewish experiences for young Jews outside the institutions of formal Jewish education and the synagogues in Stockholm, at the same time MH Sthlm could become the home of various ongoing local projects, such as Marom. The project would also allow for cooperation with Paideia fellows and alumni as both would be welcome to attend and/or organize events in MH Sthlm. Even though the involvement of Paideia fellows is part of the projects, MH Sthlm should still be a primarily local project that caters to young Jews in Stockholm.

Noemi Karsay, Hungary, holds an MA in Nationalism/Jewish Studies from the Central European University and an MA in American Studies from Eötvös Loránd University. Before coming to Stockholm she was an active member of the Moishe House initiative in Budapest.
Follow the project here: http://www.facebook.com/moishehousesthlm

Funereal Traditions in Classical Jewish Sources

My Paideia project is devoted to analysing several narratives on the funeral theme taken from classical Jewish written sources – Bible, Talmud and Midrashim. This review will become a part of my dissertation and can also be useful for scholarly purposes to a wide circle of researchers. This academic project is aiming to trace the development of Jewish customs and beliefs concerning the funeral through long period of Jewish history. This goal will be reached by careful selection and historical-literary analysis of narratives that will form a short chronological review. The chosen way to source selection makes the project very different from the widespread approach to Jewish customs through studying the laws instead of testimonies.

Elina Ioffe, Russia, is alumna of the Russian-American Academic and Research Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies and regular participant of ethnographic expeditions to parts of FSU.
Read the full paper here: Funeral Traditions in Classical Jewish Sources


poster-iffIsraeli Documentary Film Festival in Stockholm

What are the first things that come into my mind upon hearing the word: Israel? Hummus Said in Akko, the band Hadag Nachash playing in Jerusalem, and hiking in the Negev. And to finish off the day?  A play at one of Tel Aviv’s or Jerusalem’s theatres? A movie somewhere? Israel is much more than what is seen of it through the eyes of BBC, CNN, and for that matter  Aftonbladet. Documentary films can bring a taste of Israeli culture to Stockholm; they can show how rich Israel has become due to the wide range of cultural and educational innovations imported by immigrants, and internalized together with the already existing and constantly developing local traditions. Movies create the opportunity for ordinary Swedes to travel to Israel for an hour, see, feel, hear, taste this exotic fruit of the Middle East, and then ponder over what they had seen. The aim of the Festival is to reach out to the general Swedish public, and show them the side of Israel they would never hear about though different mainstream news channels.

Szilvia Somlai is finishing her MA in sociology (UNESCO Ethnic and Minority Studies Program) at ELTE University in Budapest. She has worked for the Israeli Cultural Institute in Hungary.

Shalom Azerbaijan

This project will be the only online source of Jewish culture in Azerbaijan, embracing arts, media and heritage in text, audio and video formats, all provided in Azeri and English languages.  The total number of people who speak in Azeri in this region is around 33 million (more than 8 millions in Azerbaijan and more than 25 millions in Iran). Young people have a great interest in learning about Israel, Jewish life, culture and language. The main purpose of this project is to promote and sustain Jewish culture in Azerbaijan – a Muslim country which has its Jewish community for centuries, connects Europe with Asia and is one of the main strategic partners of Israel nowadays.

Rovshan Rahimov, Azerbaijan, is a member of the Israel Culture Center in Baku.

Halachah and Modernity: the Legal and Political Aspects of the Religious-Secular Conflict in Israel

The relation between religion and state in Israel is a complicated issue that is not well understood by a wider public outside Israel or diasporic Jewish communities. The Israeli case is unique in the worldwide scale because of the special bond that exists between Judaism and the Jewish nationality, which are often considered to be inseparable concepts. The aim of my project is to analyze the way Israel tries to balance the interests of the opposing parts of secular and religious society. In my research I will concentrate mainly on the legal and political decisions that were made in order to prevent the jeopardizing of the religious-secular conflict and on the influence of the religious law on the state law of Israel. I will benefit from the Paideia program by getting a better understanding of the religious point of view in the conflict.

Zuzanna Krzemien received her BA degree in Hebrew Studies at Warsaw University. She is engaged in Polish-Israeli dialogue and has conducted workshops on Jewish culture in Poland.
Read the full paper here: Halachah and Modernity: the Legal and Political Aspects

Meetup Lublin: Polish-Israeli Educational Platform

There are many Israeli groups traveling to Poland for Holocaust education. Their presence in Poland creates an opportunity for a meeting of Polish and Israeli youth. Although there are some institutions organizing meetings of this kind, their programs are usually very limited due to lack of time. I would like to create a long term educational project for high-school students from Poland and Israel. The program will consist of three parts: Education and meeting via internet; face to face meeting and workshops in Poland; and visits to memorial sites. An E-learning platform will prepare the students for visiting memorial sites together and will be based on cooperation between schools (or museums) in both countries. The platform will be lead in two pararel blocks: one referring to Polish culture for Israelis and the other one to Jewish culture for the Poles. Tasks will introduce basic customs and tradition, give a picture of contemporary society as well as present different perspectives of common and difficult past. The language of the platform will be English. and it will be used in order to enable a meeting and interaction between Polish and Israeli students before their actual meeting in Poland. E-learning education will be followed by educational workshops in Poland and visits to memorial sites.

Teresa Klimowicz studied History and Philosophy and has also obtained a diploma on E-learning. She worked with students from secondary schools and high-schools and has taken several courses on Holocaust education. Teresa has been the leader of Stowarzyszenie “Studnia Pamięci” (The Well of Memory Association) for the last two years.

The comparative analyses of Jewish and Russian mystical religious movements of XVII-XVIII centuries

My research is an attempt to analyze the similarities and differences between Russian and Jewish religious movements of XVII – XVIII centuries. . The history of the relationship between Jews and Russians numbers several centuries. The living in close proximity in the neighboring areas could not remain without consequences. We see that the religious movements occur simultaneously within a decade, have similar social factors as basis (deterioration of financial situation, natural disasters, political conflicts) and have the common general trend of development (from the secluded asceticism to popular movements). In both cases, dissident movements opposed to the Orthodox Church or Judaism, and were a protest against their rigidity and disability to meet the demands of contemporary spirituality. In this situation, the assumption that the essentially similar trends separately emerged in the same area at the same time becomes hard to believe in. I try to follow the historical process of their development and to study the possible reasons of remarkable affinity between Hassidism and Russian mystical sects. It is possible to assume that these religious streams did not directly influence each other, but developed under the common circumstances due to the shared geographical location and social environment. I believe that the studies, that demonstrate common roots of different religious streams, contribute to strengthening of mutual understanding and help to rethink the age-old conflicts.

Alisa Zilbershtein, Russia, is a 27 years old Jewish activist and a graduate from Moscow Institute of Progressive Judaism.
Read the full paper here: The comparative analyses of Jewish and Russian mystical religious movements of XVII-XVIII centuries

Sabbatianism in the Ottoman Empire

My research work focuses on Sabbatianism which was a Messianic Movement erupted in the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the seventeenth century and extend widely among Jews in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. A messianic movement established by Shabetai Tsevi (1626–1676) who was born in Smyrna in approximately 1648. He had a series of revelations and became convinced that he was destined to be the Messiah. Because of the year 1666, Sabbatianism was very popular among Jews and Christians. Some people believed that the year 1666 is the symbol of Satan and because of this in this year Messiah will come for killing Dajjal. Some Christians expected that the Dajjal is Shabetai Tsevi and Jesus will descend from the sky and will kill Shabetai Tsevi (Dajjal). According to Sabbatian Jews, Shabetai Tsevi was expected to be Messiah. This research work will mainly concentrate on Sabbatianism in Ottoman Empire and will try to deal primarily with these questions. What was Sabbatian’ theory and which Sabbatian traditions and customs still exist among the Turkish nation? Why did the Ottoman Sultan compel Shabetai Tsevi to convert and accept Islam? Furthermore how did Islam and Turkish nation influence Sabbatian people and how did Sabbatian people have an effect on Turkish culture during this adaptation process?

Ramiz Mammadov, Azerbaijan, holds a BA with a specialization in Israel and Middle Eastern Countries from the faculty of Regional Studies and International Relations at Azerbaijan University of Languages.
Read the full paper here: Sabbatianism in the Ottoman Empire

The Social and Economic Position of the Jews in Macedonia in the XIXth Century

The first part of this project is dedicated to the status of Jews in the Ottoman Empire in the XIXth century and the fact that the Jewish community in Macedonia was obliged to pay different kind of taxes. The following part of the project deals with demographic changes in Macedonian cities where Jews were living in the XIXth century. One of the main issues in this project is the economic activity of the Macedonian Jews. This part describes the Jewish contribution in trade, finances, craftsmanship and industrial production. The last part of the project explores the development of  the Jewish community in Macedonia in the XIXth century. The project at large can be related with issues concerning the Jewish communities in Europe in the XIXth century, and explaining the social and economic position of the Jews in Macedonia as a part of the Ottoman Empire. The goal is to improve the knowledge about history of the Jewish communities in South-Eastern Europe.

Vladimir Janev did his PhD on the history of Jews in Macedonia and works at the Institute for National History in Skopje.
Read the full paper here: The Social and Economic Position of the Jews in Macedonia in the XIXth Century

The educational philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig and the Free House of Study

This project is dealing with questions of Jewish thought. I am working on the philosophical approaches of the philosopher Franz Rosenzweig on education – how does Rosenzweig understand the task of education? How can such an education, especially an education oriented in Jewish terms, look like and how could it be transmitted? The elaboration shall deal with the ideas and images on questions of education as they are expressed in Rosenzweigs writings and shall try to point out how these ideas could ultimately nourish the meaning of Jewish life or would impact on concepts of Jewish education. In this regard the work is supposed to deal with the influences of his educational philosophy on the establishment of the Jüdisches Lehrhaus in Frankfurt; here the philosophical prerequisites of that project shall be elaborated. The purpose of this examination is to understand the meaning of education in connection with the thought of Franz Rosenzweig – how can, according to Rosenzweig, education look like? How can it function and how can such a Jewish education can be lived within the context of the modern world?

David Schubert, Germany, studied Theology, Jewish studies and Philosophy at Leipzig University and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Read the full paper here: The educational philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig and the Free House of Study

Czech WWII Survivors in Sweden

This project involves high school pupils in researching local and actual history by looking at the fate of a survivor group who left Czechoslovakia during WWII as teenagers and managed to go to Denmark where from they escaped to Sweden. This project will help pupils to get involved in historical research and get a better understanding of historical facts and the living conditions of the survivors through real stories and interviews with survivors related in a personal way and many more skills like e.g. creating a webpage. As there is no research on this topic yet, my part would involve a coordination of the project including an overall historical research and finding some of the survivors.

Petra Nichtburgerova, Czech Republic, holds a diploma in German Language and Literature from the Charles University in Pragueand she worked at the Ministry of Regional Development in Prague.