The Sixteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies took place in Jerusalem, at The Hebrew University from 28th July to 1st August, 2013. The organizer of the congress was The World Union of Jewish Studies.
The range of the topics of the congress was extremely broad. It included biblical studies, history of the Jews, rabbinic literature, Jewish law, Jewish thought, literature, languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino), the arts (including theater, cinema, music), contemporary issues of Jewish communities. Research on Jews and new technologies used in it were also the subjects of the debates. The latter referred mainly to creating online databases. For example, a separate panel was devoted to the www.Jpress.org.il, which was advertised as „soon the largest database about the modern Jewry”.
Also, the scale of the congress was impressive. Within the several congress days, nearly 400 panels took place, in which more than 1,500 papers were presented by researchers. Lectures were given mainly in English and Hebrew, but also Spanish, Portuguese, and even — though very few — in Hebrew (Yiddish), and Ladino. (Respectively, in both languages were presented three papers).
As if this richness of events was not enough, the Congress was accompanied by numerous cultural events: concerts, film screenings, trips, additional conferences or meetings of specialized research associations. During the congress many publishing houses specializing in Jewish studies subject matter had their stalls.
As for me, I gave a lecture as part of the panel: „The pogroms in Central and Eastern Europe in the twentieth century.” The participants in the panel (Prof Konrad Zielinski, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, and Dr. A. Grabski, JHI, and Dr. Witold Mędykowski, Yad Vashem) respectively talked about: anti-Jewish riots in the Kingdom of Poland in 1918–1919, the attitude of the Polish labor movement towards the anti-Semitic statements of 1935–1937, the pogroms in 1941 in the former „Soviet zone of occupation.” The issue of Polish anti-Semitism, as almost always, aroused intense interest. The main theme of an interesting discussion that followed our presentations of papers was the characteristics of the anti-Semitic violence. We tried to find a common denominator for anti-Semitic statements at different times of the Polish history of the twentieth century and distinguish them from other forms of violence in Polish public life (for example, violence against workers and the Ukrainian minority).
The panel was to some extent a preview of a bigger project co-organized by its participants: „Pogroms. Collective violence against Jews on Polish territory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and its impact on Polish-Jewish relations. History, memory, identity”. This project is part of the National Program for the Development of Humanities and its main director is Dr. Artur Markowski (IH RS) who, however, was not able to come to Jerusalem, as he had just become a father. The project „Pogroms. Collective violence against the Jews... „is one of the largest team researches in Poland in the field of Jewish Studies. It involves dozens of scientists from different countries and research disciplines. The scholars of the JHI participating in the project include: Dr. Piotr Weiser, Dr. Piotr Kendziorek, Ewa Koźmińska-Frejlak.
The majority of Polish congress participants was in the section devoted to the arts. They were: Dr. Eleonora Jedlińska (The University of Lodz), Dr. Natasza Styrna (The Pontifical University in Cracow), Dr. Artur Tanikowski, Dr. Monika Czekanowska (AMU) Cześniak-Magdalena Zielinska (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University), Dr. Margaret Joiners-Fronia (MHPJ).
However, literary and linguistic subject matters were represented less numerously. Prof Eugenia Prokop-Janiec (Jagiellonian University), a member of the Program Commitee of our Institute, gave a lecture on Polish-Jewish cultural contact in the years 1918–1939, whereas Dr. Malgorzata Domagalska (The University of Lodz) presented the vision of Warsaw under the Jewish rule included in the novels published on the pages of an antisemitic magazine „Rola”. Mgr Kamil Kijek (IH PAN) outlined the problem of choosing the language by young Jews in the Second Polish Republic. Religious subject matter was touched upon only by Prof Marcin Wodziński (University of Wrocław), who introduced the nineteenth century as the „golden age” of Hasidism. Of course, the matter of the history of Polish Jews was also present in the speeches of many researchers from around the world. In total, the word Poland appeared in the topics or abstracts of more than 30 papers.
Jerusalem is a city to which one wants to come back for a number of reasons. The intellectual richness and the power of inspiration that another world congresses of Jewish studies provide can be no doubt be also one of these reasons.