Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi


Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Translated by Mirosław Wójcik

Jewish Historical Institue
Publication year

The first order of every Jew is included in Biblical „remember”, zachor. It is repeated in daily prayers and during the Pesach holiday. Judaism, according to Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (1932–2009), a New York-based historian of Sephardic Jews, for centuries has been absorbed with deliberations on the meaning of events that happened thousands years ago. At the same time, what seems to be a paradox, for centuries historiography played minimal role among Jews. It was not historians who were the guards of the memory, but rabbis, religious scholars. Still today the order to remember is treated as religious and national duty. Memory needs myth and this myth was created by successive generations of rabbis and Biblical scholars. Today we expect a myth showing the sense of the Holocaust. The last decades brought the development of history written by Jews and it — as the author writes — „became what it had never been before — a faith of a devastated nation.” Yerushalmi historian depicts the meaning of the special Jewish memory which has held the people together for millennia.

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