Switching gears …

With a wonderfully stimulating and busy April behind me – we travelled, visited family and friends, and I participated in two excellent conferences – May is the month of switching gears back to sustained writing (and some exam marking, but that comes later).

The first part of this week was spent tidying up lose ends, catching up on email, and attending a series of meetings. But today I had the happy experience of settling back into research mode and preparing to write by spending most of the day reading.

Transnational Traditions: New Perspectives on American Jewish History, edited by Ava Kahn and Adam Mendelsohn offers refreshing perspectives on migration in American Jewish history. Individual chapters present case studies of specific people and phenomena, but the overall drive of the beautifully crafted volume is a historiographical appetite to push beyond Jewish history within specific national contexts. Rather the aim is to discover more about the influence of and interaction between Jews migrating between different parts of Europe and America, and further West to the Australian Pacific coastal regions.

What intrigued me about this book, is the care the editors and contributors took to join eleven different chapters into a coherent whole by cross-referencing each others contributions and historiographical insights. This is what good scholarship and rewarding working together looks like, a mutually enriching endeavour just like good conference experiences and encounters.

And savouring the experiences of the past month and the intellectual delights of Transnational Traditions (which I have been invited to review), I return to my book draft on early twentieth century British-Jewish religious history. Oh happy month of May!

Fourth event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 9 May 2017, Durham University

9 May 2017, University of Durham

Elad Lapidot (Freie Universität Berlin), Deterritorialized Immigrant: The Talmudic Ger as a Cross-Border Figure

Ilan Baron (University of Durham), The International Cultural Politics of Israeli Cuisine

Elad Lapidot Ger is a non-Jew who becomes a Jew – a convert or more literality a proselyte, a new-comer. As such, the ger is a Jewish cross-border figure, the immigrant. In my talk I will reflect on the cross-border performance of the ger in the basic rabbinic text, the Talmud. Through several readings, I will look at ways in which the ger opens up inside the Talmudic texture a space of reflection on the borders – and core – of the rabbinic socio-political project, i.e. ‘Israel’. The immigrant ger, initially an outsider, will be unveiled as a paradigm of the rabbinic subject. The guiding question will concern the nature of the space in which the cross-border event of the ger takes place, namely the topo-logy of rabbinic Israel. The basic observation will be the shift from the highly territorial narrative of the biblical text to deterritorialized Talmud. The Talmudic ger will emerge as a pivotal figure for thinking borders, immigration and place in conditions of deterritorialization.

Ilan Baron In the past four years, at least sixteen Israeli cookbooks have been published in English. By itself, this is not an especially interesting number, but considering that prior to 2012 I have been able to identity only ten English-language Israeli cookbooks (excluding local community cookbooks with “Israeli” recipes), this increase provides an opportunity to explore the international cultural politics of the Jewish State. The cookbooks reflect the movements and migrations of Jews, of the various locations that have come to contribute to Jewish culture and which are manifest in the diverse array of foods that in these books have come to be described as “Israeli”.  This article explores the narratives produced in these Israeli cookbooks, suggesting that they provide a particular normative story about Israel’s history, identity, and values that is of relevance both for the Israelization of Diaspora Jewish identity and for how the idea of Israel is (re)produced as a cultural good for international consumption. Using contemporary political theory, and building on the hermeneutic and phenomenological traditions in continental philosophy, this articles provides a critique of the normative narratives produced in these cookbooks.

Third event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 26 April 2017, University of St Andrews

Co-sponsored by USTC and the School of History

Venue: Old Class Library, School of History, 69 South Street, St Andrews
Time: 2-4pm

Adam Shear (University of Pittsburgh), Jews and their Books on the Move in Early Modern Europe

Emily Finer (University of St Andrews), Jewish Migration and Metamorphosis in Early Soviet Fiction

Adam Shear is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History and Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Pittsburgh where he has taught since 2001. His 2008 book The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, 1167-1900 (Cambridge University Press) was awarded a National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship and the Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas for the best first book in intellectual history.

The early modern period in European and Mediterranean history is often seen as a period of increased mobility of people.  The rise of print is also seen as a distinctive element of early modernity.  In Jewish history, these two factors have been cited by many historians as key aspects of the early modern Jewish experience, most recently by David Ruderman in his Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History (Princeton, 2011). Although historians of migration and historians of the book have paid due diligence to the relationships between the two factors, this talk will more explicitly analyze the ways in which movement of Jewish books are linked to the mobility patterns of early modern Jews. In addition to looking at the pre-publication sharing of texts in new environments, the paper also considers the dissemination of books after publication and over time. The goal is to better understand how the history of migration is linked to the history of the book and how new tools in each subfield can complement knowledge in the other.

Emily Finer is Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Russian at the University of St Andrews where she convened the new degree in Comparative Literature. She is currently working on a second monograph exploring the vast cultural reception of Charles Dickens and his works in the Russian-speaking world. This project follows her monograph on the twisty relationship between the Russian Formalist, Viktor Shklovskii and the author of Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne: Turning into Sterne: Viktor Shklovskii and Literary Reception (Oxford: Legenda, 2010).

For a few years after the 1917 Revolution, Russian-Jewish writers felt empowered to explore issues of identity in print. Lev Lunts, a young writer who resisted his parents’ pleas to join them in emigration, chose instead to imagine a journey west in Crossing the Border (1922). His Jewish characters employ a range of linguistic and visual disguises which are ultimately unsuccessful. In Homeland (1923), Lunts’s atheist student goes through a door under the Choral Synagogue in Petersburg only to find himself in biblical Babylon. These and the similar stories to be discussed all end with the restoration of the status quo, but their writers test the limits of comedy and satire through their use of anti-Semitic stereotypes, making peculiar demands on the contemporary reader.

Second event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 21 March 2017, University of Manchester

Venue: A113 Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester
Time: 5-7pm

Sander Gilman (Emory University), Jews as Exiles and their Representations after 1933

Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester), German Jews and the Cosmopolitan Ideal in Exile from National Socialism

Sander Gilman is a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author or editor of over eighty books. His Obesity: The Biography appeared with Oxford University Press in 2010; his most recent edited volume, The Third Reich Sourcebook (with Anson Rabinbach) was published with the University of California Press in 2013, He is the author of the basic study of the visual stereotyping of the mentally ill, Seeing the Insane, published by John Wiley and Sons in 1982 (reprinted: 1996) as well as the standard study of Jewish Self-Hatred, the title of his Johns Hopkins University Press monograph of 1986.

In our age when the meanings associated with ‘exile’ and ‘asylum’ are radically shifting, it is valuable to examine how those not directly impacted came to understand such a political alteration after 1933. The transformation of European cosmopolitan intellectuals, at home in the world but also confortable with their role in high German culture, into exiles and asylum seekers was sudden and often unpleasant.  By late January 1933, such cosmopolitans, especially those publically identified as Jews or ‘political’ (or both) began to see their status changing, even prior to the introduction of punitive laws under the new Nazi state.  I shall examine two cases of how these exiles were seen by non-Jews in radically different political spaces:  Thomas Mann in exile writing his Joseph novels and Martin Heidegger, suddenly placed in a position of leadership in the new Nazi state, commenting in his ‘Black’ notebooks about Jews. I shall also think about what such positions mean for ‘Others,’ Jews and Germans (or both) in our age of the demonization of exiles and asylum seekers.

Cathy Gelbin is a Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Manchester. She specializes in German-Jewish culture, Holocaust Studies, gender and film. She is co-editor of the Oxford journal Leo Baeck Institute Year Book for the Study of German-Jewish History and Culture and serves on the Board of Directors and Trustees of the Leo Baeck Institute London, as well as on the selection committee of Studienstiftung’s international Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme in German-Jewish Studies. Recent publications include The Golem Returns: From German Romantic Literature to Global Jewish Culture (2011) and Jewish Culture in the Age of Globalization (2014, co-ed. with Sander L. Gilman).

The brief period between the two world wars saw concerted efforts by liberal and leftist-leaning German and Austrian Jewish writers to promote the cosmopolitan ideal. For a little over a century, the cosmopolitan dream of a united Europe had been nascent among Christian and Jewish intellectuals in the German-speaking realm. Following the nationalist disaster of World War I and the rise of antisemitism throughout the 1920s, the cosmopolitanist project assumed particular urgency for Jewish intellectuals. My talk examines the changes in cosmopolitanist attitudes that exile from National Socialism effected among German-Jewish writers and intellectuals, including Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig and Lion Feuchtwanger.

Announcing the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies 2016/17:’Jews: movement, migration, location’

The Astaire Seminar Series 2016/17 is organised between the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Durham and Manchester. Events are free and open to all. If you are planning to attend any of these seminars please contact the local organiser for details regarding venue and timing. The address is in the link for each location.

15 December 2016, University of Glasgow
Venue:  Lecture Theatre A, Boyd Orr Building, University Avenue, Glasgow
Time: 5-7pm

Ada Rapoport Albert (UCL), From Russia to Poland: Interwar Habad Hasidism in Exile

Mia Spiro (University of Glasgow), The Dybbuk’s Haunted Stage: Performing Jewish Mysticism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust

This event is part of the Mysticism in Comparative Perspective Conference

21 March 2017, University of Manchester
Venue: A113 Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester
Time: 5-7pm

Sander Gilman (Emory University), Jews as Exiles and their Representations after 1933

Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester), German Jews and the Cosmopolitan Ideal in Exile from National Socialism

26 April 2017, University of St Andrews
Venue: Old Class Library, School of History, 69 South Street, St Andrews
Time: 2-4pm

Adam Shear (University of Pittsburgh), Jews and their Books on the Move in Early Modern Europe

Emily Finer (University of St Andrews), Jewish Migration and Metamorphosis in Early Soviet Fiction

This event is co-sponsored by USTC and the School of History

9 May 2017, University of Durham
Elad Lapidot (Freie Universität Berlin), Deterritorialized Immigrant: The Talmudic Ger as a Cross-Border Figure

Ilan Baron (University of Durham), The International Cultural Politics of Israeli Cuisine

11 July 2017, University of Edinburgh
Hana Wirth-Nesher (University of Tel Aviv), To Move, to Translate, To Write: Jewish American Immigrant Voices

This event is a keynote lecture at the British Association for Jewish Studies Annual Conference.

Vacancy: Research Associate: ‘Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces’, University of Glasgow

Reference Number 015271

Location: Gilmorehill Campus / Main Building
College / Service: COLLEGE OF ARTS
Job Family: Research And Teaching
Position: Type Full Time
Salary Range: £33,943 – £38,183


To join the AHRC research project Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces: Jewish Migration to Scotland, 1880-1950, in order to carry out archival research along with the PI (based at the University of Edinburgh) and the Co-I (based at the University of Glasgow). The RA will be based in Glasgow and play a key role in analysing, publicising, and presenting relevant materials on twentieth-century Scottish Jewish life and culture, both available at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre (SJAC) and related repositories in the UK. The RA will contribute their own research, including conference papers, and articles, under the thematic umbrella framed by Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces.

For details, please see: http://www.gla.ac.uk/about/jobs/vacancies/

Professor, Dr, Mrs, Miss?

My biology teacher in high school introduced herself to the class as ‘Frau Dr G.’ That was how she was to be addressed. She was by no means the only teacher in our school with a doctorate, but the only one who insisted that we use her title. If we missed out the ‘Dr’ she would simply not react and, after a few failed attempts to get her attention, she would correct us with ‘ich heiße Frau Dr G.’ We were bemused, but obliged, seeing it as one of the quirks of an older teacher. And yet, she taught us an important lesson.

Frau Dr G. made a point of teaching us gently and, as time went on and some of us still didn’t get it, not so gently, that to really see a person means to take care about how one addresses them. Failing to do so is at best thoughtlessness and at worst an intentional insult. And depending on context there is always something at stake when we do not call them by their proper name and title. Frau Dr G. chose to use her title in all contexts and asked that this be respected. Many of us reserve the title Dr or Professor for professional settings in which these qualifications matter. In either case, we all clarify on first meeting how we wish to be addressed.

Why, then, do academic women find themselves often in the position of being addressed by students and peers as Mrs or Miss? And why is it so hard for our students and peers to call us by our professional titles?  The stakes in using an inappropriate form of address are highest in the forum of public peer-to-peer interaction, and yet because lecturer-student contact is an important area of communication which is enacted on a daily basis we may see that as holding a particular significance too. Let’s consider these contexts separately, starting with lecturer-student interaction.

Undergraduates in the UK come to university from a school context in which male teachers are addressed as Sir and female teachers as Mrs or Miss (apparently Ms has not made a sufficient impact). Problematic as these conventions are, students may therefore assume that this form of address is quite proper in their new educational context. It is easy to set them right and, by and large, the form of address communicated to them on the first meeting will be respected. I now have a sign on my office door which reiterates the information I send to my students, stating how I would like to be addressed: Dr Holtschneider or Hannah. Undergraduate and graduate students make their choice and that’s that. Or is it?

American students steadfastly use Dr or Professor (depending on the ease of transition from the American convention of calling all instructors professor regardless of their position in the academy). As I get older, I find myself now at an age where I can easily be the same age as the parents of my first year students. They seem to find it easier to categorise me as Mrs, and perhaps this may simply seem to them to be an age-appropriate address. So getting across that this is not appropriate in a professional context is a repetitive task which is difficult to do elegantly: signing off an email with my title, stating that Mrs would apply to my mother rather than me, etc. Students from European countries appear to find it hardest to use my title, something they do not appear to find challenging with my male colleagues (this observation is admittedly based on anecdotal evidence). This is troubling as, in my experience, continental Europeans are a lot more conscientious in acknowledging status and rank in addressing a person. Hence, the inappropriate form of address is also an implicit put-down. Evidence gathered from my FB feed – which, unsurprisingly, includes many academic women – confirms my experience and offers suggestions as to how to deal with inappropriate forms of address in professional settings. We owe it to students, who, after all, are the next generation of scholars, to educate them well. Thus it is appropriate to introduce the correct form of address as necessary – and without embarrassing the student – not least because at undergraduate level, in my experience a least, choosing an inappropriate address for a female scholar is common for male and female students alike.

One’s peers are quite another matter. In daily contact in one’s own university most academic and professional staff will call each other by their first names, signalling familiarity and a shared work environment to which we all contribute. This works for most colleagues as long as interaction is based on mutual respect. But there are settings when this informal form of address is not appropriate. When I arrived in Edinburgh in 2005, first names were dropped in all formal meetings and we addressed each other formally as Dr and Professor. This has changed in recent years and we now appear to be comfortable with first names in these settings, only addressing guests, such as external examiners, with their full titles, but we continue to expect student representatives to use our titles and will address them as Mr or Ms.

Conferences are significant public settings for professional academic interaction. They are key contexts in which we exchange ideas and further our scholarly work, look for collaboration and critique, support and professional affirmation. This is significant as we often work in departments where our colleagues work in fields not directly related to our own. Conferences are therefore the places in which we (re-)connect with scholars whose work is intimately bound to our own and on whom we rely in our professional development. A conference is a place for intellectual and personal exchange, contest, support, and friendship. While at some level scholars working in the humanities  may perhaps be seen as professional loners and individualists – we must like our own company as our research demands long solitary stretches of time spent in silence in libraries and at our desks – we are also relying on the scholarly community for our professional (and often also personal) well-being. Conferences recharge our professional batteries, and good debates – face-to-face at a panel, in the discussion following, in conversations which spin off from these discussions, in email exchanges and Skype calls thereafter – are vital for developing our research. Conferences also initiate the next generation of academics into the scholarly community. PhD students give their first presentations, take their fledgeling steps into the wider field, and venture out into their own academic future. Most of us have made vital connections with senior scholars at conferences which influenced our scholarly development and our careers. This is to say that conferences are part of the life-blood of our existence as scholars, the meetings are precious. But it is equally normal for us to have made the experience of being personally put down by a senior male colleague, disrespected by a peer, and even talked down to by a research student, all on grounds which had nothing to do with the quality of the scholarship we presented and everything to do with how we were perceived as women. To this we also need to add the experience of sexual harassment by male colleagues which many of us have suffered. Where does that leave us with regard to the use of titles as a form of professional respect and recognition?

How we choose to address a female scholar in a public professional setting is a sure indication of how we perceive her presence in the academy. If our male peers even have to think about whether to include our title in contexts in which they would insist on this for other, male colleagues, even if they  brush this off as a sign of forgetfulness, it really is an indication of how little they value us and how alien they find our presence in the academy.