USHMM: Holocaust conferences planned

The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has announced several conferences and calls for papers.

Lessons and Legacies XI will take place at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. The proposal deadline (for panels, papers and workshops) is October 31, 2009 and the conference is set for November 4-7, 2010.

The conference is sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Foundation and FAU. Programming includes up to three roundtables, up to 18 panels and up to 14 workshops relating to recent issues and advances in scholarship on all aspects of Holocaust Studies and for further research.

Send proposals for panels and individual papers to both program co-chairs, University of Vermont Professor Frank Nicosia and Dartmouth College Professor Susannah Heschel. Include a title, brief description of the panel as a whole, with names, institutional affiliations, contact information, paper titles and abstracts of all panelists. Applicants will be informed by January 31, 2010. Workshop proposals go to USHMM CAHS Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Denison University Professor Donald Schilling and Hillary Earl.

For more information, go to the Holocaust Education Foundation.

Bearing Witness: Memory, Representation, and Pedagogy in the Post-Holocaust Age will be held at Shenandoah University, Winchester, Virginia. The proposal deadline is October 30, 2009, and the conference will take place April 12-13, 2010.

It will bring together scholars, teachers, students, and community members to explore: (1) how the study of the Holocaust will change without the benefit of eyewitnesses; (2) how literature, film, theater, and music can be used as interpretive voices of memory and teaching tools; (3) how teachers, scholars, and students can preserve and interpret memory responsibly, as the Holocaust becomes a more distant historical event and in the face of persistent Holocaust denial; (4) how Christian and Jewish responses and theologies frame, remember, and respond to this genocide; and (5) how memory of the Holocaust can affect action to halt genocide.

Papers on these subjects are welcome: Teaching the Holocaust through Literature and Film: Sources, Challenges, and Scholarship; The Future of Memory: Defining, Teaching, and Analyzing Testimony; Memory and Faith: Christian and Jewish encounters with the Holocaust; or Engaging Student Activism: How Holocaust Memory Can Affect Actions to Halt Genocide.

Send a 1-2 page double-spaced abstract and CV to Assistant Professor Petra Schweitzer.

Conference on Genocide and Human Experience: Raphael Lemkin’s Thought and Vision will be held at the Center for Jewish History, New York City, on Sunday, November 15, 2009.

An international group of historians, political scientists, anthropologists, legal authorities, philosophers, and policy-makers will gather at the Center for Jewish History in New York City to focus a lens on genocide through an exclusive examination of the writings of Raphael Lemkin, author of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The conference will explore the intersection of historical documentation and contemporary interpretation, and to investigate the efforts of new generations of scholars, human rights advocates and activists to address, prevent and deal with the aftermath of genocide.

See the program and participating scholars here.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. (Claims Conference) is offering fellowships for PhD candidates in advanced Shoah studies. the application deadline is January 25, 2010.

The mission is to support advanced study of the fate of Jews who were systematically targeted for destruction or persecution by the Nazis and their allies between 1933 and 1945. Studies can include the immediate historical context in which the Shoah took place; political, economic, legal, religious and socio-cultural aspects; ethical and moral implications. The Fellowship program also supports awardees in learning languages of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union which are necessary for the study of Shoah related documents. Fellowships are awarded to outstanding candidates who have a strong personal commitment to Shoah memory, who have demonstrated excellence in academic achievement, and who possess the potential to provide outstanding professional leadership that will shape the future of Shoah awareness and scholarship.

Click here for more information.

Let others know about these events.

GenClass: Family history contest, October – which provides genealogy education online – has announced its new “Celebrate Your Family History Contest,” in conjunction with National Family History Month in October.

The winner will receive a free course of his or her choice – check out the course offerings at GenClass.

Here are the details:

Tell GenClass – in 1,200 words or less – all about the most creative way you’ve honored your ancestors and what inspired you to do so. It could be in a book, a quilt, music, artwork or other form.

Word text only please (no images should be attached, although links to images within the text are accepted). Type or paste the text into the body of an e-mail message with the subject line: GenClass Celebrate Family History Contest. Send it to

The deadline for submissions is Monday, October 5 (midnight Eastern Standard Time).

One winner will be randomly drawn from all submissions received by the deadline, and the winning entry will be published in a future issue of the GenClass newsletter.

Have you honored your ancestors in a creative way?

If not, now is the time to do it!

New Hampshire: Living 1919 again!

Tracing the Tribe loves living museums where people and businesses recreate ordinary life as it was in a particular historical period. Williamsburg (Virginia) is one of those places I could visit every year!

In New Hampshire, the Strawbery Banke restoration is a living museum demonstrating some 350 years of preserved Portsmouth homes, stores, churches and history. It’s located in Puddle Dock, a rundown neighborhood that was supposed to be torn down for urban renewal. Fortunately, a 1950s-60s campaign, led by the town’s librarian, saved 42 houses on 10 acres for the museum.

And there’s a Jewish element to the restoration as actor Barbara Ann Paster plays Shiva Shapiro in 1919.

According to this New York Times article, the area was settled in 1623 by the English and named after the wild strawberries they found there. In the early 20th century, the Italians, Irish, English, French-Canadians and Eastern European Jews came to find work. By 1919, there were some 152 Russian Jews, about 25% of the immigrants of Puddle Dock; 18 of them were Shapiro relatives.

“Shlom Aleichem!” Shiva Shapiro said in a heavy Yiddish accent to her visitors.

As she deftly stuffed cabbage leaves with rice and stewed tomatoes, and displayed other dishes she has made on her 1900 Beauty Hub coal stove, Ms. Shapiro drew her guests into her life.

“This is 1919,” she said. “Last year was the end of the influenza epidemic and the end of the war to end all wars. We’re a Jewish family and we’re keeping kosher in our home. I don’t read English, only Yiddish and Hebrew. My daughter Mollie learned about bananas at school. I think that bananas are mushy, but I take her to buy a hand of bananas for 25 cents.”

In her persona as Shapiro, Paster’s cooking follows the seasons and the Jewish calendar. She makes strawberry jam, pickles cucumbers with dill and puts up peaches with brandy. For Rosh Hashana, she made pasta dough strips into bowtie noodles for her kasha, as well as honey and poppy seed cakes.

Mrs. Paster, 61, has been portraying Mrs. Shapiro since the Shapiro house opened in 1997. “My entire life was made for this job,” Mrs. Paster said with a laugh. “I married an Orthodox man. I’m Jewish from Russia, so I know the rules of kashrut and family purity. I am also a storyteller.”

The first Mrs. Shapiro arrived in 1905 from Anapol, Ukraine to meet her future husband from the same town in Portsmouth where Abraham worked in a shoe factory and later was the Portsmouth synagogue’s president.

As Shapiro, Paster portrays a 34-year-old woman whose time is spent in a kitchen with coal stove and icebox. The museum staff were very careful about the historical accuracy of the foods Shapiro/Paster prepared and what items the family actually would have had available.

“To authenticate the Shapiro house,” said Michelle Moon, director of education for the museum, “the curatorial staff interviewed 30 people from the neighborhood and took pollen and seed analyses to determine what grew and was eaten in their home.”

The immigrants brought seeds of traditional vegetables such as yellow Ukrainian carrots, kale, parsnips, yellow Ukrainian tomatoes and others. Seed catalogs of 1919 included Russian cucumbers and yellow Zubrinski potatoes, which now grow there. Read about Strawbery Banke’s historic gardens and heirloom seeds here, which offers information on the Shapiro Garden:

The Shapiro Garden is a recreated Russian Jewish immigrant family’s garden of 1919. It is representative of the many small urban gardens planted by the different ethnicities that made up the early 20th-century Puddle Dock neighborhood. The Shapiros used their garden to propagate many types of vegetables, such as heirloom cabbage, garlic, breadseed poppy, hyssop and yellow Ukrainian tomatoes, which helped to preserve the diet and culture of their homeland.

In the nearby town of Greenland, Jewish farmers even grew buckwheat (kasha), an immigrant staple.

If you are ever near Portsmouth, take some time to visit Strawbery Banke.

Books: Jewish Publication Society’s new blog

The Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is directly responsible for my general interest in genealogy and specifically in Sephardic history.

Back in junior high school, when I attended summer music camp at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, I found the campus bookstore and my first buy was the JPS edition of Cecil Roth’s “History of the Marranos” – before most of us knew that the word was pejorative.

JPS now has its own blog and one post I found interesting was Don’t know much bout Jewish history, which addresses historiography, or the history of history. Some historians write about history, other historians write abut how other historians write history.

Depending on who is writing for whom, their research methodology, philosophy and values, various writers will develop different views of the same event or period.

Naomi wrote in this post about Zakhor: Jewish Memory and Jewish History, by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, a case of Jewish historiography.

In this book, Yerushalmi traces the development of how Jews not only studied, but remembered, their own history. According to Yerushalmi, throughout much of its lifetime, Judaism has had an uneasy relationship with the formal writing and studying of history. He claims that writers of Jewish history over the ages have typically engaged in what should really be called “selective memory” – recording and commemorating some events and not others, couching historical events in a religious language and context, or simply forgoing recorded history in favor of commemorative holidays or liturgical poems. It’s all fascinating stuff, gracefully written, and completely accessible for any lay reader.

She adds that in the near future JPS will be publishing a Jewish history work dating to the medieval period. Sounds interesting!

New Books: Lost tribes and cuisines

Tablet Magazine usually has at least one article that Tracing the Tribe really likes and recommends.

The most recent “On the Bookshelf” feature by Josh Lambert offers several new books that readers may find interesting.

Now on my wish list are these three:

Far From Zion: In Search of a Global Jewish Community (William Morrow, October)

The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Oxford, September)

Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora (URJ, October)

Zion, by journalist Charles London, covers the “wide, wide world of Jews,” and London visited Myanmar, Cuba, Bosnia and Iran, writing a “paean to Diaspora and the furthest-flung Jews.” $25.99, 320pp.

Lost Tribes, by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, recounts the myths and theories about where all these Jews went after their exile in 800 BCE. Benite previously wrote about the history of Islam in China. $29.95, 320pp.

Entree – by Dallas food writer Tina Wasserman – covers the range of world Jewish food, likely carried around the world by Jewish merchants and spice traders, as she shares histories and recipes of the great Diaspora communities. 274 recipes and many photographs. $39.95.

Others on Lambert’s list will be of interest to researchers of specific localities:

The Agony of Greek Jews, 1940–1945 (Stanford, October), by Steven B. Bowman – Greece

Gratitude (St. Martin’s, October), by Joseph Kertes – Hungary

The Jewish Husband (Europa Editions, September), by Lia Levi – Italy

The Jade Cat (Overlook, September), by Suzanne Brøgger – Denmark

Read the complete article at Tablet at the link above. Books are great gifts for all sorts of occasions and remember that Chanukah arives early this year!