23rd International Annual Conference on Jewish Studies took place between 31st of January and 2nd of February in hotel Izmailovo in Moscow. The scientists from the research centers of the USA, Israel, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia took part in this event.
The conference was financially supported by Joint Committee, Russian Jewish Congress, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and anonymous sponsors.
Mikhail Chlenov opened the first plenary session with the lecture “Typology of the Jewish Communities in the Contemporary World”. He was followed by Victor Shnirelman with the report “Day of Victory over Khazaria: Festival and Monument”. Then the presentation of the new publications in Jewish Studies took place. There were presented new books published by the Sefer Center and also book and magazines published by our colleagues in Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and the USA.
After this the Professor Eugene Weiner grants were awarded. This year 3 persons were granted: Galina Zelenina (Moscow, RSUH), Valentina Fedchenko (Saint Petersburg State University) and Alexey Lyavdansky (Moscow, RSUH).
Conference program included 13 sessions, 2 round tables and meeting of the Sefer Academic Board.
The full program in English can be found here (click on the image):
Here are brief descriptions of every session.
Biblical and Ancient Middle-Eastern Studies session (chairpersons: Aleksey Lyavdansky, Sergey Tischenko) was dedicated to professor Vladimir Jakobson, who passed away last year. One of the reports (made by Jakobson’s student Vladimir Emelyanov) was about the contribution of the great scientist in the development of Assyriology. This report was an example of scientific biography. During 2 parts of the session 13 reports were performed. The most brilliant paper was considered the one by Svetlana Babkina “The Star that Had a Son: to the Meaning of Bar-Kokhba’s Name”. It is important that also young researchers participated in the session.
Jewish Thought (chairpersons: Mikhail Wogman, Uri Gershovich) consisted of 5 reports which were connected by the common theme “the Thought – and the Commentary”. The chronological spectrum was wide: from the ancient times to the 20th century. Some of the participants shared their own experience of the translation of Jewish philosophical texts from Hebrew into Russian.
Judeo-Christian Relationships session(chairperson: Maksim Khizhyi) consisted of 6 reports. Chronologically the themes differed from the 19th to the 20th centuries, had wide geography and diversity of themes: conflicts of Jews with Christian bishops, Jews and Cossacks, religious jokes about Jews. The most vivid discussion was called by the report of Nikolay Omonov (Jerusalem) “Science in the Court of Amateurs: Research of Neo-Paganism in the Comprehension of Neo-Pagans”.
The session Around Yiddish (chairperson: Valery Dymshits) was one of the most interesting sessions of the conference. There 6 papers were presented; half of them was prepared by very young but very talented and professional researchers.
Non-Ashkenazic Jewish Communities session (chairpersons: Mikhail Chlenov, Maxim Hammal) quite differed from the similar session of last years, because there were less reports about Caucasian Jews and Karaites. At the same time, the report by Mikhail Chlenov “Jews in Indonesia” opened a completely new research page. The session consisted of 5 reports.
The session Jews in the USSR and the Post-Soviet Space (chairperson: Gennady Kostyrchenko) consisted of 9 reports. 3 of them were dedicated to the Jews in Belarus, 2 – to the anti-Jewish repressions in the 1940-1950s. The report by Victoria Romanova “Jewish Community of Kharbin after August, 1945” evoked high interest.
On the session Jews in the Russian Empire (chairpersons: Dmitry Elyashevich, Victor Kelner) 7 reports were performed. The research level of all of them was very high. The chronological frames of the reports were wider than those of the Russian Empire, and also new interesting themes were discussed. For example the study of the micro-history of emotions brought to the attention by Olga Sobolevskaya.
The State of Israelsession consisted of 3 parts: From the History of Zionist Movement, The State and Society of Contemporary Israel, Israel in International Relations. The chairpersons of all three parts were Zeev Khanin and Tatyana Karasova. Together with the participants who attended the conference during many years there were young researchers who made their first serious reports. Among them was Alim Ulbashev with the paper “Theodor Herzl’s Zionist Views and the Newest Codification of Civil Law in the State of Israel”.
For the first time in the history of Sefer conferences appeared the session Gender Etudes (chairperson: Galina Zelenina). The themes of the reports were as interesting as diverse: rabbinical disputes about the Bat-mitsva ritual, unusual gender metaphors in the Bible and Maimonides’ philosophy, the memoires of Jewish women of the 19th and 20th centuries, women experience of the Holocaust and others.
The discussions on the session Jewish Material and Artistic Culture. Museums (chairperson: Maria Kaspina) revealed the ambivalent situation in the evaluation of the Jewish museums’ work in Russia. While some curators speak about the crisis and the exhaustion of this field, others speak about the new conceptions, collaborations with other museum and new projects. The report by Anatolyi Sinilo “Attribution of the Drawings by Moses Maimon from the Collection of the National Art Museum of Belarus” was considered one of the most interesting. Most of the reports were of review character.
Jewish Literature. Literary Communications session (chairperson: Leonid Katsis) consisted of 7 reports. The themes were various: poetry, prose, drama. A special attention was paid to the problems of translation, to the problem of literary influences and allusions, and to the reflection of the relations between Jews and other nations in literature.
Session The Holocaust and Historical Memory (chairperson: Leonid Terushkin) became the meeting point for the professional researchers who work with this subject many years and young scientists. In 6 reports were performed interesting oral and written sources, the problems of memorialization were discussed.
7 reports on the session History of Jews in Eastern and Western Europe in Modern Time (chairpersons: Alexander Ivanov, Andrey Shpirt) presented the history of the Jews as a history of minority. Chronological frames were between 17th and 20th centuries. The problems of Jewish contacts with the regular government were discussed in the paper by Ilya Dementiev.
On the round table Khazar Studies (chairperson: Vladimir Petrukhin) the discussions were extremely interesting and vibrant, since this is not a regular theme for Sefer conferences, and the participants felt the lack of time and plenty of things to discuss. They noticed that the time frames were very limited for such an important subject. 2 reports were performed (by Oleg Bubenok and by Oleg Mudrak).
Finally, round table Jewish Field Research (chairpersons: Svetlana Amosova, Olga Belova) was a work meeting of ethnographers and epigraphists where the results of previous field researches were discussed as well as the ideas for the future work. The question of development of the new project www.sfira.ru was one of the most interesting.
The chairpersons of all sessions gave positive assessment to the content of the conference and to its perfect organization on the closing ceremony.
Photoalbum is here.
About the conference on EAJS page.