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XVIII International Conference on Jewish Studies is Over

The XVIII Annual International Conference on Jewish Studies took place in Moscow on February 1-3, 2011, with the support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (Joint), Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, the Russian Jewish Congress, the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, and the Israeli Cultural Center in Moscow. Informational support was provided by the website "Booknik: Jewish texts and themes”.

The conference – one of the most significant events in Jewish Studies in Russia - was attended by over 150 scientists, university professors and students from the CIS and Baltic States, Israel, USA, Austria and Poland. Among the participants and guests were Mikhail Chlenov (Sefer Center Academic Council Chairman, Secretary General of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress), Yuri Kanner (President of the Russian Jewish Congress - RJC), Alec Nadan (Director of the JDC Moscow office), First Secretaries of the Embassy of the State of Israel Joseph Tavor, Shlomo Voskoboinik and Michael Pellivert, Israeli scholars Cyril Aslanov, Ilya Dvorkin, Alec Epstein, Uri Gershovich, Semyon Goldin, Ilia Lurie, Shaul Stampfer, Batya Valdman, Arkadi Zeltser, their Russian colleagues Ilya Altman, Valery Dymshits, Dmitry Elyashevich, Alla Gerber, Vladimir Jakobson, Lilia Kalmina, Tatiana Karasova, Leonid Katsis, Evgenia Khazdan, Victor Kelner, Alexander Kobrinsky, Mark Kupovetsky, Irina Lapina, Alexander Lokshin, Elena Nosenko-Stein, Vladimir Petrukhin, Pavel Polyan, Eugene Rashkovsky, Efim Zhigun (presented report by Evgeny Satanovsky), Sergey Tishchenko, and many others.

At the start of the Conference Sefer director Victoria Mochalova delivered the welcome messages from the JDC Honorary Vice-President Ralph Goldman, one of the Sefer "founding fathers" as well as Prof. Haim Avni (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Alec Nadan, Head of the JDC Moscow office noticed that the Sefer conference contribute to discovering historical truth and objective perception of events in the development of international relations. "All this is very important, because terrorism, and racism and negative stereotypes still exist, and we must fight them", - emphasized Mr. Nadan. He also noted and the importance of the Sefer and the Jewish academic community of communities and countries that represent the participants of the conference: "Today, the life of the Jewish community in Russia and the former Soviet without Sefer is unimaginable".

RJC President Yuri Kanner who took part in opening and closing the Conference and also visited several panels, said that Moscow is becoming one of the centers of Jewish Education and Science. "The Russian Jewish Congress promotes the formation of the modern Jewish community, and it is very important what happens here today," - said the head of a RJC. He also urged the scientific community and public officials to cooperate with the RJC in order to attract additional funding for implementation of academic and educational programs: RJC is a tool for fundraising. And we are ready to cooperate with everybody. "

Opening remarks were also provided by the first secretary of the Embassy of Israel in Moscow Mr. Shlomo Voskoboinik, who was representing the Israeli Cultural Center in Moscow. This year it is the first time ICC participated in the Sefer’s conference on Jewish Studies. It is especially significant that 2011 mark the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Russian-Israeli diplomatic relations (a special panel was devoted to this date at the Conference).

Other panels at the conference were covering such issues as the problems of Biblical Studies, Judaism and Jewish thought, Jewish-Christian relations, the different periods of Jewish history, the Holocaust (this section was for the first time organized in close cooperation with the Jerusalem Institute Yad Vashem), the Modern Israeli society, Sociology and Ethnology, Jewish Literature and Literary Relations, Visual arts, Music, theater and film. According to the prevailing academic tradition, the section "History of Jews in the Middle Ages and early modern" was dedicated to the memory of the late Ukrainian Professor Boris Elkin (1947-2011), who had done a lot for the establishment of Jewish Studies in Ukraine, and the section "Language Hebrew: learning and teaching "- in memory of professor, member of the Georgian Academy of Sciences Konstantin G. Tsereteli (1921-2004), an outstanding representative of Georgia School of Semitic studies. In this connection, the address of the conference received a congratulatory telegram from the President of the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia, Academic T. Gamkrelidze, also expressed thanks for this tribute to Professor Tsereteli.

New publications on Jewish studies were presented at the Conference. In particular, Sefer Center made a presentation of the Proceedings of the 17th Annual Jewish studies conference (2010), as well as an annual conference devoted to the comparative study of Slavic and Jewish cultural tradition ("Dialogue of Generations"), and a collection of articles and memoires dedicated to the memory of prematurely departed Rashid Kaplanov (1949-2007) – first Chairman of the Sefer Academic Board and one of the prominent Russian scientists, who devoted his life to Jewish Studies.

Also presented: the French translation of the Book of pogroms, which appeared previously with the support of Sefer (“Book of the pogroms. Pogroms in Ukraine, Belarus and the European part of Russia during the Civil War 1918–1922. A collection of Documents”. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2007, 995 pages) – L. Milakova, N. Werth. Le livre des pogroms. Antichambre d'un génocide – Ukraine, Russia, and Byelorussia 1917-1922); "Documents on the history and culture of Jews in the archives of St. Petersburg: a Guide. Volume 1: Federal Archives”; the latest books of the largest publishers of books on Jewish Studies – "Text" and "Scribes"; "Gesharim / Bridges of Culture" – "The Khazars: Myth and History», «Studia Anthropologica: a collection of articles in honor of Professor M.A. Chlenov”.

A special presentation was dedicated to publications on the Holocaust. Among them – the publication by the Yad Vashem ("Researches: a collection of articles", "That's Us. Holocaust Survivors in Israel"); “The Holocaust in the Soviet Union: Encyclopedia (2nd ed., Moscow: ROSSPEN); collection of letters of Jews during World War II "Keep my letters ...", and the study "Holocaust in school textbooks (Moscow: Russian Word, 2010); “Between Auschwitz and Babi Yar. Thinking and research about the Holocaust”, by P. Polyan (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2010); “At the Heart of Hell: a Note Found in the Ashes near the Ovens of Auschwitz”, by Z. Gradovsky (Moscow: Gamma-Press, 2010, transl. from Yiddish).

A 14-volume Anthology for the Jewish Educator under the title of Activi, published with the support of the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee, was also introduced.

On the eve of the conference (27-31 January) in the Pushkino Hotel, Moscow the traditional annual Sefer Winter School in Jewish Studies was held, co-organized by the Chaise Center for the development of Jewish Studies in Russian, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The school is a part of the Sefer Center educational projects.

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