Summer School on Jewish Studies in Latvia (July 23-30 2018)

The international summer school on Jewish studies "Jews to the national States of Eastern Europe between the world wars" took place on 23 - 30 July in Riga and Apšuciems. The school was organized by the Sefer Center, International Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and the Riga Museum "Jews in Latvia". The school was financially supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group, EAJC and the Israeli cultural center in Moscow.


The school opened in Riga with a tour of the Old town, and a visit to the Peitav Shul synagogue and a plenary lecture by Professor Aivar Strangi "Latvia. 100 years of independence: Latvians and Jews in the struggle for independence, 1918-1920". The next day, the participants and lecturers were touring the city with the historian Ilya Lensky and participated at the second plenary lecture by Professor Ivar Strange "Jews in democratic Latvia, 1920 – 1934". and then left to Apšuciems.


Within the framework of the school, students, young researchers and teachers from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Germany, Israel and America were offered 2 sections: "Literature and culture" and "Politics and society".


Each section was divided into 3 lecture courses, which were presented by leading. Professor Mikhail Krutikov from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor (USA) gave lectures on the poet Itsik Manger, who created his unique mythology of Eastern Europe. Dr. Grigory Kazovsky from the Jewish University in Jerusalem (Israel) spoke about Jewish culture in the interwar Eastern Europe, highlighting the main trends in the development of Jewish culture, the practice of Jewish cultural associations and art groups. Professor Valery Dymshits ("St. Petersburg Judaica", European University (Russia) focused on four centers of Polish literature in Yiddish and writers whose creative destiny was connected with these centers.


The "Politics and society" section included courses by Dr. Semyon Goldin from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Israel), Dr. Lara Lempert from the Jewish Center Of the national library of Lithuania and Ilya Lensky, Director of the Museum "Jews in Latvia". Dr. Goldin's course " Jews and nation States in interwar Eastern Europe (1918 1939)" reflected the problem of the formation of a "new Europe" and its attitude to the "Jewish question". Dr. Lara Lempert gave lectures on the relationship between Jews and Lithuanians during the interwar period. Historian Ilya Lensky addressed the problem of the existence of Jews in Latvia and Estonia in the interwar period in the course of "Good experience? Jews in Latvia and Estonia, 1917 1940".
Within the framework of the school, one day was fully devoted to excursions to Jewish places (towns) of Courland Aizpute, Kuldiga, Sabila and Tukums, inspection of synagogues buildings and Jewish cemeteries. The tour was led by researcher and historian Ilya Lensky.


In the evenings, the participants of the school were offered various master classes and seminars: Professor Alexei Sivertsev (Depol University, USA) led a master class on scientific papers composition, Professor Dymshits offered the seminar on slow (Pro)reading of the play "Sunset" by I. Babel, and Ekaterina Dubrovskaya (St. Petersburg state University) and Elena Dyakiva (LSU.) conducted a music workshop on Yiddish songs.
Several evenings were devoted to movies: participants watched and actively discussed the recently released "Tightness" of Cantemir Balagov and the film in Yiddish "Without a home", filmed in 1939 based on the famous play by J. Gordin.

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The culmination of the school was a round table on the vital issue of" how' yesterday 'defines' today': the interwar history of Eastern Europe and today's' wars of memory'", accompanied by heated discussions.


The school ended with a wonderful concert by the "Dobranoch" group (St. Petersburg) and a tour of Jurmala with a tour of the buildings of the former Jurmala synagogues.


Themes and issues raised in the framework of lecture courses at the school, as noted by the participants, gave a great impetus to the further scientific and creative researches in the field of Jewish studies.

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Svetlana Pogodina, Dr. philol, docent

On July 23-30, 2018, the Summer School on Jewish Studies will be held in Latvia. It is organized by the "Sefer" Center in cooperation with the International Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Museum "Jews of Latvia", Riga Jewish Community with the support of Genesis Philanthropy Group, Nativ, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and other sponsors.
The school is dedicated to the centennial of the end of the First World War and the place of Jews in the national states of Eastern Europe in the interwar period.


1918 brought not only the end of the First World War to Europe, but also the creation of a number of new states that appeared on the ruins of disintegrated empires. These states became an integral part of the diplomatic life of the continent, interacting with Germany, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and at the same time entering into conflicts and concluding alliances with each other.
As in other European societies, the period between the two world wars proved to be extremely fruitful for Jews in terms of cultural development. Jewish modernist literature, painting, popular music, and cinematography flourished. The Jewish press served as a breeding ground for intellectual life in the space from the Baltic sea to the Adriatic sea, creating common cultural space.


The emergence of new states meant completely new circumstances for the Jews. They had to resolve issues of interaction with the new national states that often feuded with each other, issues of loyalty and identity, while overcoming economic difficulties and other consequences of the war. The intra-Jewish conflicts - between Zionists and autonomists, Yiddishists and Hebraists, secular and religious groups - became part of the political life of those countries where Jews lived.


In early 1930s, 4.8 million Jews lived in the new states of Eastern Europe - one third of the world's Jewish population. We will try to look at their history of the interwar twentieth century through the prism of relations with new countries, relations with neighbors, domestic Jewish politics and cultural life. The goal of the school is to acquaint the participants with this part of Jewish history that is very diverse and interesting, but still underrepresented in the Russian-language Judaica.


Students, postgraduates and young teachers (up to the age of 40) are invited to participate in the Summer School, especially those whose area of interest includes the history and culture of the Jews of Eastern Europe of the 20th century.
The program of the School includes mini-courses (4 lectures each, the participants will be able to listen to 3 mini-courses); plenary lectures and cultural program.
In addition to the educational and cultural program, the participants are provided with free accommodation and meals.

The travel for participants to Riga is not refundable. All participants of the School will have to pay an entrance fee of 50 euros.

Applications for participation in the Summer School (online application) are accepted until May 15, 2018.
To choose courses, look for hyperlink in the table below (click on the teacher's name). All the courses are in Russian.


The results of the selection for the Summer School will be sent by May 25, 2018.

Summer School on Jewish Studies in Latvia (July 23-30, 2018)