Jewishness in National Cultures - European, North American, Israeli. Perceptions, Interactions, and Memories

After the success of the conference Jewishness in Contemporary Culture: American and European Perspectives in May 2011, the SWPS/Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities is organising a new international conference:

Jewishness in National Cultures - European, North American, Israeli. Perceptions, Interactions, and Memories

Conference organizer:

  • Prof. Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich, SWPS/Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Faculty of Cultural Studies and Languages

Scientific Committee

  • Prof. Barbara Engelking, Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Prof. Jody Myers, California State University, Northridge
  • Prof. Na'ama Sheffi, Sapir College
  • Prof. Piotr Skurowski, SWPS/Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities

Contents of the Conference:

  • Symposium on Prof. Rachel Feldhay Brenner's book The Ethics of Witnessing: Polish Writers' Diaries from Warsaw 1939-1945 [forthcoming] (two sessions, one in Polish, one in English);
  • Papers from conference participants, referring in particular to the following areas
    - Representations of Jewish identity in literature and culture (North American, especially US, Israeli, European), in the context of the theme of "Perceptions, Interactions and Memories";
    - Polish-Jewish Memory;
    - Holocaust in research, literature and visual arts; the digitation of Holocaust testimonies, documents, photos of artifacts and information;
  • In planning, a guided visit to the Warsaw Museum of the History of Polish Jews (to open in October 2013);

The conference pursues the theme of Jewish identity and diversity that was started at the Conference organized at SWPS in May 2011 (Jewishness in Contemporary Culture: European and American Perspectives), and explored in the book Reconstructing Jewish Identity in Pre- and Post-Holocaust Literature and Culture (published 2012). This time the loci of attention are Professor Rachel Feldhay Brenner's book The Ethics of Witnessing: Polish Writers' Diaries from Warsaw 1939-1945 and the theme of interactions between Jews and non-Jews, in the present time as well as in the historical perspective. Professor Brenner offers a provoking insight into these relationships. The consideration of the destruction of the Jews as recorded by Polish men and women of letters will be the focus in the symposium on her book, The Ethics of Witnessing.

The timing of the Conference corresponds to the planned opening of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw. The Museum represents a new phase in post-Holocaust Poland, continuing explorations of the interactions between Jews and national cultures. While the tragic events of WWII must be included on the continuum of the interactions of the long and rich, though often problematic, history of Jewish-Polish relationships, the Museum offers an illuminating example of how to transcend the insistence of the Holocaust as the shaping event of Jewish identity. The Holocaust was and continues to be an excruciating tragic event in the history of the Jews and of the nations, but the Museum refuses to give it the "final word" so-to-speak. While the Museum's mission is to allow respect to the Jewish culture and tradition that flourished in the course of nearly a millennium in the land of Poland, the scholars' responsibility is to discuss the issue of the post-Holocaust ethics, which Professor Brenner's book will raise, to allow better future relations between Jews and non-Jews.

Although undeniably influenced by the consciousness of the Holocaust, the interaction between Jews and nations has continued to produce fascinating cultural phenomena. New and innovative perceptions of identity have resulted from the encounter of the Holocaust consciousness with postwar Europe, where Jewish life was never fully reestablished, and within North America and Israel, the new home for many Jewish survivors. It is the expressions of these perceptions in art, literature, and the humanities at large that this conference proposes to explore.

The approximate cost of the conference, including registration, three lunches, coffee breaks, one dinner and the planned visit to the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews will be approximately PLN 400 ($ 130, Euro 100). Participants will arrange their own travel and accommodation.

Please send paper proposals and questions to the following address: conferencenov2013@swps.edu.pl.
Deadline for paper proposals is 30 June 2013.

Date: 
12 November 2013 - 14 November 2013
12 Nov 2013
14 Nov 2013
Europe/Warsaw