June 7, 2023

HBI and JWA Interns Explore Aylon’s Art

By Elana Luban –

What happened when interns and staff from the HBI and the Jewish Women’s Archive gathered to reflect on the text of the second commandment using the backdrop of Helène Aylon’s provocative exhibition in the Kniznick Gallery, Afterword: For the Children?

They brought a modern twist to ancient text, examining “consequences” into future generations that ranged from illegal immigration to pollution to incarceration.

Aylon’s exhibit specifically reflects on the words in the last part of the second commandment (Exodus 20:5) that “you shall have no other gods besides Me. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me.”

The exhibit features the culmination of Aylon’s The God Project, focused on the reinterpretation of the Bible and God, and the recognition that certain attitudes expressed in the Old Testament are reflexive of ancient patriarchal views and not of God himself. This collection is also the 10th and final installment of a project titled Nine Houses without Women that Aylon created over 20 years.

The group discussed the symbolism behind Aylon’s pieces, much of the art representing an attempt to “rescue” God as well as the endless process of change and reconstruction. Projected onto a white wall are several short videos of Aylon in which she is portrayed in action — painting over Biblical verses in a pink color that some interpreted as reminiscent of blood, and endlessly wiping away “tears” from a metal panel, which dissolve momentarily only to bead up anew on the surface. The group discussed the sort of feelings it evoked.  Is the impermanence of Aylon’s actions a reflection of desperation and hopelessness or of brave and constant effort and reform despite long-standing notions pulling in the opposite direction?

Opposite the wall of videos is another work, breathtaking in its simplicity, called the “Air Commandments, a metal frame in the shape of the Ten Commandments tablets that reveal the interpretability, lightness, and flexibility of the Torah, in contrast to deep-rooted convictions about its rigidity, noted Susan Metrican, the Rosalie and Jim Shane Curator & Director of the Arts at the Kniznick Gallery. Some, however, said they initially interpreted the Air Commandments as symbols of “emptiness.” Was Aylon trying to convey that patriarchal attitudes would render the Torah hollow? This made for a fascinating and lively discussion, which led into conversation about the theme of the text-based study session, the second commandment.

Several interns have spent time walking through the gallery over the last week and commented that they enjoyed the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the exhibit and the text during the interactive study session led by Rachel Putterman, HBI’s internship academic advisor and a third year rabbinical student at Hebrew College.

Each HBI intern paired with one or two of the Jewish Women’s Archive interns, building camaraderie while dissecting the controversies underlying this Biblical text. How does one translate the word “kana” — does this mean God was zealous, or impassioned? And how does one translate the words “avot” and “banim” — as “parents” and “children,” or (as the literal meaning implies) “fathers” and “sons,” making this an ultimately patriarchy-saturated verse? Why is God depicted here as so angry and vengeful? And finally is this statement a contradiction of later verses, specifically in Deuteronomy, which clearly claim that children will never be held accountable for the transgressions of their ancestors? The room buzzed with the sound of young women exploring ancient texts, stimulated by the issues raised in Aylon’s profound art.

Several interns brought relatable examples: a parent who goes to prison does, in some ways, force his child to suffer as a result of the punishment for his/her sin, not as a result of the sin itself. Other examples are parents who bring up their children in environments that foster the development of bad habits or addictions, which later pass on to the children — an instance in which the “sin” itself is passed down.

Others discussed pollution to the water supply or other parts of the environment as sins that would have consequences out to several generations. Still, others looked at the issue of illegal immigration. If a parent comes to the U.S. illegally, do the children suffer any consequences of that action? What if the parent is deported, but the child can stay in the U.S. Or, what if the child came in illegally too?  Should they have to give up the only life they have ever known for a decision made by a parent? Are these “punishments” that might pass to several generations?

As women who see themselves deeply connected to and responsible for the future, the interns at HBI and JWA related to Aylon’s persistence in the endless struggle of confronting issues of patriarchy and misogynistic language in the Torah and working to better understand and reform it.

Aylon painted over the Biblical texts and we are too. Both HBI and JWA are dedicated to reinterpreting ancient texts through the lens of gender and today’s issues. And, just like “Air Commandments,” our discussion blew new life, values of understanding, reform and open-mindedness, into ancient texts and themes.

Elana Luban (l), HBI Gilda Slifka summer intern, with her supervisor, Amy Powell, HBI Communications Director. Luban is a junior at Stern College for Women.

Inspired by the JBC “Authors on Tour”

By Terri Brown Preuss –

Sitting in the quiet car of the New York to Boston Acela last Friday, bumping along at 150 miles per hour, I could not believe the spark of creative energy flowing within me. As the new National Director of HBI Conversations, I had just completed my first Jewish Book Council (JBC) “Authors on Tour” Conference. I was moved by both the authors I heard and the conference attendees with whom I interacted, 21 of whom were HBI Conversations volunteer site coordinators. HBI Conversations is a program that brings readers and authors together for a conversation about books on Jews and gender.

This is the time each year that volunteers join together to evaluate new authors, choose authors for the coming year and mostly importantly, meet with HBI staff and each other to share best practices. The conference is dubbed a “Jewish T.E.D. talk,” not for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, but for Torah, Eating and Diaspora. I might substitute “Education,” but it really was all this, and more.

For those of us in the Jewish literary world, the yearly JBC “Authors on Tour” Conference is the  the pinnacle of opportunity, providing access to the newest books with Jewish, and for HBI Conversations, gender themes. This is where our Conversations book choices are born. For three solid days, the site coordinators who organize the 12 local HBI Conversations groups, and scores of Jewish programmers like me from around the country listened to more than 200 authors. Like speed-dating, the authors have two minutes to share their work, passion and knowledge with us.

A highlight of the JBC conference, however, is the time our geographically-challenged HBI Conversations community comes together as one.  HBI Conversations is almost entirely volunteer-led with groups in six states and Canada. I met many of these dedicated volunteers for the first time and I found them to be discerning, interesting women who happily give their time to facilitate moving, intimate conversations about Jews and gender.

As for the conference itself, each day I learned new things about Jewish history from the Biblical Era to the Inquisition, the Shoah then and the Shoah now into the second and third generations, wars, births, deaths, love and separation, aging, depression and happiness, and food. We Jews certainly have a deep, historical and mystical connection with food. We heard from the self described “cholent writer,” and the author of Matzah who likened matzah is like tofu, “a blank canvas to take any form.” There were thoughtful moments when an author implored us to focus not only on tikkun olam, repairing of the world, but tikkun adam, repairing oneself through personal transformation and inner growth.

One author, in just two minutes, made us question our existence and place in the world when he noted the beautiful irony in the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin Mishnah, ch. 4:5, that we are each implored to say “The world was created for my sake.” When the applause ended, we sat quietly and wondered how the world could be created for each us when we are billions of distinct individuals.

After the presentations, we met with the authors and others for discussion. Amidst the wine, veggie crudites, sushi and more, we spoke with the authors one-to-one. I found myself face-to-face with the writer of a new novel, a love story between a Jew and a Palestinian that received good reviews from readers. I shared my frustration with the often heard notion of “Shoah-fatigue” when it comes to Jewish books and movies. After seven years of Jewish persecution with over six million Jewish and other lives annihilated, how can we ever be done listening to these voices? The author listened and asked “Do you ever wonder what you would have done if you could have saved someone? Would you have risked your life or your family’s lives?”

I answered quickly, maybe too quickly, that yes, I would have taken that risk. Quiet at first, she then answered her own question, saying she is not sure she would have helped and that she was bothered by her answer. Her honesty and depth of thinking made me take a breath. I recalled an incident in the Target parking lot while I watched a frazzled mother hold her screaming toddler, another at her side, as she walked quickly to her car. As the mother of four children, close in age, I understood this mother’s stress. However, my understanding turned to horror when I realized the mother was dragging the little bare-kneed girl on the pavement. My brain registered that this was now not okay, but instead of immediately taking action, I turned and took a moment to think. By then the girl was back in her mother’s arms, still screaming. How can I be sure how I would have reacted during the Shoah?

I turned back to the author in this kiddush-like reception in the basement of Hebrew Union College and amended my first answer, now questioning my ability to do the right thing.  “It’s a daily struggle to be human,” I told her and meant it. A light flashed in her eyes as she looked directly into mine. She asked my name again and then we parted. Others were in line to meet  her.

Terri Brown Preuss is the National Director of HBI Conversations. To learn more about HBI Conversations, contact Preuss at tbrownpreuss@brandeis.edu.

Eastern Europe’s Difficulty with Holocaust History

By Joanna Beata Michlic –

The period, 2010-2017, has witnessed a swift turn to the right in politics and culture in post-communist Eastern Europe, accompanied by intensified attempts at assault on a critical history writing field about the Holocaust that has developed for the first time time in the region, in the aftermath of the political transformation of the late 1980s. In fact, at present we can talk about “a quiet, sinister war” launched against professional historians, institutions, and non- profit organizations that promote a nuanced image of a collective past revealing both glorious  and shameful pages of national history. This prompts me to discuss resistance to the difficult past with regards to the treatment of Jewish communities in respective East European countries. I will draw on the experience of, and will refer to Eastern Europe. I will draw on the experience of, and will refer to Eastern Europe as a whole. But, I am most informed by my research in and of Poland. I want to focus on the general patterns rather than on particular developments in order to stimulate our thinking on why it has been hard and is getting harder for East European societies to integrate the Holocaust into history writing and broader cultural curriculum, public memory, and historical education. I will repeat some of the conclusions that John-Paul Himka and I made in our study of the memory of the Holocaust in post-communist Europe between 1989 and 2010, published as Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Memory of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe, because they are still very much relevant to the understanding of the present. However, the last seven years saw, in Eastern Europe, a turn to the radical right in mainstream politics, and therefore a new study, a follow-up to our work, focusing on this most recent period, 2010- 2017, is urgently needed. Today, the radical right in Eastern Europe can claim freshness, because it has been marginalized since the defeat of fascism in 1945. A fierce challenge from the right today uses east Europe’s consensus against everything associated with the left to legitimate its own maliciousness. And, the region is still characterized by a relative demographic homogeneity and deep fears of others.

The integration of the Holocaust into East European history and memory has proved to be one of the biggest challenges in the aftermath of the carnival of peaceful revolutions, of the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Since the end of communism and the belated arrival of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, we have observed a number of serious and important attempts of digging out and incorporating the dark painful past in relation to the Holocaust into the respective national histories and public memories in the region. This process has been especially intense and profound in post- communist Poland, given the scope and the timeline of Polish public debates over two last decades and also about the thorny aspects of Polish-Jewish relations during and in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Today, all other Eastern European countries are still in need of their own reckoning about the war-time pogroms against Jewish fugitives in which members of the local populations were actively participating. The Jedwane pogrom of July 10, 1941, vividly analyzed by Jan Tomasz Gross in his 2001, slim monograph Neighbours, The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, symbolically stands for all the wrongdoings against Jewish community on the part of members of Polish collective under the German-occupation of Poland. However, the ongoing attempts of incorporating this difficult past into Polish and other twentieth century histories of the region, has been met with a powerful resistance to the former in a form of  “a quiet sinister, war” aimed at rewriting the history once again along the glorious and monumental model only. And this resistance has been growing in strength in the last seven years, 2010 -2017 because of the dominance of right wing conservatism, populism and ethno-nationalism in mainstream political culture that, in turn, encourages ethnic blood belonging and feeds on old, but skillfully modified and potent anti-Jewish tropes.

In the current political climate, also fed by the fear of refugees from the Middle East, we observe an intensified campaign that is defined by its chief disseminators as “a total war” against the archeology of the difficult past in relations to the Holocaust. The chief advocates of that “total war” claim that only their version of national history, namely, glorious and heroic history, protects “true” national interests, national traditions, and national identities. That’s “the only right history.” These right-wing and ethnonationalistic advocates assert that their version of history including a skewed version of the Holocaust, has to be accepted not only in public memory, education, and history writing in their respective countries, but also by the West.

Suppression, omission, obfuscation, skillful manipulation of the difficult past with an emphasis on one’s own suffering (of one’s own ethnic collective) and aggressive attempts using a wide variety of social medias and new laws at silencing the difficult past are the key strategies of returning to or rather rewriting new terms of amnesia of the Holocaust.

What emerges today, in the spring of 2017, is that divisive and contradictory memories of the bloody 20th century, and earlier collective past, are fully utilized in the current politics and policies of memory in Eastern Europe. For that reason, the Holocaust memory might not become the foundation myth in the region for some time, or in the current political climate, not at all.

At this point in time, the key divisive memories between the West and the East, namely those of the crimes of Nazism and Communism are still pretty potent, and in fact they have been invigorated in the last seven years thanks to the rise of militaristic, glorifying versions of the ethno-national histories of the Second World War in the region. We observe a mass fascination with reenactments of battles and with a variety of gadgets from the Second World War, often disseminating local fascist elements in the forms of symbols on T-shirts. Therefore, it would be impossible to consolidate divergent European memories into one coherent pan-European narrative of the Second World War. Under such circumstances, the western notion of the memory of the Holocaust as a vehicle for productive dialogue and coexistence is discouraged. The difficult aspects of the Holocaust history that reflect negatively on one’s own national collective are interpreted as “spoilers” that needs to be eradicated, rather than as a past that should be integrated into respective national histories and memories as a way of building strong forward looking democracies.

Joanna Beata Michlic is a social and cultural historian, and founder of HBI’s Project on Families, Children, and the Holocaust. She is an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the UCL Centre for the Study of Collective Violence, the Holocaust and Genocide, UCL Institute for Advances Studies, and an Honorary Senior Associate at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) in London. She teaches at the Leo Baeck College in London. She recently published Jewish Families in Europe, 1939-Present: History, Representation, and Memory, (HBI Series on Jewish Women).

On TV, Jewish Mothers Get Their Due

By Ruth Fertig  –

With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s time to celebrate our loving, giving, assertive Jewish mothers.  Much of what I look up to in my own mother comes out of her Jewishness, but mainstream television would have the world believe otherwise about Jewish mothers.  For a long time, American Jewish mothers have been shown as overbearing, pushy, and unpleasant to be around.  However, some shows are beginning to reclaim this stereotype and give it a positive twist.  

Before television, representations of Jewish women in film were generally sympathetic.  Early films depicting Jews were about the immigrant experience. While women were portrayed as good people, they were often in victimized or sad positions.  After World War I, Jewish women were shown as strong and capable with abundant positive images of mothers and daughters carrying on Jewish tradition.  From 1928 to 1937, Jewish women were once again vulnerable immigrants, according to Sharon Pucker Rivo in “Projected Images: Portraits of Jewish Women in Early American Film.” In television, however, Jewish women have long been underrepresented, and when they are represented, it is often in a cruel manner.

In particular, Jewish mothers have become and continue to be unbelievably caricatured, almost to the point of ridicule.  This is best demonstrated with Mrs. Wolowitz in the Big Bang Theory, voiced by Carol Anne Susi.  She is the mother of Howard, the “token Jew” of the show, to whom she brings much frustration and grief, but on whom he relies to a comical extent.  We never actually see her; we only hear her grating, New-York-accented voice berating Howard through the walls of their house.  She is the butt of many jokes, most of them commenting on how annoying or fat she is.  The only time she is ever not the butt of a mean joke is when she dies.  Gone is the caring, affectionate Yiddishe Mama of The Jazz Singer, replaced by the cruel and clingy American Jewish mother.

Fortunately, things are changing.  Increasingly in popular shows, Jewish mothers are unapologetically claiming power in Jewish motherhood stereotypes, while showing Jewish mothers to be feminist, sexual, loving, but still their pushy, New-York-Jewish selves.  In particular, Transparent’s Shelly Pfefferman (Judith Light) and Broad City’s Bobbi Wexler (Susie Essman) lend grace and depth to an often-mocked stock character.

In Bobbi’s character, we find a lovely bond between her and her daughter Ilana.  Where many Jewish kids seem resentful of their mothers (Howard Wolowitz often jokes that he wishes his mother would die already), Ilana delights in so clearly being Bobbi’s daughter.  The two share a sense of humor, mannerisms, personal issues, and everything else.  Further, Bobbi shares in Ilana’s love for her best friend and show co-star Abbi, unquestioningly welcoming her into their family. In my experience, this is the most accurate aspect of Jewish motherhood a show could portray.  While she exhibits common Jewish mother trope traits, Bobbi gives off light to those around her — the pushiness and guilting are endearing, and we love her like her daughter loves her.

Shelly Pfefferman’s character, while also humanizing the Jewish mother trope, takes things in a more melancholy direction.  She is the mother of three adult children, and where Bobbi exudes warmth and happiness, Shelly exhibits a profound loneliness.  In most shows, it seems that the Jewish mother is comically selfish and overbearing, wanting her children around her at all times while contributing little besides food and reminders that she raised them.  These are not absent from Shelly, but we can see that she really is alone.  Near the beginning of the show she experiences great loss, and she needs her family, but her kids are too self-absorbed to notice. Shelly does get her due — the third season ends with Shelly performing a one-woman show, with a great empowering musical number to uproarious applause by a large audience.  Transparent finally puts a character that does not normally get a main role directly in the foreground, both literally and figuratively.  Through Shelly, the Jewish mother is finally getting the spotlight she has always deserved.

It is a little bit difficult to navigate these characters, particularly Shelly. While they are bringing humanity and empowerment to an oft-mocked stereotype, they are still exhibiting that stereotype.  I happen to love the idea of reclaiming, but I admit it is not doing very much for variety of representation.   

There is another trait, which makes these mothers a positive force: Robyn Bahr writes in The Forward, “Most importantly, what sets them apart from the Jewish mothers of yesteryear is the narrational focus on their sexuality. While the trope of the Jewish mother is that she often preoccupied by the romantic misadventures of her own children (all to secure future grandbabies), Transparent … and Broad City remind us that these women, each born in the 1940s or ’50s, were part of the first generation exposed to the sexual openness of women’s liberation. In the most recent season of Transparent, Light performs what may be television’s first full-blown septuagenarian orgasm in a scene where she wheedles Maura into manually stimulating her in the bathtub … More directly, the perennially sex-positive Broad City veers straight into the bedroom negotiations between Bobbi and her nebbishy husband Arthur (Bob Balaban) on the subject of pegging. She implores him to keep an open mind about their sexual practices, but he’s not so sure: ‘Oh, I forgot about your precious ass——,’ she snipes. ‘But MY ass—— is fair game, of course.’ In the end, her guilt wins.”  Bobbi and Shelly lay claim to their own crass sexualities, a trait not often allowed to TV Jewish mothers.  

I am hopeful for the future of representation.  The women who have raised us and guided us to be strong, loving Jewish adults deserve to be represented as such.  

Ruth Fertig is HBI’s student blogger and a Brandeis senior. She is also the winner of the HBI Student Prize for her research paper, “‘Jewish Women Do Whatever the F**k They Want’: Queerness, Gender, and Jewishness in Contemporary Popular Television.” This  draws from her paper as well as research done as an 2016 HBI Gilda Slifka Summer Intern.

The Long Shadow of the Holocaust

By Joanna Michlic –

Editor’s note: Last weekend, we commemorated the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah. Research by Joanna Michlic shows the importance of studying the Holocaust from the point of view of subsequent generations. Her new book, Jewish Families in Europe, 1939-Present, demonstrates the importance of children and youth’s voices in the reconstruction of the social history of the Holocaust. – 

I am convinced that what I call,  “the current children’s turn” or “the renaissance of children’s experiences” in the Holocaust studies and post-Holocaust Jewish social history gives us not only new avenues to explore previously ignored subjects about the lives and (self)-representations of young individuals and the smallest social unit – Jewish family, but that it also throws a new light onto the “big historical questions.” By critically examining young survivors’ testimonies, we can get fresh insights on topics such as the rescue and betrayal of Jewish fugitives, local anti-Jewish violence, Jewish self-help, family dynamics, and relationships with a non-Jewish social environment during the Holocaust. Critical analysis of children’s accounts contributes to the reconstruction of a fuller historical picture of the social landscape of the Holocaust, in spite of their cognitive and linguistic limitations, and different ways at making references to time and space.

Without interrogating in-depth the voices of child survivors and their multi-generational families: second and third generations, we are also not capable of fully grasping  “the long shadow” of the Holocaust, and drawing serious and intellectually meaningful comparisons with the voices of young survivors of other genocides taking place in the 20th and 21st centuries. Of course, I also recognize that among my colleagues and historians, some still view the history of Jewish children, youth, and Jewish families as less valuable than the standard classic topics in the Holocaust and Jewish histories.

The mortality rate for Jewish children and elderly was extremely high during the Holocaust. According to reliable estimates, only six to 11 percent of Europe’s pre-war Jewish population of children numbering approximately between 1.1 and 1.5 million, survived as compared with 33 percent of the adults. Thus, the history of Jewish child survivors is a history of the smallest youth minority among any groups of child-victims in Nazi-occupied Europe.

My frequent conversations with the literary scholar Lawrence Langer during my tenure at Brandeis University, made me strongly aware that conventional Holocaust historians in the past failed the youngest victims and survivors most by denying them not only agency and diversity of experiences, but also a legitimate and valued place as a subject of historical inquiry. Yet, as a scholar intellectually shaped by major developments in the field of history in the second half of the 1990s and the early 2000s, I am fortunate to belong to a growing milieu of historians of the Holocaust and East European Jewish history who view personal testimonies as a source to provide different perspectives of events that would have been missed and lost by historians who rely only on the so-called conventional “official” documents.

In my view, one of the major achievements of Jewish Families in Europe, 1939-Present is showing older children and youth as important historical co-creators of everyday life during and in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Just to remind us, the first pioneering studies of Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Europe representing a child-oriented historiography appeared in 1990s and during the first decade of 2000. In 1991, Debórah Dwork, published her pioneering study, Children with A Jewish Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi-occupied Europe. In 2005, Nicholas Stargardt published Witnesses of War. Children’s Lives under the Nazis, written from a child’s point of view and placing children’s experiences within broader social and cultural contexts of the Second World War. The last decade has witnessed a growing ‘boom’ in the publications of rich collections of primary sources on children during the Holocaust, and monographs dealing with the history of Jewish children in particular countries of Nazi-occupied Europe such as Holland, Belgium, and France.

My main goal in publishing Jewish Families in Europe, 1939-Present is to offer the reader, a collection of essays written by a wonderful team of well-recognized senior and younger scholars, of how the Holocaust was experienced by Jewish families, and, in particular, by the children, primarily in East-central Europe, and of subsequent difficulties in coming to terms with their wartime experiences, above all in Poland, Hungary, Israel and the United States. Jewish Families in Europe, 1939-Present demonstrates that the post-Holocaust history of central east European Jewish youth and family consists of many transnational aspects such as the reconstitution of Jewish families, adoption, and a variety of life trajectories of young survivors, including first loves, future marriages, long-life friendships, and family-like relationships among youth who met in children’s homes and kibbutzim established in the aftermath of genocide. Therein, it is a history that must be approached through a transnational lens. My other main argument is that to understand the short-term and long-term impact of the Shoah on young survivors and the post-1945 multigenerational Jewish family, it is important to study that history both in the wartime and postwar historical contexts, and not separately.  Many Czech, Slovak, Polish or Hungarian Jewish children were part of the Displaced Persons camps in the early postwar American, British and French zones in divided Germany, and made their new postwar homes in the West: in the USA, Canada, and Australia, and to lesser degree in the United Kingdom and France. The majority of orphans migrated to Yishuv in Palestine/Israel between 1945 and 1948 and was settled in kibbutzim.

I strongly believe that present-day scholarly examination of the experiences of children in WWII should reflect historical distinctions between various groups of children, and not be “colorblind” to the differences between Jewish children’s experiences and those of children from other groups. Such a scholarly analysis should, of course, be free of any ideological goals and of attempts at ascertaining a hierarchy of victims. At the same time, I am a keen advocate of comparative studies, for example, concerning the postwar modes of reconstruction of childhood experiences in biographical memory between Jewish children and non-Jewish children such as Roma and Sinti— the other victims of Nazi policies of violence, discrimination, and persecution. I am also an advocate of comparative synchronic genocidal studies of particular issues such as the memories and self-perceptions of Jewish youth as they had emerged from the Holocaust with those of young victims of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, or the attitudes and behavior of East European rescuers towards Jewish children during the Holocaust with the attitudes and behavior of Turkish rescuers towards Armenian children during the Armenian genocide of 1915–1917.

I am pleased to see that today, as historians of the Holocaust, we accept the subjectivity of children’s gaze at reality as an appropriate topic for historical inquiry. The catalogue of scholarly works on child survivors and youth during and in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and the studies of the ways young survivors remember the traumatic past, is constantly growing. I strongly believe that with the endorsement of the child-centered historical methods and interdisciplinary approaches, the field will continue to thrive and bear new important fruit. In my work, I constantly emphasize that the history of Jewish youth –the smallest group of young survivors from the Nazi-occupied Europe is worth examining for its own merits, and in order to understand better the plight of other young victims and survivors of wars and genocides in the second half of the 20th century and the first two decades of the 21st century. I trust that Jewish Families in Europe, 1939-Present will make engaging reading not only for students and scholars of Holocaust and Genocide studies, and East European Jewish history, but also for psychologists and other practitioners who work with the now aged child Holocaust survivors and members of the second and third generations, and social workers and psychologists working with child survivors of other genocides, and general public.

Joanna Beata Michlic is a social and cultural historian, and founder of HBI’s Project on Families, Children, and the Holocaust. She is an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the UCL Centre for the Study of Collective Violence, the Holocaust and Genocide, UCL Institute for Advances Studies, and an Honorary Senior Associate at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) in London. She teaches at the Leo Baeck College in London.

Jewish Families in Europe, 1939-Present: History, Representation, and Memory, (HBI Series on Jewish Women), is the fruit of an interdisciplinary, in-depth research project on Families, Children, and the Holocaust, conducted under Michlic’s directorship at HBI, and vigorous academic discussions, involving historians, sociologists, psychologists, literary scholars, and child survivors such the acclaimed Polish-Jewish American writer, Henryk Grynberg.

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