Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jewish Studies now a major at UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz approves new major in Jewish Studies

By Scott Rappaport (831) 459-2496;

Jewish Studies at UCSC had its origins in the mid-1980s after a campus visit by Schindler’s List survivor Leopold Page--nearly a decade before Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning film. “He came to a conference on the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,” said UCSC professor Murray Baumgarten (below). “Before he left, he suggested we should teach a course about the Holocaust.”

In 2005, Baumgarten was awarded a $195,452 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund a summer institute for college and university teachers in Italy. The program was based in the historic Jewish ghetto in Venice.

Students at UC Santa Cruz will now have the opportunity to work toward a B.A. degree in Jewish Studies, beginning this fall.

The Jewish Studies major will provide knowledge of Jewish thought, literature, art, and history--with classes taught by faculty across the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences divisions.

UC Santa Cruz dean of humanities Georges Van Den Abbeele noted that the launching of the new major is largely due to the efforts of Murray Baumgarten, who has been teaching courses and mentoring students in Jewish Studies for several decades at UCSC.

“Jewish culture has responded to—and been shaped by—interactions with the major cultural, political, and social movements since ancient times, and has had a role in shaping them,” observed Baumgarten, a professor of English and comparative literature.

“Our program builds bridges between Jewish culture and the many other cultures that exist in today’s world, and illuminates what it takes to navigate in a diverse world.”

Jewish Studies at UCSC had its origins in the mid-1980s after a campus visit by Leopold Page--Schindler’s List survivor number 173.

Page’s visit took place several years after he had told his story to Australian author Thomas Keneally, but nearly a decade before Steven Spielberg turned Keneally’s bestselling book into an Academy Award-winning film.

“Leopold Page came to a conference on the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,” said Baumgarten. “Before he left, he suggested we should teach a course about the Holocaust.”

That suggestion led to the birth of The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, an annual upper division class at UCSC with a popularity that has surprised even its professors, Baumgarten and history professor Peter Kenez.

“As Peter always says, we thought there would be less and less interest in the subject as time passed, but we could not have been more wrong,” said Baumgarten.

Using funds contributed by Page from a Los Angeles Jewish organization founded by Holocaust survivors, Baumgarten and Kenez began to bring in guest speakers, present film screenings, and organize conferences on the UCSC campus.

They also made it a point to have survivors of the Holocaust visit their classroom. One of those survivors was UCSC Foundation Trustee Anne Neufeld Levin.

Levin and her family escaped from Austria and immigrated to the United States in 1939. Nearly 60 years later, she donated the Neufeld Family Archive to the UC Santa Cruz Library’s Special collections, and established the Neufeld Levin Endowed chair in Holocaust Studies at the campus.

Because of this endowment and significant gifts from such organizations as the Koret Foundation, the David B. Gold Foundation, and the Helen Diller Family Foundation, UCSC was able to expand its Holocaust curriculum, adding new courses exploring its relationship to music, film, art and literature.

This led to the establishment in 2000 of UCSC’S interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Program which, until now, only offered a minor in the study of Jewish culture.

“We’ve conceived the Jewish Studies Program at UCSC as an international program crossing borders and national boundaries,” said Baumgarten. “We are developing programs and exchanges, for example, with the Education Abroad program in Israel, and the newly established Venice Center for International Jewish Studies in Italy.”

“We have brought new resources to the campus for the study of fundamental aspects of the humanities,” Baumgarten added. “It is clear that some knowledge of the history of Jewish culture is one of the pre-requisites of being an educated human being in the 21st century.”

Dean Van Den Abbeele observed that a remarkable number of UC Santa Cruz alumni have gone on to become distinguished scholars of Jewish studies.

The Humanities Division brought back 10 of those former students to campus last year for a conference where they discussed the impact of UCSC on their intellectual development and research.

“We are hoping to endow a chair in Professor Baumgarten’s honor that will further consolidate his achievement in building the premier Jewish Studies Program in California,” noted Van Den Abbeele.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe now online

"The only resource of its kind, this encyclopedia provides the most complete picture of the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe from the beginnings of their settlement in the region to the present. This Web site makes accurate, reliable, scholarly information about East European Jewish life accessible to everyone."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

from The Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme

Cambridge University Library has announced visionary plans to become a digital library for the world - following a £1.5m lead gift pledged by Dr Leonard Polonsky.

Home to more than seven million books and some of the greatest collections in existence, including those of Newton and Darwin, the Library will begin digitising its priceless treasures to launch its Digital Library for the 21st Century.

University Librarian Anne Jarvis said: "Our library contains evidence of some of the greatest ideas and discoveries over two millennia. We want to make it accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a thirst for knowledge. This will not only make our collections available to the world; it will also initiate a global conversation about them.

"At the click of a mouse, students or scholars of divinity or politics, history, physics, medieval languages or the history of medicine, will be able to plunge into the worlds of Mediterranean Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities of the 11th Century, or into the minds of Isaac Newton and his contemporaries."

Dr Polonsky's generous gift will allow the University Library to set up the essential infrastructure required for this sophisticated digitisation project.

The first collections to be digitised will be entitled The Foundations of Faith and The Foundations of Science. The goal for both is that they become 'living libraries' with the capacity to grow and evolve.

The Library's faith collections are breathtaking. They include some of the oldest and most significant Qur'ans ever to be uncovered, as well an Eighth Century copy of Surat al-Anfal. The Library also holds the world's largest and most important collection of Jewish Genizah materials, including the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection - 193,000 fragments of manuscripts as significant as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Its Christian holdings include an incomparable collection of manuscripts including the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (one of the most important Greek New Testament manuscripts), the Book of Deer and the Book of Cerne.

The University Library also holds some of the world's most important records of the development of modern science - including the most comprehensive collection of Newton's papers (heavily annotated copies of Principia, lectures as Lucasian Professor and proofs of Opticks), and those of John Flamsteed and Edmond Halley, contemporaries of Newton, with whom he corresponded.

If the project proves successful (further funding is needed and other donors are being sought), the collections of scientific giants such as Charles Darwin, James Clerk Maxwell, and Stephen Hawking could also be digitised, along with other major collections in the fields of humanities and social sciences.

Jarvis added: "Faith and science will be the two cornerstones of the project, both of fundamental importance in our quest to understand the world and our place in it.

"Thanks to Dr Polonsky, we are at the start of what we believe will be an incredible journey into the digital future. Hopefully his generosity will encourage others to follow his lead so we can make one of the world's great libraries available, literally, to anyone around the world."

Dr Polonsky said: "As reading and research become increasingly electronic, my hope is that this grant will serve as a catalyst for the digitisation and linking of the great libraries of the world so that their riches can be enjoyed by a global public."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The First Hebrew ePub Online Store

The First Hebrew ePub Online Store – Hebrew e-Books at Mendele He-Books
from TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home blog
By Paul Biba

Surprising as you might find it, despite the high percentage of readers and the great popularity of books among Hebrew speakers, there are no e-Books in Hebrew (He-Books). At least there were none until recently. It is rather incredible with Israelis known as gadget lovers and technology early adopters but that’s how it is.

You can see a few Sony e-readers here and there, with people reading English and Russian. I personally know about two or three Kindles that immigrated to the holy land. A group of MA graduates started to import the eSlick Reader and the Ukrainian PocketBook Reader is popular among Russian speakers. But content in Hebrew – nada! There are a few exceptions like some religious content as iPhone applications and even for Palm and Windows Mobile. However, nothing like commercially available fiction novels, non-fiction, poetry, best sellers or long tail. Free e-Books, highly priced or low priced ones, price wars, format wars, intentions to dominate the market? Nothing of the sort. The market is yet to be created.

more ...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hebrew Book Week 2010

The National Library of Israel
Israeli Book Statistic – Hebrew Book Week 2010

The Hebrew Book Week 2010 will take place in Israel between the 2nd
of June until the 12th of June. Towards this event the National
Library of Israel reports annual data about books published in Israel
during 2009. The National Library of Israel is the deposit library of
Israel, and receives, according to the "Books Act", two copies of
each book, journal, cassette or disk published in Israel.

During the previous year 7,418 new Israeli titles were registered by
the Legal Deposit Department: 6,326 books, 500 new periodicals, and
322 non-print titles, such as CDs and cassettes. In additions, 16,306
issues of current periodicals were received in the library. The
Library's catalogue is the most comprehensive in Israel and includes
the vast majority of the titles published in Israel.

During the last year the National Library of Israel has added to its
database of Israeli publishers information on 25 publishers from the
earliest days of Zionist history. So far some 161 publishers who have
ceased to be active have been listed and documented. The database is
a rich source of information on the history of publishing in Israel.
Its importance derives not only from the national and historic
perspective, but also from its practical value. It maps the copyright
of works that appeared in the Land of Israel and makes it possible to
locate copyright holders and heirs to publishers no longer in
existence (

For more data see:

Dr. Noa Fink- Shamit
Legal Deposit Department
The National Library of Israel
POB 39105 Jerusalem 91390
Tel. 02-6586286 Fax. 02-6586315