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Minerva Summer School

Minerva Summer school for 20-25 PhD students from Israel and Germany under the title "Jewish History as Integrated European History"

Simon Dubnow Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur an der Universität Leipzig
Deadline: 30.05.2003

Application: C.V. and thematic outline of the individual PhD project
(4-5 pages, in German or English)

Travel expenses/accommodation: provided by the Minerva Foundation

Thematic Focus, Significance and General Framework of the Minerva School:

In referring to their distinctive place within European history, Robert Weltsch once called the Jews "an emblem of Europe." What today is the underlying basis for this approach to Jewish history as a paradigm of European history?

This question has been singled out as a thematic focus for a Minerva School at the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture, University of Leipzig. This seminar will bring together experts from Israel and Germany and young historians from the two countries to explore the possibilities and limits of a new blueprint for Jewish history geared to a pan-European transnational perspective. The purpose of the Minerva School is to stimulate innovative dialogue between young German and Israeli historians on the methods and prospects of such an integrative approach in the interpretation of Jewish history, while simultaneously probing the potential of a history of the Jews for generating a new approach within general (principally European) historiography.

In the broad landscape of historical inquiry, Jewish history continues to be viewed as a peripheral or even "exotic" particularistic history of limited historiographic relevance. In part, this circumscribed site is also due to its own making. In addition, especially in the course of the last century, experience of the Jews has contributed to a further retreat into their own history and its distinctive particularisms. That is true above all when it comes to the diverse variants of "national" Jewish historiography (though itself indebted to a long set of historiographic traditions) extending in modified forms right down into the present. Even modern Jewish historiography, geared to an open approach to its subject matter, tends to prefer the familiar internal perspective to a more comprehensive and overarching view.

By contrast, an integrative historiography of the Jews moves beyond narrow methodological confines in its attempt to transpose the elements of Jewish historical experience into a universal context. The result is that Jewish history - qua a history of the various Jewries - is predestined, far more than other (and principally nationally oriented histories) to open windows on something akin to the particularistic signatura of a general European self-understanding. From this vantage, the supposed narrow aperture of Jewish history would turn out to be precisely the most general possible perspective on European history of the modern and contemporary period.

In particular, when we focalize the transnational and transterritorial aspects of Jewish existence in Europe, Jewish history lends itself to interpretation as a genuinely European  history. In this frame, the history of the Jews can be seen as an indicative lens for looking at general history, since by examining the Jews, a fragile and thus seismographic component of the larger society, it is possible to focus with enhanced precision on the central problems of the era.

The importance of the planned Minerva School for young historians derives from this angle of vision: it will attempt to overcome various one-sided and limited perspectives in dealing with Jewish  history still predominant within professional historiography, supplanting them by an innovative integrating perspective to be fruitfully applied in future research. Precisely by the planned dynamic exchange between young historians the seminar seeks to catalyze an opportunity to burst the confines of time-honored routinized perceptions, enabling productive application of new and vital conceptions of scholarship to historical inquiry. In this endeavor, seminar participants will themselves take on the function of future multipliers. The dialogue between young Israeli and German historians can generate an impetus to broaden the aperture of the still relatively narrow-focused internal perspective of Jewish historiography in Israel on the one hand, while on the other guiding the German participants toward a better awareness of the overarching importance of Jewish history for European historical experience, beyond that of a merely peripheral history of a minority.

In order to ensure intensive exchange, the number of participants will be limited to ten young scholars from Israel and ten from Germany, drawn principally from the ranks of doctoral candidates and those who have recently earned their doctorate. Co-organizers are the Franz Rosenzweig Research Center and the Richard Koebner Center for German History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Along with the three institute directors, Profs. Dan Diner, Paul Mendes-Flohr and Moshe Zimmermann, several other Israeli and German senior scholars - distinguished by their expansive and context-oriented view of Jewish history and culture or their ability to tap the dimension of general European history - will be invited to participate: among others, Prof. Haya Bar-Itzhak, Haifa University, Prof. Doron Mendels, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Giuseppe Veltri, University of Halle, Prof. Anne Koenen, Leipzig University. Individual topics to be dealt with include inter alia the relation between Jewish and universal history; the Jewish Enlightenment in its European context; minority rights and intervention by the Great Powers in the 19th and early 20th century, using the example of the Jews; imperial Jewries; confessionalization and internal Jewish conversion.

The thematic program of the planned Minerva School will consist of lectures, seminars and presentation of projects, accompanied by common and individual readings, with short periods of library study. The program will be supplemented by several group excursions to sites associated with Jewish history and of especial cultural-historical significance.

Further information and application:
Yvonne Kleinmann
Simon Dubnow Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur
Goldschmidtstr. 28, 04103 Leipzig

hagalil.com 12-05-03

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