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Judaic Studies Series

John Smith, Will Wordsworth

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An American Rabbi in Korea

A Chaplain's Journey in the Forgotten War

Written by Milton Jehiel Rosen and translated and edited by Stanley Russell Rose

During the height of the Korean conflict, 1950-51, Orthodox Jewish chaplain Milton J. Rosen wrote 19 feature-length articles for Der Morgen Zhornal, a Yiddish daily in New York, documenting his wartime experiences as well as those of the servicemen under his care. Rosen was among those nearly caught in the Chinese entrapment of American and Allied forces in North Korea in late 1950, and some of his most poignant writing details the trying circumstances that faced both soldiers and civilians during that time.

As chaplain, Rosen was able to offer a unique account of the American Jewish experience on the frontlines and in the United States military while also describing the impact of the American presence on Korean citizens and their culture. His interest in Korean attitudes toward Jews is also a significant theme within these articles.

Stanley R. Rosen has translated his father's articles into English and provides background on Milton Rosen's military service before and after the Korean conflict. He presents an introductory overview of the war and includes helpful maps and photographs. The sum is a readable account of war and its turmoil from an astute and compassionate observer.



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Anna's Shtetl

Written by Lawrence A. Coben

A rare view of a childhood in a European ghetto.
 
Anna Spector was born in 1905 in Korsun, a Ukrainian town on the Ros River, eighty miles south of Kiev. Held by Poland until 1768 and annexed by the Tsar in 1793 Korsun and its fluid ethnic population were characteristic of the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe: comprised of Ukrainians, Cossacks, Jews and other groups living uneasily together in relationships punctuated by violence. Anna’s father left Korsun in 1912 to immigrate to America, and Anna left in 1919, having lived through the Great War, the Bolshevik Revolution, and part of the ensuing civil war, as well as several episodes of more or less organized pogroms—deadly anti-Jewish riots begun by various invading military detachments during the Russian Civil War and joined by some of Korsun’s peasants.
 
In the early 1990s Anna met Lawrence A. Coben, a medical doctor seeking information about the shtetls to recapture a sense of his own heritage. Anna had near-perfect recall of her daily life as a girl and young woman in the last days in one of those historic but doomed communities. Her rare account, the product of some 300 interviews, is valuable because most personal memoirs of ghetto life are written by men. Also, very often, Christian neighbors appear in ghetto accounts as a stolid peasant mass assembled on market days, as destructive mobs, or as an arrogant and distant collection of government officials and nobility. Anna’s story is exceptionally rich in a sense of the Korsun Christians as friends, neighbors, and individuals.
 
Although the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe are now virtually gone, less than 100 years ago they counted a population of millions. The firsthand records we have from that lost world are therefore important, and this view from the underrecorded lives of women and the young is particularly welcome.  
 

 

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Between Home and Homeland

Youth Aliyah from Nazi Germany

Written by Brian Amkraut

The emigration of Jewish teenagers to Palestine to escape Hitler’s Germany.
 
While the future darkened for the Jews of Germany as Hitler and his followers assumed and consolidated power in Germany, a number of efforts, at first random, uncoordinated, and often at cross-purposes with one another, were set underway both within and without German cities to facilitate the departure of Jews. Among them was the organization, “Youth Aliyah” (aliyah refers to the Zionist goal of a homecoming for Jews in historic Israel). To this day Youth Aliyah is considered by Israelis as a major contribution to the foundation of a Jewish presence leading to the modern state of Israel. Brian Amkraut follows the organization from its establishment, its alliances and antagonisms with other Jewish organizations, its problems on every side, perhaps the greatest being sheer human optimism ("surely things will get better").

Although the several thousand youths who were saved by removal from the Holocaust were a small percentage of the young Jewish population, the Youth Aliyah program is widely celebrated by those who seek examples of Jewish agency, of attempts to resist the coming horror.
 

 

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Birmingham's Rabbi

Morris Newfield and Alabama, 1895-1940

Written by Mark Cowett

     American Jewish history has been criticized for its parochial nature because it has consisted largely of chronicles of American Jewish life and has often failed to explore the relationship between Jews and other ethnic groups in America.

    Rabbi Morris Newfield led Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham from 1895-1940 and was counted among the most influential religious and social leaders of that city. Cowett chronicles Newfield’s career and uses it as a vehicle to explore the nature of ethnic leadership in America. In doing so he explores the conflicts with which Newfield struggled to help Jews maintain a sense of religious identity in a predominately Southern Christian environment. Newfield’s career also portrays the struggle of social welfare efforts in Alabama during the Progressive Era. He recognized the need for Jews to develop bonds with other American ethnic groups. Cowett portrays him as a mediator between not only Jew and Christian but also black and white, labor and capital, liberal and conservative—in short, within the full spectrum of political and social exchange in an industrial-based New south city.

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Bulgaria's Synagogue Poets

The Kastoreans

Edited by Leon J. Weinberger

Critical Edition with introduction and commentary by Leon J. Weinberger

 

This is the first in-depth study of three 11th- to 12th-century poets from Balkan Byzantium. Included are all of the known works by Moses b. Hiyya, Joseph b. Jacob Qalai, and Isaac b. Judah, collected from rare manuscripts and printed editions and from Geniza collections at Oxford and Cambridge. These works provide the evidence that the Balkan synagogue poets favored distinctive literary forms even as they show the strong influence of the Hispanic-Hebrew writers. Completing the volume are indexes of rabbinic, Aramaic, and payyetanic usages and tables of metonymical terms.

 

Published by the Hebrew Union College Press, distributed by The University of Alabama Press.

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Escaping Hitler

A Jewish Haven in Chile

Eva Goldschmidt Wyman

Escaping Hitler is the personal story of Eva Wyman and her family’s escape from Nazi Germany to Chile in the sociohistorical context of 1930s and 1940s, a time when the Chilean Nazi party had an active presence in the country’s major institutions.
 
Based primarily oninterviewswith German Jewish refugees and family correspondence, Eva Goldschmidt Wyman provides an intimateaccount of Jews in Germany in the 1930s as Nazi controls tightened and family members were taken to Riga concentration camp. Wyman recounts Kristallnacht in Stuttgart, where her father was principal of the Jewish school, his imprisonment in Dachau, and his release and immigration to Great Britain. Escaping Hitler details the family’s escape from Germany and subsequent life in Chile, providing an intimate look at daily life on the steam ship Conte Grande during the voyage from Italy to Chile in 1939, Nazi espionage and anti-Semitic activity in Chile, and the Nazi influence in South America in general.
 
Recounted in an intimate and personal style, Escaping Hitler immerses the reader in an extraordinary chapter of contemporary Jewish history both inside Germany and South America.

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Essays in Jewish Thought

A fascinating and eclectic collection of twenty-two essays, Essays in Jewish Thought examines and explores divers topics of Jewish thought and history. From Judaism’s view of ancient Rome at its imperial apogee and the Dead Sea Scrolls to Jewish thought in Europe’s revolutions of 1848 and Franz Kafka, the collection offers a rich compendium of essays of interest to scholars, historians, philosophers, and students. 


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A Final Reckoning

A Hannover Family's Life and Death in the Shoah

Ruth Herskovits Gutmann’s powerful memoir recounts her life not only as a concentration camp inmate and survivor, but also as a sister and daughter. Born in 1928, Gutmann and her twin sister, Eva, escaped the growing Nazi threat in Germany on a Kindertransport to Holland in 1939. The false expectation of being allowed to immigrate to Cuba as a family led her father, Samuel Herskovits, to bring the twins back to Hannover in 1941. Rather than receive travel visas, however, they, their father, and their stepmother, Mania, were arrested and deported first to Thereisenstadt and then Auschwitz-Birkenau. After their parents were killed, the girls spent the remainder of the war in numerous other camps.
 
Gutmann’s compelling story captures many facets of the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany. She describes her early life in Hannover as the daughter of a prominent and patriotic member of the Jewish community. Her flight on the Kindertransport offers a vivid, firsthand account of that effort to save the children of Jewish families. Her memories of the camps include coming to the attention of Josef Mengele, who often used twins in human experiments. Gutmann writes with moving clarity and nuance about the complex feelings of survivorship.
 
Gutmann paints a multifaceted portrait of her father, Samuel. A leader in the Jewish community of Hannover, he was cajoled, coerced, and ultimately forced to communicate with and cooperate with Nazi and public officials. Gutmann uses her own memories as well as years of reflection and academic study to reevaluate his role in their community. A Final Reckoning provides not only insights into Gutmann’s own experience as a child in the midst of the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also a window into the lives of those, like her father, who were forced to carry on and comply with the regime that would ultimately bring about their demise.

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For Decades I Was Silent

A Holocaust Survivor's Journey Back to Faith

In 1939, Baruch Goldstein was a religiously observant adolescent resident of the Jewish community in Mlawa, a town that was then in East Prussia. After war broke out, the Jewish community there was relatively sheltered, as that region was incorporated into the German Reich rather than into the General Government (the German run-fragment of pre-war Poland, where conditions were harsh for everyone). However in 1942, Goldstein was sent to Auschwitz, where he stayed two-and-a-half years. His family was scattered all to their deaths, but he survived the war--barely. For Decades I Was Silent is an account of life in a small Polish-German town and provides information on the religious life of the Jewish citizens. This book creates a direct sense of the random, mystifying personal violence individuals felt at the hands of Germans--not the anonymous industrial death machine, but immediate, face-to-face violence.

After the war, Goldstein drifted as a refugee to UNRR camps in Italy. Over time, young Goldstein had to face the fact that all of his extended family was lost and he had only the possibilities of Palestine or help from distant relatives in the United States as a future. His American relatives urged him to enter the United States as a yeshiva student, and eventually he became a rabbi and started a family. As a young rabbinical student, and then as a rabbi, Goldstein was forced to confront the events of the Holocaust and the damage done to his faith. This well-written and evocative book eloquently handles Goldstein’s story.

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A Hebrew Chronicle from Prague, C. 1615

Translated by Leon J. Weinberger with Dena Ordan

"This slender anonymous work, spanning 1389 to 1611, presents the priorities and concerns of a Jewish community straddling the late medieval and early modern periods. Ample footnotes and explanations provide the lay reader with sufficient background to understand the references to historical events and figures, to ideologies and to institutions. A comprehensive introduction presents the realities of Prague and Bohemia, as well as offering a helpful discussion of the chronicle and other contemporary Jewish accounts."
Conservative Jewish Quarterly

"In about 1615 an anonymous Jew from Prague composed a short Hebrew chronicle to recount 'the expulsions, miracles, and other occurrences befalling [the Jews] in Prague and the other lands of our long exile.' Abraham David discovered the manuscript [and] added glosses, historical notes, and an introduction. . . . The chronicle, with its brief annual entries, is not a continuous narrative, but does give a feeling of immediacy, like a newspaper."
Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry

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