On this evening, George Prochnik presents his bildungsroman on Gershom Scholem, one of the twentieth century’s most important humanist thinkers. Prochnik traces the lifeline of Scholem, and weaves it with an intimate story of his own youth, marriage, and spiritual quest in Jerusalem.
The dream of refuge from antisemitism, freedom from the arbitrary dictates of despots, and a place for Jewish religion and culture to flourish gained in popularity in the context of 19th-century discrimination against Jews. Yet some of the most potent and enduring expressions of the Zionist vision emanated from assimilated Jews in cities like Vienna and Berlin, where Jews enjoyed unprecedented rights and prosperity in this period. Zionism took on a new importance for Central European Jewry when the rise of the Nazi party encouraged many to consider emigration to Palestine. The exhibition Zionismus calls on books, periodicals, correspondence, and photographs from the collections of Leo Baeck Institute to trace the transformation of Zionism from a utopian dream to matter of survival for German-speaking Jews. After traveling around the US as a poster exhibition, Zionismus will return to the LBI, where the original objects will be placed on display for the first time.
In the new history, We’ll Always Have Casablanca, film historian Noah Isenberg gives a rich account of this beloved movie’s origins. Through extensive research and interviews with filmmakers, film critics, family members of the cast and crew, and diehard fans, Isenberg reveals the myths and realities behind Casablanca’s production, focusing in particular on the central role of refugees—nearly all the actors were immigrants from Hitler’s Europe.
Join us for an evening of musical performance exploring the history of Jewish Austrian émigrés who transplanted the music of Viennese cafes to New York City. Esther Wratschko (Prins Foundation Fellow at the Center for Jewish History) will share her discoveries in the archives.
Ismar Schorsch, former President of the Leo Baeck Institute, will engage in conversation with David Ellenson about the former’s newly published book, a biography of 19th century academic Leopold Zunz.
One of the jewels of the collection of the National Library of Israel is Ms. Heb. 8o6527, a stunningly illuminated High-Holiday Mahzor from the second quarter of the fourteenth century. Librarians and curators have long sought ways to provide access to unique works like this, which remain untouchable when exhibited and offer none of the physical pleasures of books when digitized. World-class craftsmen like Michael and Linda Falter of Facsimile Editions offer yet another solution: the production of facsimiles of important manuscripts as a one-to-one reproduction, designed to imitate the original down to the last detail. The event will focus on the Falters’ stunning recreation of the Catalan Mahzor as well as the original book’s remarkable journey.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Stolen Heart, which deals with the expropriation of Berlin’s Jews, historian Elazar Barkan (Columbia University) will lead a panel discussion of the historical, legal, moral, and emotional aspects of restitution featuring journalist Sarah Wildman and psychiatrist and author Joanne Intrator.
At a luxurious Berlin hotel between the wars, the once-wealthy Baron Felix von Gaigern (John Barrymore) supports himself as a thief and gambler among a cast of other colorful characters. Film scholar Noah Isenberg (The New School) introduces this lavish adaptation of the Austrian-Jewish writer Vicki Baum’s genre-defining 1929 novel, Menschen im Hotel.
He drew sketches on tiny pieces of paper and sent them from the trenches to a young cellist who was waiting for him in Berlin. She thought he was a genius, and after WWI she helped him become the busiest architect in Germany. Historian Gavriel Rosenfeld (Fairfield University) introduces this cinematic meditation on the architect Erich Mendelsohn.
This effervescent, sunlit silent film, about a handful of city dwellers enjoying a weekend outing (a charming cast of nonprofessionals), offers a rare glimpse of Weimar-era Berlin. Film Scholar Noah Isenberg (The New School) introduces a screening of this early experimental masterpiece by Jewish filmmakers who all went on to become major players in Hollywood.