Past Events

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Kindertransport (“children’s transports”) is a remarkable story to arise out of the horrors of the Holocaust. Over 10,000 mostly Jewish children could be rescued, because their parents were willing to separate from them. Lilly Maier, Fulbright scholar, historian, and journalist, has researched the history of the Kindertransport for years and interviewed dozens of adults all over the United States who once were the young protagonists of these children’s transports. In this lecture, she will highlight the history and long-term effects of the intervention.

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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.

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In his early works, Luther discouraged mistreatment of the Jews and advocated their conversion by proving that the Old Testament could be shown to speak of Jesus Christ. As the Reformation continued, Luther lost hope in large-scale Jewish conversion to Christianity and grew more and more hostile toward the Jews.

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Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau will accept the Leo Baeck Medal during a special evening at the Center for Jewish History in New York. Join us when we honor a tireless advocate for justice and a champion for preserving Jewish memory.

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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.

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The historian Gershom Scholem has often been seen as a solitary figure who followed a lonely path to discovering the secrets of the Kabbalah. But in the crucial years before Scholem left Germany for British Mandate Palestine in 1923, he was deeply engaged in intellectual and social relationships that are critical for understanding his biography. Lecture by David Biale (UC Davis).

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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.

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Susannah Heschel will investigate how Abraham Geiger’s and Heinrich Graetz’s accounts of the origins of Christianity and Islam helped forge the cultural climate for German Jews. Through their pioneering studies, they sought not simply an assimilation into German culture and the German academic community for Jews, but something much more radical: a reconfiguration of the map of Western civilization.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Refugee, smuggler, resistant, intellectual. Even before the age of 21, Professor Justus Rosenberg had lived many lives. Sarah Wildman—author of a major profile of Professor Rosenberg for the New York Times and the celebrated memoir “Paper Love”—will speak to Rosenberg about his life and work.

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