Who Was Count Emicho? Jews and the First Crusade

Lecture on Count Emicho and the Jews of Germany during the First Crusade (1096).

Here’s a link to the Prezi.

Modern Antisemitism (Essential Lectures in Jewish History)

An introduction to the major themes in modern antisemitic ideology (1880-present). Warning: not quite as nasty as the lecture on medieval antisemitism, but disturbing nevertheless. Part of the Essential Lectures in Jewish History series, more available at http://www.henryabramson.com.

Who Was Heinrich Graetz? Jewish Biography as History by Dr. Henry Abramson

Heinrich Graetz (1817-1891) was the first encyclopedic historian of the Jewish people, and his massive 10-volume History of the Jews had a phenomenal impact on the way Jews saw themselves as a nation living in the diaspora.

Looking forward to seeing you at Limmud this Sunday! Click the image below to learn more about my presentation on The Kabbalah of Forgiveness: Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and the 13 Levels of Mercy.

unnamed

Who Was Aaron of Lincoln? Jewish Biography as History

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 1.51.26 PM

Reputed to be the wealthiest man in 11th century England–wealthier even than the King–Aaron of Lincoln was a hugely successful moneylender whose achievements included the financing of many cathedrals. His story, while exceptional in terms of scope, is nevertheless instructive of the Jewish experience in the medieval economy as a whole.

 

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 (This Week in Jewish History) Dr. Henry Abramson

Nuremberg thumbnail

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 defined, for the purposes of the Nazi regime, exactly who was considered a Jew. This was an essential element in the unfolding of the Holocaust, as the Nuremberg Laws allowed the Nazis to first identify, then exclude, and finally attempt to eliminate Jews from German society. Part of the “This Week in Jewish History” series by Dr. Henry Abramson. More videos available at http://www.henryabramson.com

Medieval Antisemitism (Essential Lectures in Jewish History) Dr. Henry Abramson

Depiction of Host Desecration in Sternberg, Germany (1492). Diebold Schilling the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Depiction of Host Desecration in Sternberg, Germany (1492). Diebold Schilling the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Concise video lecture describing the four main expressions of antisemitic ideology in the medieval period.  Warning: images are disturbing.

 

Breaking the history of antisemitism into four major periods (Ancient Xenophobia, Early Christian Anti-Judaism, Medieval Jew-hatred, and Modern Antisemitism), Dr. Abramson focusses on the third period to look at the ideological basis for the false charges of ritual murder, blood libel, and desecration of the host, ending with a discussion of the Judensau image.

Nicholas Donin and the Disputation of 1240 (This Week in Jewish History)

1413-disputation (1)

In 1240 Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, engaged in a public debate with his former teacher, Rabbi Yechiel of Paris. Donin charged that the Talmud was a noxious document that prevented the Jews from embracing Christianity, and brought a total of 35 distinct accusations against this ancient holy text. Ultimately, 24 carriage loads of Talmuds, representing 10,000 priceless manuscripts were burned in Paris on June 6, 1242.

Personal note to my subscribers: I was so impressed with the NCSY Learnathon that my son Alexander completed, that I decided to join on my own! Please visit http://learn.ncsy.org/learner/hmabramson/ to support this great organization that does so much for Jewish youth (and encourage me to study more Talmud)!

Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapiro, The Esh Kodesh (Jewish Biography as History)

Piacetzna Rebbe

Discovered in the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto, the wartime writings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapiro (1889-1943) offer a unique and powerful perspective on the life and suffering of religious Jews during the horrific years of the Nazi occupation.

By Dr. Henry Abramson

According to my knowledge of the words of the Sages and the history of the Jewish people in general, we have never experienced such horrific suffering as has been visited upon us by the wicked ones since the end of 5702 (fall 1942)—may Hashem have mercy on us and rescue us immediately.

—Entry from January 11, 1943.

Discovered in the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Aish Kodesh (Holy Fire) is one of the most remarkable works of Jewish spirituality to emerge from the Holocaust. A slim volume of some 150 pages in the first printing, Aish Kodeshpresents the Torah spoken at the clandestine seudahshlishis gatherings convened by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro, known to his followers as the Piaseczno Rebbe.

The author, a scion of the Grodzhisk Chassidic dynasty, was a creative thinker whose literary fame was established with the 1932 publication ofChovas haTalmidim (The Students’ Obligation). Trapped in Warsaw when the war broke out, he lived through all its tragedies: the sealing of the ghetto in the fall of 1939, the horrific typhus plague of the winter of 1941, the massive deportations to Treblinka in the summer of 1942, and the heroic but doomed uprising of April 1943. He was ultimately deported to a labor camp and shot in November 1943, most probably for his involvement in a second attempted uprising. Unlike Holocaust memoirs, journals, or diaries, Aish Kodesh is a book that is sui generis for many reasons.

Aish Kodesh is a public document, representing the real-time efforts of the beleaguered Jewish community to deal with the theological implications of the Holocaust as it unfolded in the Warsaw Ghetto. The intellectual task of understanding the meaning of unimaginable suffering was common to both Orthodox and secular Jews, and third-party reports of the Rebbe’s gatherings confirm that they were attended by believers and non-believers alike. Aish Kodesh is also a profoundly sustained work of theodicy, its pages filled with philosophical meditation on the meaning of evil in Jewish thought, and much scholarly attention has been devoted to this aspect of the work, notably Dr. Nehemia Polen’s masterly 1999 study, Holy Fire.

Aish Kodesh has not, however, been studied extensively by historians, who have typically been stymied by the sometimes abstruse Kabbalistic passages and the almost complete absence of explicit references to quotidian events in the ghetto: not once in the entire work do the terms “German” or “Nazi” appear, and the reader must wade through veiled Aesopian language to determine the message of hope that the Rebbe offered in response to the horrors of that week under Nazi occupation.

After the war, a desperate post-war search for the OnegShabbos archives (a collection of documents that chronicled the realities of ghetto life) unearthed the Rebbe’s manuscripts of Aish Kodesh and its subsequent publication in Israel. Popularized in song by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a renaissance of interest in Piaseczno chassidus developed in both scholarly and popular circles, notably under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Weinberger of Woodmere, whose Aish Kodesh congregation takes its inspiration from the life and work of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro.

Publication information: Esh Kodesh, Tel Aviv: Va’ad Hasidei Piaseczno, 1960

The Holocaust (Essential Lectures in Jewish History by Dr. Henry Abramson)

Entrance to Auschwitz. Photo by Petar Milosevic via Wikimedia Commons.
Entrance to Auschwitz. Photo by Petar Milosevic via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a brief academic presentation of the history of the Nazi attempt to destroy the Jews of Europe during World War II. Part of the Essential Lectures in Jewish History series by Dr. Henry Abramson.

To view the Prezi used in this lecture, please click here.

Heinrich Heine: Poet of Judenschmerz

Heinrich Heine, portrait by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim via Wikimedia Commons.
Heinrich Heine, portrait by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim via Wikimedia Commons.

Revered by many as Germany’s greatest poet, Heine struggled mightily with his Jewish identity in the culturally inimical milieu of the 19th century. This phenomenon, known as Judenschmerz, was widespread among 19th century western European Jews. Despite his 1825 conversion to Christianity, Heine maintained a long, albeit conflicted, relationship to his Jewish background. Part of the Jewish Biography as History lecture series by Dr. Henry Abramson.

To view the Prezi associated with this video, please click here.