Menachem Begin: A New Israel

Menachem Begin in 1978. Source: Wikipedia Commons
Menachem Begin in 1978. Source: Wikipedia Commons

A study of the life of Menachem Begin (1913-1992). A native of Poland, he was a proponent of Vladimir Jabotinsky’s Revisionist party that stood in dramatic contrast to the dominant left-wing tendency in the Zionist movement. A major figure in Israel’s struggle for statehood, and a founder of the Likud party, he was elected to the office of Prime Minister in 1977. Despite his hawkish ideology, he was the first Israeli leader to sign a peace treaty with an Arab country.  Lecture was recorded on Wednesday, May 1 at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/VYegoUFjYm8]

Mitnagdim, Hasidim, Maskilim: The Cultural Geography of Jewish Eastern Europe

Ger Hasidim (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Ger Hasidim (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

This lecture presents a broad overview of the three main intellectual-religious trends present in 19th century Jewish Eastern Europe: the traditionalist Mitnagdim, the innovative Hasidim, and the modernizing Maskilim. Good as an overall introduction, although I go into more detail on all of these movements in other lectures on this website.  Taped on April 21, 2013 as a lecture to the Jewish Geneaological Society of Broward Country.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/mKB4kzUYzPY]

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Golda Meir and the Foundations of Israel

Golda Meir (1949), Photograph courtesy T. Brauner and Wikipedia Commons
Golda Meir (1949), Photograph courtesy T. Brauner and Wikipedia Commons

A presentation of the life of Golda Meir (1898-1978), spanning her immigration to Israel in 1921 through the end of her term as the fourth Prime Minister of Israel in 1974. The lecture will discuss the foundations of the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community, and touch on the major social and military conflicts that Israel endured during the first three decades of its existence.  The lecture was held at Young Israel of Bal Harbour.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/60Xw4qVAIiQ]

Evgenia Ginzburg: Jewish Life Under Stalin

Evgenia Ginzburg (1904-1977) was a Jewish woman who endured the horrors of the Stalinist Gulag.  Charged and convicted of anti-Soviet activity in 1937, she was sent to the infamous work camps of Siberia for nearly two decades until her case was reviewed two years after Stalin’s death.  She was ultimately rehabilitated, and published her memoirs of the ordeal.  Her life story is illustrative of the tenuous situation of Jews in the Soviet Union during the Stalinist period.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lTd3tVM-lM]

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Emanuel Ringelblum: Heroic Scholar of the Warsaw Ghetto

EmanuelRingelblum_1900-1944

An examination of the life and work of Emanuel Ringelblum (1900-1944), the heroic Polish scholar who organized the underground Oneg Shabbat society in the Warsaw Ghetto. Ringelblum recognized the extreme and unprecedented nature of the Nazi onslaught early in the war, and brought together a group of highly dedicated volunteers who recorded every aspect of Jewish life in the ghetto, including a functioning underground medical school, theaters, newspapers and the like. Betrayed to the Germans, he died a martyr’s death, but not before he buried the Oneg Shabbat archives in milk cans. They were unearthed after the war, and constitute a major source for the study of the Holocaust.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/eqy5tJWraRE]

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Shimon Dubnow: The Politics of Jewish Identity in the Modern World

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4g4EV77WTg]

Shimon Dubnow (1860-1941), a noted historian and activist whose theories of Jewish survival in the diaspora were extremely influential in the shaping Jewish identity in the modern world, from the future of Russian Jewry to the establishment of the modern Federation movement in the United States.  Dubnow’s scholarship was inextricably intertwined with the effort to establish equal rights for Jews in the Tsarist Empire during a period of phenomenal change. Martyred at the hands of the Nazis, his last words were “shrayb–un farshrayb” (write..and record), a Yiddish phrase that has motivated generations of Jewish historians.

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Moses Mendelssohn and the Haskalah Movement

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoFSV-Nx5Kc]

Moses Mendelssohn was a hugely influential thinker in 18th-century Germany.  An unusually gifted intellect, he became the primary spokesperson for the emancipation of Jews in the 18th century, and his cause was championed by many non-Jewish liberals of the era. Heralded as the founder of the Reform movement even though Mendelssohn himself maintained an observant lifestyle, his activity spawned a wholesale abandonment of traditional Judaism. Within a century of his death, his strategy of acculturation to the modern era was widely accepted by most Jewish thinkers in western Europe, but not a single one of Mendelssohn’s descendants remained Jewish.

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