Who Was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson? Jewish Biography as History

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, also known as “Der Frierdiker Rebbe” (The Earlier Rebbe) to distinguish him from his successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was the sixth leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Living in tumultuous times, he shifted the center of the movement from its Eastern European origins to its current headquarters in the United States.

Rabbi Israel Meir Kahan, The Chofetz Chaim (Jewish Biography as History)

Israel Meir Kagan (photo courtesy Baruch Chafetz via Wikimedia Commons)
Israel Meir Kagan (photo courtesy Baruch Chafetz via Wikimedia Commons)

Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, better known as the Chofetz Chaim for his classic work on the sanctity of speech, was one of the major Rabbinic leaders of the late 19th and early 20th century.

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The Beilis Affair of 1911-1913 (This Week in Jewish History) by Dr. Henry Abramson

Mendel Beilis via Wikimedia Commons.
Mendel Beilis via Wikimedia Commons.

The discovery of the mutilated body of a young boy in Kiev led to the false arrest of a Jewish laborer named Mendel Beilis. Ignoring the argument of investigating officers, the Russian government under Tsar Nicholas II pressed ahead with the prosecution of Beilis, arguing that the boy was murdered as part of a Passover-related Jewish plot. After two years’ imprisonment, Beilis was freed by a Ukrainian Jewry that could not be persuaded to agree with the Russian prosecutor. Part of the This Week in Jewish History series by Dr. Henry Abramson.

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.

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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.

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Solomon Mikhoels: Jews and Jewish Art in the USSR

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Solomon Mikhoels (1890-1948) was one of the most prominent actors and directors in early Soviet Russia. His career coincides with the brief flourishing of Yiddish culture under the policy of korenizatsiia, or “indiginization,” when the Communist authorities sought to develop folk culture as a means of developing loyalty to the new regime and its ideology. Performing in Shakespeare and Sholom Aleichem with equal grace, Mikhoels was a hero to Jews throughout the Soviet Union until Stalin brought the liberal policy to an abrupt end.