Byre World: In Conversation with Ruth Ellen Gruber WEDNESDAY 8 MARCH, 6PM FREE (TICKETED)

Book Tickets: 

Ruth Ellen Gruber, author of Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe, appears in conversation with Dr Emily Finer from the School of Modern Languages.

Ruth Ellen Gruber is an American author and journalist who has chronicled Jewish developments in Europe for more than 25 years and writes frequently on Jewish heritage, revival and tourism in post-communist Europe. A former correspondent for UPI in Poland and elsewhere in communist Europe, Ruth is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and Poland’s Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit. She coordinates the web site, a project of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe. The year 2017 marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe – an exploration of non-Jewish interest in Jewish heritage and culture and of the development of Jewish culture in post-Holocaust, post-Communist Europe. It also marks the 25th anniversary of Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, which put hundreds of long-neglected synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and other Jewish heritage sites on the map and drew attention to a rich patrimony that was largely destroyed, forgotten, ruined, or ignored.


Second event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 21 March 2017, University of Manchester

Venue: A113 Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester
Time: 5-7pm

Sander Gilman (Emory University), Jews as Exiles and their Representations after 1933

Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester), German Jews and the Cosmopolitan Ideal in Exile from National Socialism

Sander Gilman is a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author or editor of over eighty books. His Obesity: The Biography appeared with Oxford University Press in 2010; his most recent edited volume, The Third Reich Sourcebook (with Anson Rabinbach) was published with the University of California Press in 2013, He is the author of the basic study of the visual stereotyping of the mentally ill, Seeing the Insane, published by John Wiley and Sons in 1982 (reprinted: 1996) as well as the standard study of Jewish Self-Hatred, the title of his Johns Hopkins University Press monograph of 1986.

In our age when the meanings associated with ‘exile’ and ‘asylum’ are radically shifting, it is valuable to examine how those not directly impacted came to understand such a political alteration after 1933. The transformation of European cosmopolitan intellectuals, at home in the world but also confortable with their role in high German culture, into exiles and asylum seekers was sudden and often unpleasant.  By late January 1933, such cosmopolitans, especially those publically identified as Jews or ‘political’ (or both) began to see their status changing, even prior to the introduction of punitive laws under the new Nazi state.  I shall examine two cases of how these exiles were seen by non-Jews in radically different political spaces:  Thomas Mann in exile writing his Joseph novels and Martin Heidegger, suddenly placed in a position of leadership in the new Nazi state, commenting in his ‘Black’ notebooks about Jews. I shall also think about what such positions mean for ‘Others,’ Jews and Germans (or both) in our age of the demonization of exiles and asylum seekers.

Cathy Gelbin is a Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Manchester. She specializes in German-Jewish culture, Holocaust Studies, gender and film. She is co-editor of the Oxford journal Leo Baeck Institute Year Book for the Study of German-Jewish History and Culture and serves on the Board of Directors and Trustees of the Leo Baeck Institute London, as well as on the selection committee of Studienstiftung’s international Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme in German-Jewish Studies. Recent publications include The Golem Returns: From German Romantic Literature to Global Jewish Culture (2011) and Jewish Culture in the Age of Globalization (2014, co-ed. with Sander L. Gilman).

The brief period between the two world wars saw concerted efforts by liberal and leftist-leaning German and Austrian Jewish writers to promote the cosmopolitan ideal. For a little over a century, the cosmopolitan dream of a united Europe had been nascent among Christian and Jewish intellectuals in the German-speaking realm. Following the nationalist disaster of World War I and the rise of antisemitism throughout the 1920s, the cosmopolitanist project assumed particular urgency for Jewish intellectuals. My talk examines the changes in cosmopolitanist attitudes that exile from National Socialism effected among German-Jewish writers and intellectuals, including Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig and Lion Feuchtwanger.

Roundtable on ‘Building understanding across religious and cultural differences: The legacies of Martin Buber’, Senate Room, New College, 4-5.30pm, 21 February.

All welcome. Questions about the event should be addressed to Dr George R. Wilkes, Director of the Project on Religion and Ethics in the Making of War and Peace, at

Speakers will include:

George Pattison (Glasgow): Buber’s translator, Ronald Gregor Smith

Yaser Mirdamadi (Edinburgh): Buber in post-revolutionary Iran: when “it” turns “you”

Ellen Zhang (Hong Kong Baptist University): Buber’s dialogical mode of I-Thou in the light of Zhuangzi’s Daoist philosophy.

Christine Kupfer (Scottish Tagore Institute): The relationship between Tagore and Martin Buber

First event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies, “Jews: movement, migration, location”, 15 December, University of Glasgow

Venue:  Lecture Theatre A, Boyd Orr Building, University Avenue, Glasgow
Time: 5-7pm

Ada Rapoport Albert (UCL), From Russia to Poland: Interwar Habad Hasidism in Exile

Mia Spiro (University of Glasgow), The Dybbuk’s Haunted Stage: Performing Jewish Mysticism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust

Part of the Mysticism in Comparative Perspective Conference


Ada Rapoport-Albert is Professor emerita of Jewish Studies and former Head of Hebrew and Jewish UCL. She is a historian of the Jewish mystical tradition, with special interest in Hasidism, the messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi, ascetic practice in a variety of pietistic circles, and gender issues in reference to all the above topics. Her publications include Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi 1666-1816 (2011) and, in Hebrew,Studies in Hasidism, Sabbatianism, and Gender (2015).

The paper focuses on a crucial turning point in the history of the Habad-Lubavitch school of Hasidism, when its leader, the 6th Rebbe, Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (1880-1950), fled his native Russia, where religious observance was vigorously suppressed by the Communist authorities, and established his headquarters (‘court’) in the then free Second Republic of Poland, having left behind the bulk of his traditionally large hasidic following, now effectively trapped in the Soviet Union. The strategies he adopted during this period for transplanting the distinctive Habad brand of Hasidism in an alien Jewish environment, densely populated by rival, indigenously Polish Hasidic ‘courts’, laid the foundations for every radical innovation, which was to secure Habad’s post-war survival and its transformation into a highly visible, international outreach movement.

Mia Spiro is Lecturer in Jewish Studies at the School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow. She is the author of Anti-Nazi Modernism: The Challenges of Resistance in 1930s Fiction (Northwestern UP, 2013) and has published several articles on Jewish representation in literature and film in the period leading up to WWII and the Holocaust. She is currently working on a project, entitled ‘Monsters and Migration: Golems, Vampires, and the Ghosts of War’, which examines how elements of the supernatural have been used by modern writers and artists to grapple with oppression, migration, and antisemitism in the first half of the twentieth century.

In the preface to his play script, The Dybbuk (1914), a tale of a young bride possessed by the spirit of her dead beloved, S. Ansky writes: “throughout the play there is a battle between… the individual’s striving for happiness and the survival of the nation.” Thus Ansky, an ethnographer and historian who set out to recapture the already disappearing culture of the Jewish shtetl, reinvented in the Jewish imagination in what is surely Jewish theatre’s most popular theatrical production (over 2000 performances to date). This talk will explore how the idea of the “dybbuk” — the possessing spirit — transforms on stage and screen in the years leading up to WWII and in 1948-1954 productions in Glasgow, New York and Paris, as Jewish communities grapple with the haunting and very “undead” spirit of a Jewish cultural life on the wake of the Shoah.

Announcing the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies 2016/17:’Jews: movement, migration, location’

The Astaire Seminar Series 2016/17 is organised between the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Durham and Manchester. Events are free and open to all. If you are planning to attend any of these seminars please contact the local organiser for details regarding venue and timing. The address is in the link for each location.

15 December 2016, University of Glasgow
Venue:  Lecture Theatre A, Boyd Orr Building, University Avenue, Glasgow
Time: 5-7pm

Ada Rapoport Albert (UCL), From Russia to Poland: Interwar Habad Hasidism in Exile

Mia Spiro (University of Glasgow), The Dybbuk’s Haunted Stage: Performing Jewish Mysticism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust

This event is part of the Mysticism in Comparative Perspective Conference

21 March 2017, University of Manchester
Venue: A113 Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester
Time: 5-7pm

Sander Gilman (Emory University), Jews as Exiles and their Representations after 1933

Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester), German Jews and the Cosmopolitan Ideal in Exile from National Socialism

26 April 2017, University of St Andrews
Venue: Old Class Library, School of History, 69 South Street, St Andrews
Time: 2-4pm

Adam Shear (University of Pittsburgh), Jews and their Books on the Move in Early Modern Europe

Emily Finer (University of St Andrews), Jewish Migration and Metamorphosis in Early Soviet Fiction

This event is co-sponsored by USTC and the School of History

9 May 2017, University of Durham
Elad Lapidot (Freie Universität Berlin), Deterritorialized Immigrant: The Talmudic Ger as a Cross-Border Figure

Ilan Baron (University of Durham), The International Cultural Politics of Israeli Cuisine

11 July 2017, University of Edinburgh
Hana Wirth-Nesher (University of Tel Aviv), To Move, to Translate, To Write: Jewish American Immigrant Voices

This event is a keynote lecture at the British Association for Jewish Studies Annual Conference.

‘The Holocaust and the Novel: Can an Atrocity be Fictionalized? ‘ Thane Rosenbaum in Conversation, 22 November 2016, New College

Thane Rosenbaum in conversation with Dr Nina Fischer. Introduced by Dr Hannah Holtschneider.

Tuesday 22 November 2016, 4-6pm, Martin Hall, New College

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist and law professor, the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction including The Golems of GothamSecond Hand Smoke and, most recently, How Sweet It Is! He appears frequently in such publications as the New York TimesWall Street JournalWashington Post, Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast, among other national publications. He is a Distinguished Fellow at New York University School of Law, where he directs the Forum on Law, Culture & Society.