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Greenberg Center Professors to Talk about "How Books Transform Jewish History"

Posted 12/01/2009
Posted by Susan Gottlieb

Richard Freund and Avi Patt, who have both recently published highly acclaimed books, will be the featured presenters at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies' First-of-the-Month Contemporary Issues Forum, which for December will focus on "The Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies Book Festival: How Books Transform Jewish History."

This program, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, December 1, at 7:30 p.m., in the 1877 Club, in the Harry Jack Gray Center, University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.

Freund, director of the Greenberg Center, published two major works in 2009, including the paperback revised version of Digging through the Bible: Modern Archaeology and Ancient Bible (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009), which was published in hardback in 2008 and quickly garnered many excellent reviews and was a finalist for Book of the Year in the category of Religion.

Patt, the Philip Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Greenberg Center, published his first book, Finding Home and Homeland: Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust in May 2009 (Published by Wayne State University Press). Finding Home and Homeland contends that Jewish displaced persons in postwar Europe played a central role on the international diplomatic stage, with the overwhelming Zionist enthusiasm of this group, particularly in the large segment of young adults among them, vital to the diplomatic decisions that led to the creation of the state of Israel so soon after the war.

Freund's book, Digging through the Bible, chronicles the over two decades of excavations that Freund has participated in from the search for Mount Sinai to the unearthing of the secrets of the beginnings of Christianity in Nazareth and Bethsaida. Along the way Freund shows how the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament were written down and how this process affects the understanding of the material culture.

With 16 contributors from fields in archaeology, physical anthropology, geophysics, hydrologists, cartographers, geography, geology, chemistry, biology, history, numismatics, glass and pottery experts from all fields from the Bronze Age through the Islamic period, Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, Vol. IV is one of the most ambitious of the four volumes that Dr. Richard Freund of the University of Hartford has undertaken with his collaborator in the Bethsaida Excavations Project, Dr. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The other volumes published in 1995, 1999, 2004, and now with this volume in 2009 have established the Bethsaida Excavations Project as one of the most published excavations that is being currently excavated. Most excavations take decades after the completion of excavations to finish their research, but thanks to the committed work at conferences, conference papers, research assignments and planning, the excavations have provided answers to some of the most vexing archaeological problems associated with New Testament and the Hebrew Bible.

In Finding Home and Homeland, Patt examines the meaning and appeal of Zionism to young Jewish displaced persons and looks for the reasons for its success among Holocaust survivors. Patt argues that Zionism was highly successful in filling a positive function for young displaced persons in the aftermath of the Holocaust because it provided a secure environment for vocational training, education, rehabilitation, and a sense of family. For many of the youth who joined the kibbutzim of the Zionist youth movements and journeyed to Israel, it was the search for a new home that ultimately brought them to a new homeland.

Finding Home and Homeland consults previously untapped sources created by young Holocaust survivors after the war and in so doing reflects the experiences of a highly resourceful, resilient, and dedicated group that was passionate about the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Patt's second book, We are Here: New Approaches to Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany, will be published by Wayne State University Press in late December 2009. In We Are Here, editors Avinoam J. Patt and Michael Berkowitz present current research on DPs between the end of the war and the creation of the State of Israel in order to present a more complete and nuanced picture of the DP experience, challenging many earlier assumptions about this group. Following the Holocaust, the stateless displaced persons (DPs) created a unique space for political, cultural, and social rebirth that was tempered by the complications of overcoming recent trauma. Contributors to this volume analyze art, music, and literature of the DPs, as well as historical records of specific DP communities to explore the first reactions of survivors to liberation and their understanding of place in the context of postwar Germany and in Europe more generally. Far from constituting a monolithic whole, then, We Are Here demonstrates that the DPs were composed of diverse groups with disparate wartime experiences. Scholars of the Holocaust and all readers concerned with the Jewish experience immediately after World War II will be grateful for this volume.