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Workshop Arnoldshain May 2007

Chaired by John Grenville and Raphael Gross   


Report by Kai Drewes 

From 13 to 16 May 2007 the first group of Leo Baeck fellows had the opportunity to meet again: Our second workshop took place at the Evangelische Akademie Arnoldshain and was part of the History Doctoral Forum of the Studienstiftung with around 50 participants in all (many thanks to Roland Hain for organising this!). With the topic “Jewish history and philosophy” we were one of three groups of the forum, adopting four more PhD students of philosophy and theology. 

Not only did every fellow present his or her project – it was rather interesting to see the developments since our first gathering at the University of Sussex in October 2006 – but Raphael Gross also gave us a summary of the history and work of the Leo Baeck Institute. And since unfortunately Eli Bar-Chen was unable to come John Grenville held a spontaneous evening lecture in which he made moving remarks about his becoming committed to German-Jewish history in his later career. John gave examples of commercial, scientific and other relations of Jewish and non-Jewish Germans before 1933 and underlined that from his point of view there was no direct way towards the Shoah. He gave a humorous overview of his own research and experiences and encouraged us young historians to search for links between spheres which at first may seem to have no connection. The LBI team was completed by Daniel Wildmann from whom, among other things, I learned quite a number of interesting details about life in Britain – a good preparation for my own stay and my cultural historical research that I undertook in London last autumn. The “Remembrance and Future Fund”, one of the partners of our fellowship programme, was represented by Gabriele Freitag who gave the panel an idea of the tasks carried out by the Fund and the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future”. 

Most of the other participants showed great interest in and sympathy for what we and the LBI are doing. But it also became apparent how difficult it can be – even in academic circles – to explain the complexity of Jewish history and culture and its investigation. A few voices also criticized our being a group of our own often speaking in English, despite our fellows visiting many of the other groups’ presentations (probably more so than vice versa). But individual inconsiderate statements cannot reduce the overall value of the seminar. 

Arnoldshain once more showed both the variety of our topics and the unsurpassed advantages of exchange and networking. In the final discussion within our internal group—together with Frau Freitag and Herr Hain—we agreed that we would like to maintain the fellowship programme and strengthen our communal spirit. We thought about creating a website for and maintained by the fellows (this may become part of the website of the LBI London). Furthermore we talked about the possibility of taking part in some of the workshops organised for the new fellows, the first of which will take place in Prague in May 2008. 

I would like to end my report with an event that took place at the British Library: Queuing in the Humanities Reading Room somebody whose face I had seen before asked me in English: “Aren’t you Kai Drewes?” – “Yes.” – “And weren’t you in Arnoldshain in May?” Well, Marcel and I had got to know each other during one of the breaks, and now we made friends in London. Long live the fellowship!