Workshop July 2012

Workshop in Rastatt, July 2012

Chaired by Elisabeth Hollender, Raphael Gross, and Daniel Wildmann


Report by Lisa Schoss

The second Leo Baeck Fellowship Workshop 2012 took place in the baroque city of Rastatt, a small town near Karlsruhe, on 8-10th July 2012. The workshop was led by Professor Raphael Gross (LBI London), Dr Daniel Wildmann (LBI London), Professor Elisabeth Hollender (Universität Frankfurt), and Dr Matthias Frenz (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes).

Coming from institutions in Germany, the United States and Israel, the fellows met at the Bildungshaus St. Bernhard to present and discuss the progress they had made on their research projects. The nine Leo Baeck fellows were joined by three “regular” scholarship holders from the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (Kathrin Wittler, Daniel Münzer, and Carolin Kosuch). I was particularly fortunate in that the Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme and the Studienstiftung made it possible that my six months old daughter and my husband could travel along.

The wide array of academic disciplines had the consequence that the topics at the workshop ranged from Medieval Hebraism over Jews and orientalism to diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel after 1945 – a veritable time travel within German-Jewish history. Each presentation was introduced and moderated by a different fellow and the subsequent discussions were animated. Even though time and space of the inquiries seemed to separate the projects, we found many points of contact and common ground. It was this multidiscplinarity that enriched the discussions about systematic concepts, aspects of terminology or methodologies. Fervid conversations continued beyond the official sessions.

As it happened, Professor Elisabeth Hollender argued in her evening lecture exactly for the fruitfulness of an interdisciplinary approach using the example of her collaboration as an historian with archaeologists in decoding excavations of Medieval Jewish Cologne. Interdisciplinarity was also the assumption of the second lecture: Dr Daniel Wildmann, historian and film scholar, spoke on Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia (1938) and the representation of bodies therein, more precisely, of “Aryan” masculinities.

On Monday we took the guided tour Remnants of Jewish life at Rastatt, organized by the city museum, which demonstrated Germany’s “Vergangenheitsbewäl-tigung” (dealing with the past) on a regional scale.

Personally, I remember the workshop very fondly, because it prompted my return to serious academic work after the first months of motherhood. It helped me to focus my research question and thereby to concentrate my efforts again. What is more, we all benefited from the collegial network that was build at the two workshops. Some of us are still in contact and cooperate. Some have already successfully finished their doctoral dissertations.