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Workshop Prague May 2008

Chaired by Stefanie Schüler-Springorum­ and Raphael Gross   


Report by Amalia Kedem 

The second workshop of the 2007/8 Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme took place in Prague on 5–8 May 2008. The main purpose of the workshop was to give the fellows an additional opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other’s thoughts and projects. 

At the first workshop (University of Sussex, 2007) it was decided that the next one should focus on research methodology, which would give fellows a theoretical perspective of their work. On the basis of research interests and disciplines, the fellows were divided into three groups: one group would be concerned with the subject of nationalism, another would deal with minority-majority relations, and the last would concentrate on Jewish intellectual thought and the concept of Europe. Each group read an article related to their general theme E-mail correspondence throughout the winter allowed for ongoing interaction between the group members, enabling them to prepare for the upcoming workshop. 

At the workshop, the Leo Baeck fellows were joined by doctoral students from the Studienstiftung. Each of the three groups discussed their article and commented on the suitability of the methodological approach presented in it. The discussions were exciting and challenging. Interestingly, the methodological approaches discussed were not always suitable to the research topics. For example, it was the concensus of the members of the group dealing with minority-majority relations that the approach adopted in Volkov’s article could not tackle the subject properly, and that in order to do so it would have to be modified. The conclusions of the different groups were presented at the closing plenary session. Besides the fellows’ presentations, lectures were given by guest professors (among them Prof. Christian Wiese and Prof. Stefanie Schüler-Springorum), and by researchers and students from the Studienstiftung. These lectures further elucidated the various angles from which the history and culture of the Jews in German-speaking countries can and should be investigated. 

One of the highlights of the workshop was the reception at the German Embassy. The speeches and lectures given at the reception were enlightening and allowed the workshop participants to view their research in a broader context, both from an academic point of view and also from the point of view of Germany’s history and its relations with its Jews. It gave everyone the feeling that the work being done is important and relevant, and meaningful beyond each individual’s academic progress. The warm and friendly atmosphere throughout the workshop and the marvelous location chosen—Prague, a city so richly saturated with Jewish history—made it all a very special experience.

Articles read by members of the 3 groups: Gregory Baum: Martin Buber’s Ethic of Nationalism, in: Gregory Baum: Nationalism, Religion and Ethics, Montreal 2001, 18–38 and Geoff Eley and Ronald G. Suny: From the Moment of Social History to the Work of Cultural Representation, in: Eley/Suny (Eds.): Becoming National. A Reader, New York 1996, Einleitung der ­Herausgeber; ­Shulamit Volkov: European Jews as a Minority: A Historical Overview, in: Haim Shamir (Ed.): France and Germany in an Age of Crisis 1900–1960. Studies in Memory of Charles Bloch, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990, 339–355; Dan Diner: ­Geschichte der Juden—Paradigma einer europäischen Historie, in: Gerald Stourzh (Ed.): ­Annährungen an eine europäische Geschichtsschreibung, Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2002, 85–104.