Research Group

Between Jewish languages: Literature, Thought and History

Group Description

Born in the growing field of thought and research surrounding the German-Hebrew dialogue, this research group now aspires to broaden its scope, extending it to other languages and additional historical, literary, and cultural points of contact Our discussions will center on questions of multilingualism, cultural meeting points, and translation arising in texts written in diverse Jewish languages – from East and West. They will focus on manifestations of the interaction between different languages in literary texts, not only overt and explicit, but also the more obscure and indirect correlations occurring in syntactical structures, ways of thinking, semantic history, and in the various undercurrents running through the literary text.

The evolution of the “German-Hebrew” discourse as a research field was influenced by currents such as multiculturalism and post-colonialism, and by changes in translation theory that deeply impacted German-Jewish studies during the 1990s. The increasing focus on multilingualism in the areas of cultural studies and German studies led to more intense scrutiny of monolingual texts written by bilingual writers in German and in Hebrew that created parallel texts offering fertile ground for comparative research. Conversely, readings of multilingual texts in German-Hebrew studies focus primarily on the use of Hebrew words, sentences and concepts in German texts. These studies have appeared predominantly in English and they represent part of a wider discourse on Jewish-German cultural history. However, few studies address the incidence of German words in Hebrew texts or the various less discernible ways in which the two languages influence one another and the frequent involvement of additional languages in this encounter.

We seek to focus on the dash (-), that is, the point of contact, the rift and the lines of convergence between the languages; to probe deeper and extend the discussion beyond the preoccupation with German and Hebrew. We wish to scrutinize the dash per se within the world of Jewish literatures, not necessarily as a link between just two elements, but as a signifier of the complex relationship between languages and cultures beyond the boundaries that separate them.

Scholars who deal in a “third” language (Arabic, Persian, French, Spanish, Ladino, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, etc.) that may be relevant to this encounter are invited to join the research group so as to discuss the topic in a broad comparative context embracing a variety of perspectives and disciplines such as comparative literature, linguistics, philosophy of language, and cultural history.

The research group is scheduled to meet once a month during the 2020-2021 academic year and welcomes doctoral and post-doctoral students from Israel and abroad who wish to participate in this conversation. The meetings will be held online on Wednesdays at 20:00 IST.
If you would like to participate, please submit an application outlining a research proposal and a “statement of intent” (1-2 pages each) by December 15, 2020, to the Leo Baeck Institute’s email address:

Group coordinators:
Jan Kühne, Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Gilad Shiram, Stanford University

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Head of the Research Group
Dr. Jan Kühne

Jan Kühne is associate researcher at the Rosenzweig Minerva Center. His current project is dedicated to multilingualism and translation in Jewish Literature primarily of German and Hebrew affinity, with focus on multilingual homophony as a poetic writing technique. Kühne’s Ph.D. re-search, conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was dedicated to the German-Jewish writer Sammy Gronemann (1875-1952), published under Die zionistische Komödie im Drama Sammy Gronemanns (2020). Besides documenting Gronemann’s largely unknown Israeli oeuvre and Hebrew corpus, this project developed into the Critical Edition of Collected Works by Sammy Gronemann, which Kühne initiated and edits, and of which three volumes have already been published.

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Gilad Shiram

Gilad Shiram is a PhD candidate in the department of German Studies at Stanford University, working on 20th century poetry as well as German-Jewish literature and thought. Other interests include translation, literary theory, Jewish languages, and digital humanities. Gilad is a graduate of the Adi Lautman Interdisciplinary Program and holds a master’s degree in Literature from Tel Aviv University.

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Dr. Avner Ofrath

Dr Avner Ofrath teaches Modern History at the University of Bremen, specialising in citizenship and the public sphere in the colonial and post-colonial Mediterranean. His first monograph, The Unmaking of Citizenship: Republican France and colonial Algeria, 1848-1958 (Bloomsbury Aca-demic, forthcoming 2022) explores the emergence of racialised French citizenship in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
His current project investigates Jewish-Muslim relations in the broader Mediterranean, tracing the diverging responses of different communities to the challenges posed by the modern European state. The project pays special attention to political writing in Judeo-Arabic in the Middle East and North Africa. Drawing on petitions, pamphlets and newspaper articles, the project explores the gaps and intersections between the grand narratives of modern Jewish life: assimilation, nationalism, secularism and orthodoxy.

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Group Participants
Dr. Michal Peles Almagor

Michal Peles Almagor is a post-doctoral fellow at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She earned her doctorate at Chicago University’s department of comparative literature, and her MA at Ben Gurion University’s department of Hebrew literature. Her research deals with Hebrew and German-Jewish literature and theater, focusing on multilingualism as reflected in the processes of canonization, Jewish-cultural historiography, and the poetics of the Hebrew novel. Her work is supported by the humanities faculty of Chicago University, the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies, and the UC Mellon Foundation. She is currently working on her book No Arrival: German Realms and the Rise of the Hebrew Novel.

ido ben-harush
Ido Ben-Harush

Ido Ben Harush is a PhD student at the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Yale University. His research focuses on the tensions and intersections of literature, theology, and political thought in early twentieth century German-Jewish authors. He is interested in the intercon-nections between secularism and tradition, Judaism and Christianity, and revolution and redemption.

Recent publication: “Franz Rosenzweig, Richard Wagner and the Sacred Theater of the Day of Atonement,” New German Critique (forthcoming)

Sergii Gurbich

Sergii Gurbych, PhD candidate at Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg University, Germany. Academic interests: Jewish studies, Migrant literature, Identity studies, Hebrew poetry
Current project: German cultural roots of the Hebrew poetry by Nathan Zach and Yehuda Amichai

Omer Waldman

Omer Waldman is a research student in the department of Hebrew Language at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His MA dissertation addressed issues of language and style in the poetry of Avot Yeshurun up until 1970. In his doctoral dissertation Omer will conduct a linguistic examination of all of Yeshurun’s poetry.

Adi Molad

Adi Molad is a PhD student at the program of Comparative Literature at the School of Cultural Studies at the Tel Aviv University. Adi wrote her Master thesis on the Hebrew poet Haim Nahman Bialik and the Hybrid qualities of Hebrew alphabet letters in his poetics. Her PhD project focuses on circus representations and circus poetics in German art and Literature (Franz Kafka) and Hebrew Literature (Gershon Shofman).

Erika Mejia

Erika Mejia is a Ph.D. candidate in the Hebrew Literature Department at the Hebrew University. She specializes in translation studies and Spanish and Latin American literature. Her dissertation engages with Hebrew-Spanish translation; within this framework, she studies poetry translations from different periods and the role of specific linguistic features in the transmission of meaning. Her work examines how these translations reposition the texts within language and culture and create a bridge for the modern reader.

Dr. Judith Müller

Judith Müller’s Ph.D. thesis on the perception of Europe in Hebrew literature from 1890 to 1938 ex-amines prose texts by Micha Josef Berdichevsky, David Fogel, and Gershon Shofman. Those no-vellas and novels were written against the geo-cultural background of Central Europe and thus show a Europeanness that is directly connected to the link between centre and periphery as well as a constant cultural translation and transition. It is in this context of great interest to take a closer look at the triangle of the metropolises Berlin–Vienna–Paris. Each of these cities attracted one or several of the authors to be discussed and thus influenced their writing, their language and the content of the examined texts. These cities enabled authors and characters to leave the narrowness of tradi-tion and decorum in the Shtetl. The crossing of multiple boundaries is a central condition in this pro-cess and allows the arrival in a new spatiotemporality. However, thereafter the paths became more and more individualized: for some the artistic free space is indeed a specific place, for others it is embodied in the temporality of their writing and the realms created hereby.
A crucial goal of the thesis is, moreover, to to show how figures of Europe in those texts point to-wards a debate on and cultural rooting in a general idea of Europe and its conception. The term Eu-rope itself does almost never appear in the primary sources, thus the question is rather how Europe manifests itself in Hebrew literature as a representation of the credo maximum diversity in mini-mum space, as a constant exchange between its spatial centres and margins or as a permanent transition and cultural translation.

דוד מנריקה
David Manrique

David Manrique is a doctoral student in the department of Hebrew literature at Ben Gurion University in the Negev. Manrique specializes in the study of Judeo-Spanish culture and literature. In his doctoral dissertation he offers a literary analysis of the mostly partial translations of the book of the Zohar into Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). Through his research we learn about the rich social mosaic of the Judeo-Spanish community throughout the Ottoman Empire, which thrived between the eighteenth and the early twentieth century. It comprised Sabbataists, folk healers and eminent rabbis. Manrique has written a scientific edition of the Spanish (Castilian) version of the Dance of Death in the Jewish Spanish play that preceded the expulsion of Spanish Jews – which includes an edition of the original text (Manrique, David M., Dize la Muerte. Estudio y edici ón de la copia cuatrocentista de la Danza de la Muerte aljamiada [Ms. Parma 2666] [= Colección Fuente Clara. Estudios de cultura sefardí, 40]. – Barcelona: Tirocinio, 2019.))
Manrique currently teaches the Ladino language at the unit for the teaching of foreign languages at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev.

Dr. Anat Messing Marcus

Anat Messing Marcus received her PhD from the University of Cambridge. She holds an MA from the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel-Aviv University. Her research focuses on critical theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, feminist theory and aesthetic theory. Her doctoral thesis explores the work of the senses, philosophy of language and political aesthetics in Benjamin’s work, taking as its touch-stone the substantially poetics of architecture and the sensorial experience of “tactility” across his writings. She is postdoctoral affiliate, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, University of Cambridge (2020-2021).

Ohad Pinchevsky

Ohad Pinchevsky is studying for a master's degree at the Hebrew University in the Department of Jewish History. His research focuses on the Jews of Germany in the Weimar Republic.

Meirav Reuveny

Meirav Reuveny’s PhD project, titled "Why Hebrew? Linguistic Discourse and Modernization in the Jewish Press," concerns the Jewish public discourse about the Hebrew language during the years 1856-1914. By examining debates that took place in Hebrew, Yiddish and German newspapers, the research follows the formation of linguistic norms and ideologies about the meaning of Hebrew and its role in modern Jewish life. Through sociolinguistic methodologies and comparison to neighboring European cases, it aspires to understand the circumstances that enabled and shaped the moderni-zation of Hebrew, and the cultural and sociological implications of this process.

Dr. Dekel Shay-Schory

Dr. Dekel Shai Schory is a literary scholar and editor. She wrote her doctoral dissertation in the department of Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. Her research, soon to appear in the Gesharim series, deals with the literature produced by Jewish authors in the German-speaking sphere in the early twentieth century. Two of the authors she has studied – Stephan Zweig and Joseph Roth – wrote in German, and two of them – G. Shoffman and David Vogel – wrote in Hebrew. Reading all four of them through similar filters of language, identity, sphere, and myth enables one to comprehend them as part of an expansive world of literary possibilities. Dr. Shai is an editor of the Hebrew prose series Ruah Tsad [Side Wind] (Heksherim Institute and Devir) and teaches at the Eilat campus of Ben-Gurion University in the Negev.

ido telem
Ido Telem

Ido Telem is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Comparative Literature at The University of Chicago. His work addresses the reception of German literature and thought, primarily from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in Hebrew literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His MA thesis traces the reception of German-Jewish poet Else Lasker-Schüler in mandatory Palestine and Israel as a case study for the ideological and poetic consolidation of the new Hebrew canon

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