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Jewish History and Memory: Richmond, New York, and Kraków

This seminar explores the interwoven histories of New York City and Kraków , Poland, two centers of Jewish life that have figured large in the popular imagination of the modern Jewish experience. The course is cross-listed with History (HIST 299), American Studies (AMST 391), and Jewish Studies (JWST 391) and meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 10:15.

What topics does the course cover?
The first half of the course will focus on the “great migration” of Central and Eastern European Jews to American shores in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beginning with Jewish life in Poland, we will trace the experience of Jewish immigrants in the United States and the continued social, cultural, and political connections between the world’s two largest Jewish communities until the Holocaust. In the second half of the course, we will examine how American Jews and Poles have remembered, debated, and memorialized pre-war Jewish Poland and the Holocaust. Throughout the semester, we will explore the continuing implications of this history and its contemporary representations for American Jewish and Polish identity.
What takes place inside the classroom?

Richmond, New York City, and Kraków will serve as our key sites through which to explore this intertwined history. On the eve of the Second World War, two million Jews lived in New York, more than any other city in the world. Kraków, a center of Polish and Jewish cultural and intellectual life, ranked among the ten cities with the highest percentage of Jewish residents in the world. Both cities have figured large in the popular imagination of the modern Jewish experience, from memories of New York’s Lower East Side to depictions of Kraków’s Kazimierz district in the film “Schindler’s List.”  We will explore Richmond, New York, and Kraków through class discussion of a variety of sources and through a special, online collaboration with faculty and students at Jagiellonian University in Kraków , Poland.

What takes place outside of the classroom?

Within Richmond, we will visit the Beth Ahabah Museum & Archives, the Cemetery for Hebrew Confederate Soldiers, and the Virginia Holocaust Museum. Over fall break, we will travel to New York City to investigate sites of Jewish history, culture, and identity. While in New York City, we will visit Ellis IslandTenement MuseumMuseum of Jewish HeritageEldridge Street SynagogueKatz’s Delicatessen, and the YIVO Archives. We will also participate in walking tours of the Lower Eastside and Borough Park, as well as Brooklyn.

How to apply to participate

Any student with an interest in these topics is invited to apply for the course by emailing Prof. Sackley. The course has no prerequisites, but students who wish to apply should briefly describe why want to take the course.