The Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University, named after the Russian-Jewish historian Simon Dubnow (1860–1941), was established in 1995 on the basis of a resolution passed by the state parliament of Saxony. It is associated with Leipzig University through a formal agreement for cooperation. The Institute has been directed since April 2017 by Yfaat Weiss, Professor of Modern History, especially Jewish history, at Leipzig University and Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University Jerusalem. Between 1999 and 2014 it was managed by Professor Dan Diner and from April 2015 onwards by Professor Raphael Gross.
The Institute's work centers on research on the life-worlds (Lebenswelten) of the Jews, primarily in Central and Eastern Europe, investigating in particular the mutual relations between the Jews in Eastern and Western Europe and in the context of their non-Jewish environment. The temporal frame is from the medieval period down to the present. Contrasted with the situation in Western Europe, the areas focused on are largely zones of transition between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam. Currently, the main focus of research is on the period from the late 18th century to the beginning of the Second World War. Jewish history is viewed from a transnational, pluralistic perspective, as a kind of seismograph for shifts and tremors in the broader terrain of historical developments.
In terms of the historical sciences, work at the Institute revolves around three nodes of inquiry: (a) political and diplomatic history, based on new methodological approaches, (b) the history of migration and science, because migratory dynamics and innovation are closely intertwined, and (c) the classic canon of intellectual history and the history of ideas.
Special stress is placed on cooperative research at national and international levels. The Institute maintains close links with numerous scholarly centers in a number of countries, including Israel, the United States, Great Britain, Poland, France, Austria and Germany. Along with a central emphasis on research, the Institute also hosts guest scholars from Germany and abroad, guides doctoral students, arranges international conferences and smaller scholarly discussions, provides an array of courses for students at Leipzig University, and connects the academic research to a broader public.