Sommer Semester 2023

Hurban: Catastrophe in Jewish History

Lecturer: Prof. Malachi H. Hacohen (Leibniz Professorship at Leipzig University)

Tuesday, 11.15 a.m. to 12.45 p.m.

Start: 18 April 2023

Dubnow Institute, Goldschmidtstraße 28, Leipzig

Seminar Language: English

Ḥurban (utter devastation) is the Yiddish term for the Holocaust. The term captures the three-millennia long Jewish experience of catastrophe and reads the Holocaust into Jewish history. Ḥurban originally designated the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, the devastation of the City and of the Land of Israel, and the exile of the Jewish people. The Hebrew Bible views Ḥurban as punishment for the sin and corruption of the Israelites and assures the people that a return to God would bring forth redemption from slavery and exile and a reconstruction of independent life in the Land. Jewish literature used Ḥurban throughout history to describe the periodic destruction of Jewish communities by pogroms, persecution, government decrees, and exile. But, in medieval and early modern Europe, Ḥurban was no longer associated with sin but with Jewish martyrdom – sanctification of the name of the Lord. With the rise of Zionism, rejection of Jewish powerlessness and a search for empowerment began characterizing Jewish response to catastrophe. The Holocaust created a crisis of traditional meanings, and sin, sanctification, and empowerment all reemerged in competition. The Yiddish use of Ḥurban absorbs the Holocaust into the Jewish historical pattern and, at the same time, suggests that we are still in search for a response to the crisis.

The course tracks Jewish responses to catastrophe over three millennia and highlights the anomaly of the contemporary global situation of the Jews – of Jewish power and acceptance. Readings are in biblical and rabbinic sources, Jewish literature, and historiography.  A research paper using primary sources will be the major requirement, as well as weekly blog responses to the readings and active class participation.

Literature:Tanach (Hebräische Bibel), Deuteronomium, 2. Könige, Klagelieder (selections); Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra, Sota and Yoma (brief selections); Siddur (Jüdisches Gebetbuch), liturgy for the Ninth of Av and selected Qinot (Klagelieder); Nathan ben Moses Hanover, Yewen Meẓulah. Schilderung des polnisch-kosakischen Krieges und der Leiden der Juden in Polen während der Jahre 1648 - 1653; Bericht eines Zeitgenossen, Jawen Meẓulah. Schilderung des polnisch-kosakischen Krieges. Nach einer von J. Lelewel durchges. franz. Übersetzung durch S. Kayserling, Hannover 1863; Ḥayim Nachman Bialik, In der Stadt des Schlachtens,Aus dem Jiddischen und mit einem Nachwort von Richard Chaim Schneider, Salzburg/Wien 1990; Manès Sperber, Churban, oder Die unfaßbare Gewissheit, München 1979; Alan Mintz, Responses to Catastrophe in Jewish Literature, New York 1984.

Open to mature age students: no
Participation is limited to 20 people.