Press Release

13 April 2022

The Material and Intellectual Legacy of the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin

German-Jewish Cultural Diasporic Heritage

The joint project of the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow and the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem focuses on the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies, founded in Berlin in 1872 and active until its closure by the Nazis in 1942. As part of the joint project, we will study the fate and importance of the Institute’s library, the postwar whereabouts of its books, and various initiatives for preserving its intellectual and cultural value.

Financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of its Jewish Cultural Heritage Program, the three-year multidisciplinary project is designed to reexamine the Institute’s history. Using approaches informed by cultural studies, library sciences, source evaluation, and the history of ideas, the Institute’s intellectual and material legacy will be reconstructed in various sites. Activities planned include a conference at the Jewish Community Center in Berlin, as well as various academic publications and public events.

Director of Dubnow Institute Yfaat Weiss emphasizes: “Based on past experience with research projects on the history of Jewish cultural property that has dispersed and remained heirless due to National Socialism, we want to reinvestigate here, using a perspectives that begins with the material, a major arena of the Jewish history of ideas, culture and memory in the postwar period.” Director of Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem Irene Aue-Ben-David adds: “In the first project module, we have shed light on postwar initiative to preserve the heritage of the Berlin Institute. It was mostly Jewish intellectuals and institutes from Israel, the US and the UK that sought to do this. In the second module, we are following the traces of the books dispersed from the Institute’s ruined library, and therefore focus particularly on the material”.

The DFG will finance the Jewish Cultural Heritage Project until 2025. The project seeks to conduct a broad perspective, multidisciplinary study of the development of social and cultural-political meaning of the Jewish cultural heritage in Europe and its preservation over the years.