Past Programs & Events

Apr 6, 2017

Musar after the Holocaust: Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler and the Rebuilding of Jewish Pietism

R. Eliyahu Dessler (d.1953) was arguably the most prominent proponent of the classical musar tradition to survive the Holocaust. He spent the war years in England where he moved from Lithuania to accompany his father for medical treatment. During the inter-war years, Dessler served as a dean of the Manchester Yeshiva where he trained many boys and young men who were part of the Kindertransports. After the war he immigrated to Mandate Palestine where he served as a spiritual mentor of the Ponovitsch Yeshiva in Bnei Brak until his death in 1953. This lecture will explore Dessler’s teachings, collected in the 5 volume Mikhtav M’Eliyahu, as an example of one who sought to reconstruct the ideology of musar with emphasis on its teachings as a response to the Holocaust. While not normally thought of as a post-Holocaust thinker, I will argue that Dessler’s musar is not simply a reiteration of pre-war musar but is a tool to teach his readers how to react to the theological challenges of the Holocaust.


Shaul Magid is the Jay and Jeanie Schotenstein Professor of Jewish Studies at Indiana University. He is also a Kogod Senior Research Fellow at The Shalom Hartman Institute in NYC. His work deals with the tradition and Jewish theology and philosophy from the early modern period to the present. His most recent book is *Hasidism Incarnate: Hasidism, Christianity, and the Construction of Modern Judaism* published with Stanford University Press. His forthcoming book *The Jewish Jesus of Volozhin: Elijah Zvi Soloveitchik's Commentary to the New testament* will be published by Yale University Press.

Mar 23, 2017

Film Screening and Discussion of STALAGIM

Stalags is a 2008 documentary film produced by Barak Heymann and directed by Ari Libsker. The film examines the history of Stalags, a genre of pornographic comic books popular in Israel in the 1960s. The Stalags were based on a stock plot, in which erotically drawn Nazi women sexually exploit male prisoners of war. The comic books broke sales records and sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the period of the Adolf Eichmann trial. After the authors of the books were accused of distributing anti-Semitic pornography, the popularity of the books declined. In raising questions about the connection between taboo imagery and repressed history, eroticism and violence, the film offers a daring perspective on Holocaust memory in Israeli society. Ari Libsker is an Israeli documentary filmmaker and journalist, who writes for the newspaper Calcalist. He is best known for his films Circumcision and Home Poem, as well as his artistic activism through the journals Maayan and Maarvon.

Hannah Pollin-Galay is an interdisciplinary scholar of Holocaust and Memory Studies. Her research, which draws from both literature and history, explores the connection between spoken language and memory in atrocity testimony. She is the author of Ecologies of Witnessing: Language, Place and Holocaust Testimony (forthcoming, Fall 2018), which compares oral narratives across linguistic and geographic boundaries. Pollin-Galay has published articles in journals such as Jewish Social StudiesHolocaust and Genocide Studiesand Prooftexts, as well as scholarly reviews for The Oral History Review and Studies in American Jewish Literature.

This presentation is part of a lecture series entitled Witnessing Otherwise, organized by Hannah Pollin-Galay, IHGMS Faculty Fellow and UMass Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of English.

Mar 21, 2017

Sounding the Inexpressible: Arnold Schoenberg and the Birth of Postwar Musical Memory

A lecture by Jeremy Eichler (Boston Globe/ Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University)

Mar 7, 2017

Will Eisner: Fighting Anti-Semitism with Graphic Novels

On Tuesday, March 7, one day after Will Eisner's one hundredth birthday anniversary, the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies will host a panel entitled “Will Eisner: Fighting Anti-Semitism with Graphic Novels.” Panelists will include leading specialists on Eisner's work and life: 

Denis Kitchen, the founder of Kitchen Sink Press, was Eisner's friend, publisher, and agent for over three decades; he has authored numerous books on comic history and biographies of Eisner's friend Harvey Kurtzman and of comic strip creator Al Capp (Li'l Abner).

N. C. Christopher Couch, professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was Eisner's editor at Kitchen Sink, and is co-author of two volumes on Eisner's work, The Will Eisner Companion and Will Eisner: An Exhibition. He has published extensively on comics history, including a book on a longtime Eisner friend and colleague, Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics, about the creator of Robin and The Joker.

Steve Weiner, director of the Maynard, Massachusetts, library, co-authored The Eisner Companion and has written multiple books on graphic novels, including a study of the best-selling American graphic novel series Bone by Jeff Smith.

This panel was organized by N.C. Christopher Couch.



Feb 2, 2017

In Those Nightmarish Days: Ghetto Reportage as Witnessing

In the Warsaw and in the Lodz ghettos Jewish journalists like Joseph Zelkowicz and Peretz Opoczynski wrote reportage that individualized the ghetto experience and conveyed events in 'real time.'  Zelkowitz and Opoczynski perished but their writings survived, hidden in secret ghetto archives. This lecture will explain why this ghetto reportage was so important. 

SAMUEL KASSOW, A Charles H. Northam Professor of History at Trinity College, holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He was a Lady Davis Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as a Leon I. Mirell Visiting Professor at Harvard  and the Shier Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto. Professor Kassow is the author of several books, including Who Will Write Our History: Emanuel Ringelblum and the Secret Ghetto Archive, which has been translated into eight languages.  “In Those Nightmarish Days: Ghetto Reportage as Witnessing”is based on his most recent work on the first-hand experiences of Peretz Opoczynski and Josef Zelkowicz, Jewish journalists of the Warsaw and Lodz ghettos.