Research in Progress

A Time to Gather: Archives and the Control of Jewish Culture

My book, A Time to Gather: Archives and the Control of Jewish Culture, will be published by Oxford University Press. The book is a study of the development of Jewish archives in transnational perspective, focusing on a series of archive projects in Germany, the United States, and Israel/Palestine. It draws out the history of Jewish archives beginning with rising scholarly interest in archives as the prime source of Jewish history and concluding with struggles over archival treasures following the Second World War. The manuscript brings a critical perspective to the nature of archival collecting and its relationship with the development of the discipline of Jewish studies. It considers not just the trajectory of archival collecting in Jewish history but also its limits and horizons: what these efforts represent within the broader informational deluge of the twentieth century as well as radical transformations that rocked Jewish life around the world in the first half of the twentieth century.

In a world where historical sources and archives are increasingly made available digitally, this project and the issues that it raises are especially relevant. We must continue to give concerted thought to an earlier age when sources were collected specifically because scholars felt that they were in danger of being lost, and to the geographical meaning of gathering the sources—which remain the foundation of not only Jewish studies but of many of the humanities and social sciences to this day—in a single physical location.

Ongoing Research and Future Projects

My book manuscript reflects a broad set of interests and an ambitious and diverse research program, driven by a core inquiry into how Jews have tried to grapple with their past and, through it, shape their future. I am focused on how Jews around the world, both professional historians as well as everyday people, have approached their past and how that shapes their future. In this respect, my approach falls within the framework of the examination of Jewish historiography. However, my research interests extend beyond the networks of professional or aspiring scholars such as Wissenschaft des Judentums, Hokhmat Yisrael, or well-known twentieth century groups like the “Jerusalem scholars” of Hebrew University and YIVO, the Yiddish Scientific Institute. I am interested in the relationship between the production of scholarly figures and the way in which the general public has related to the past.

With this in mind, I am continually developing new research projects and pursuing the publication of articles that engage with wide-ranging intellectual, cultural, and theoretical issues. First and foremost, I am editing my book manuscript and publishing a set of articles that stem from my research into the history of Jewish archives and my thinking about the history of archives at large. In addition, I am pursuing projects relating to epistemology, public history, and the relationship between historical memory and large-scale social developments.

My research is driven by the perspective that the past is not only prologue, but also constitutes a major way in which the present itself is shaped: The way in which people conceive of the past is the canvas against which people paint their pictures of what they want the future to become. It is from this core interest that I seek to develop these projects and bring them to fruition so that we can better understand the role of history and memory in the fields of Jewish intellectual history and culture as well as in its global context.