Librarians ask how to turn their archives into a weapon

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Archives, libraries and museums can seem unlikely actors in the struggle against modern-day anti-Semitism, absorbed as they are by cataloging and exhibiting the past.

But Bernard Michael recalled the gum wrappers kept in one of the archives of the Center for Jewish History in New York, of which he is president and CEO. Each package, smuggled out of the Soviet Union in 1982 by an American visitor, contains tiny messages hidden by and about Jews who had been denied permission to emigrate. The microscopic notes reminded her of the love and desire for connection that real people felt when separated from their families due to systematic anti-Semitism.

“We need to revive the history of anti-Semitism in order to combat it,” said Michael. “We are bringing the story back to the present day, so that people can use that story, understand how we got here and decide where we want to go.”

CJH, in conjunction with jMUSE, is presenting a full-day conference on Sunday to do just that. “Confronting Antisemitism: Activating Archives, Libraries and Museums in the Fight Against Antisemitism” will include seven virtual sessions dedicated to the fight against antisemitism through the use of archives in libraries, museums and universities.

The symposium is the first of its kind. It will inspire archivists and curators to use their funds and programs to foster understanding of anti-Semitism and promote change.

A man waves an Israeli flag during a rally against anti-Semitism outside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in May. (credit: CHRISTIAN MANG / REUTERS)

“The goal of the symposium is to have a conversation about the connection between historical study, contemporary action and future impact,” said Michael Glickman, CEO of JMuse, who founded the organization to help Jewish cultural institutions and their funders to “think big” by presenting new ideas and content. “When we focus on places of memory and places of learning, and when we make this material available, it will help the audience better understand why something from the past is relevant today. ”

The event will feature librarians, archivists and academics from several universities around the world, including a panel with Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, and David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Among the speakers is Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, chief curator of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, whose aim has been to counter negative stereotypes about Jews.

The Center for Jewish History and its five partner organizations – the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardic Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research – have the most important archives and most comprehensive historical Jewish artifacts in the outside world. from Israel.

“It will go beyond statistics and data, it will present a storyline through history of how we got to where we are today. It will allow people to move forward and find ways in which people can find their own solutions to take action and fight anti-Semitism, ”said Michael.

With thousands of registrants already, the organizers hope the event will have an impact across the world. “There’s a reason we’ve broadened our reach on this. We really believe deeply in the ability to fight, combat and confront anti-Semitism by bringing together thoughtful people who believe in debate and discussion of the impact of history on our current situation, ”said Glickman.

Confronting Anti-Semitism: Activating Archives, Libraries and Museums in the Fight Against Anti-Semitism will take place on Sunday, October 17. Register and view the full list of speakers here.


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