About the Metz Program

This fall, the YIVO Institute and the Center for Jewish History present an exhibition (the inaugural exhibition in the David Berg Rare Book Room), a symposium and four public programs that explore the Jewish community in Metz, France in the 18th and 19th centuries. These programs were inspired by the Pinkas (Register) of the Metz Rabbinic Court, a rare and little-known document from the collections of the YIVO Institute Archives. Other programs in this series occur on October 6, October 7, October 21, November 18 and December 9.


Hidden from History
The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court, 1771-1790
Issues and Offshoots

Largely unknown to historians, the much-neglected records of rabbinic courts represent an unusually rich source for the study of the early modern family, community, social and economic life, and jurisprudence. With the approaching publication of the Pinkas of the Metz Beit Din, and following the recent appearance of the Frankfurt rabbinic court diary, “Hidden from History” will explore the range of issues that came before rabbinic courts in the last third of the eighteenth century and the implications of these records for the construction of memory and historical narrative.

Jay R. Berkovitz, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Convener

Click here to view the archival video of the symposium.

Sunday, October 6, 2013
9:30am – 6:00pm
$15 general admission | $10 CJH/YIVO members, seniors & students
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Welcome:  Judith Siegel, CJH and Jonathan Brent, YIVO

Metz—Then and Now    Greetings from Rabbi Bruno Fiszon, Chief Rabbi, Metz Jewish Community

Session 1:  Rabbinic Court Records as Untapped Sources of History
Chair:  Ephraim Kanarfogel, Yeshiva University

Protocols of Justice: The Metz Pinkas Beit Din, 1771-1790
Jay R. Berkovitz, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

A Trail from Two Cities: The Court Records of Metz and Frankfurt
Edward Fram, Ben-Gurion University

Discussant: Suzanne Last Stone, Cardozo Law School

Session 2:  Domestic Issues in Historical Perspective: The Family in Court and Community Records
Chair:  Marsha Rozenblit, University of Maryland

Family, Gender, and Social Structure in a Pinkas of Altona
Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University

Dividing Marital Assets: Rabbinic Courts in Europe and New York
Ronald Warburg, Rabbinic Court Judge, New York

Discussant: Sarah Maza, Northwestern University

Lunch / Coffee Break

The Legacy of the Metz Beit Din in the Twenty First Century – Rabbi M.A. Halevi Bamberger, Rosh Bet Din/Head of the Jewish Court, Metz Jewish Community

Session 3:  The State and the Jews: Law and Power in Pre-modern Europe
Chair:  Adam Teller, Brown University

Jews' Knowledge and Use of State and Church Laws in the Early Modern Era
Magda Teter, Wesleyan University

The Power and Ambitions of the Parlement of Metz in the 18th Century 
Ronald Schechter, the College of William and Mary

Discussant:  Isser Woloch, Columbia University

Session 4: Roundtable Discussion: (Re)shaping the Past and the Future: Memory and Multiple Historical Narratives
The sources highlighted in this symposium, especially those referring to women, commercial relations between Jews and non-Jews, and the nexus between Jewish and general law, challenge conventional accounts of pre-modern Jewish history that emphasize the separation of Jews from general society. This session will consider the role of legal sources in constructing and reconstructing historical narratives. How is memory of the past shaped and reshaped by the recovery and rediscovery of forgotten or unknown texts? Participants will consider these issues from their own geographical or thematic expertise.

Chair:  Jay Berkovitz

Panel participants:
Debra Kaplan, Yeshiva University
Kenneth Stow, Haifa University
Adam Teller, Brown University
Magda Teter, Wesleyan University

For more information, please contact Chris Barthel at cbarthel@cjh.org.

Circles of Justice: Law, Culture and the Jews of Metz in 18th Century France

October 6 – January 30, 2014
Presented here to the public for the first time, the civil proceedings of the Metz Beit Din (Rabbinic Court) represent an exceptionally fertile resource for investigating vitally important topics in law and history. Equally significant, the publication of these nearly forgotten records offers an occasion to reexamine French Jewish life at the dawn of the Revolution, when the emancipation of the Jews first came to the attention of the public. This exhibition provides a glimpse of Jewish custom, culture and community on the brink of modernity, highlighting those areas that distinguished the Jews from their French neighbors and, no less important, the life they shared.


Roundtable Discussion: Monday, December 9, 2013 | 6:30pm
French and Jewish: Defining a Modern Jewish Identity in the 19th Century
For the Jews of France, the attainment of citizenship in the early 19th century was far more than a political triumph. The transition from ghetto to emancipation heralded a major transformation in Jewish status, and nowhere was the metamorphosis more striking than in Metz. Looking at the Jews through the lens of French literature, politics, and religion, three scholars (Jay Berkovitz, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Lisa Leff, American University; Maurice Samuels, Yale University) will consider the far-reaching impact of Jewish emancipation on the meaning of being Jewish in the modern world.

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Past Events

Ruth Gay Seminar: Monday, October 7, 2013 | 1:00pm
Jewish Scholars and Scholarship in 18th Century Metz
Rabbi Moshe Arye Bamberger, the Head of the Bet Din of the Jewish community of Metz, France presented a seminar on a new publication, Torat Chachmei Metz, or The Torah of the Scholars of Metz, which is based on an original manuscript in the YIVO Archives. This manuscript includes original interpretations and teachings of several important figures in 18th century Metz, such as Rabbi Yonasan Eybeschutz, Rabbi Arye Leib Ginzberg (the head of the Bet Din of Metz from 1765-1785), Rabbi Shmuel Hillman and others. Rabbi Bamberger's presentation included an overview of the scholars of Metz represented in this new book, within the context of the history of this important Jewish community during the early modern period. Rabbi Shmuel Klein, YIVO Archives moderated.

Panel Discussion: Monday, October 21, 2013 | 6:30pm
Sex, Yiddish and the Law: Jewish Life in Metz in the 18th Century
How will evidence of the cultural, legal and sexual lives of members of the Metz Jewish community challenge our assumptions about Jewish modernization, religion and life in pre-revolutionary France? Join Jay Berkovitz (author of the upcoming Protocols of Justice: The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court, 1771-1789) and Magda Teter (scholar of early modern religion and law) for a rare look at three individual court cases recorded in the Pinkas (Register) of Metz.

Concert and Lecture: Monday, November 18, 2013 | 8:00pm
Charles-Valentin Alkan: His Life and Music
Alkan (1813-1888) was a remarkable and enigmatic composer and virtuoso pianist—and a friend and rival of Chopin and Liszt. This year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. Alkan’s family roots were in Metz, but he was born and lived most of his life in Paris. His striking compositions reflect his intellect and culture as well as his strictly Orthodox upbringing. Students from Mannes College, The New School for Music perform a wide range of Alkan’s music, including solo piano, chamber, concerted and vocal works. Many of the works played at this event will be New York premieres. Donald Wagner, a leading authority on Alkan, will offer comments and context on Alkan’s life and music. Fifty years ago, New York was the site of an event that galvanized the modern revival of interest in Alkan.

Among the pieces that will be included are:
Le Festin d'Esope (from Op. 39 Douze Etudes)
Le Vent (from Op. 15 Trois Morceaux)
Andante with strings in C sharp major (from Op. 13 Trois Andantes)
2er Verset du 41me Psaume for soprano and piano
and selections from the chamber music, Esquisses Op. 63, Preludes Op. 31 and Les Mois Op. 74

Rabbi M.A. Halevi Bamberger is Rosh Bet Din/Head of the Jewish Court of the Metz Jewish Community.

Jay R. Berkovitz is Professor and Chair of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He has published widely on Jewish social and intellectual history in modern Europe, with particular emphasis on communal governance, family, law and ritual, and rabbinic scholarship. He is the author of  The Shaping of Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-century France (Wayne, 1989); Rites and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860 (Penn, 2004); and Tradition and Revolution in Early Modern France [Hebrew] (Mercaz Zalman Shazar, 2007). His latest book, Protocols of Justice: The Rabbinic Court of Metz, 1771-1789, is soon to be published by Brill Academic Publishers.  He has held numerous visiting appointments and fellowships, including the Lady Davis Professorship at the Hebrew University, and most recently, the 2011-2012 Inaugural National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Scholar Fellowship at the Center for Jewish History. He currently serves as Joint Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Jewish History.

Elisheva Carlebach, Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture, and Society at Columbia University, specializes in the cultural, intellectual, and religious history of the Jews in Early Modern Europe. Areas of particular interest include the intersection of Jewish and Christian culture and its effect on notions of tolerance, religious dissent, conversion, messianism, and communal governance. Her books include The Pursuit of Heresy (1990), awarded the National Jewish Book Award, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Early Modern Germany (2000) and Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe (2011). She has twice held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2003 she was a Fellow at the New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers, and in 2010-2011, Tikvah Fellow at NYU Law School. She served as Editor of the Association for Jewish Studies Review and chaired the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History. She is President of the American Academy for Jewish Research.

Bruno Fiszon is Chief Rabbi of Metz and the Moselle.  He is advisor to the Chief Rabbi of France in charge of Shehitat and a member of the Standing Committee of the Conference of European Rabbis.  He holds a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine and a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Paris-Chateney Malabry, is a former student of the Pasteur Institute Paris and a member of the French Veterinary Academy.

Edward Fram is Associate Professor of Jewish History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where he holds the Solly Yellin Chair in Lithuanian and Eastern European Jewish History. His research interests focus on the history of Jewish law in the early modern period. Among his works are Ideals Face Reality: Jewish Law and Life in Poland, 1550-1656 and My Dear Daughter: Rabbi Benjamin Slonik and the Education of Jewish Women in Sixteenth-Century Poland. Recently, Fram published Rabbi Hayyim Gundersheim's diary from his years on the rabbinic court in Frankfurt am Main, 1773-1794.

Debra Kaplan holds the Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Memorial Chair in Jewish History at Yeshiva University.  A specialist in early modern European Jewish history, she focuses on the daily lives of Jewish men and women.  Kaplan's first book, Beyond Expulsion:  Jews, Christians, and Reformation Strasbourg, was published by Stanford University Press in 2011. Kaplan was awarded the Lillian F. and William L. Silber Professor of the Year Award, held a Yad haNadiv/Beracha Foundation Fellowship in Jerusalem, and was a member of the North American Scholars Circle at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.  She also serves on the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History.

Ephraim Kanarfogel is University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law at Yeshiva University, and the author of 5 books and more than 70 articles. His latest work, The Intellectual History and Rabbinic Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz, was awarded the prestigious Goldstein-Goren Prize for the best book in Jewish thought, 2010-2012, by the International Center for Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Among the wide array of themes treated in this book, the first chapter contains an extensive discussion of the function, structure and societal significance of the rabbinic courts in northern France and Germany during the period of the Tosafists.

Sarah Maza is Jane Long Professor in the Arts and Sciences, Professor of History and Director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern University.  She specializes in the history of France from the 18th to 20th centuries, with a focus on social, cultural and intellectual history.  She has published Servants and Masters in Eighteenth-Century France: The Uses of Loyalty (Princeton University Press, 1983), Private Lives and Public Affairs: the Causes Célèbres of Pre-Revolutionary France (University of California Press, 1993), which won the David Pinkney Prize of the Society for French Historical Studies, The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie: An Essay on the Social Imaginary, 1750-1850 (Harvard University Press, 2003) winner of the George Mosse Prize of the American Historical Association, and Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris (University of California Press, 2011). Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.  She is a past president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Marsha Rozenblit is the Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Maryland, College Park.  A social historian of Central European Jews, she is the author of two books: The Jews of Vienna, 1867-1914: Assimilation and Identity (SUNY Press, 1984) and Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria during World War I (Oxford University Press, 2001).  She also co-edited Constructing Nationalities in East Central Europe (Berghahn Press, 2005) and has written over 30 scholarly articles.

Ronald Schechter is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary, where he has taught since 1997.  He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University (1993).  His book, Obstinate Hebrews: Representations of Jews in France, 1715-1815 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), won the American Historical Association’s Leo Gershoy Award and the Society for French Historical Studies’ David Pinkney Prize, and it was a finalist for the Koret Jewish Book Award in the category of History.  Schechter is the editor of The French Revolution: The Essential Readings (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), and the translator and editor of Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing with Related Documents (Boston and New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004).  He is also the editor of Shifting Boundaries, Rethinking Paradigms: The Significance of French Jewish History, a special issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques 32:1 (Spring 2006).  He has been a visiting fellow at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies (Princeton University).  He will be a visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in 2013-14.

Suzanne Last Stone is University Professor of Jewish Law and Contemporary
Civilization at Yeshiva University, Professor of Law, Director of the Center for Jewish
Law and Contemporary Civilization at Cardozo Law School, and Academic Director of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a Fellow of the Hartman Institute’s Engaging Israel project, and Designated Chair, Department of Liberal Studies, Shalem College.

Kenneth Stow is Professor of Jewish History Emeritus, University of Haifa.  He received the Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1971, and is a graduate of the Combined Program of Columbia and the Jewish Theological Seminary.  He and has held visiting professorships at Yale University, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, Smith College, the University of Toronto, and the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has been a visiting fellow at the University of Massachusetts, and a Sr. Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Italian Studies at Columbia University. He has twice been a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.  He has researched the history of the Church and the Jews, especially with respect to the Jews of Italy, always reflecting on the status of the Jews in canon and civil law. He has also published on the social history of Italian Jewry, as well as the Jewish family in high medieval Ashkenaz. Currently, he is working on the question of law and emancipation, again as reflected in the Italian Jewish milieu, and, specifically, as visible by studying the text/diary known as “The Kidnapping of Anna del Monte.”

Adam Teller is an Associate Professor of Judaic Studies and History at Brown University and the 2012-2013 Senior NEH Scholar at the Center for Jewish History. He specializes in early modern history, specifically on the history of the Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. His research focuses on the ways in which Jews became an integral part of society there and the tensions this aroused. He has written two monographs (in Hebrew), one on living conditions in the Jewish quarter of Poznan, titled The Jewish Quarter of Poznan and its Population in the First Half of the 17th Century, the other on the roles played by Jews in Lithuania's 18th century magnate economy, titled Money, Power, and Influence: The Jews on the Radziwill Estates in 18th Century Lithuania, as well as numerous articles (in English) on social and cultural issues. During his tenure as the Senior NEH Scholar, he worked on a study that dealt with the 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Jewish refugee crisis that followed the Chmielnicki uprising of 1648 and subsequent wars.

Magda Teter teaches Jewish History at Wesleyan University and co-edits the AJS Review.  She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University. She specializes in early modern religious and cultural history, with emphasis on Jewish-Christian relations in eastern Europe, the politics of religion, and transmission of culture among Jews and Christians across Europe in the early modern period.  Her research takes her to different archives in Europe, among them the Secret Vatican Archives and the Vatican Library. She is the author of Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Sinners on Trial (Harvard University Press, 2011), and a co-editor of and contributor to Social and Cultural Boundaries in Pre-modern Poland (Littman, 2010). She is currently writing a book on the diplomatic relations between Jews and the popes in the early modern period, and the papal responses to ritual murder accusations against Jews. Her work has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2012), the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (in 2007 and 2012), the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, YIVO Institute, and the Yad Ha-Nadiv Foundation (Israel), among others. In 2002, she was a Harry Starr Fellow in Jewish Studies at Harvard University, and in 2007-2008, an Emeline Bigelow Conland Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, also at Harvard University.

Rabbi Dr. Ronald  (A. Yehuda) Warburg has been sitting as a dayan (rabbinical judge)on various battei din panels (rabbinical courts) in the Hassidic, Modern Orthodox, Sephardic  and Yeshiva communities in the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area for 13 years  and for over 15 years served as a research fellow at the Institute of Jewish Law at Boston University School of Law. He is a member of the editorial board of Tradition and served on the editorial boards of  Dinei Israel, published by Tel Aviv and Touro Law Schools and The Jewish Law Annual, published  by Boston University School of Law and served as  Chairman of the Jewish Law committee for the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.  For over two decades, he has delivered classes in Jewish civil law and family law to Yeshiva University’s rabbinic ordination students. He has published dozens of articles in refereed journals in the area of jurisprudence, family law, bioethics, contracts and securities law addressing the interface of Halakhah and American law. His book Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality (Urim Publications, 2013) offers for the first time in English beit din decisions in book format accompanied by essays dealing with  an examination of contemporary rabbinic authority  and a proposed solution to reduce the agunah problem   He earned his rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University, and his Doctor of Jurisprudence at the Hebrew University Faculty of Law.

Isser Woloch is the Moore Collegiate Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University, where he taught since 1969. He specializes in French and modern European history from the 18th to the 20th centuries. His books include Jacobin Legacy: the Democratic Movement Under the Directory (1970);  The French Veteran from the Revolution to the Restoration (1979);  Eighteenth-Century Europe: Tradition and Progress (1982; revised edition, with Greg Brown, 2012);  The New Regime: Transformations of the French Civic Order, 1789-1820s (1994), which won the Leo Gershoy Award of the American Historical Association; and Napoleon and his Collaborators: the Making of a Dictatorship (2001), which won the literary award of the Napoleonic Society of America.  He has held fellowships from the ACLS, the NEH, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris).  He is currently working on a book called The Postwar Moment: the Allied Democracies in the Aftermath of World War II.

The exhibition and program series is made possible by the generous support of The David Berg Foundation and Selz Foundation.

Additional support has been provided by generous patrons to the
Center for Jewish History and Emil Kleinhaus.

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