Posen Library’s online resources provide Jewish history enhanced with cultural readings and images relevant to Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Deborah Dash Moore thought back through Holocaust history when she watched the storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6. What came to mind was the burning of the German Parliament’s Reichstag Building on Feb. 27, 1933.
Knowing Jewish history is everyday for Moore, editor-in-chief of the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, not a physical library but a published collection available for purchase in hard copy by the Yale University Press and online for free.
“The events in Washington, D.C., reminded me of one of the events that led to Hitler taking power,” said Moore, based in Ann Arbor. “The Capitol wasn’t burned like the Reichstag was, but the kind of efforts to grab political power by using an organized armed mob of people is something that has echoes of the rise of fascism that produced the Holocaust.”
As Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches on Wednesday, Jan. 27, Moore wants the public to be aware of the accessibility of historical information through the latest Posen Library volume, Catastrophe and Rebirth, the fourth segment in the series that ultimately will have 10 volumes with some innovative twists.
Online resources (at posenlibrary.com) provide Jewish history enhanced with cultural readings and images relevant to the commemoration.
“I think the new edition, covering 1939-73, will provide viewers with a way of thinking about the Holocaust that is radically new,” said Moore, who directs a staff of eight researchers and editors. “Its structure broadens into the entire Jewish world during that time period.
“While it allows people to see what was happening in Europe, in the camps and the ghettos, it also provides information on how Jews were treated in other places. These are juxtaposed with each other in ways that are very powerful.”
The segment about the diary of Anne Frank, for example, is joined with other diaries to give a more diverse sense of personal Holocaust experiences. Among the references to treatment of Jews beyond Europe at the time of the diaries is a description of how one member of each Jewish home in Baghdad was wounded or killed in 1941.
The library was founded and funded by Felix Posen, a retired commodities trader, through the Posen Foundation. Work began in 2005, and the first volume, covering 1973-2005, was issued in 2012. It is expected that all 10 volumes will be completed by 2024, although the volumes are not completed in chronological order. The next volume, to be released around Passover, will be the beginning volume as it delves into Biblical times and ancient Israel.
“The library was the idea of Felix Posen,” Moore said. “He brought together, at the beginning of the 21st century, leading scholars from the United States, Israel and Europe. His goal was to provide access to the riches of Jewish culture, presented in English, for all sorts of people but especially Jews.
“He wanted Jews to be aware that their culture included more than what was understood to be religious culture. He thought of it as a very diverse, imaginative culture and believed putting religious restrictions around it narrowed it and excluded all kinds of wonderful materials.”
Going beyond historical text, different literary genres are included — cultural, political, religious thought, life writing and reportage, fiction, drama, children’s literature, poetry and popular song. Besides text, viewers will find illustrative segments from artistic pictures to comic books. (See artistic samples.).
Avery Robinson, who grew up in Franklin and graduated from the Frankel Jewish Academy, is a researcher who also calls attention to the volumes through social media platforms.
“Working for the Posen Library project these past three years has been a blast,” he said.
“I spend much of my day globetrotting through thousands of primary sources, texts and images created in the past 3,000 years. My job is to make these accessible (often through translation) so anyone can learn about diversity, developments and delights in Jewish life and culture.
“I often joke to my friends that I spend my days time traveling; for example, today, I was reading a Judeo-Persian Haggadah from 17th century Kaifeng, 1980s Hebrew poetry and then the Dead Sea Scrolls — all before lunch.
“I also work with an incredible team of folks, both on the editorial side and also with scholars and experts all over the world, which makes doing this work so much easier and quite often fun.”