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Call for Applicants: Workshop for Doctoral Candidates and Early Career Scholars

Call for Applicants: Workshop for Doctoral Candidates and Early Career Scholars

Jewish Communal Registers and Records: Reading Early Modern and Modern Jewish Texts, Society and Culture


Bar-Ilan University in partnership with the National Library of Israel (NLI) is pleased to announce a call to applicants for a workshop on Jewish Communal Registers and Records. The workshop will be held at the NLI from January 7-11, 2024.

Hundreds of Jewish communal registers dating from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, mostly in manuscript, provide unparalleled opportunities to reassess early modern society and culture. Various types of logbooks, community bylaws; court proceedings, charity ledgers, and commercial documents offer scholars and students unprecedented access to life in Jewish communities large and small, and recent scholarly attention to communal sources such as pinkasim highlight aspects of daily life that were previously unknown. These include probate inventories that list the contents of homes, marriage documents and wills that reveal strategies to distribute inheritance and allocate property, and community tax records that render visible wealthy and poor Jews. Such records provide a window onto communal life and the daily experiences of European Jewish men, women and children.

Working with these texts requires a range of linguistic and paleographic skills, as well as a variety of methodologies for writing social, economic, gender, and legal history. Workshop participants will work with a variety of pinkasim and ancillary sources such as commercial letters, charity petitions, marriage contracts, and rabbinic responsa. Together, these records offer unrivaled perspective on major fields and disciplines, including economic and family history, material culture, and gender studies.

The workshop will expose doctoral students to groundbreaking research and give students and early career researchers an opportunity to discuss these materials with leading scholars.

Dates, Location and Format: The workshop will be held at the National Library of Israel (NLI) from January 7-11, 2024. The format will include keynote lectures, small group sessions devoted to paleography and methodology (tracked by level), group study of primary sources in small and large groups, and informal conversations with scholars about the methods they employed. Because the National Library has digitized many of these materials, and holds many of the originals, we will have ample opportunity to work with the manuscripts. Lunches will be provided. Stipends for travel and lodging are available to researchers from abroad. European researchers may also apply for support from the Rothschild Foundation.

Eligibility: The call is open to doctoral students and to early career researchers (up to 8 years after the doctorate) in late medieval, early modern, and modern Jewish history or related fields. Basic reading knowledge of Hebrew is required.

Directors: Jay Berkovitz (University of Massachusetts Amherst/ Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Debra Kaplan (Bar-Ilan University).

Applications are due by September 30, 2023. The application includes the following materials:

  • CV and, if applicable, list of publications
  • Two-page description of your research, how it connects to the theme of the workshop, and how you expect to benefit from participation in this program.
  • Doctoral students should have a letter of recommendation sent directly from their dissertation advisor.
  • Postdoctoral and early researchers can either have a senior researcher send a recommendation letter directly to the above address; alternatively, they may include a relevant publication with their application materials.

Applications must be sent as a single .pdf file. Letters of Recommendation must be sent directly by the recommender.

Please send all materials to Debra Kaplan at [email protected], with the subject line “Jewish Communal Records Workshop.” Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Notifications will be sent by October 30.