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February 24, 2012

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PAGE 6A By Robert Leiter Jewish Exponent PHILADELPHIA--Travel as ennobling--an educa- tional pursuit that broadens knowledge and sharpens perceptions is a 20th cen- tury concept, according to German-born scholar Martin Jacobs. In earlier periods, and especially in antiquity, he continued, travel was far less grand, more practical and personal a series of encounters among people that elicited many different responses, both conscious and unconscious. "While traveling," ex- plained Jacobs, "you always encounter others, and you encounter yourself in un- known situations, and you need to respond. There is no choice except to engage with other people, due to a lack of Jingt.istic skills or because you don't know the schedule or the road map. These are situations that force you to re- spond in different ways--and also to reflect upon yourself." And the study of travel as an acadenic pursuit? That's a newer phenomenon altogeth- er, one that's taking place right here in Philadelphia. Jacobs is one of three academics who put together "On the Road: Travel in Jewish History," this year's topic of study for the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Each year, the program invites scholars from around the world to analyze a particular aspect HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 24, 2012 Scholars analyze Jewish travel of Jewish culture from new perspectives. Jacobs joined Ora Limor of the Open University in Jerusalem and Joshua Levin- son of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, who first broached the topic, in fashioning the proposal they eventually pre- sented to David Ruderman, the head of the center. Ruderman had suggested that Jacobs, now an associate professor of rabbinic studies at Washington University in St. Louis, join the team, a notion that struck Levinson as perfect since he knew of Jacobs' work in their shared field, rabbinic literature. Jacobs' other areas of research include Medieval Jewish history, Jewish life in Islamic lands and Jewish- Muslim encounters in the Middle Ages. This year's subject at- tracted many potential fel- lows. There were about 170 applications, said Levinson, which were whittled down to 12 scholars for the first se- mester and 14 for the second (which is now under way). "Travel studies is very big, very much a part of addition, 11 of the scholars have begun giving public lectures on aspects of Jewish travel at venues throughout the region. And at the end of the year, the center will host its traditional multiday symposium, with presenters summing up their work. Though many of the aca- demics this year are from Israel, rather than from Europe, as in past years, they originate from a variety of cities and approach the topic from differing angles. "I came to be interested in Jewish history from the Christian side," said Limor. who was born in Ra'anana when it was a sleepy "little place" rather than a Tel Aviv suburb. She got all three of her degrees in the general his- tory department at Hebrew University. "I wrote my Ph.D. on Chris- tian anti-Jewish polemics. And then I began to be inter- e.t^ . in how others see us. "At the same time," the professor of Medieval history continued, "I am doing work on pilgrimages, sacred spaces and Holy Land traditions. I started from Christianity but month will consider "Rab- binic Responses to the Chris- tianization of Palestine." In the fourth century, when Constantine converted and the Roman Empire be- came Christian, Palestine suddenly became the Holy Land, the associate profes- sor explained, "and so the map began being altered to reflect the aspirations of its new rulers. "The simple question I'm trying to ask is: What was the rabbinic response in Pal- estine to becoming strangers in one's own land? What we have is Jews almost becom- ing guests--and sometimes uninvited quests. How do they respond to this?" Two scholars who consider modern-day notions of Jew- ish travel are Jackie Feldman, a native New Yorker who now lectures on social anthropol- ogy at Ben-Gurion Univer- sity of the Negev; and Nils Roemer, a non-Jew born in Germany, who teaches Jewish subjects at the University of Texas in Dallas. Feldman's interests in- clude the anthropology of religion, collective memory, pilgrimage and tourism, even though as an undergrad he studied mathematics and philosophy. He was a veteran Israeli tour guide for many years, who, when plying his trade, -often took American and European Christiafis to view the holy sites. He's now doing research on this phenomenon. "I'm trying to understand these Jewish-guided Chris- tian pilgrimages to the Holy Land," he said. "Guiding these people is identity-cre- ating because you're having this encounterwith non-Jews who are looking at Israel in a different way than Israelis do though the two ways do actually overlap." The Hamburg-born Ro- emer. author of "German City, Jewish Memory: The Story of Worms," is doing research in several areas, one of which is Jewish tourism to Germany after the Shoah. "It's obviously one of the most painful periods in the larger German-Jewish experience outside of the Holocaust itself--the process of confronting it in its after- math," the professor said. "And one of the things I've realized is that early on--and despite the unease indi- viduals had for Germany--as early as 1945, Jews came. visited, looked at their former houses, came as members of the American armed forces, came as members of Jewish organizations." At the same time, he continued, various German cities, even with rubble still filling their streets, began publishing tour guides-- "for international tourism, not Jewish tourism per se. including guides in English, in which they had to confront that. obviously, much of the heritage they'd showcased in the past had been destroyed. "What I've been trying to get at in my research is that this question of reviewing or revisiting Germany is a much more conflicted--but also much more varied ex- perience after 1945 than is commonly assumed." Robert Leiter is a staff writer for the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent, from which this article was reprinted by permission. cultural studies," Ruder- man explained. "It's a way of understanding one's iden- tity through contrast to the other." And given Jewish mobility throughouthistory, itseemed a natural fit. he added. The center has held to cer- tain rituals throughout the years. Every Wednesday, after a communal lunch, a scholar gives a presentation based on his or her work to date. In I went over to Judaism and Islam. And I am interested in places that are venerated by all three of them, if pos- sible-or, at least, two, in order to see if a place can be a zone of contact and not only a barrier." Levinson, who made aliyah from New York City, did his graduate work at Hebrew University, where he now teaches. His public lecture next stowe country HOMES Summer seasonal rentals Rent for summer, a month, a week Luxury private homes Convenient condos Fine dinihg, shopping, & recreation Great New England town! Why not come to the mountains this summer/ 1 800 639 1990 Will they daven at Downton? By Helen Chernikoff New York Jewish Week Not since the news that Princess Kate Middleton's mother's-maiden name was Goldsmith launched a million Google searches have the masses gotten so excited. Today the British noble with possible Jewish back- ground is Cora Grantham. lady of the manor on the blockbuster PBS import "Downton Abbey." We latter- day peasants lust so much for a connection to our betters that we don't even care if they're fictional. The hope for such yichus only intensified after the show announ.ced that Shirley Maclaine would play Cora's mother. Martha Levinson. in the next season. A period drama set in the years before and after World War I. "Downton Ab- bey" follows the doings of the noble family and their servants on an impossibly gorgeous estate. At the time. most British Jews were still sweating it out in urban immigrant neighborhoods like London's East End. Yet the show's press packet describes Cora's father as "Isidore Levinson. a Cincin- nati dry goods millionaire." Sounds promising! A Jewish Downton wouldn't surprise Jessica Elgot. a fan of the show who works as a reporter at The Jewish Chronicle in London. British Jews are apparently well accustomed to this kind of thing. "On the surface of it, you wouldn't expect it. but there's kind of a tradition of this," Elgot said. "[Prime Minister] David Cameron has some Jewish heritage. It always seems to pop up in places you don't expect." Soccer star David Beckham. too. who has been photo- graphed in a kipa. Seems he comes by his kabbalah thread honestly. Sadly though for the social climbers, all his- torical evidence indicates it's highly unlikely that anyone like the U.S.-born Lady Grantham would also have been Jewish. Baron Julian Fellowes, the show's creator, has evaded repeated requests to comment, but a number of scholars feel duty-bound to let Jewish Downton fans down gently. "I cannot offhand think of any Cincinnati Jew who actually married into Euro- pean royalty," said Brandeis professor Jonathan Sarna. who would probably be in the best position to know as he wrote a book called "Cincinnati Jews." "One of the Fleischmann girls of powdered yeast fame mar- ried Christian R. Holmes. but that is not the same thing." Hardly. Holmes was a mere doctor. Of course. Jew- ish esteem for the medical profession is well known. but the Victorian-era Ameri- can heiresses who set their cap for a European noble- man would have sniffed at the professions. There were many such spirited young ladies, said Carol Wallace Hamlin. co-author of "To Marry an English Lord." a book about how British lineage and American wealth found each other back in the decades after the Civil War. The nobles needed money, and the young women wanted to be princesses, or as close as they could get. Fellowes told the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph that Hamlin's book inspired the show. It also provides the most solid evidence that as daughter of Izzy, the schmatte king of Cincin- nati. Cora is probably an anachronism. Hamlin said she doesn't think any of the Ameri- can heiresses she studied were Jewish, or had Yewish ancestry, and she studied 100 of them. She also said that it would have been an easy matter to pass: "As for covering up Jewish heritage, I think that was probably pretty simple in the early 19th century. You change your name, you start going to church." But then Isidore would have had to become Ian. and he didn't. Most speculate that the model for Isidore was Levi Ziegler Leiter. who co-founded the Marshall Field & Co. retail empire. His daughter Mary was one of those who married an English lord: George Curzon. 1st Marquess of Kedleston and the Viceroy of India. But according to the definitive history on Mary, written by someone who had access to the family papers, the Leiters were Swiss Mennonites with a penchant for biblical names. Hamlin said. Of course, many British and German Jews married into upper-class families within their countries. "This wasn't necessarily considered an act of despera- tion. though it provoked considerable comment and upper-class anti-Semitism." said Alan Lessoff, editor of the Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. But it's unlikely that an American Jewish woman could have done the same. he said. Indeed, Sarna says that as late as World War I, Cincin- nati's intermarriage rate was only 4.5 percent. In the end. only the Baron can tell his audience whether he kind of goofed on Cora's backstory, or whether he knows something the scholars don't. At least for now. in the best aristocratic fashion, he's maintaining a lofty silence. Helen Chernikoffis a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission.