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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 19, 2011 PAGE 19A i i In summer, Jewish studies flowers in Eastern Europe By Ruth Ellen Gruber courses and archival work Ruth Ellen Gruber Visitors to the Auschwitz Museum Memorial in Oswiecim, Poland, enter the Arbeit Macht Frei gate on a rainy day. tivated people," Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, a professor at Krakow's Jagiellonian Univer- sity, told me about the more than 20 students from the United States, Latin America, Israel and elsewhere who had enrolled in the first inter- national Summer Academy organized by the memorial museum at the former Aus- chwitz death camp. Held in July, it focused on Auschwitz and the Holocaust as well as on postwar history, Polish-German relations dur- ing the war and the educa- tional challenges facing the Auschwitz Museum. "You can imagine that it is physically and geographically and psychologically not easy to decide to take courses that will not only take up weekends and holiday time, but will ac- tually be held at Auschwitz," said Orla-Bukowska, who has taught Jewish and Holocaust courses in several summer programs in Poland. Halley Dilman, a Jewish studies graduate student at Hebrew University in Jerusa- lem, was one of 10 U.S. and Canadian students who took part in the annual fellows program for graduate stu- dents offered by the Auschwitz Jewish Center. The center is an independent institution affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York and is in Oswiecim, the town where the Auschwitz camp is sited. The three-week fellowship combined travel tO Holocaust and Jewish heritage sites with KRAKOW, Poland (JTA)-- In Austria and Poland re- cently, I couldn't seem to get away from students, scholars and just plain interested folks who were taking or teaching summer programs in Jewish studies. I myself spoke at a three- day "summer academy" in Vienna where more than 100 members of the general public turned up for lectures by inter- national experts on Eastern European Jewish history. In both Vienna and Kra- kow, I met informally with some of the 71 teachers from Jewish and public schools in North America and Israel at- tending a nine-day summer academy of lectures, travel and workshops organized by the Vienna-based Central EurOpe Center for Research and Documentation. The programs reflected the remarkable resurgence of both Jewish informal learning and academic stUd- ies that has taken place in Europe since the fall of com- munism. This process has opened up opportunities and fields of scholarship to new generations of students and researchers. It also has gone some way toward repairing the damage wrought by the Holocaust. About 750 institutions of European Jewish learning were "lost forever" in the war, according to the Euro- pean Association of Jewish Studies, with many cities experiencing a "near total devastation of their Jewish studies resources." In postwar communist Europe,teaching and research in Jewish and Holocaust studies was virtu- ally taboo. The pace of reconstruc- tion has varied from country to country. But today the European. Association of. Jewish Studies lists nearly 450 academic institutions and universities in two dozen European countries where Jewish studies courses or classes are taught. Many other pirograms are associated with non-academic bodies. Summer programs have a special place in this scheme, as they often are geared spe- cifically to visiting foreign participants. Some of them, such as the 5-year-old Leo Baeck Summer University at Humboldt University id Berlin, are organized in part- nership with North American or Israeli institutions. The benefits of study abroad programs are well known: exposure to other cultures and languages, contact with new ideas, the opportunity to forge international connections. Looking back, my own days on a university study abroad l)rogram in Europe set the course of my life. I spent the first semester of my senior year studying art and art history on an American university program in Rome. I returned to the States to com- plete my degree and graduate, but within a few months I had moved back to Europe. I have lived here ever since. So it was revealing to meet people who had chosen to spend part of their vacations this summer delving into Jewish history or Holocaust studies--and to hear about the often-unexpected impact of such on-site experience. That was the case especially in Poland, the prewar Jewish heartland that turned into the main Nazi killing ground. "These are seriously too- on Polish Jewish history and contemporary Jewish life. Though much of the focus of her graduate, and under- graduate work had been on the Holocaust, Dilman had never visited Poland or the Nazi death camps. She said that studying the impact of the Holocaust where it actu- ally took place had been a revelation. "It was amazing for me to learn that even though the Jews basically disappeared from Poland, they left such a strong imprint on Polish society that is still felt today," said Dilman, who is from Toronto. "Before the trip, I theoretically knew this was so, but I had to experience it to actually learn of it." Elizabeth Bryant, a doc- toral candidate at Florida State university, also was an Auschwitz Jewish Center fel- low. Her master's degree had focused on Auschwitz--but like Dilman, she had never visited the camp. "Trips like this serve as a reminder that life is not always in black and white-- something that is sometimes difficult to remember when studying the Holocaust," she said. "The complexities of Pol- ish culture serve to eradicate the notion that Poland can only be defined by its past, whether through commu- nism or World War II." Bryant called her fellowship experience "life changing." "I do not say this lightly," she told me. "This program impacted me more deeply than I ever could have imag- ined." And that, indeed, may have been the point. Ruth Ellen Gruber's books include "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel." A Guide to Eastern Europe, "and "Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe." She blogs on Jewish heritage is- sues at http://jewish-heritage- travel.blogspot.com. The Eulogizer: Cryonics pioneer and Cochin's 10th Jew By Alan D. Abbey JERUSALEM (JTA)--The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Robert Ettinger, 92, pio- neered freezing bodies after death Robert Ettinger, who pio- neered the belief in and technology of preserving the dead at low temperatures in the hope of resuscitation and healing of terminal diseases, died July 23 at 92. He was fro- zen immediately and stored at the institute he founded near his home in suburban Detroit. Ettinger became the 106th person at the Cryonics In- stitute whose body is stored upside down in a vat of liq- uid nitrogen at minus 321 degrees. Ettinger's 1964 Creatise, "The Prospect of Immortal- ity," put forward the idea that "if civilization endures, medi- cal science should eventually be able to repair almost any damage to the human body, including freezing damage and senile debility or other cause of death." "No matter what kills us, whether old age or disease, and even if freezing tech- niques are still crude when we die, sooner or later our friends of the future should be equal to the task of reviving and curing us," it said. Ettinger was born in Atlan - tic City, N.J., to immigrant parents and was severely wounded in World War II in Germany. While recuperat- ing, Ettinger spent time thinking about preserving life through technology, an idea spawned by "The Jameson Satellite," a science fiction story published in 1931 he had read in the pulp magazine Amazing Stories. The story is about a man who has his corpse placed into orbit, believing that outer space would preserve his body. The body is found millions of years later by aliens who put the man's brains in a mechanical body. The trope of "cold sleep" became a-com- mon one in science fiction, with authors such as "Robert Heinlein and others using it, as well. After recovering from his war wounds, Ettinger earned master's degrees from Wayne State University in physics and mathematics, and taught both subjects in later years at the university. "The Prospect of Immortal- ity" brought Ettinger noto- riety, including appearances on TV programs, lectures, additional publications, and development of the Cryonics Institute in 1976. Ettinger's mother became the first person to be preserved at the institute, and later his first and second wives were stored there. Additional cryonics fa- cilities are in Russia, Arizona and California. Scientific support for cry- onics is less than overwhelm- ing. An article in the Detroit News and a 2010 profile of ERinger in The New Yorker included descriptions of how Ettinger's body would be preserved, plus a discussion of the issues surrounding the technology and science. The field's advocates, led by Ettinger's group, are stalwart in their beliefs. "He did what he thought was necessary and appropriate and didn't worry much about what people thought," said his son, David. "The people who are scoffers are like the people who said heavier-than-air flight won't work." Isaac JudahAshkenazy, 83, one of Mattancherry, India's last 10 Jews Isaac JudahAshkenazy, one of the remaining 10 Cochin Jews of Mattancherry, the western part of Kochi, a city in the southwestern corner of India with that country's oldest functioning synagogue, died July 30 at 83. Ashkenazy was a bachelor with two sisters in Israel. He was born and raised in the town, and worked for tle regional electrical utility. Blogger Thoufeek Zakriya, a self-described Indian Mus- lim who is cataloguing the history of the Jews of Cochin, described Ashkenazy as "Un- cle Isaac for me, tolerant and pious by nature and so friendly by behavior." Zakriya also said that, "His solitude life was not at all a matter for him, always uses to be happy, crack jokes and makes us happy and was a kind of'fun-loving person." The origins of the Cochin Jews can be traced as far back as the 10th century, when the king of Malabar granted rights and privileges to a Jew named Joseph Rabban. The Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry is the oldest in the former British Common- wealth and was built in 1568, an era in which the region's Jews were prominent in the worldwide spice trade. The synagogue is in the quarter of Old. Cochin known as Jew India's KochiSynagogue ofthe ParadeshiJews, on the Mat- tancherry Peninsula, is considered Asia's oldest synagogue. Town and is the only one of Since the creation of the State the seven synagogues in the of Israel, the majority have area still in use. made aliyah. Prior to 1948, the corn- Write to the Eulogizer at munity numbered about 250. eulogizer@jta.org.