Sixth International Scientific Conference “Odessa and Jewish Civilization”
Migdal-Shorashim Museum of History of Odessa Jews and Migdal JCC continued its yearly tradition to hold International Scientific Conference “Odessa and Jewish Civilization” within the framework of OFEK Festival in Odessa.
This year the Conference took place on November 5-7 and was dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution, the 80th anniversary of foundation of the 1st All-Ukrainian Museum of Jewish Culture and the 5th anniversary of Migdal-Shorashim Museum of History of Odessa Jews.
In the fall of 1917 more than half a million Jews were left without shelter. About 100 thousand died of starvation and diseases. But besides this it was also the period of great expectations and hopes for the Jewish people. Many of them believed that the Revolution would put an end to hatred, discrimination and sufferings. They fought and died for it. But this period wasn’t just the period of many deaths. It was the period of soaring and flourishing of public thought and art. Wonderful literature, theatrical performances, new tendencies in art appeared at this time. This was the peak of the Jewish theater which became the best in the world in the XX century. But 1917 cannot be imagined without massive killings of great talents of that age, without the closing of the theater, without the continuation of these events. The history of this period is complicated and controversial. And it was one of the main themes of the Conference this year. More than 30 reports were presented by the delegates from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Germany and other countries and were in the framework of the leading topic: “Jews and Revolution – Facts and Stereotypes”.
The aim of the conference was to ignite the interest of the people towards one of the most difficult periods in the history of not only Russia, but of the whole world in general and specifically towards the life of Jews in Odessa at this time.
The two other mentioned dates commemorate the anniversaries of two museums – the old one (1st All-Ukrainian Museum of Jewish Culture) that held a wonderful collection of unique artifacts that were gathered by various Jewish families who were eager to remember…and the new one (Migdal-Shorashim Museum of History of Odessa Jews) – that bears this memory of the old museum and tries to immortalize the history that lives on the walls of its premises, but above all lives in the hearts and minds of its visitors.
The Conference involved historians, researchers, journalists, musicians and students from the local establishments and those from abroad like Russia, Germany, Israel. These were presenters and audience from Odessa Music Academy, Odessa National University, Odessa Municipal Library, Literary Museum, Odessa Cultural Fund, St. Petersburgh Judaica Center, Kiev Judaica Institute, Poltava Institute of Economics and Law, Sumy State University, Lvov International Center of Holocaust; coordinators and participants of museum programs from the JCCs and Heseds of Southern Ukraine (Sevastopol, Nikolaev) also presented reports and lead discussions at the Conference.
The participants of the Conference were offered a range of topics for discussion among which were:
• Main directions in Jewish political thought on the threshold of 1917 and after the events of 1917
• “Jewish Question” in the political concepts and practical activity of different political powers in 1917 and in the years of the Civil War
• New tendencies in literature and art development in South-West of the former Empire in the after-war years and their modern interpretation
• Museums that were born thanks to October 1917: evolution of the national policy of the Soviet rule and fates of the Jewish cultural institutions of 1920-30s.
• Ethno cultural and ethno social theme of this period in the modern museums’ collections: the problem of selection and interpretation.
At the very end of the conference there was a round table where the participants discussed the results of the conference. Then the head of the editorial program presented the books that were published by Migdal JCC of Odessa in the recent years.
The local mass media of Odessa did their best to cover the interesting and unique educational and cultural event in the life of the city and region.