«Jewish Observer»
March 2002
5762 Adar

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The Bozhole is a delicious drink and there is no doubt about it. Yet, nothing compares to an old seasoned wine...

The ninth annual international (as it has already become a tradition, with participants from Europe, Asia and both Americas) interdiscipline conference on Judaic studies was held in Moscow, in the suburban town of Korolev to be exact, February 4-6. Scientists lovingly call it "Seferovskaya", as the main organizer and the "soul" of the conference is "Sefer", the Center for scientists and Judaic studies instructors. The very ordinal number of the conference obliged and one should admit that the conference has met the status long before it was attached to it in the scientific circles, which could be well rendered metaphorically - good seasoned wine. Even the absence of red caviar on the tables at the traditional welcome party didn't blur the positive impression of the conference. The aim of the conference was to create a favorable environment for the scientists where they could share their experience and establish the prospective research trends in the vast world of the Judaic studies. And with any false modesty set aside one can say that the conference has reached its aim.

The second international Khazar colloquium held as one the eight subject sections of the conference (Section A) became its distinguishing feature. The other seven sections, each consisting of two to seven sub-sections were: Semitic and Bible Studies (section B), Jewish Thought (section C), Jews and other nations (section D), Jewish History (section E), Jewish Culture (section F), Jewish Ethnography. Archeology. Regional Studies (section G), Jewish National Self-consciousness. Social Studies. Education (section H).

To make it easier for the reader to imagine the scale of the conference, let us give you some figures: only Ukraine was represented by 77 registered participants and the financial support from "Joint" made it possible for them to attend the conference. The amount of participants representing Ukraine could be explained by the efficient and laborious selection (football terminology) carried out by the leaders of the "Sefer" Center, not least were their trips to our country in search for new researchers in Judaic Studies (in its broad sense). In this respect an obvious fact should be mentioned that the Ukraine representatives took part in discussions in all the sections but one - Semitic and Bible studies. Though it is one of the main subjects in Judaic Studies, due to different reasons it has not been yet developed enough.

There is no point in naming all the participants and lecture topics, we will only mention that some of them were really interesting and attention-worthy. To make an exemption, we will allow ourselves to name Dr Shaul Shtempfer's (Jewish University, Jerusalem) profound lecture on "Geography of Jewish communities in Ukraine till 1648 (according to the "Tit Ha-Ieven" book)". The lecture anticipated the forthcoming publication of the historian's fundamental, dispelling many myths in the traditional historiography research-work on the historical demography and statistics of Jewish population in Ukraine before, during and after Khmelnitsky's rule. Though written in English, we hope that its translation into Ukrainian is not long coming.

Taking the cognizance of the tradition, during the conference the presentation of new books of the "Gesharim - Culture Bridges" publishing house, as well as the regular meeting of members of Forum of Heads of Jewish Universities, departments and specialized courses were held. A new addition to the agenda was made by Open Beit Midrash meetings, called every evening and attended by the majority of the participants. Ilia Dvorkin (Jerusalem) and Semen Parizsky (St.Petersburg) coped well with the task of presidents at the meetings. It should be mentioned that at the registration each participant was given a comprehensive version of Yosif Joseph Zisels's lecture "Some aspects of Jews' migration around Ukraine". Delivered at the previous conference, the lecture became the first to be published by the "Sefer" Center in the new "Teachers' and Students' Collection" book-series.

By the way, some words about students. Many of the participants of the student scientific winter school on Judaic Studies, held just before the Sefer conference, got a rare possibility to attend the conference sessions, and some of them even took part at the discussions.

Leaving the town of Russian, former - Soviet, Space Travel Studies, one cannot but catch a glimpse of a church of an unusual shape of a rocket turned to the heights and you have the feeling that the future of Judaic studies at the terrain of the former USSR is also speeding to the heights.


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© 2002 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org