Majer Bałaban and the Founding of Modern Jewish Historiography of East-Central Europe

Majer Bałaban and the Founding of Modern Jewish Historiography of East-Central Europe

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Natalia Aleksiun

Touro College, Graduate School of Jewish Studies, New York

May 26, 2011 / 5.00 pm

Center for Urban History, Lviv

Natalia Aleksiun discussed Bałaban’s contribution to the emergence of modern Jewish historiography of Polish Jewry. The presentation was focused on his vision of regional and urban studies.

Bałaban (1877-1942) – born in Lviv and educated at Jan Kazimierz University there, remained committed to studying local Jewish communities and urban centers as building blocks of East European Jewish historical scholarship. Natalia Aleksiun argues that the study of social, cultural and political history of Jews in Galicia played a central work in his research. His doctoral dissertation "Jews in Lviv at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries" as well as many scholarly and popular articles explored Jewish life in Galicia. Likewise, Bałaban’s vision of Jewish historiography shaped a generation of Jewish historians educated at the Institute of Jewish Studies and the Warsaw University. He trained over sixty students of Polish Jewish history according to the university curriculum and his understanding of scholarship. Bałaban equipped them with research skills and teaching methods. He shaped their views on the role of Jewish historians in Poland as they embarked on academic and public careers in the last decade of the Second Polish Republic.

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Natalia Aleksiun

studied Polish and Jewish history at the Warsaw University, the Graduate School of Social Studies in Warsaw and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She was a fellow of Foundation for Polish Science (Fundacja na Rzecz Nauki Polskiej), Batory Foundation, Fulbright, Lady Davis, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York and the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. She received her doctorate from Warsaw University in 2001. Her dissertation appeared in print as Where to? The Zionist Movement in Poland , 1944-1950 (in Polish) in 2002. In 2010, she received her second PhD from New York University based on her dissertation entitled: “Ammunition in the Struggle for National Rights: Jewish Historians in Poland between the Two World Wars”.

She published in Polin, Yad Vashem Studies, East European Jewish Affairs, Studies in Contemporary Jewry and German History. She is Associate Professor of Modern Jewish History at Touro College, Graduate School of Jewish Studies, New York. She was also Assistant Professor at the Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences. Currently, she is working on two book projects: on Jewish Historians in the Second Polish Republic and the so called cadaver affair at Medical Departments of Polish Universities in the 1920s and 1930s.


Сover Image: Mayer Balaban. Jewish precinct /