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YIVO to Hold Conference on Simon Dubnow on October 24

PRESS NEWS: For immediate release
Contact: Paul Glasser, 212-294-6139
Associate Dean, Max Weinreich Center
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

(New York City – October 13, 2010) On the 150th anniversary of the birth of the renowned historian Simon Dubnow, YIVO will conduct a day-long conference on Dubnow's life and career featuring leading academics and historians.

Many colleges and universities today offer courses in Jewish history and have professors whose research focuses on this subject. This field owes its remarkable growth over the previous few decades in part to Simon Dubnow, one of the founders of the academic discipline of Jewish history and one of the great theorists of the idea of a secular Jewish culture. The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research will pay tribute to Dubnow with a day-long conference on Sunday, October 24, 2010.

Simon Dubnow was one of the great visionary Jewish thinkers of the end of the 19th century who developed and promulgated through his vast literary output the idea of the non-territorial existence of a secular Jewish nation.  Not a Zionist, assimilationist or Bundist, Dubnow sought to ensure the integrity of this nation in the Diaspora through the preservation of what he deemed the uniquely Jewish “historical consciousness” and through the Yiddish language. His motto, taken from Cicero, was “He who does not study the past will remain forever a child.”

Dubnow, who was born in Russia in 1860 and was killed in the Riga Ghetto in 1941, established the first archive for Russian Jewish history in his desk drawer in Odessa in 1891. While previous Jewish historians had focused narrowly on either the writings of great rabbis or the persecution of Jews, Dubnow believed that Jewish historical scholarship ought to cover the entire breadth of Jewish existence: social organizations, political structures, popular religious movements, and all aspect of everyday Jewish life. He was a prolific writer whose work continues to inform Jewish historical scholarship today. He did not, however, limit his intellectual efforts to studying the Jewish past; he also developed his own vision of the Jewish future, confronting the great questions facing the Jews of his day. An opponent of Zionism, traditional Orthodoxy, and socialism, he proposed his own version of Jewish nationalism based on cultivating Jewish culture and education in the Diaspora while campaigning for equal rights for Jews as both individual citizens and as a people. Dubnow also played an important role in the founding of YIVO.

The upcoming conference, sponsored by YIVO’s Max Weinreich Center together with Hunter College and the Posen Foundation, features some of today’s foremost Jewish historians. Robert Seltzer, Dubnow’s leading biographer, will give the keynote address. Panels include “Dubnow on the East European Jewish Past,” “Dubnovism in the 20th Century” and “Dubnow and Jewish Ideologies of His Time.” A complete schedule can be found at

ABOUT YIVO: Founded in 1925, The YIVO Institute is headquartered in New York City, and is the world’s preeminent resource center for East European Jewish Studies; Yiddish language, literature, and folklore; and the American Jewish Experience.

ABOUT THE POSEN FOUNDATION:  The Posen Foundation works internationally as a service provider to support secular Jewish education and educational initiatives on modern Jewish culture and the process of Jewish secularization through university grant programs, high school and middle school teacher education programs, and major publishing projects including the forthcoming Posen Library of Jewish Culture & Civilization, a 10-volume anthology of important literary works produced primarily by Jews from the Biblical period through the end of 2002. Published by Yale University Press, the first 1,000-page volume of The Posen Library will be completed in 2011.