Meir Feb 2021 - Ayelet Tours, Ltd.

 

The Dark Side of Fiddler:
Eastern Europe’s Forgotten Jews
Presented by Prof. Natan Meir

DETAILS:
• Featuring Live moderated lecture, and post-talk Q&A with Prof. Natan Meir each week
• Program Cost: $80 for ALL FOUR SESSIONS
• Hosted/moderated by Ayelet Tours
• Sessions are recorded – view missed sessions via private link
• Session size is limited – register now!

PROGRAM:
Feb 3 – The Cholera Wedding: East European Jews’ Magical Ritual to End an Epidemic
Feb 10–Town Fools, Madmen, and Possessed Women: The Mentally Ill in Jewish Eastern Europe
Feb 17 –A Home for the Homeless? The Jewish Poorhouse of Eastern Europe
Feb 24– Drafting the Undesirables: Jewish Conscription to the Imperial Russian Military under Nicholas I

 

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Deep Dive Details:

The Cholera Wedding: East European Jews’ Magical Ritual to End an Epidemic (Session I, Feb 3, 2021)

This talk explores the history and meaning of a peculiar ritual that emerged among East European Jews in the 19th century: to stop the spread of an epidemic, the community would marry its most vulnerable and marginalized members—orphans, beggars, and the disabled—to each other in a wedding held in the cemetery. Drawing on various approaches from the fields of social and cultural history, anthropology, folklore, and cultural studies, it is explained why this ritual held such lasting appeal to ordinary Jews in Eastern Europe, to the extent that it spread to Ottoman Palestine and endured into the period of the Holocaust. The talk is illustrated by clips from the 1939 classic Yiddish film “The Light Ahead” (Fishke der Krumer).

 

Town Fools , Madmen, and Possessed Women: The Mentally Ill in Jewish Eastern Europe (Session II, Feb 10, 2021)

East European Jewry was no more or less neurodiverse than any other human community. Then why did so many people in the early twentieth century—both Jews and non-Jews—take it for granted that Jews were more prone to madness and neurosis than their neighbors? And what was traditional Jewish society’s understanding of mental illness and cognitive disorders? We will examine a variety of historical sources in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the role of mentally ill people in Jewish society in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe.

A Home for the Homeless? The Jewish Poorhouse of Eastern Europe (Session III, Feb 17, 2021)

This lecture explores the hekdesh (poorhouse), one of the grimmest institutions in East European Jewish society. This ubiquitous establishment, which often doubled as a sick house for the destitute ill, was home to a motley crew of itinerant and local beggars, vagrants, madwomen and madmen, chronically ill people, and poor orphans. We will examine the development of the hekdesh from its origins in the Middle Ages to its modern transformation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Drafting the Undesirables: Jewish Conscription to the Imperial Russian Military under Nicholas I (Session IV, Feb 24, 2021)

In 1827, Nicholas I signed a draft decree requiring Jewish communities to select recruits for twenty-five-year terms of service in the Madmen, Possessed Women, and Tsar’s army. Under this brutal conscription regime, some Jewish communal leaders attempted to draw recruits solely from among socially marginal people such as beggars and the religiously lax or drafted poor orphans as so-called voluntary substitutes for the sons of prosperous families. This talk examines this sad chapter in East European Jewish history through the lens of archival documents and Yiddish folksongs.

About Prof. Natan Meir:

Jerusalem-born Natan Meir is a New Jersey native, a New Yorker by temperament and education, and an Oregonian since 2008. From his groundbreaking research on the Jews of Eastern Europe to his work as a consultant for Moscow’s Jewish Museum, Meir has earned an international reputation as a scholar of Jewish social, cultural, and religious history. His latest book, Stepchildren of the Shtetl: The Destitute, Disabled, and Mad of Jewish Eastern Europe, 1800-1939, recovers the histories of Jewish Eastern Europe’s social outcasts: disabled and mentally ill people, beggars, and poor orphans, and he is currently engaged in a new project on the intersection of magic and sexuality in European Jewish culture. He reads or speaks eight languages, leads Jewish heritage tours of Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltics with Ayelet Tours, and is probably pondering questions of historical causality – and what to make for dinner – while trail-running.

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Travel With Professor Meir throughout the Jewish world with Ayelet Tours’ Traveling University.

 

JEWISH HERITAGE TOUR TO UKRAINE

with Prof. Natan Meir

June 22 – 30, 2021

Odessa, Kiev & Lviv

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