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The Annual Morton E. Ruderman Memorial Lecture

UCLA history professor David N. Myers delivered a timely reminder of the importance of the study of

David N. Myers

Jewish history on March 26th, noting among other issues new Polish legislation that punishes speech critical of the Polish role during the Holocaust. Myers, who is also the President and CEO of the Center for Jewish History in New York City, gave the annual Morton E. Ruderman Memorial Lecture.

In the lecture titled “Why Is Jewish History So Important Today: An Impassioned Plea for Studying the Past,” Myers divided scholarly approaches to Jewish history into three categories:

1. Liberation: liberating Jewish history from someone else’s version of history.
2. Consolation: cataloguing the tragedies of Jewishhistory as proof of the ongoing vitality of the Jewish people.
3. Witnessing: historians offering testimony of historical events.

David N. Myers
Lori Lefkovitz

Reasons for studying history vary. The study of history can be entertainment, satisfying curiosity, or archaeological, as part of a quest to understand how our world came about. It can be preservative, preserving people from the past, or ethical, bringing to life voices who might otherwise be silenced. It can also deconstruct myths and distortions. History is also a function of its time and can be influenced politically, but the norm among historians remains to carefully examine sources to differentiate between good and poor scholarship.

The study of Jewish History, posits Myers, has had many constructive functions, including forging the boundaries of religious denominations, creating a vehicle of national identity, and constructing a template of how immigrants adapt to majority culture. It can serve to fortify a sense of group memory and as a warning sign of the growth of intolerance.

Members of the Ruderman family at the Morton E. Ruderman Memorial Lecture

The Morton E. Ruderman Lecture was attended by a full house, including members of the Ruderman and Stotsky families, patrons of Jewish Studies at Northeastern. Dean Poiger and Professor Lefkovitz gave introductory remarks which included an acknowledgement of the importance of Northeastern to Morton E. Ruderman’s legacy and of the Ruderman family to the Jewish Studies program.

A video recording of the 2018 Morton E. Ruderman Lecture can be found here:

Read the rest of the Spring 2018 Haverim newsletter here:

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