Emory’s annual Tenenbaum Lecture will explore “The Book Smugglers of the Vilna Ghetto: A Story of Spiritual Resistance,” with guest scholar David E. Fishman of The Jewish Theological Seminary.
In Vilna, the city Jews called “The Jerusalem of Lithuania,” a group of ghetto inmates risked their lives to rescue thousands of rare books, documents, and works of art from the Nazis. In an operation that lasted eighteen months, they smuggled the materials past guards and buried them in bunkers. Those members of the group who survived the War returned to Vilna after the city’s liberation and dug up the materials. They eventually smuggled the books across Europe until they reached the United States and Israel. What did they rescue, and why did they do it?
Dr. David E. Fishman is a professor of Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Fishman also serves as director of Project Judaica, which publishes guides to Jewish archival materials in the Former Soviet Union. Dr. Fishman is the author of numerous books and articles on the history and culture of East European Jewry. His most recent book, The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis, received a 2017 National Jewish Book Award.
A native New Yorker, Dr. Fishman has taught at Brandeis University, Bar-Ilan University, Russian State University in Moscow, and Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.
This year marks the 24th anniversary of the Tenenbaum Family Lectureship in Judaic Studies, which salutes the family of the late Meyer W. Tenenbaum ’31C-’32L of Savannah, Georgia. Tenenbaum, a native of Poland, arrived in the United States at the age of thirteen knowing no English, and graduated from the Emory School of Law eleven years later. He went on to head Chatham Steel Corporation, now a major steel service center with headquarters in Savannah.
The lectureship was established in 1997 by Meyer’s son, Samuel Tenenbaum ‘65C, and honors the entire Tenenbaum family and its ethos of citizenship and public service, which is expressed through its support of religious, educational, social service, and arts institutions across the United States.
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