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Judaic Audio Lectures, Panel Discussions, Author Talks, Workshops & More

The AJL Podcast brings you the best talks on Jewish literature and the Jewish library world, with respected experts and popular authors. Please check back periodically, as new lectures will be added to the series.


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Entries for 'Holocaust'

Six years ago, a reference librarian in the Dorot Room of New York's 42nd Street Library brought Doreen Rappaport three volumes she had not requested - all about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust - and sparked her curiosity to explore this subject. Rappaport shares her research journey from domestic and international libraries and archives to her work with Holocaust scholars and resisters to shape a book that covers the most up-to-date concepts of "resistance" and reveals how Jews organized to rescue themselves and others. Beyond Courage garnered six starred reviews, was selected as one of the best non-fiction books of 2012 by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and was named a Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Teen Readers by AJL.

Presented by Doreen Rappaport at the 2013 AJL Conference in Houston, TX.


Only through knowledge and understanding can another Holocaust be prevented. Dr. Babaknia's four volume work on the Holocaust in Farsi is a 2013 AJL Judaica Reference Award Honorable Mention winner.

Presented by Dr. Ardashir Babaknia at the 2013 AJL Conference in Houston, TX.

Posted in: RAS
In the spring of 1943, odds of a Ukranian Jew surviving World War II were less than 5%. Hitler's final solution had reached a furious climax with no safe place left to hide, except below ground in a cave. This is the story of how several families, some of whom eventually settled in the Montreal region, chose this option, and fought to survive during one of the darkest times in history. Through the use of slides and an accompanying natrative, Chris Nicola tells this amazing story of survival, as well as his 10 year search for those who lived this remarkable story and his subsequent work in the making of a documentary, featuring himself and some of the Priest's Grotto survivors, based on his book, The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story.

Presented by Chris Nicola at the 2011 AJL Convention in Montreal, Quebec.

1 hr 12 min 32 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC
Monique Polak discusses her novel What World Is Left, a work of historical fiction based on her mother's experience as a teenager in Theresienstadt. Polak will discuss the sad secret that lies at the heart of her novel: that the father of her young protagonist, Anneke, has been forced by the Nazis to produce propaganda drawings. Anneke will grapple with this revelation and it is this moral dilemma that helps to make Polak's novel resonate with contemporary tweens and teens. Polak will also explain the personal journey she undertook to produce this novel, as well as the delicate task of melding fact and fiction, especially when exploring a subject as painful and important as the Holocaust.

Presented by Monique Polak at the 2011 AJL Convention in Montreal, Quebec.

24 min 08 sec

A two-part presentation by Zvi Bernhardt.

1. Yad Vashem Reference and Information Services: On Integrating “Corporate Cutlures” in a Reference Setting

Ten years ago, Yad Vashem combined the reference service units of its library, archive, photo archive, and Hall of Names. This decision stemmed from its commitment to consumer based reference service and a belief that in the digital era, library and archive service are converging. The presentation describes the difficulties in combining the “Corporate Cultures” of the various departments, including the resistance of some staff and administration to the change. It describes the mode of work of the staff and how its self-perception has evolved to mesh more closely with the needs of the public.

2. Yad Vashem Online and Offline

The Yad Vashem Internet presence now includes a wealth of resources, including the Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, photo archive, library catalog, Shoah Resource Center, most of the scholarly articles published by Yad Vashem, and dozens of stories of Righteous among the Nations. Many of the online databases use special thesauri developed in Yad Vashem that allow a user to search any version of a place or personal name and get the same results, even if the names have no phonetic connection (for exampe: Pressburg and Bratislava). In addition, Yad Vashem provides online services to assist the pbulic, including basic research in its collections that are not online, for genealogical and schoarly research, and the Yad Vashem Bar/Bat Mitzvah “twinning” program.

Presented by Zvi Bernhardt at the 2010 Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Seattle, WA.

1 hr 24 min 33 sec

Posted in: RAS

Over the past several years, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has undertaken vast digitizing projects. More than 10 million pages were involved. This presentation includes descriptions of digitized large collections, problems encountered with storage, access, quality control, and restrictions issues, and plans for the future of the Museum’s archival collections.

Presented by Michlean Amir at the 2010 AJL Convention in Seattle, WA.

40 min 31 sec

Posted in: RAS

The 2010 Judaica Reference and Bibliography Awards were presented at the awards banquet at the 45th annual AJL convention in Seattle, WA on July 6, 2010.  The winners are:

Reference Award, sponsored by Greta Silver: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, accepted by Dr. Geoffrey Megargee, encyclopedia project director (left image).

Bibliography Award, sponsored by Eric Chaim Kline: A Body-of-Work Award goes to Joseph (Yossi) Galron-Goldschlaeger, head of the Hebraica and Jewish Studies Library at the Ohio State University Libraries, in recognition of his life-long contributions to the field of Hebrew bibliography (right image).

Posted in: RAS

This session on electronic resources has three parts:

C.O.T.A.R., Collection of Torah Articles: The Evolution of a Database and its Uses, presented by Yaakov Aronson of Bar Ilan University

COTAR is a DVD database containing the full texts of articles in the field of Jewish law published in journals not readily available to the general public. The material chosen for scanning was chosen from the yearly bibliographies of outstanding articles in this field prepared by Rabbi Meir Wunder of the Jewish National and University Library (now National Library of Israel) and published in the annual Tehumin over a period of 20 years. The presentation discusses the preparations necessary before scanning could begin, permissions from authors and publications, etc, and the challenges presented by the project. Though the articles in the database are from the field of Jewish Law, their use as primary sources for political, cultural, social and economic history is discussed.

Creating a Bibliography and Catalog of All Hebrew Writings for the Future National Library of Israel, presented by Donald Goldman, publisher and producer

With the acceptance of using the MARBI Model B structure for Name Authority Files, and the linking together of all the various international formats with a VIAF (Virtual International Authority File) type server, and the experience gained in using these tools with Arabic, Goldman explains how it is now possible to create a cohesive bio-bibliographical unit.

The ‘Voices of the Holocaust’ Project at the Illinois Institute of Technology presented by Christopher Stewart, Ralph Pugh and Eben English, all three from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)

In 1946, IIT psychology professor David P. BOder travelled to Europe to document the traumas suffered by persons displaced by the recent world war, including many survivors of the Holocaust. As his interviews progressed, Boder (armed with a wire recorder) soon abandoned his pre-planned structure interview questions and let his interviewees tell their personal narratives with as little hindrance as possible. His interviews contain much of the earliest extant Holocaust testimony anbd convey what scholar Donald Niewyk aptly describes as “fresh wounds.” In 1999, IIT’s Galvin Library launched its “Voices of the Holocaust” website, which features Boder’s translations of 70 of his 124 interviews. Galvin Library is currently coordinating the original language transcription of all the interviews, along with the translation of those that Boder was unable to complete himself. The augmented website, which will include many search  capabilities for students and scholars, will be unveiled during 2009. IIT Dean of Libraries Christopher Stewart, Galvin Library Digital Services Librarian Eben English, and IIT Assistant University Archivist Ralph Pugh discuss David Boder’s life and work, the scope of his 1946 interviews, and the challenges facing IIT as it seeks to promote the widest possible sue of this invaluable resource.

See the Voices of the Holocaust website at http://voices.iit.edu.

These presentations were given at the 2009 Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Chicago, IL.

1 hr 6 min 59 sec

Posted in: RAS

Followers of children’s literature have recently witnessed an unusual amount of illustrated books about the Holocaust being published. Along with the many narratives and memoirs for older readers, there is a large subgroup of supposedly simple picture books that are being offered to a younger crowd. After taking a look at almost everything about the Holocaust published in picture book format, one could come to the conclusion that children these days are seemingly prepared to absorb much of the horrors of 20th century at a tender age. Clearly this subject cannot be hidden from children who hear references to it often, but perhaps the bibliography discussed in this presentation will be of some assistance to teachers, librarians and booksellers who are at a loss as to which of thses pictrue books are most appropriate for various age groups, grades 4 through high school.

Presented by Lisa Silverman of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Click here for Lisa’s bibliography of books mentioned in the presentation.

Click here for Lisa’s article in School Library Journal, “Bearing Witness Through Picture Books” March 2007.

1 hr 7 min 10 sec

“Stolen Books: The Third Reich’s Exchange Center and the Prussian State Library in the Years 1933-1945. Aspects of the supply with literature under the control of National Socialism” was the title of this Special Plenary Session, presented at the 44th annual AJL Convention in Chicago, IL, July 6, 2009. The honored presenter was Barbara Schneider-Kempf, the Director General of the Berlin State Library in Germany.

38 min 46 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Dr. Peter Hayes is a Professor at Northwestern University and the Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Chair in Holocaust Studies. He was named a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence for the period 2007-2010. He has published some 60 articles in American and European journals and books; edited volumes I and III of the renowned Lessons and Legacies series that he helped found, and co-edited works on Imperial Germany, the so-called Aryanization of Jewish property during the Third Reich and The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz. His most recent book is From Cooperation to Complicity: Degussa in the Third Reich, which appeared in both English and German in 2004, and he is at work on two further studies: Profits and Persecution: German Big Business and the Holocaust and The Failure of a Generation: German Elites and National Socialism.

Dr. Hayes gave this keynote presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries 44th annual convention on July 5, 2009 in Chicago, IL.

43 min 23 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Information about information books: do “they” pick out the pictures and write the narrative? Or do “they” write the text and find pictures to match? Find out as three recognized authors, Deborah Heiligman, Christos Nicola, and Bill Rubin, talk about the cahllenges of this genre.

Deborah Heiligman is the author of 25 books for children, including the AJL Notable books Celebrate Hanukkah, Celebrate Passover, and Celebrate Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur.

Christos Nicola has devoted over 30 years to the study and exploration of caves in the former Soviet Union, as well as the Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas. He is the founder of the nonprofit Ukranian American Youth Caver Exchange Foundation. His book, The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story, received a 2008 Sydney Taylor Honor Award for Older Readers.

William J. Rubin is the Executive Director/COO of the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago and the driving force behind the graphic novel HOMELAND: An Illustrated History of the State of Israel.

They presented this session at the Celebration of Jewish Children’s Literature that was held in honor of the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s 40th anniversary, as part of the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention, on June 25, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

1 hr 10 min 52 sec

Lisa Silverman and Talma Shultz participated in a panel discussion moderated by Adaire Klein on teaching with Holocaust books. Lisa spoke about teaching the Holocaust using picture books, and Talma spoke about the middle and high school perspective.

Adaire Klein is the founding Director of Library and Archival Services at the Simon Wiesenthal CenterMuseum of Tolerance. She holds a B.A. in Hebrew Literature and a M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic studies from Brandeis University.

Talma Shultz is an instructor and lecturer with Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit organization that offers teacher training programs for Middle School and High School Holocaust Education.

Lisa Silverman is the director of the Sinai Temple Blumenthal Library at Sinai Temple. She leads classes and book groups, along with organizing community programs on literature. She is the children’s editor of Jewish Book World magazine and also a reviewer of children’s literature for various other publications. She has often been a featured speaker at library conventions or literary conferences. She serves as a judge for the children’s division of the National Jewish Book Award and also for the “Once Upon a World” Book Award.

They gave this presentation at the 7th annual Association of Jewish Libraries Western Regional Conference on Jewish Literature for Children on February 1, 2009 at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

47 min 17 sec

Tags: Holocaust

Hamida Basmajian & Eric Sundquist


  • Early responses, before “the Holocaust.” Hersey, Uris, and others.
  • Priority of testimony and its relation to fiction. Elie Wiesel and others.
  • The problem of authenticity and hoaxes. Kosinski, Wilkomirski and others.
  • The Americanization of the Holocaust. Anne Frank’s Diary and others.
  • Second-generation approaches. Philip Roth, Thane Rosenbaum, and others.
  • Eric Sundquist discusses the evolution of Holocaust literature, particularly from the American perspective, from the immediate aftermath of the war through late-twentieth-century responses by those of the second generation, including children of survivors. Issues to consider include the priority of testimony and its relation to fiction; the problem of authenticity and hoaxes; the “Americanization” of the Holocaust; and the self-reflexive and sometimes postmodern strategies of some second-generation writers.


  • Perception of “Children’s Literature” as an academic field of study.
  • Authorial motivation to write Holocaust narratives as children’s literature.
  • Contexts and readers of Holocaust narratives for North American children and youths. The aim of testimony in the context of children’s literature.
  • Structures, Conventions, Genres—
    § The survivor journal, memoir, or autobiography as privileged form –ethos of the survivor as hero, the testimony of the survivor as victim.
    § Fictionalized autobiographies based on authorial childhood memory.
    § Fictional Holocaust narratives and acquired memory—possibilities and limitations.
  • Hamida Basmajian refers to the following narratives as examples during this session: The Diary of Anne Frank, Ruth Minsky Sender’s The Cage and The Holocaust Lady, Carol Matas’ Daniel’s Story, Gudrun Pausewang’s The Final Journey, John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Doris Orgel’s The Devil in Vienna, Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic and Briar Rose.

    Eric J. Sundquist is the UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Sundquist received his B.A. from the University of Kansas and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He has also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and Vanderbilt University and is the author or editor of twelve books, the most recent of which are King’s Dream (2009); Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America (2005), which received the Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute Book Award.

    Hamida Bosmajian, Professor Emerita of the English Department at Seattle University, is the author of Sparing the Child: Grief and the Unspeakable in Youth Literature about Nazism and the Holocaust (Routledge, 2002) and Metaphors of Evil. Contemporary German Literature and the Shadow of Nazism (U. of Iowa Press, 1979). The Children’s Literature Association honored Sparing the Child with the ChLA Book Award in 2004.

    They gave this presentation at the 7th annual Association of Jewish Libraries Western Regional Conference on Jewish Literature for Children on February 1, 2009 at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

    1 hr 18 min 57 sec

    Tags: Holocaust