Euroasian Jewish News
'A Journey Through the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter' book praised at Ukrainian festivals
The award-winning book A Journey Through the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter: From Antiquity to 1914 received high praise from scholars and the public at two recent presentations in Lviv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian historians Igor Shchupak, at the Limmud Conference, and Vladyslav Hrynevych, Sr. at the 25th Book Forum, respectively, lauded the volume as deeply informative and thought-provoking, while being engaging and accessible to readers who may know little about Ukrainian-Jewish history or Ukraine. Both speakers congratulated the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and the organization’s co-director Alti Rodal for the design and content of the book and considered it an important contribution to the understanding of Ukrainian-Jewish relations.
A Journey Through the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter: From Antiquity to 1914 is based on an exhibit that toured major Canadian cities in 2015. The book expands on the exhibition’s narrative and intricately explores and illustrates the multi-faceted relationship between Ukrainians and Jews, peoples who for nearly two millennia inhabited the lands that comprise today’s Ukraine.
Alti Rodal, who curated the traveling exhibit, is the author of the book, published in both the English and Ukrainian languages. The volume was awarded First Prize for museum exhibit catalogues at the 5th Triennial All-Ukrainian Museum Festival that took place in Dnipro, Ukraine from 18-24 September 2018.
In his lively discussion at Limmud Ukraine, Shchupak discussed the different sections of the volume and elaborated on particular aspects, such as the book’s effective treatment of central themes through both text and illustrations.
“It is very interesting here not only to look at what was in history, but how this history is reflected,” he said of the book.
As an example, he singled out two illustrations of the Cossack Mamai, a popular Ukrainian folkloric hero, found in the chapter on Zaporozhian Cossacks. One illustration depicts the more traditional view of the Cossack Mamai—playing a kobza (a Ukrainian lute-like folk music instrument) with his faithful horse nearby. In another, contrasting illustration, the Cossack Mamai and haidamakas (18th century anti-Polish rebels) hang an arendar (leaseholder) by his heels as another is apprehended. The two leaseholders are depicted bearded and in Jewish dress.
“There are so many variants of the Cossack Mamai that you can learn history from how they are depicted,” Shchupak noted.
During his discussion at Lviv’s 25th Book Forum, Hrynevych was joined by Vasyl Starko, translator of the volume into Ukrainian. Hrynevych noted that the question of Ukrainian-Jewish relations is a topical theme today. He offered an historical overview of the relationship, remarking that the lands that comprise today’s Ukraine gave birth to diverse Jewish religious, cultural, and political movements, including Hasidism and Zionism, observing that the reader can learn much about the emergence and evolution of these movements from this book.
“It is very important that writers are discussed in this volume as they influenced social thought,” Hrynevych said. “Mentioned here are Hebrew-language and Yiddish-language writers who shaped the ideology and the identity of their nation. This is a very important and interesting aspect.”
Starko said he learned many new things in translating the book, including what Ukrainians and Jews can learn from one another. Over the centuries, both peoples were stateless and ruled by other empires.
“We can see our commonalities, and this can bring us closer,” he said.
Like others, he noted it was important the book also did not shy away from depictions of times of conflict between the two peoples.
“It is important that problematic chapters of the history are also discussed,” he noted.
A museum exhibit based on the book will be featured at the Lviv Historical Museum in the summer of 2019.
A PDF version of the book in English can be downloaded here.
A PDF version of the book in Ukrainian can be downloaded here.