'Oh Earth, Do Not Cover My Blood!': Eastern European Jewish Identity and the Material Culture

By:
Dr. Heidi M. Szpek
To add a paper, Login.

Jewish material culture in Poland today not only finds vestiges of the pre-Holocaust world, but also finds memorials to the destruction of the Jewish world during the Holocaust. Recognition of these past memories, as evidenced in the material culture, assists in preserving a ‘continuity with the past’ – a phrase noted by Galicia Jewish Museum creator and director Chris Schwartz when he writes, “It is right and proper to acknowledge that it [Jewish life] has found new sources of inspiration, as well as being in continuity with the past” (Photographing Traces of Memory, 164). Drawing on representative examples from Poland, this paper looks at the nature and extent of pre-Holocaust Jewish material culture, the extent and proprieties of Holocaust memorializing, and the current ‘new sources of inspiration’, with the intent of engaging the question: In what is Jewish identity past and present anchored? And how does this identity ‘make memory’ for the future – a memory that will heed the Joban plea: “Oh Earth, Do Not Cover My Blood!”(16:18).


Keywords: Jewish Material Culture, Jewish Identity, Poland, Holocaust, Memory
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: 'Oh Earth, Do Not Cover My Blood!'


Dr. Heidi M. Szpek

Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Central Washington University
Lynnwood, WA, USA

Prof. Szpek earned her Ph.D. in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin in 1991 with a special focus on Joban Studies. Since earning her doctorate, she has taught in Wisconsin and Arizona, until accepting her current position (2001) as a Professor of Religious Studies at Central Washington University (USA)where her teaching specialization is focused on Judaism, Western Traditions and Sacred Literature. Her research areas have continued in Joban Studies, but also progressed into Religion under Oppression, with a particular interest in the Holocaust and Eastern European Jewry. Her current paper derives from research undertaken in Eastern Poland (2003, 2005) and is part of a larger manuscript in progress, entitled "And the Children Played at Sobibor: Essays on Post Holocaust Response."

Ref: H06P0487