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Gross Center Academic Symposium

CONTACT: The Movement and Meeting of Jewish People and Artifacts across Cold-War Boundaries

October 9 – 11, 2023 at the Gross Center

The Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Ramapo College is proud to announce its first scholarly symposium, funded with generous support from the S. Rubenstein Family Foundation and organized in partnership with the Jewish Studies Program at Purdue University.


The symposium is the second in a two-part series, the aim of which is to publish an edited volume featuring contributions from the participants (and perhaps a few more!). The first symposium was held in May, 2022 at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor (Steel Museum).

Keynote Address: Ann Hagedorn

October 9 at 6:00 PM (Hybrid: Friends Hall and Zoom)

Register for Zoom in Advance

Acclaimed author and journalist, Ann Hagedorn, will speak about her latest book, Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away (Simon & Schuster, 2021).

Cover of "Sleeper Agent." It is red with a beige figure of a man in a hat. The title is written in black over his body.Born in Iowa, schooled in science at Columbia University, and as American as baseball, George Koval was the ultimate secret agent. Because he had security clearances to the Manhattan Project, he was able to pass invaluable classified information that helped Soviet scientists produce an atomic bomb years earlier than US experts had expected. The FBI only identified him several years after he had returned to the USSR, and in 2007, Vladimir Putin posthumously awarded him Russia’s highest civilian honor for his contribution to the Soviet atomic program.

This event is free and open to the public.
Light refreshments will be served.


In the first symposium, scholars offered 20-minute presentations of their works in progress. At our Fall 2023 symposium, scholars will discuss and offer suggestions for how to improve upon pre-circulated chapter drafts.

The discussions will take place in the Special Collections Reading Room in the Peter P. Mercer Learning Commons (LC-216) are open to the public but will not be made available online. The schedule and list of papers will be made available in the near future.


Jacob Ari Labendz, Ramapo College, NJ, USA

Rebekah Klein-Pejšová, Purdue University, IN, USA

Participating Scholars

Jonathan Dekel-Chen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Zuzanna Dziuban, Institute of Cultural History and Theatre Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Amy Fedeski, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada [not attending]

Brian Goodman, Arizona State University, AZ, USA

Anna Holzer-Kawałko, Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem

Shaul Kelner, Vanderbilt University, TN, USA

Boris Morozov, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Kunduz Niiazova, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Dóra Pataricza, Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland

Anat Plocker, Stockton University, NJ, USA

Ran Zwigenberg, PennState, PA, USA

Zohar Segev, University of Haifa, Israel

Paweł Sowiński, Polish Academy of Science, Poland

Jonathan Zisook, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Tentative Schedule

Monday, October 9

16:30   Welcome Reception (York Room)

18:00   Keynote Address: Ann Hagedorn, Sleeper Agent (Friends Hall)

20:00   Dinner, TBD

Tuesday, October 10

9:00     Breakfast, York Room (Mansion)

9:40     Welcome to the Gross Center (GC)

10:00   Kunduz Niiazova

“A Modern Kyrgyz Dream of the Soviet Kyrgyz-Jewish Intellectuals and Artists Beyond the ‘Iron Curtain’”
Respondents: Dóra Pataricza and Anat Plocker

10:30   Rebekah Klein-Pejšová

“Fostering Postwar Jewish Community from Slovakia to Canada”
Respondents: Kunduz Niiazova and Anat Plocker

11:00   Coffee Break

11:15   Jacob Ari Labendz

“Czech-Jewish Cemeteries as Sites of Cooperation and Conflicting Priorities”
Respondents: Zohar Segev and Ran Zwigenberg

11:45   Jonathan Dekel-Chen

“Wandering Jews as Cold-War Pawns
Respondents: Boris Morozov and Ran Zwigenberg

12:30   Lunch, York Room (Mansion)

13:30   Visit to Art Museum, “Notes on Anarchaeology. Forgery, Iconoclasm, Displacement”

14:30   Anna Holzer-Kawałko

“Cold War and Cultural Restitution: The Hebrew University Restitution Missions in Postwar Eastern Europe”
Respondents: Brian Goodman and Jacob Ari Labendz

15:00   Shaul Kelner

“American Orthodox Rabbinic Travel to Aid Soviet Jews”
Respondents: Boris Morozov and Dóra Pataricza

15:30   Coffee Break

15:45   Dóra Pataricza and Vera Ábrahám

“From Szeget to Jerusalem: the Arduous Travel of Immánuel Löw’s Library”
Respondents: Brian Goodman and Jacob Ari Labendz

16:15   Boris Morozov

“Links Between the State of Israel and Soviet Jews during the cold War and the Struggle for Aliya”
Respondents: Paweł Sowiński and Jonathan Dekel-Chen

16:45   Coffee Break

17:00   Anat Plocker

“‘A Dream of Belonging’: The Expulsion of Jews from Communist Poland”
Respondents: Shaul Kelner and Jonathan Dekel-Chen

17:30   Return to Hotel

18:40   Dinner, TBD

Wednesday, October 11

9:00     Breakfast, Alumni Lounge

9:45     Zohar Segev

“Diaspora Nationalism, Migration, and Cultural Revival: American Jewry and the Challenge of European Jewish Diaspora in the Shadow of the Holocaust and Cold War”
Respondents: Yoni Zisook and Rebekah Klein-Pejšová

10:15   Yoni Zisook

“Passover for the Passed Over: Jewish Religious Life in the People’s Republic of Poland, 1968-1989”
Respondents: Kunduz Niiazova and Anna Holzer-Kawałko

10:45   Coffee break

11:00   Ran Zwigenberg and Zuzana Dziuban

“Holocaust Ashes on the Move: Incinerated Human Remains as Objects of Global Institutional Exchange”
Respondents: Paweł Sowiński and Zohar Segev

11:30   Brian Goodman

“From Behind a Star: Philip Roth, Rita Klimová, and the American Reception of Jiří Weil”
Respondents: Anna Holzer-Kawałko and Yoni Zisook

12:00   Coffee Break

12:10   Paweł Sowiński

“Józef Lebenbaum – ‘a rooted cosmopolitan’ in Sweden, 1969-1989”
Respondents: Shaul Kelner and Rebekah Klein-Pejšová

12:30   Packed Lunches

Guests are invited to join the Ramapo Pride Fest, which will run until 4:00 pm

—        Amy Fedeski

“When a Refusenik Becomes a Refugee: American Jews’ Interactions with Soviet Jewish Migrants during the 1970s”
Dr. Fedeski cannot attend the symposium and we will not be discussing this chapter.