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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem          האוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים

Hebrew U. Prof. to receive award from German President

The President of the Republic of Germany Dr. Horst Köhler will present an Order of Merit (Verdienstkreuz des Verdienstordens) next week to Hebrew University Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin.

The award is being presented to her for her groundbreaking research of Latin and Hebrew manuscripts in Germany, for her life achievements in the preservation of Jewish Art and for establishing - together with Prof. Harmen H. Thies of the Technische Universität Braunschweig - Bet Tfila, which is a research unit for the documentation of synagogues by German and Israeli students and researchers at the Technische Universität Braunschweig and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Prof. Cohen-Mushlin is associate professor emeritus of History of Art at the Hebrew University and was the Director of the Center for Jewish Art at the University from 1991-2006. She has spearheaded the search for and documentation of Jewish Art and synagogues in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, North Africa and India.

She is a fellow of the International Committee of Latin Palaeography, honorary professor at the Technische Universität Braunschweig and a member of the Academy of Sciences of Braunschweig.  She has also written numerous books and articles on the subject of Latin and Hebrew manuscripts.

This Order of Merit, awarded by the President of the Republic of Germany, is an acknowledgement of her outstanding personal contribution to the understanding between nations. The award ceremony will take place at 6 p.m., December 3rd, at the Maiersdorf Faculty Club, Mount Scopus campus.

To the original article: http://www.huji.ac.il/cgi-bin/dovrut/dovrut_search_eng.pl?mesge125974995205872560 


His Excellency, the Ambassador of Germany Dr. Kindermann, Prof. Ben-Sasson, the President of the Hebrew University, colleagues, friends and family, 

I feel honoured to receive the "Verdienstkreuz am Bande des Verdienstordens", awarded to me by the President of the German Republic, Dr. Horst Köhler; and I am very grateful to his Excellency Dr. Kindermann, the German Ambassador, for presenting it in my home, the Hebrew University, in the presence of its heads and my colleagues. Moreover, I am very happy to be surrounded by my friends in the Center for Jewish Art, and by my family. Thank you all for being here.

My attraction to German culture may be explained by the German roots in Giessen, of the surviving members of my family. However, I never imagined that my Ph.D. dissertation in London, on a Latin Bible produced in the Middle-Rhine, will lead me to a life-long study on German monasteries and their manuscripts. But fate has its own ways.

When I won a scholarship to Wolfenbüttel in 1980, to finish a book about my Latin manuscripts, I decided to concentrate on my work, and avoid subjects of Jewish nature. But how can one stay in Wolfenbüttel, where Moses Mendelssohn played chess with Ephraim Lessing, in the house which still exists?  or seeing young German pupils demonstrating against the demolition of the synagogue, where Yom Tov Lipmann Zunz celebrated his Bar Mizwa - and not consider the Jewish Question?

The decisive moment came in a coffee-shop in Mainz, on the banks of the river Rhine, while reading an article with Anti-Semitic overtones.  At that moment, I was faced with two options: either leave Germany right away, never to return, or turn my feelings into something positive and constructive.
The idea then occurred to me that German and Israeli students should document and research together their common heritage, for example, the synagogues remaining after Kristallnacht, which are now in private hands.

It took fourteen years of trials and failures, before I was fortunate to meet my partner, Prof. Harmen Thies of the Technische Universität Braunschwieg.  With the help of the Ministry of Science and Culture in Lower Saxony we established the research unit Bet Tfila: a joint project of the Center for Jewish Art and TU Braunschweig, to document and research endangered synagogues and other ritual buildings in Europe.

The enthusiastic response of over 400 students of Architecture in Germany; another 100 in Lithuania, and about 50 in Slovakia, brought about the documentation of 250 former synagogues, scores of publications and symposia, as well as exhibitions of synagogue models, which many school-children visit. In this way a young generation grows to cherish the culture of minority groups, in their respective countries.
That decision in Mainz, which helped turn hurt-feelings into constructive activity, was nurtured by my family background, and sustained in the liberal atmosphere of the Hebrew University, where I studied and taught for many years.

The most influential person in my life was my teacher and mentor, the late Prof. Bezalel Narkiss, the founder of the Center for Jewish Art, and an Israel prize laureate. He opened my eyes to the multicultural aspect of the Jewish visual heritage, and gave me the opportunity in 1991 to direct the Center for Jewish Art.  Above all, he supported my decisions to send more than 100 expeditions in 40 countries throughout the world, to document synagogues, ritual objects and Hebrew manuscripts, concentrating mainly on the culture of communities which are no more.

The Center’s expeditions and research are carried out by the dedicated team of architects, MA and PhD students of the Hebrew university, together with students and researchers of Bet Tfila in Braunschweig, and in cooperation with other educational institutions in different countries.

The enormous data which is being entered into the Jerusalem Index of Jewish Art, has become a national as well as an international cultural treasure. 

I see this award as an acknowledgement to the Center for Jewish Art and Bet Tfila. My only wish, on this happy occasion, is that ways and means would be found to sustain the activities of the students and researchers in both institutions, in Israel and Germany. This will contribute to the education of young scholars in these and other countries, towards understanding their common cultural heritage, and towards mutual tolerance.

 

 

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Last Updated: 21 October, 2014
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