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The Shtetl Household


Yaffa Eliach

Professor Yaffa Eliach is a pioneering scholar in Holocaust studies. She is
Professor Emerita from Brooklyn College and is currently teaching across the
United States as a visiting Professor. She opened the first Center for Holocaust Studies Documentation & Research in the USA and introduced Holocaust Studies on the American campus. She is the creator of the exhibit the
Tower of Life at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. A soaring display made up of 1500 photographs depicting the people of a typical East European shtetl, the Tower of Life has been seen by over 20 million visitors and is considered by many the most moving exhibit at the Museum.

Professor Eliach's book,
There Once Was A World: A 900-Year Chronicle of
the Shtetl of Eishyshok
, recounts the history of the shtetl portrayed in the Tower, and was a Nonfiction Finalist for the National Book Award. Described by Cynthia Ozick as “monumental, magisterial…transcendent,” by Elie Wiesel as “rich with unforgettable images and memories,” the book is available in both hardcover and paperback editions.

Even more monumental in scope than either the book or the Tower, Professor Eliach’s newest project also focuses on thousand years of Shtetl life, in the form
of a full-size replica of a shtetl, which will be built in Rishon Le-Zion, Israel. The Shtetl will be a recreation of a vanished past, a major cultural center of universal Judaism, Ashkenazic and Sephardic life and history, the contribution of Jewish immigrants to the countries of immigration, as well as the relationship with other groups. It is an enterprise unmatched in magnitude by any other venture in the field of ethnic studies, for Prof. Yaffa Eliach is crossing the bridge from the vanished past to the revival of Jewish life and the positive relationship between Jews and non-Jews. The Shtetl Foundation was established in the closing days of 1999, and Prof. Yaffa Eliach is its President and Founder. The groundbreaking ceremony was held June 1, 2003, and construction of “Phase I” of The Shtetl—the first Living Jewish History Museum—will start soon thereafter.

Other books by Yaffa Eliach include
Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust, a recipient of the Christopher Award and has become an enduring classic translated into many languages, We Were Children Just Like You, The Liberators: Eyewitness Accounts of the Liberation of Concentration Camps (co-editor), The Last Jew (co-author), The Fisherman’s Wife (Hebrew), and currently a new book is being published in Japan and USA entitled Shtetl Children—Angels in Heaven and Children on Earth. In the Fall of 1999, PBS-WETA released documentary “There Once Was On Town” based on Yaffa Eliach’s exhibit the “Tower of Life”, her book “There Once Was A World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok”, her research, and private archive (Yaffa Eliach Shtetl Collection). Jeff Bieber is the director/producer. The documentary already received many awards.

Yaffa Eliach is a Professor of History and Literature, with areas of specialty in Eastern European history, Russian intellectual history, Holocaust studies, and Hasidism. In her graduate and undergraduate courses, seminars and independent studies, Yaffa Eliach shares with the students her original ideas and materials.

As founder of the first Center for Holocaust Studies in the United States, she introduced new concepts in Holocaust documentation—written, oral and visual. As an East European historian, she also introduced new concepts about the origins of Hasidism. Her scholarship has made her a valued contributor to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Women’s Studies Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Hasidism, as well as numerous scholarly, literary and popular publications in the United States, Canada, Israel, Europe, Australia, and Japan.

A member of President Carter’s Holocaust Commission, Professor Eliach is an internationally renowned figure who has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Keene College (NH) in 2003, and the Holocaust Humanitarian Award in 2001. In 1999, she was the recipient of the Eternal Flame Award in which was presented at the Annual International Scholars Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches. The Award is given to an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the field of Holocaust Education, and she was chosen “Woman of the Year” by CBS-TV in 1995. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987 and a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship Award Rambam Mesivta in 1971-72. She lectures frequently to academic and lay audiences and makes frequent appearances on television and radio both in the United States and abroad.

Yaffa Eliach is married to Rabbi Dr. David Eliach, Principal Emeritus of the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School; she is mother of Rabbi Yotav Eliach, the principal of Rambam Mesivta High School, and Prof. Smadar Rosensweig, Professor of History at Touro College (NYC), and grandmother of fourteen grandchildren.

by Yaffa Eliach

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