Shared History Project
The centerpiece of Shared History is a website that will reveal a new artefact of Jewish life in German-speaking lands every week throughout the year 2021. In addition to photos and multimedia documenting the objects, the website places the objects in context with rich information about their provenance, geographic origins, and historical significance. Each object is enriched by two essays that explore how it reflects a history shared between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors. In these essays, dozens of scholars (e.g., David Sorkin, Magda Teter) and writers (George Prochnik, Peter Wortsman), as well as librarians, archivists, curators, and community leaders explore “shared history” from a wide variety of perspectives. For each object, the authors also examine history through the eyes of an individual—the owner or creator of the object, an imagined protagonist of the distant past, or a contemporary figure linked to the object in some way. This personal view of history shows how many of the themes that span the broad arc of Jewish history also shape and challenge our contemporary world. By illuminating personal histories of identity, acculturation, migration, persecution, tolerance, and resilience, these explorations go beyond vehicles for “human interest” (though they offer plenty of that); they are case studies for the challenges of the 21st century. In addition to the rich visual presentation and historical narratives, the website offers means of navigation that allow the user to explore the objects geographically and chronologically. Seven introductory essays for major “epochs” of the last two millennia synthesize the broader European-historical narratives in which German-Jewish history is situated.