Welcome to the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies

Past and present directors of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies - left to right - Michael Brown, Martin Lockshin, Sydney Eisen, Sara Horowitz, Carl S. Ehrlich

CJS Directors: Michael Brown, Martin Lockshin, Sydney Eisen, Sara Horowitz, Carl S. Ehrlich

The Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies is Canada’s first interdisciplinary research centre in Jewish Studies, bringing together a vibrant community of scholars and teachers to promote cutting-edge research in the field.

Jewish Studies encompasses the study of the texts, histories, and cultures of the Jewish people, which developed alongside and within Western and non-Western civilizations.  Uniquely Jewish intellectual, philosophical, literary, theological and social traditions developed from the Biblical period onward - distinct from but in steady interaction with the traditions of countries in which Jewish life flourished, contributing to and absorbing from the cultures they touched.  As an academic field, Jewish studies concentrates on its own inner continuities and ruptures, as well as on the ways it has affected and been affected by other cultures.  To study Jewish thought and history, then, is to gain a richer and more complex  understanding of the underpinnings of Jewish culture specifically, and Western and non-Western cultures more broadly, as well as the mutual influences which helped shape each.   A multidisciplinary nexus, Jewish Studies draws upon many methodologies and disciplines, and also contributes its insights to those disciplines.

Passing of Prof. Carol Zemel

Dr. Carol Zemel passed away peacefully on November 21, 2021 in her 80th year at Elizabeth Bruyere Hospital in Ottawa.

Carol Zemel’s intellectual contributions are too vast to document in this short tribute. She had a tremendous appetite for ideas, images, and stories and a worldwide network of friends, colleagues, and former students in many fields of thought.

Carol Zemel (née Moscovitch) was born in August 19, 1941, in Montreal, Quebec. She attended Westmount High school, and in 1962 completed a BA in Arts at McGill University. She moved to New York to study at Columbia University, where she completed her PhD.

Before moving to Toronto in 2001 to become Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at York University, Carol served as Professor of Art History at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Carol began her career as a scholar of Vincent van Gogh, and wrote three books about the artist, including Van Gogh’s Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and Late Nineteenth Century Art (University of California Press, 1997) and The Formation of a Legend: Van Gogh Criticism, 1890-1920 (UMI Research Press, 1980).

In the early 2000’s, Carol turned her attention to Jewish Studies, a turn that constituted what she called “a major reorientation of my scholarly work,” and which culminated in the publication of Looking  Jewish: Visual Culture and Modern Diaspora (Indiana University Press, 2015).

Looking Jewish is dedicated to the memory of Carol’s parents: Joseph William Moscovitch (Vaslui, Rumania, 1900–Montreal, 1949) and Beatrice (Rebekah) Greenblatt (Izyaslavl, Ukraine, 1913–Montreal, 1981), whose lives were marked by migratory experience and self-fashioning. “I was the child who badgered my parents, grandparents, great-aunts, and uncles about daily life in Vaslui in Rumania and Izyaslavl in the former Russian Pale,” she writes. One of Carol’s last essays was devoted to representations of Jewish migration (“In Transit: No End in Sight,” AJS Perspectives, Fall 2017).

Similar to her own trajectory, Carol sought to explore work by artists whose work referred to their Jewish identity, and who achieved recognition and success among both Jews and the non-Jewish cultural mainstream: “I was a Canadian woman, raised in a minority culture (Jewish) that was part of a larger powerful minority (English-speaking) culture that dominated the majority (French-speaking) society of Quebec. That complex layering had seemed normal to me. I now recognized it as the multifaceted norm of diaspora’s double-consciousness.”

Carol’s turn toward Jewish Studies may have begun in Amsterdam, where she stumbled upon Roman Vishniac’s photographic collection of images of Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust, A Vanished World (1977), as well as Lithuanian-born photo montage artist Moi Ver’s (Moshé Raviv-Vorobeichic),Ghetto Lane in Vilna (1931). “Naïve as I was about the pictorial repertoire of Eastern Europe’s Jewish culture,” she wrote, “the photographic combination of Vishniac and Vorobeichic emboldened me to explore the field of Jewish visual culture and self-imaging.”

In 2000– 2001 she received a fellowship for study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Her fellowship project, “Graven Images: Visual Culture and Modern Jewish History,” paved the way to a number of publications. In recent years she held fellowships at the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In addition to her books, she wrote eloquently and powerfully on subjects ranging from diaspora, to visual humor, Canadian performance and installation art, Galut, melancholy and Holocaust prisoner drawings. Carol’s chapter in Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust (Indiana University Press, 2002), entitled “Emblems of Atrocity: Holocaust Liberation Photographs,” became a resource not only for Holocaust studies, but for the very critique of photography that was often dismissed. She wrote on an enormous range of artists, including Vera Frenkel, Lucian Freud, Alter Kacyzne, R.J. Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Bruno Schulz, Tobaron Waxman, Yael Bartana, and Emily Jacir.

Carol also devoted herself to service. She twice served on the Board of Directors and coordinator of the Arts Section, the College Art Association (CAA), the University Arts Association of Canada (UAAC), and the World Jewish Congress (Jerusalem). She was a member of the Editorial Board of Images, A Journal of Visual Art and Visual Culture.

In recent years she was working on a manuscript on the visual art made during the Holocaust by Jewish and other concentration camp prisoners, which she tentatively titled “Art in Extremis: Visual Representation of the Holocaust From Within.”

Carol had a magnetic connection to the world of ideas, storytelling, and aesthetics. She will be greatly remembered and missed by many colleagues, students, artists, and friends.

NEW! "Artist in Residence" online exhibit by Noa Yaari