Ruth speaks at conferences, universities, synagogues, museums and other venues; she has given public presentations at venues ranging from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC to the Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow, Poland to the International Country Music Conference in Nashville and the Pop Conference in Seattle.
She gives one-off presentations but also can serve as scholar-in-residence or can arrange multi-appearance presentations at several venues in a specific city. She tailors each talk to the specific venue and audience.
Her lecture topics range from Jewish heritage issues to journalism, to European country music — and more.
Please contact Ruth at ruth[at]ruthellengruber[dot]com if you are interested in having her appear. She will work with local organizers to build the best possible program for the audience.
SELECTED LECTURE AND PRESENTATION TOPICS — ALL CAN BE TAILORED OR COMBINED TO SUIT THE AUDIENCE OR VENUE
JEWISH (AND VIRTUALLY JEWISH) ISSUES, JOURNALISM…
TRAVEL & JEWISH HERITAGE
From Shtetl to City: Jewish Heritage Travel in Eastern Europe
The author of National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, and the coordinator of the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu, Ruth conducts an illustrated virtual tour of far-flung synagogues, shtetls, Jewish cemeteries, and other Jewish heritage sites in a variety of countries. She describes personal experiences and discusses the many changes she has witnessed in more than 20 years of exploration of Jewish heritage in the region known as Europe’s Jewish heartland. Ruth also maintains the Jewish Heritage Travel blog.
Ruth Ellen Gruber’s Jewish Heritage Travel Workshop
Ruth has travelled thousands of miles around Europe visiting Jewish heritage sites and tourist attractions and is one of the leading authorities on Jewish heritage and Jewish travel. She maintains a Jewish Heritage Travel blog. With her Jewish Heritage Travel Workshop, Ruth uses her more than 20 years experience on the road to address all aspects of Jewish travel, from what to wear and what to see, to where to eat and where to stay. She also discusses the emotions that travelers may feel when visiting Holocaust sites or synagogues and cemeteries in places where Jews no longer live and gives a host of practical tips, keying her talk to the interests of her audience.
Jewish Heritage in the Digital Age
The internet has opened up a vast and growing new world of Jewish heritage on the web. Ruth describes www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu, the interactive web site she coordinates, and shows how it is becoming a online, interactive resource for Jewish heritage issues in 48 countries. She also describes other exciting projects that use the Internet to document and explore Jewish heritage — such as the Virtual Shtetl (Poland), Judaica Europeana (digitalization of Jewish museums and archival collections), Virtual reconstructions of synagogues and destroyed synagogues, the Gesher Galicia genealogy site, and much more.
(Candle)sticks on Stone: Representing the Woman in Jewish Tombstone Art
An illustrated presentation exploring the traditional portrayal of candlesticks on the tombs of Jewish woman. Ruth shows an evocative series of photographs of tombstones of women in East European Jewish cemeteries, describes finding the graves of her ancestors — marked with candlesticks — in the Jewish cemetery in Radauti, Romania, and, as a Jewish woman who has almost never lighted the Shabbat candles in her own home, reflects upon the meaning of this tradition and what it says about Jewishness and gender. This talk is based on research Ruth has carried out for an ongoing project – click HERE to see the project’s web site. (Ruth was Scholar in Residence at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute in Jan-Feb. 2011 to work on this project)
Rebuilding to Remember: Reintegrating Jewish heritage sites, including Jewish quarters, into today’s living cities
Ruth describes how the different ways that old Jewish neighborhoods in Krakow, Budapest and elsewhere are being used as focal points for Jewish culture festivals, arts and historical projects, and efforts at reconstructing Jewish life. She describes how the annual Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow, which was started in 1988 by non-Jews for a primarily non-Jewish audience, has changed over the years, and she discusses the new Jewish Quarter Hanukkah festival, a grass-roots initiative that involved more than 30 local businesses.
SOCIETY, CULTURE, IDENTITY
Beyond Virtually Jewish: New Realities and Real Imaginary Spaces
Ruth discusses new forms of Jewishness, Jewish practice, and religious and cultural expression. She describes how she coined the term “Virtually Jewish” to describe non-Jewish involvement, embrace, appropriation and engagement with Jews and Jewish culture — and what that means in today’s changing conditions. She discusses new realities and new authenticities; new definitions of “Jewish.” And she takes her audience on tours to Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of Krakow, and other Jewish spaces and places where community and commercialism combine and collide.
Jewish. Jewish? “Jewish” Jewish! — New definitions, new realities, new authenticities, amid post-Holocaust, post-communist Europe’s Jewish revival
Since the fall of communism, open Jewish or ‘Jewish-style’ expression—religious, cultural, pop-cultural, or otherwise—is becoming now part of the mainstream. At the same time, post-communist tropes such as nostalgic (or pseudo-nostalgic) Jewish-style cafes have served in some places to brand ‘Jewishness’ as a recognized and recognizable commercial commodity. Interactions between tourism, the creation of Jewish spaces and individual and communal Jewish revival create “new authenticities” characterized by creation rather than re-creation. Jews themselves, meanwhile, are increasingly becoming stake-holders in the development of (sometimes) new definitions of “Jewish” as individuals and Jewish communities continue to claim their identities and determine the course of Jewish life and culture, as well as cultural products.
Holocaust Legacy: Empty Spaces, Fading First-Hand Memories, New Jewish Realities
More than 65 years since the end of World War II, the impact of the Holocaust still resounds in Europe in many ways: fading memories, empty synagogues and abandoned cemeteries, yes. But also new life, new realities and new definitions of Jews and Jewishness. Ruth describes how the impact of the Shoah — followed by 40 years of Communism — is still a powerful backdrop, but she discusses the new forms of Jewishness, Jewish practice, and religious and cultural expression build toward the future.
REMNANT, RENAISSANCE OR SOMETHING ELSE? Jews and the Jewish Experience in Europe since the Fall of Communism
Ruth discusses her personal experiences in writing on Jewish issues from many countries over the past 2 decades and more — in news media, in books, reports, radio and other outlets. Focus is on the extraordinary changes in Jewish status and life since the fall of Communism 20 years ago, also describing conditions as she found them in Poland, Hungary, Romania and other Communist countries in the 1970s and 1980s. Ruth also notes readers’ expectations compared to what is seen on the ground.
Jewish Heritage and Civil Society
Ruth discusses how the restoration, recovery and presentation of Jewish heritage and heritage sites have constituted key elements of projects aimed at fostering civil society (or a sense of civil society) within both the Jewish community and the mainstream. She focuses on the interrelationship and interaction between civil groups dealing with heritage issues, Jewish communities, NGOs, individuals and the municipality/state.
Kitschy Jews/Jewish Kitsch: How similar stereotypes have different meaning
Stereotypes and cliches mean different things to insiders and outsiders. This illustrated talk reveals how the same imagery regarding Jews can have a different impact and understanding, running the gamut from nostalgic to self-ironic to anti-semitic.
… & THE IMAGINARY WILD WEST (and more…)
Sturm, Twang, and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Country Music and Wild West Spaces in Europe
Country music forms the soundtrack for a multi-faceted “wild west subculture” in Europe. Wild west theme parks, rodeos, saloons, ranches, hobbyist camps and numerous country music festivals and other events form “wild western spaces” inhabited by thousands who feel perfectly at home amid the Americana. Ruth’s presentation focuses on how, within these scenes, local artists singing and writing in their own languages (e.g. the German Tom Astor, the Polish “Lonstar”, the Czech Honza Vycital and others) take American country music, transform it, and make it their own, creating new (if debatable) authenticities that define or redefine “country” in local terms.
Sauerkraut Cowboys and Klezmer Cafes: Europe’s Real Imaginary Spaces
A colorful journey through the Virtually Jewish World and the Imaginary Wild West in Europe — illustrated with dozens of photographs. Two European trends as analogous phenomena: the “virtually Jewish scene” and codification of what “Jewish” means in physical, mass cultural, and touristic contexts, and the parallel, multi-faceted, “Imaginary Wild West,” which also deals with myth, stereotype, physical space, and performativity. In both, questions of ownership, appropriation and “authenticity” are central, and we find “new authenticities” — and “real imaginary spaces,” often with the creation of new local traditions, definitions and cultural components.
Shuttle to Bethlehem: American Bluegrass in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is said to have more five-string banjos per capita than anywhere else in the world — not to mention the most bluegrass bands. How did this happen? Ruth tells the extraordinary story of how American bluegrass became a Czech tradition, focusing on local musicians and events, such as Pete Seeger’s seminal concerts in 1964 and the foundation of Europe’s longest-running bluegrass festival in the early 1970s. She also describes her own participation in the scene, including her work with the noted Czech singer-songwriter Robert Krestan and the “Czechgrass” band Druha Trava, translating Krestan’s enigmatic and poetic songs into English and producing the band’s October 2011 CD “Shuttle to Bethlehem.” Ruth is a protagonist in the new documentary Banjo Romantika: American Bluegrass in the Czech Imagination.