Jews of Belarus & Baltic State

The Jews of Belarus and the Baltic States Before the Holocaust

04/30/2017 | 02:30PM - 04:30PM

Meeting Room 1 , Meeting Room 2 , Meeting Room 3

East Brunswick Public Library presents the fourth annual installment in “The Jews of Eastern Europe Before The Holocaust” program series on April 30 at 2:30 pm. This year’s program focuses on the Jewish population of Belarus and the Baltic States before World War II.

The event consists of lectures and music that highlight rich culture created by the Jewish population in that region.  Glenn Dynner, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College and a member of the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study, presents the history of Jewish Life in the Baltic States.

Rabbi Esther Reed, Senior Associate Director of Hillel at Rutgers University, and Rabbi Joshua Finkelstein, East Brunswick Jewish Center will also be speaking at the event.

“This program brings to light the deep roots and rich history and culture of the Jews in several Eastern European countries where they had a significant presence before their catastrophic extermination by the Germans and their allies,” said Michael G. Kesler, who has organized the program series.

Since his retirement in 2006, Kesler has written extensively of his and his late wife’s experiences during World War II.  He will also be performing Belarussian and Baltic Jewish music of the 19th and early 20th centuries at the event, along with Susan Hornstein, Donna Messer, David Schlossberg, Deborah Gerber and Tamara Freeman.

This program is sponsored by the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, the East Brunswick Jewish Center and the Karma Foundation.

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Glenn Dynner (Ph.D., Brandeis University) is Chair of Humanities at Sarah Lawrence College.  He is author of Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society and Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor and Life in the Kingdom of Poland (both by Oxford University Press) and editor of Holy Dissent: Jewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe (Wayne State University Press).  As a Fulbright scholar, he traveled to Poland, uncovering hitherto unknown archival sources on nineteenth-century Polish Jewry.  Dr. Dynner is Associate Editor of the journal Jewish History.

Tamara Reps Freeman is the musicologist for the Association of Holocaust Organizations, the international alliance of Holocaust museums and Holocaust-genocide commissions.  Her doctoral dissertation, Encouraging Racial Respect Through Holocaust Music, is the first U.S. Holocaust music curriculum for elementary through high school education.  She is the author of a chapter in Giving Voice to Democracy in Music Education, Diversity and Social Justice, (Routledge Publishers).   Dr. Freeman teaches and performs music of the Holocaust throughout the U.S.  Her venues have included the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the New Jersey State House, and Cafe Europa survivors' gatherings.  Dr. Freeman plays a 1935 Joseph Bausch viola rescued from the Holocaust.

Michael G. Kesler, Ph.D., a graduate of MIT and NYU, spent over 50 years in the petroleum industry. Since his retirement in 2006, he has written/published extensively of his and his late wife’s experiences during World War II.  He also pursued, albeit part-time, a cantorial career, beginning with double-digit-years as the cantor of the Jewish Community Center of Paramus in the 1960s, and continuing with annual engagements in various other communities. 

Dr. Susan Hornstein, a graduate of Brandeis University and Brown University, works as an Information Architect, designing websites and computer systems.  Dr. Hornstein performs as a musician throughout Middlesex County, singing with Makhelat HaMercaz, the Jewish choir of Central New Jersey, playing the piano in the Mason Gross Extension Program, and serving as accompanist for the local chapter of HaZamir, the International Jewish youth choir.

Donna Messer is the Founder, President and guiding spirit of the Highland Park Recorder Society for over twenty-five years. The Society is a member of the Guild for Early Music and Early Music America.  Donna studied recorder many decades, and is a certified recorder teacher.  She performs with her Baroque ensemble, Musica Dolce, to cultivate a love of recorder and early music, and to make music to lift the spirit.

David Schlossberg, pianist, got his Bachelor of Music degree, Magna Cum Laude, from The College of New Jersey.  He serves as Collaborative Pianist at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick.  He accompanies the New Jersey Cantors Concert Ensemble and a number of choral groups.  He also serves as musical director for Middlesex County Arts Middle School and is a founding member of Tsu Fil Duvids (“Too Many Daves”), a Klezmer band.  He composes Jewish choral music.    

Deborah Gerber is a New Jersey native and a lifelong teacher and educator. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey and is now in her 49th year of teaching. Ms. Gerber lived and worked in Stockholm, Sweden for 27 years where she taught Judaism in the Hillel Day School and was principal of the afternoon Hebrew school, Religionsskolan for 12 years. Throughout her career, whether teaching adults or children, music has always played an essential role in reaching her students.  Upon returning to New Jersey in 2004  Ms. Gerber joined Makhelat HaMercaz, the Jewish choir of Central New Jersey, and has been singing with the choir ever since.



Sponsored by East Brunswick Public Library, East Brunswick Jewish Center, Karma Foundation, and The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey


Jews of Belarus & Baltic State