The Knapp Family Foundation and the University of Vienna are delighted to announce the establishment of the Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Award for Scholarly Excellence in Research on the Jewish Experience. The Baron Award will be presented biannually to a recognized scholar for a body of work. Awards will also be presented to two graduate students for an individual work representing the highest scholarly achievement. These prestigious awards may well be described as a "Nobel Prize" in the study of the Jewish experience.
The Baron Award honors the achievements and legacy of Salo Wittmayer Baron considered "the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century." "His research spanned Europe, North Africa, America and the Middle East, geographically and across the centuries. Baron was born on May 26,1895, in Tarnów, Galicia which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1920, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Vienna and multiple doctorates from the University of Vienna. In January 1930, Baron accepted the Nathan L. Miller Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Institutions at Columbia University, the first of its kind anywhere. It was at Columbia that he met his wife Jeannette Meisel who became his most trusted companion in life and collaborator in his scholarly work.
Mastering over twenty languages, Baron’s seminal achievement was his eighteen volume "A Social and Religious History of the Jews" (2d ed. 1952 - 1983). His life’s work was to reevaluate what he called the "lachrymose conception" of Jewish history and consider also their successes and their sheer perseverance that marked that history. While "suffering is part of the destiny" of the Jewish people "but so is repeated joy and ultimate redemption." Baron thus galvanized a far more nuanced perception of a people that went beyond mere victimization. His work was therefore of great importance beyond the world of scholarship as it lays the ground work for how Jews in Israel and elsewhere perceive themselves and are perceived by others.
This year’s senior laureate is Michael Brenner. Like Salo Baron, he bridges in his life and research Europe and the United States. Michael Brenner is Professor of Jewish History and Culture at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich and Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies at American University in Washington, DC. His prestigious career included previous positions at several American universities. Besides being a member of the Bavarian Academy of Science, of the American Academy for Jewish Research and of the Accademia Nazionale Virgiliana in Mantua, in 2014, he was awarded the order of merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and serves as the international president of the Leo Baeck Institute.
Brenner’s research focuses on the history of the Jews from the 19th to the 21st century, including the Shoah and the State of Israel. His publications include eight books that have been translated into numerous languages. Among them: "In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea"; "A Short History of the Jews"; "Prophets of the Past: Interpreters of Jewish History"; "Zionism: A Brief History"; "The Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany"; "After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany".