UCL Institute of Jewish Studies


Jewish Life in Eastern Europe: Collected photographs

14 March 2023, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

Eastern European Jewish immigrants aboard a ship headed for Eretz Israel/Mandatory Palestine, late 1920s (courtesy Howard Kordansky Collection).

Original photographs of Jewish life in Eastern Europe

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL students






Sara Ben-Isaac


South Wing 9 Garwood LT, South Wing
University College London
Gower Street
United Kingdom

Since 2019, Howard Kordansky has amassed a collection of original photographs documenting Jewish life in Eastern Europe. It now comprises several hundred items and reflects the complexity of the Jewish existence in Polish and Lithuanian lands and beyond, from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. It also reflects the fate of Eastern European Jews leaving the ‘old country’ and settling in other European regions or overseas. Consisting exclusively of original prints, many of which are unknown to the wider public, Howard will introduce his collection with a rich presentation of photographs, followed by responses from Professor Michael Berkowitz (UCL) and Professor Antony Polonsky (Brandeis University/Polin Museum Warsaw). The event will be chaired by François Guesnet (UCL/IPJS).

About the Speakers

Howard Kordansky

Howard Kordansky is based in London and reads Classics at University College. He started collecting original photographic prints in 2019. Today, his collection comprises more than 600 individual items.

Michael Berkowitz 

Professor of modern Jewish history at University College London

Michael Berkowitz is Professor of modern Jewish history at UCL and author of Jews and Photography in Britain (University of Texas Press, 2015), and since 2012, editor of Jewish Historical Studies: Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England (UCL Press).  His previous publications include The Crime of My Very Existence: Nazism and the Myth of Jewish Criminality (University of California Press, 2007), The Jewish Self-Image (Reaktion & NYU Press, 2000), Western Jewry and the Zionist Project (Cambridge University Press, 2000), and Zionist Culture and West European Jewry before the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 1993; University of North Carolina Press, 1997).  His edited books include "We Are Here": New Approaches to Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany, co-edited with Avinoam Patt (Wayne State University Press, 2010). 

François Guesnet

Professor of Modern Jewish History at University College London

François Guesnet specializes in Eastern European Jewish History and is co-chair of the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry. His book publications include Polnische Juden im 19. Jahrhundert (Vienna, Cologne, 1998), and, as editor, Warsaw. The Jewish Metropolis (2015, paperback 2017). A collected volume Sources on Jewish Self-Government in the Polish Lands from Its Inception to the Present is forthcoming (Boston, Leiden: 2022).

Professor Antony Polonsky

Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University

Antony Polonsky is Chief Historian of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw and Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University. Until 1991 he was Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is co-chair of the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, author of Politics in Independent Poland (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question (1976); co-author of A History of Modern Poland (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981) and co-editor of Contemporary Jewish writing in Poland: an anthology (2001) and The neighbors respond: the controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (2004). His most recent work is The Jews in Poland and Russia, volume 1, 1350 to 1881; volume 2 1881 to 1914; volume 3 1914 to 2008 (2010, 2012), published in 2013 in an abridged version The Jews in Poland and Russia. A Short History.