The Barbara Sieratzki Program in Jewish Political Thought
Incumbent: Dr. Moshe Hellinger
The Program seeks to create a common language between traditional Jewish political tradition and liberal western democracy. The program strives to interpret classical Jewish texts in ways that are relevant to contemporary society in general and to Israeli public life in particular. Mrs. Sieratzki's vision of an open and liberal Jewish world will be the animating force behind the program. It seeks to go beyond pure research (although this will be an important part of the programs) and attempt to translate theory into practice through extensive outreach activities.
1. The Barbara Sieratzki Jewish Political Thought Program will promote studies of Jewish political and ethical ideals – Judaism and democracy, the Jewish conception of social justice, the Jewish position on just wars etc. – by awarding Barbara Sieratzki Fellowships to deserving scholars on the basis of peer-reviewed articles, books and student papers. Both students and professors will be eligible to apply.
It is Mrs. Sieratzki’s hope that an increase of research on the Jewish political tradition will trigger for greater interest in the field and encourage scholars to pursue the subject further. Including students in these research projects will broaden their potential audience further still. The program’s most ambitious objective is to demonstrate the relevance of Jewish political ideas and practices for contemporary Israeli democracy and ethics.
2. The program seeks to pursue collaborative research with other programs and research institutes (Israel Democracy Institute, the Hartman Institute, Beit Morasha , Yesodot, Bina, the Rabin Center, the Begin Center, Gesher, etc) in order to reach wide audiences.
3. Regular conferences will allow scholars, politicians, rabbis, journalists, judges, etc. to share ideas on the subject.
4. Papers presented at these conferences will be published subsequently as conference proceedings.
5. The Barbara Sieratzki Achievement Award in Jewish Political Thought will be awarded annually for outstanding scholarly works which contributes substantially to the program’s objectives. Two to four awards will be granted yearly for outstanding papers.
6. Based on research into Jewish political thought fostered by these grants, concise position papers will be periodically disseminated among government ministers, members of Knesset, educators, army and police officials, business leaders and so on.,
7. The Barbara Sieratzki Jewish Political Thought Program seeks to develop ongoing open dialogues with different sectors of Israeli society and with Jews abroad. A program to train teachers and students for work ‘in the field’ will be established. Work with various municipalities to encourage dialogue in school curricula is an important objective of the programs but funding for this educational agenda will come primarily from the government and the municipalities themselves.
Barbara Sieratzki was born in Cracow (Poland). After the German invasion, she escaped to Prague and later to Bratislava, and Budapest, and completed high school in Hungary using a Christian ID. She was arrested in June 1944 and transported to Mauthausen, together with her mother Gusti Tennenbaum. They were liberated ted by the Russian Army in 1945. Barbara briefly returned to Hungary and studied at the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Budapest. Soon however, financial need made her change course. Her natural talent for languages allowed her to become a translator for the Jewish Agency and subsequently a liaison officer to the British Army in Bergen-Belsen.
In 1949, Barbara married Heinrich Sieratzki and they together built a new life and raised a family in Frankfurt am Main working first in textiles and subsequently in the field of real estate. After her husband’s early death, Barbara managed the business on her own. She now lives in London.
She played a major role in the establishment of the Friends of Tel-Aviv University in Germany and, in 1995, was made an Honorary Fellow of Tel Aviv University. In that same year she founded the Chair in Neurology at Tel-Aviv University, named after her late husband, and in 2009, together with her son, Harry, the Sieratzki Prize for Advances in Neuroscience.
Harry (Jechil) Sieratzki (Barbara's son) was born and raised in Frankfurt am Main. He studied medicine in Strasbourg and in Giessen (Germany) and worked as a physician and researcher at the University of Frankfurt, Mount Sinai Medical Centre in New York, the State University of New York and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Bristol, and Hammersmith Hospital (London). His early research was on diseases of the liver and the biliary system but he subsequently moved on to brain studies. His work on hemisphere functions and mother-infant communication has received wide recognition in the medical and non-medical world.
Harry Sieratzki serves as chair of the Barbara Sieratzki Fund. He has consistently supported the Barbara Sieratzki program in Jewish Political Tradition. He lives in London.