Monday, August 17, 2015

American Archivist

Selma Stern-Taeubler (1890-1981) was a natural achiever. Not only was this doctor’s daughter the first woman to be accepted to Baden-Baden’s Gymnasium in Germany, she even graduated from there with honors. A natural scholar with a penchant for history, Stern-Taeubler continued her studies at the University of Heidelberg and earned her doctorate from Maximilian University of Munich in 1913.

Following the First World War, Stern-Taeubler realized that, as a Jew, she would never have a proper place in Germany. At the same time, Stern-Taeubler recognized that a large portion of German Jewry was losing its connection to, and understanding of, Jewish life and practice. Stern-Taeubler became a research assistant at the newly opened Akademie Fur Die Wissenschaf des Judentums (Academy for Jewish Studies) in Berlin. Stern-Taeubler thus began an academic career that enabled her to write her three volume masterpiece: The Prussian State and the Jew. The work began with the Jews of the 18th century, but, with the growing anti-Semitism that she recorded, it became abundantly clear that the Germany in which Stern-Taeubler had been raised was rapidly disappearing. When Stern-Taeubler and her husband, Eugen Taeubler - himself a research scholar at the Wissenschaf des Judentums - were denied library access, they knew it was time for change. After salvaging as many documents as they could, the Taeublers headed for the United States. 

Arriving in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Taeublers sought to continue their Jewish scholarly activities and soon joined the staff of the Hebrew Union College - he as a teacher, she as the first archivist of the American Jewish Archives. During her first years in America, Stern-Taeubler produced her only novel, The Spirit Returneth (title of translated novel) about the Jewish community in Europe at the time of the Black Death (14th century).

Eugen Taeubler died in 1956. In 1960, Stern-Taeubler retired from the Archives and moved to Basel, Switzerland. She continued her research and writing until her death on August 17, 1981.

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