Book Fair Welcomes You to Paradise.
By David Glass
November 8, 2022
(Photo: Dr. Professor Howard Lupovitch pictured speaking at a Jewish Community Forum. Lupovitch specializes in Hungarian and Habsburg Jewish History, and is currently serving as Director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judiac Studies at Wayne State University. Image courtesy of Perdue University Press.)
Professor Howard Lupovitch will take the stage at The J on Sunday, November 13 as part of the Detroit Jewish Book Fair to talk for the first time about his new book, Transleithanian Paradise: A History of the Budapest Jewish Community, 1738–1938.
Released November 15 by Perdue University Press, the book explores Jewish life in Budapest, as well as the dynamics of big city Jewish life. “It’s a remarkable Jewish community that is so dynamic,” says Lupovitch, who is an associate professor of history and also director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University. His book is about the beginnings of Budapest’s Jewish community.
The book has been in the works for a long time, and Lupovitch says he’s eager to talk about it with the community as it finally comes to fruition. After more than a decade of developing the story, he says he’s looking forward to explaining how Jewish life in big cities was a distinctly modern phenomenon, and how Jews became integral parts of cities despite the fact that certain cities were off limits to them. Cities weren’t just centers for commerce and trade, they were centers for everything, he explains. And Budapest was exceedingly interesting because of the diversity of its population, which included lots of Jews. “Cities went from being exclusive to inclusive,” he notes.
Budapest’s Jewish community was home to areas that can be paralleled to the Detroit Jewish experience, he explains. Included in that are Dexter, Detroit’s old Jewish neighborhood, and Palmer Woods, where upwardly mobile Detroit Jews moved. Making Detroit comparisons is familiar and relatable, he says. “Detroit is the ultimate place for me, it’s the one I remember as a kid, and it’s my frame of reference for a lot of things. It’s nice to have an audience that can appreciate that.”
Many of those in attendance will recognize Lupovitch from his role as a popular instructor with JLearn, the adult learning department of The J, as well. He says he brings an academic approach to his classes, which are largely attended by people who want “intense and substantive” Jewish learning opportunities. “I’m trying to give the JLearn students the same experience I’m trying to give my own undergraduate students,” he notes.
A veteran teacher, he enjoys providing nuance, context and perspective on a variety of issues, he says. “I am deeply interested in how fascinating and richly textured the Jewish history is through the Jewish experience,” he explains. “It’s just so remarkable I want to share that with other people.” He says that he also very much values hearing from students as they explore these ideas for the first time.
Across the board, he says one of his tasks and part of his mission is to counteract one-dimensional understandings of the Jewish experience. “There’s no aspect of our history, of our experience that can be reduced to a one dimensional explanation, no matter what that one dimensional explanation is,” he says.
Next up, he’s working on a book about Hungarian Jews, with a focus on the progressive wing of Hungarian Jewry. After that, he explains, he’s going to be working on a new history of the Jews of Detroit, which has been commissioned by Detroit’s Jewish Federation. The project was of additionally of special interest to the late Judge Avern Cohn, who endowed the Cohn-Haddow Center at Wayne State. “I get to do this book for him, it means a lot,” he says.
Meanwhile, he says he’s looking forward to the book fair event this month. Attending book fairs gives community members access to well-known writers, and also serves as a showcase for new authors and new books. Going to book fairs is a special experience in that way, says Lupovitch. “It’s not just that the book is new, but you can really hear this fresh perspective from an author who is really excited, especially first time authors,” he explains. “I always find it very exciting to hear a new perspective…hearing the intimate familiarity an author can bring.”
Dr. Professor Howard Lupovitch will give an in-person talk and premiere his newest book as part of the Closing Day of The Detroit Jewish Book Fair on Sunday, November 13 at 4 pm. Find more information here.