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Masaryk, Czechoslovak Jews, and the Case for Liberal Democracy

  • Bohemian National Hall 321 East 73rd Street New York, NY, 10021 United States (map)
Professor Hillel J Kieval, Washington University in St Louis

Professor Hillel J Kieval, Washington University in St Louis

Educated at Harvard, and now teaching at Washington University in St Louis, Professor Kieval will deliver a lecture on relations between the Jewish community and the first Czechoslovak President Thomas Garrigue Masaryk. 

Kieval teaches broadly in European Jewish history from medieval to modern times. His research focuses on transformations in Jewish culture and society in East Central Europe from the Enlightenment to the Second World War.

With the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the First Czechoslovak Republic, questions concerning the future of the democratic order in Europe and beyond abound.  Do nationalist and populist movements pose a threat to democratic constitutions? What is “illiberal democracy?”  Do victorious nationalisms inevitably oppress their minorities? The Jewish experience in Czechoslovakia and the story of the often close, and sometimes contentious, relationship between Tomáš G. Masaryk and Czechoslovak Jews may shed light on these questions. Masaryk’s own life as a minority—several times over; his campaigns against myth and falsehood within Czech culture; his interest in the writings of the Jewish nationalist Ahad Ha’am; and his vision for a liberal democracy after 1918 give reason for hope.

The lecture is a contribution from the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews to the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the First Czechoslovak Republic. It is free and open to the public.