Canine Pioneer: The Extraordinary Life of Rudolphina Menzel

Editor: Susan Martha Kahn

An insightful look at the life and legacy of a pioneer cynologist between Europe and Israel

Rudolphina Menzel (1891–1973), was a Viennese-born, Jewish chemist whose pioneering research on canine psychology, development, and behavior fundamentally shaped the ways dogs came to be trained, cared for, and understood. Between the two world wars, Menzel was known throughout Europe as one of the foremost breeders and trainers of police dogs and served as a sought-after consultant at Kummersdorf, the German military dog training institute in Berlin. She was also a fervent Zionist who was responsible for inventing the canine infrastructure in what came to be the State of Israel and for training thousands of dogs to protect Jewish lives and property in pre-state Palestine. Teaching Jews to like dogs and training dogs to serve Jews became Menzel’s unique kind of Zionist mission. Detailed and insightful, Canine Pioneer brings to light an important piece of history.

"This superb book explores, in fascinating detail, the remarkable story of Rudolphina Menzel. In engaging and accessible prose, Susan Kahn and her fellow contributors tease out the complexities and contradictions of Menzel and her remarkable accomplishments in the mid-twentieth-century world of dog breeding and training. Always alive to the context in which she lived and worked, this book expertly weaves together animal history and Jewish history to shine a light on an overlooked aspect of human-canine relations." — Chris Pearson, Department of History, University of Liverpool, author of Dogopolis: How Dogs and Humans Made Modern New York, London, and Paris

"This book gives a fine picture of the extraordinary career and personality of Rudolphina Menzel, an Austrian cynologist who emigrated to British Mandate Palestine in 1938, and emerged as a foremost world expert on canine psychology, development and training. Applying what she had learnt in Austria, she organized canine training for police and military uses in the newborn State of Israel, and eventually sired the development of a new breed, the indigenous Canaan dog. For decades her major theoretical and practical contributions to the field went unrecognized. This volume – beginning with Susan Kahn's well-rounded, introductory biography – goes a long way to correcting this oversight." — Benny Morris, Professor Emeritus, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

"... a deeply contextualized account of Menzel's life, from her childhood as a thoroughly assimilated Austrian Jew, through her awakening commitment to Zionism, her training and early career as a scientist, and her career as an eminent dog trainer and breeder both in Europe and in Israel. It is a fascinating story--unusual from the perspective of Menzel's expertise, although not from the perspective of her experience of the darkening political atmosphere of Austria and Germany and of the need to become a refugee." — Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Emeritus Professor of History, MIT

"We have waited a long time for a heroine like Menzel. As thoughtful as she was daring, as courageous as she was kind. Driven by curiosity, Menzel straddled the different worlds of canines and humans at a time driven by violent division. Her biographer Kahn has done a masterful job providing us with a fascinating image of an important historical figure whose message resonates especially today - sometimes the characteristics that make us different are less important than the experiences we share." — Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, authors of The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think

"Rudolphina Menzel devoted much of her life to help our four-legged companions find their place in modern society. Her pioneering effort bears fruit in the present day to improve human-dog partnership." — Ádám Miklósi, Eötvös Loránd University, author of Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition

About the Editor

Susan Martha Kahn is the associate director at the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School. She has published in science studies, animal studies, and Jewish studies, and her book Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel won a National Jewish Book Award, as well as the Eileen Basker Prize for Outstanding Research in Gender and Health from the American Anthropological Association.

. . . . .

First Impressions: Sefer Hasidim and Early Modern Hebrew Printing

Author: Joseph A. Skloot

Uncovers the history of creative adaptation and transformation through a close analysis of Sefer Hasidim

In 1538, a partnership of Jewish silk makers in the city of Bologna published a book entitled Sefer Hasidim, a compendium of rituals, stories, and religious instruction that primarily originated in medieval Franco-Germany. How these men, of Italian and Spanish descent, came to produce a book that would come to shape Jewish culture over the next four centuries is the basis of this kaleidoscopic study of the history of Hebrew printing in the sixteenth century.

“Who makes a book, the author or the publisher? Joseph Skloot studies a classic of medieval Jewish literature, Sefer Hasidim, to answer this old question in a new way. He takes the reader into two printing houses, one Jewish and one Christian, and shows how each
of them framed and transformed the book, giving it an author and sometimes rewriting its text, in their editions. A classic of medieval spirituality that remained labile in manuscript, Sefer Hasidim took on the form it would retain for centuries in the inky hands of correctors. This lively and learned book is a tour de force of book history, rich in textual and human detail.” Anthony T. Grafton, Princeton University

“Recent research has revealed that what we call Sefer Hasidim was composed from a loose
collection of a variety of earlier ‘treatises’ and ‘text blocks’ without any coherent organization.
In this groundbreaking study, Skloot demonstrates convincingly and in detail how this loose collection became a book in the proper sense of the word only during its printing process.” Peter Schfer, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

About the Author

Joseph A. Skloot, Ph.D. is the Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Intellectual History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He is a historian of Jewish culture and religious thought.

. . . . .

Unacknowledged Kinships: Postcolonial Studes and the Historiography of Zionism

Editors: Stefan Vogt, Derek Penslar, and Arieh Saposnik

This book claims that there is an “unacknowledged kinship” between Zionism and post-colonial studies, a kinship that deserves to be discovered and acknowledged. It strives to facilitate a conversation between the historiography of Zionism and postcolonial studies by identifying and exploring possible linkages and affiliations between their subjects as well as the limits of such connections. The authors of the essays in this volume discuss central theoretical concepts developed within the field of postcolonial studies, use these concepts to analyze crucial aspects of the history of Zionism, and contextualize Zionist thought, politics, and culture within colonial and postcolonial histories. While the main purpose of the book is to test the applicability of postcolonial concepts to the history of Zionism, it also seeks vectors that move in the opposite direction. Postcolonial studies may gain from using the history of Zionism as an example of both colonial domination and the contradictory processes of national liberation and self-empowerment. Postcolonial studies and the historiography of Zionism profit from each other if they can bridge the political chasm that often underpins their disciplines. This does not mean that these fields should look upon the other without critical scrutiny, rather an open and critical exchange can help each discipline address its own limitations and weaknesses. This book is the first to systematically investigate the potential for a dialogue between postcolonial studies and the history of Zionism, and unique in suggesting that postcolonial concepts can be applied to the history of European Zionism. Most importantly, the book is an overture for a dialogue between postcolonial studies and the historiography of Zionism.

About the Editors

Stefan Vogt is Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter and research coordinator at the Martin Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Philosophy, as well as a Privatdozent for Modern History at the History Department, both at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. He received his PhD in History from the Free University Berlin in 2004 and has previously worked at the University of Amsterdam, at New York University and at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva. His main research areas are German-Jewish history, the history of nationalism and the history of colonialism. His is the author of two monographs, Subalterne Positionierungen: Der deutsche Zionismus im Feld des Nationalismus in Deutschland, 1890-1933 (Wallstein, 2016) and Nationaler Sozialismus und Soziale Demokratie: Die sozialdemokratische Junge Rechte 1918-1945 (Dietz, 2006), and of a number of articles on the history of Zionism, German-Jewish history and the history of nationalism and anti-Semitism. He is also the editor of the volume Colonialism and the Jews in German History (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021).

Derek Penslar is the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History at Harvard University. He previously taught at Indiana University, the University of Toronto, and Oxford University, where he was the inaugural holder of the Stanley Lewis Chair in Modern Israel Studies. Penslar takes a comparative and transnational approach to Jewish history, which he studies within the contexts of modern capitalism, nationalism, and colonialism. Penslar’s books include Shylock’s Children: Economics and Modern Identity in Modern Europe(University of California Press, 2001), Israel in History: The Jewish State in Comparative Perspective (Routledge, 2006), The Origins of the State of Israel: A Documentary History (with Eran Kaplan, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), Jews and the Military: A History (Princeton University Press, 2013), and Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader (Yale University Press, 2020). Penslar is President of the American Academy for Jewish Research, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and an Honorary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford. He is currently writing a book titled Zionism: An Emotional State and is beginning work on a global history of the 1948 Palestine War. 

Arieh Saposnik is Associate Professor at the Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. Prior to joining the faculty at Ben-Gurion University, he was the founding director of the Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA. A historian of Zionism and Jewish nationalism, Saposnik is interested in the construction of national cultures and identities in the modern world. He is the author of Becoming Hebrew: The Creation of a Jewish National Culture in Ottoman Palestine (Oxford University Press, 2008), and of Zionism’s Redemptions: Images of the Past and Visions of the Future in Jewish Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2021). He is currently working on a book that explores modern efforts to reshape the Jewish relationship to space and place.