Reciting the quote, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” becomes second nature when one has studied the work of Oscar Wilde as long as veteran UCLA English professor Joseph Bristow. Yet it wasn’t until a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts seminar that Bristow began to reconsider why imitation, alongside artistic forgery, defines Wilde’s formative years, specifically in the case of Thomas Chatterton.
David N. Myers, professor and Robert N. Burr Department Chair in the UCLA College’s Department of History, has been awarded the inaugural Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History, which will provide the renowned historian funds for research, graduate student support, and annual public seminars and symposia.
“It is a great honor to be the first holder of this chair, which will ensure that the poignant and powerful story of Sady and Ludwig Kahn—and of so many other Jews from the near and distant past—will be taught to generations of students at UCLA,” Myers said. “The Kahn Chair affirms UCLA’s place as a major center for the study of Jewish history in the United States and the world.”
Myers, who will be stepping down as department chair at the end of June, received his bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1982. He then undertook graduate studies at Tel-Aviv and Harvard Universities before completing his doctorate at Columbia in 1991. He has written extensively in the fields of modern Jewish intellectual and cultural history, with a particular interest in the history of Jewish historiography.
He has authored Re-Inventing the Jewish Past: European Jewish Intellectuals and the Zionist Return to History, Resisting History: Historicism and its Discontents in German-Jewish Thought, and Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz. Myers has edited eight books, including The Jewish Past Revisited and Enlightenment, Diaspora: The Armenian and Jewish Cases, and The Faith of Fallen Jews: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi and the Writing of Jewish History.
The late Sady and Ludwig Kahn were among thousands of German-Jewish refugees who fled Germany in the late 1930s when the Nazis rose to power, with little more than the clothes on their backs. The Kahns forged a new life for themselves in Los Angeles, and Sady’s parents came to live with them soon after, having escaped on one of the last trains out of Germany. Sady and Ludwig worked all hours, scrimped and saved, and ultimately established a thriving hat-making business.
At Sady Kahn’s request, long-time family friends Jim and Lori Keir helped her identify beneficiary charities, one of which was UCLA. According to Keir, the university was a perfect fit with her values and interests.
“Having had no children of her own, Sady was delighted to know that young people would benefit from her trust long after she was gone,” he said.
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