Jewish Storytelling Coalition

Sunday, November 10, 2013

JSC Tribute to Dov Noy (1920-2013)

 (Strangely, this "post" disappeared into cyberspace and has recently been requested. This is the entry from October 7, 2013)

We are terribly saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Dov Noy (1920-2013), emeritus professor at the Hebrew University and one of the great pioneers of the study of Jewish folklore. He was a recipient of the Israel Prize.
Professor Dov Noy was the major figure in the renaissance of preserving and perpetuating the Jewish oral tradition in the 20th century. While he has published many books and important essays (including the entry “Folklore” in The Encyclopedia Judaica), his two main contributions are: 1) he applied an international classification system to Jewish traditional narrative; and 2) he established the Israel Folktale Archives. In the first case, Dov Noy (under the name Neuman) wrote his doctoral dissertation in folklore at Indiana University and created a “Motif-Index of Talmudic-Midrashic Literature.” When folklorist/scholar Stith Thompson republished his Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (1955-58), “he in turn incorporated Noy’s motifs, thus placing the Jewish traditions in a world-wide context” (Richard Dorson in Noy’s Folktales of Israel, 1963, p. xii). In 1954, Noy established the Israel Folktale Archives and Ethnological Museum at Haifa University. Presently, this archive contains over 24,000 folktales, classified according to tale types and motifs, country of origin, informant, etc. These folktales have been collected from all the various ethnic communities who live in Israel.  On average, the archives currently receive between 100-200 new folk narratives annually.

 The Israel Folktale Archives (IFA), named in honor of its founder Professor Dov Noy, was established in 1955. Two principle motives led to their establishment. Firstly, to collect, save and document oral folk narratives passed down over the generations by newly arriving immigrants, and veteran Israelis alike, from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds; and, secondly, to systematically research these folk narratives using modern scientific methods.

The archives were originally part of Haifa’s Museum of Ethnology and Folklore headed by Abba Khoushi.  Prof. Dov Noy managed the archives until 1983. They were later transferred to the University of Haifa where they are presently housed. IFA has the largest collection of Jewish folktales in Israel and the world over. The folktales, the way they are narrated, and the changes introduced into them are recorded, classified and sorted by the archives. IFA initiates folktale research in concert with Israeli and foreign research institutes, and publishes scientific editions from its collection.
The IFA plays an important role in advancing the cultural heritage of Israel’s many ethnic communities, and in encouraging open dialogue between cultures and ethnicities.

To learn more about the IFA, go to the English section of the website: Contributors to this tribute include Peninnah Schram and Bonnie Greenberg.