In his book “What ifs of Jewish History: From Abraham to Zionism,” professor Gavriel Rosenfeld discusses what life would be like if certain pieces of Jewish history hadn’t happened. Rosenfeld examined these speculations of Jewish history at his seminar Wednesday afternoon with around 30 students and Ann Arbor residents at the 202 South Thayer Building.

Rosenfeld is a professor at Fairfield University and has written several books on Jewish history. Specifically, he poses hypotheticals, asking, among other things, what would have happened if Hitler had been assassinated and died prematurely. Rosenfeld read excerpts from his book to help the audience better understand his ideas of how life would be if Hitler had been killed. 

“We understand your father was highly conflicted about this evening with the assassination of Hitler as was reported in the newspaper,” Rosenfeld read from the book. “In the years after the assassination he was plagued by doubt … and made life worse rather than better for your excuse. And as a result, we adhere to his decision to see the life of exile and millions without the reflective reluctance to be linked to an act.”

Rosenfeld discussed his predictions of what would happen moving forward from Hitler’s theoretical assassination. 

“And over the next few years, I argue two million Jews are going to be shipped to Palestine, largely thanks to the efforts of French German and Romania is the Navy’s of French France, Germany and Romania,” Rosenfeld said. 

After Rosenfeld spoke, University professors Devi Mays and Jeffrey Veidlinger began a discussion that focused largely on the duty of historians to follow in Rosenfeld’s footsteps and consider alternatives to certain histories. 

“I was very convinced by the case you made in the introduction to your book,” Mays said to Rosenfeld. “There is something very valuable for historians in doing counterfactual history. There are multiple things that are valuable.” 

When Ann Arbor resident Ted Beimoel heard about this seminar, he said he was interested in learning more about the “what ifs” of Jewish history and decided to attend.

“This seemed like an interesting alternative history,” Beimoel said. “Other than that, I don’t really know a lot about this topic.”

LSA senior Maya Tinoco is a Judaic studies minor and is taking the class “Jews in the Modern World: Texts, Images, Ideas.” Tinoco said the students in this class were encouraged to attend the event to learn more about Jewish history and what it could have been.

“I thought this topic would be really interesting,” Tinoco said. “‘What if’ is a really big topic in life in general, specifically, in this sort of history. It’s very interesting, like ‘what ifs’ could change a lot of the trajectory of history.”

Disclaimer: Gavriel Rosenfeld is Daily News Editor Ben Rosenfeld’s father. Ben Rosenfeld had no involvement in the reporting or the editing of this article. 

Reporter Brayden Hirsch can be reached at

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