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Being Jewish in the New Germany

Being Jewish in the New Germany

Jeffrey M. Peck
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Being Jewish in the New Germany
    Book Description:

    Germany today boasts the fastest growing population of Jews in Europe. The streets of Berlin abound with signs of a revival of Jewish culture, ranging from bagel shops to the sight of worshipers leaving synagogue on Saturday. With the new energy infused by Jewish immigration from Russia and changes in immigration and naturalization laws in general, Jeffrey M. Peck argues that we must now begin considering how Jews live in Germany rather than merely asking why they would choose to do so.

    In Being Jewish in the New Germany, Peck explores the diversity of contemporary Jewish life and the complex struggles within the community-and among Germans in general-over history, responsibility, culture, and identity. He provides a glimpse of an emerging, if conflicted, multicultural country and examines how the development of the European Community, globalization, and the post-9/11 political climate play out in this context. With sensitive, yet critical, insight into the nation's political and social life, chapters explore issues such as the shifting ethnic/national makeup of the population, changes in political leadership, and the renaissance of Jewish art and literature. Peck also explores new forms of anti-Semitism and relations between Jews and Turks-the country's other prominent minority population.

    In this surprising description of the rebirth of a community, Peck argues that there is, indeed, a vibrant and significant future for Jews in Germany. Written in clear and compelling language, this book will be of interest to the general public and scholars alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3935-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. 1 A New Jewish Life in Germany: FROM “WHY” TO “HOW”
    (pp. 1-20)

    As is often the case with everyday moments that turn into ethnographic material, my visit to a Berlin bagel shop on a Saturday morning, the Jewish Sabbath, in the mid-nineties, was auspicious. My best friend, a tall, blue-eyed, blond German named Wolfgang, suggested we have breakfast in this new establishment. Knowing his penchant for Jewish specialties, I never expected to be exposed to a situation that even in its innocence gave me striking new insights into Jewish life in Germany since reunification. Even I, Berlin-Kenner (connoisseur of Berlin) that I am, was not only surprised to find that such a...

  6. 2 Shadows of the Holocaust in Germany and the United States
    (pp. 21-39)

    There is no question that the Holocaust continues to cast its shadow over Jewish life in Germany, the United States, and of course, Israel. The resonance of the organized genocide of Europe’s Jews is pervasive in its immense scope, emotional depth, and discursive power. Often the invocation of the Holocaust in debates is quite literally about memory, monuments, or memorialization of the event itself. Sometimes it plays out in ongoing identity questions about Jewish self-definition. And other times, as more recently since the Iraq war, it underpins conflicts about anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, or even anti-Americanism. Consequently, the Holocaust continues to affect...

  7. 3 Russian Immigration and the Revitalization of German Jewry
    (pp. 40-59)

    Since 1990 a mass migration of Russian Jews has been under way, primarily to the United States and Israel. However, literally tens of thousands have also settled in Germany. The Jewish immigrants have since transformed the life of a community that had an uncertain future at best. Ironically, this massive population movement has certain parallels with a similar movement of Jews from East to West at the end of the Second World War when the concentration camps were liberated and thousands of displaced persons (DPs) moved across the Continent. Homeless, lost, and mostly destitute, many then resided—primarily in DP...

  8. 4 Representing Jews in Germany Today
    (pp. 60-85)

    Representing Jews or Germans is not only about “real Jews” or “real Germans,” but also about how these and other groups conceive of and understand each other as depicted in various forms, such as television, film, literature, art, advertising and of course, the Internet. Even before the notion of the “virtual” became commonplace, knowing what is “real” and what is not was difficult. We live in a world inundated with images and words that project so many conflicting representations. This confusion is especially acute when representation concerns people who are different, unfamiliar, and even strange. Filtered through our imagination, representations...

  9. 5 Jews and Turks: DISCOURSES OF THE “OTHER”
    (pp. 86-109)

    Ominous words from a German or Polish Jew in postwar Germany or from a Russian Jew in Germany after 1989? In fact, this reference is not a Jewish voice, but rather the outcry of a Turkish resident of Berlin after Solingen. This small town was one of the sites of deadly violence in 1991–1992 against foreigners (primarily Turks and asylum seekers). Places like Hoyerswerda and Rostock in the former East Germany and Mölln and Solingen in the West gain national notoriety. The names of these towns are now emblazoned in the minds of Turks and sympathetic Germans as icons...

  10. 6 Creating a Continental Identity: JEWS, GERMANS, EUROPE, AND THE “NEW” ANTI-SEMITISM
    (pp. 110-132)

    In 1989–1990, the epicenters of Europe’s profound transformation were Germany and the Soviet Union, the Continent’s central powers. The fault lines that cracked open old regimes spread from East to West redefining the boundaries of citizens’ relationships to their national, ethnic, and religious identities. As we saw, Russian Jews were now free to become both “Jews” and “Germans,” or sometimes even both. In more recent years, farreaching global events, such as September 11, 2001, the continued Middle East crisis, and the Iraq War have further unsettled European identity as the EU enlarged and simultaneously confronted the difficulties of a...

    (pp. 133-153)

    Although the growing European Jewish community is ambitious, it still lives in the shadow of Israel and the United States. The internal development and sustainability of Jewish communities on the Continent are dependent on these two powers, even as European Jews establish themselves as a larger and more diverse community, unified through their commitment to a new Europe. The strength of the United States and Israel lies, of course, not only in their numbers. It is also maintained by America’s singular global political and economic status and Israel’s historical and moral role as the homeland of the Jewish people. But...

  12. 8 Toward a New German Jewish Diaspora in an Age of Globalization
    (pp. 154-174)

    The preceding chapters have contributed to my thesis that the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and its geopolitical repercussions precipitated the creation of a new Jewish and Diaspora identity in Germany. The movement of peoples and ideas, as well as their representations in public spheres—in literature, journalism, and museums—support this viewpoint. Film and television are, of course, other examples which I do not address here. A new Diaspora community is forming, one that has a “German-Jewish” identity rather than, as in postwar terms, being made up of “Jews in Germany.” In time, the notion of...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-188)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-198)
  15. Index
    (pp. 199-214)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)