Review: Impulses for Europe. Tradition and Modernity in East European Jewry

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Content-Author: Ingolf Seidel

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Edited by Ray Brandon, Manfred Sapper, Volker Weichsel, Anna Lipphardt.

In September 2008, the Foundation „Rememberance, Responsibility and Future”, in cooperation with th Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde (German Association for East European Studies), organized a conference entitled „Impulses for Europe”. The conference sought to illustrate that the history and culture of Eastern European Jews are a part of European history and present. A volume with essays on the topic has been published in both German and English.

The editors assume, that anyone who talks about Jewish life and the Jewish heritage cannot ignore Eastern Europe. They stress that East European Jews are a paragon of frontier crossings, transnationalism, and the transfer of religion, tradition, language, and culture. From the 18th century onwards, most of the world’s Jewish population lived in Eastern Europe. Between 1870 and the First World War, some 3.5 million Jewish emigrants left their homelands, predominantly the Russian Empire and Habsburgruled Galicia. This emigration was the starting point for the founding of new Jewish communities in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, and Palestine. The majority of American Jews are descended from East European Jewry. In Israel, this is the case for more than half of the Jewish population. Some 80 per cent of Jews living in the world today have roots in Eastern Europe.

But this volume deals with more than heritage. It challenges widespread topoi and clichés about East European Jews. It asks what place the Jews have in national memory cultures. Despite resistance, there is a growing willingness to integrate Jewish life and the impact it had into national memory cultures in Eastern Europe as well. The contributions in this volume discuss whether these developments signify a change of perspective accompanying the revival of Jewish life, or involve a romanticisation of Jewish culture that is removed from reality. And finally, the country studies to be found here address the Jews still living in Eastern Europe and the signs of re-emerging Jewish life.

It's an interessing approach with a very clear point of view. Very challenging and important seems to be the link to the present. At the end there are abstracts of each chapter in Russian and a list of maps which help to visualise the historical developments.

Review derived from our Polish partner website "Learning from History".

More about the book and its download you will find here.


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