Jewish Identity in Europe

From December 14-16, Berkeley’s Center for Jewish Studies, in cooperation with IES, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), hosted a workshop for a group of twenty PhD students entitled “Jews, Germans, and other Europeans: Modern Encounters.” Each day included a series of presentations broken into three sections, during which PhD candidates from Berkeley, LMU, and beyond shared their research.

To open the program, UC Berkeley professor John Efron gave introductory remarks, followed by an opening discussion on German Jewish History led by Michael Brenner (LMU). Then, the first section of presentations, entitled “From Berlin to Vienna: Jews and Political Culture in Central Europe” began, with papers covering topics ranging from Else Lasker-Schüler’s poetic works, to the role of Zionism in German political debates, to Jewish involvement in Viennese journalism.

The second day began with the next section of presentations, which related to the theme “Between Homeland and Diaspora: European Jews and the Question of Belonging.” Topics covered included the history of Yiddish primers in Poland, twentieth-century Jewish archives, the evolution of Jewish intellectuals’ positions in France, and Jewish identity negotiations in the interwar period. Participants also had the opportunity to engage in a workshop on history, art, and material culture led by curator Francesco Spagnolo from the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, as well as to screen Janina Quint’s 2015 documentary Germans and Jews.

On the third day, the workshop was brought to a close with the final section of presentations, “New Experiences in a New Surrounding: German Jews in Israel,” which covered topics relating to German-Jewish orientalism in Palestine and Israel as well as the joint influence of émigré historians and German history in the Israeli Academy.