Diversity in German Jewry in the 19th century

Studies of Self-Positioning in the Field of Tradition and Crisis

Object of investigation is the Jewish self-conception in the 19th century, which was developed in the described field of conflict of inner and outer changes in different directions. Corresponding with these directions new terms and ideas were designed in the semantic field of Jewish self-conception. The tensions occurring in the Jewish community during the 19th century “ between emancipation and the traditional lifestyle according to the "law of fathers  “ caused a schism in the hitherto at least in public affairs homogeneous acting Jewish congregations. The spectrum of developing paradigms reached from radical reformers to the conservative Judaism (also called positive-historical) and even Neo-Orthodoxy. The different currents created varied ways in the new self-positioning of Judaism. The conflict between the governmental claim that Judaism define itself only as a religious denomination and the traditional concept of the ˜Jewish Nation ™ led to internal problems for example when the Neo-Orthodoxy had to develop a modern Jewish self-conception. The radical reformers on the other hand partly absorbed the modus operandi of the political authorities and reduced their Judaism to those functions performed by Christian churches as well. This reduction found its climax in the self-description as "deutsche Staatsbürger mosaischen Bekenntnisses . In contradiction to this concept the idea of the so called "Nationaljudentum  was strengthened, especially in the last quarter of the 19th century, as a rival Jewish self-conception “ at least for some individuals. These two extreme positions marked the respective extreme poles of the wide spectrum of Jewish self-conception, which is the subject of this research project.

The evolving Jewish groups in the 19th century and their varied handling within the political and religious changes concerning their identity formation and self-manifestation will be analysed. Due to emancipation and assimilation the traditional unity of religious and national affiliation had been separated and a new modern self-positioning in the different Jewish currents was necessary in order to strengthen the common minority identity. The project ™s objective is to show and analyse the diversity of possible self-positionings of Jewish groups and individuals in the 19th century in the field of tradition and crisis. Research Fields: Globalization

Affiliated Persons


Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Hollender

Project Leader


Valentina Wiedner

Cooperation Partner

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