Although throughout the middle-ages Jews used to live in urban environment more than non-Jews, urbanization process in the 19th century was as critical to Jewish modern history as in other cases. Modernization, in all aspects, had a deep impact on Jewish demography, socio-economic life and self understanding. On the same time Jews were immigrating by the millions to the “new world” (mainly to the United States), a small current of Jews was heading to Palestine (Eretz Israel if to use their specific term). As opposed to a common understanding of Zionism, the future city and the neo-urbanization of the Jews – and not only the new villages (Moshavot, Kibbutzim, Moshavim) – was a main Zionist goal. This article describes one of the first comprehensive observations of these issues, as seen from the eyes of Louis Miller, himself a Jewish immigrant that settled in the outmost city of the modern world: New York. In 1911 he paid a visit to the one-year-old Tel Aviv, and managed to see in this new modest garden-city the cradle of the Zionist revolution. Not less important: Miller understood as early as 1911, the crucial role Jewish settlements in Palestine would have in the crystallization of modern Jewish peoplehood. Tel Aviv took major part in this development. It still does.
issue 02 / October 2011 by Ehud Manor
By using the case study of Minsk – a historic Jewish center in pre-revolutionary Russia, and capital of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic after 1917 – this article explores the Sovietization and modernization of Jewish women in an urban setting of the former Pale of Settlement during the 1920s. The study of a “Jewish metropolis” like Minsk, situated in the heart of the pre-1917 territory of designated Jewish residence, provides a better insight into the ways in which most Jewish women adjusted to the Bolshevik rise to power, negotiated between Communism and Jewish identity, and integrated into Soviet society. By focusing in particular on the Minsk branch of the Women’s Department of the Communist Party (Zhenotdel), this article reveals the evolution of the gender discourse on the Jewish street, the changing roles of Jewish women in the new revolutionary society, as well as the challenges they faced when attempting to modernize according to Bolshevik guidelines.
issue 02 / October 2011 by Elissa Bemporad
The aesthetic persona of Saul Steinberg (1914-1999), who became one of America’s most beloved artists, began to take shape in Milan during the 1930s. Steinberg arrived there in 1933 to study architecture, having left his native Romania and its virulent anti-Semitism. In 1936, while still an architecture student, he started contributing gag cartoons to popular Italian humor newspapers and soon became renowned for his clever visual wit. These first years in Italy, which he would later remember as a “paradise,” turned rapidly into “hell” in 1938, with the institution of racial laws that deprived him of income, a profession, and a legal residence. Forced to live as an unwanted “foreign Jew” and unable to obtain the visas necessary to leave Italy, by late 1940 he was under threat of imminent arrest; a few months later, he spent several weeks in an internment camp before finally managing to flee the country. This crucial period in Steinberg’s biography has until now remained largely unknown because of Steinberg’s own reluctance to discuss it. The present essay, building on an earlier study by the same author and using several unpublished archival sources, sheds light on these fraught years, while also examining Steinberg’s sometimes contradictory attitudes to political events as well as art. The essay is illustrated by photographs, documents, and Steinberg’s drawings, many of them from a journal he kept during his last nine months in Italy. The text of this journal is also published here in English for the first time. 1
issue 02 / October 2011 by Mario Tedeschini Lalli
The essay will address the history of West German Jewry using the concept of guilt as its guiding theme. Jews in West Germany had a bad conscience on account of living in the “land of the murderers.” This bad conscience not only distinguished them from other Jewish communities, it also explains much of what characterized West German Jewry from 1945 to 1989: its particular economic structure; its especially close ties to Israel; its preoccupation with democratization; its power arrangements; and its communal life. The essay will address these issues, and trace a development that led from a close-knit, ideologically homogeneous group to one that became ever more pluralistic in the 1970s and 1980s.
issue 01 / April 2010 by Anthony D. Kauders
The emergence of a seemingly harmonic symbiosis between Hungarian majority and Jewish minority in 19th century Hungary was a unique phenomenon in a European country where the proportion of Jews was close to 5 percent of the total population, and about 20 percent of the capital city, Budapest. However, after the shocking experience of the persecution in 1944 it was to expect that the factor –unlimited readiness for assimilation in the belief of the unlimited readiness of the majority for accepting it- that made the uniqueness of the Hungarian Jewry will cease to exist. Since quite a large group of the Hungarian Jews survived the Shoah it was not purely a theoretical question that what sort of identity strategies would emerge among the Jewish population of the country. How did the Jews react to the dramatic political changes that occurred in the decades following the Shoah, what kind of identity strategies they developed in the search for their place in the post-war Hungarian society? After a historical introduction the article discusses the changing socio-demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the post-war Hungarian Jews, Jewish politics in the decades of communist rule and finally the identity problems emerged in the post-war decades.
issue 01 / April 2010 by Andras Kovacs
In recent years Polish historians have shown a growing interest in the history of the Jews in Poland after 1945. Studies on this topic had started – although in a sporadic way – in the 1960s, intensified in the 1980s and at the turn of the twenty first Century they have focused on three main issues: post-war anti-Semitism; emigration and the creation of the State of Israel, and the restitution of property. The aim of this article is to set these studies in the Polish political and cultural context in which they were written in order to highlight elements of change and continuity within the historical debate.
issue 01 / April 2010 by Carla Tonini
This essay offers a review of recent international historiography on “State anti-Semitism” in the USSR after WWII. After emphasizing the difficulties of reintegration of the Jewish population in the aftermath of conflict, the essay covers the different stages of anti-Jewish policies and focuses on the transition to a new phase in relations between Soviet Jews and Soviet state, coinciding with the struggle against “cosmopolitism” and the start of a more explicit anti-Semitic hate campaign. The author reconstructs the repression of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and the invention of the “Doctors ‘Plot’, and finally recalls the debate about the alleged preparation of a mass deportation of Soviet Jews. Promising research perspectives for the future are indicated in local case studies that would clarify the validity of “collective psychosis” which affects the Jewish community in the postwar era, as well as offer more information on the existence of a plan to mobilize the population on the basis of Judeophobia.
issue 01 / April 2010 by Antonella Salomoni
Out of the 38.000 Italian Jews residents in Italy in 1938, more than 4,148 were deported. Of these, only 312 survivors returned. This paper deals with the Italian Holocaust survivors’ migration to Israel, and investigates the reason why only a very small percentage of those who returned from the Nazi camps migrated to Israel, compared to a much higher percentage of Italian Jews who were not deported and made aliyah. Were they “prisoners of hope”? Did they decide to reintegrate into the Italian political, social, and economic context hoping that their relationship with Italy could be the same as if nothing had happened? Or was it a question of “amnesia”? Was the lack of memory of the Fascist persecution a price they had to pay in order to succeed in their request of a full reintegration or was it due to the attitude of forgetting the past that Jews shared with the entire Italian society?
issue 01 / April 2010 by Arturo Marzano
This paper enquires into the survival of the nineteenth-twentieth century anti-Jewish culture in Italy following the Shoah, in a specific cultural milieu, that of the «Enciclopedia Cattolica», published in twelve volumes from 1948 to 1954. While the more overt features of traditional anti-Semitism disappeared in Italy following 1945, avoiding its extrinsic characteristics, anti-Jewish stereotypes and images were practically untouched by a critical reappraisal, at least until the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, and were instead even proposed anew in theological, religious and cultural circles. This anti-Jewish ‘survivor’ will be investigated in the course of the paper by examining several entries contained in the «Enciclopedia» project.
issue 01 / April 2010 by Elena Mazzini