This paper looks at the hachsharah activities of Zionist organizations in early post-war Romania, examining the context and motivation of participants. Whereas the hachsharot in central Europe have been recognized as spaces of empowerment and agency for displaced persons, the contrasting Romanian war-time experience and divergent social structures called these very features into question in the Romanian context. Following a macrohistorical basic outline, a microhistorical approach is taken to probe the experience of one individual through a set of recently found diaries. Here the limits of Zionist propaganda and community-building work and the ramifications of failing to address the psychological and physical needs of Holocaust survivors are explored: despite apparent inclusion in a cohesive and sympathetic group, the diary author experiences alienation and marginalization within her own ranks.
issue 21 / n.1 (2022) by Julie Dawson
The primary aim of our study is to explore the post-Holocaust history of the hachsharot in Hungary through the eyes of their members. Our study is based on a structured analysis of one hundred and one interviews from the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. The immediate post-war years saw an unprecedented growth of the Zionist movement in Hungary. During this short period, the hachsharot played a vital role in the lives of those who, unlike most Jews, chose dissimilation. In our study, we explore the interviewees’ family backgrounds and their prewar connection to Zionism. We explore in detail their time in the Zionist movement and the hachsharot. However, we do not focus only on the facts, but put special emphasis on personal experiences and feelings. Finally, we also address how the identities of our interviewees changed and how these experiences shaped their first decades after their lives in the hachsharot.
issue 21 / n.1 (2022) by Ildikó Barna and Kinga Szemere
This article analyses the Russian government’s involvement in Jewish emigration from the late Tsarist Empire by exploring bureaucratic archival records. Despite the official emigration ban, between 1881 and 1914 about two million Jews managed to cross the Russian border and leave primarily for the United States, Argentina, and Palestine. The understudied yet official documents and police reports from imperial provinces such as Podolia, Volhynia, and New Russia reveal the practical aspects of the Jewish exodus. Some Jewish emigrants left illegally on their own, some used the help of illegal emigration agents, while others were able to leave with the assistance of charitable emigration organizations. In most of these scenarios, this article argues, the Russian government supported Jewish emigration in implicit or explicit ways: it was willing to tolerate Jewish resettlement to the extent that it could regulate the process.
issue 20 / December 2021 by Anastasiia Strakhova
The article examines the rise and consolidation of Karaism in Tsarist Russia from the first half of the nineteenth century through the beginning of the twentieth. The creation of a specific national culture was on the one hand a consequence of the hostile policy the authorities applied towards Jews, which eventually favored Karaite’s departure from the originary community. On the other hand, and despite the late spread of Haskalah within Karaites as compared to the larger Rabbanite surroundings, the article claims that the former ones did share Maskilic ideals, partly because Karaites already displayed in the majority of cases distinctive signs of acculturation and secularization—all predisposing elements for the formation of a new feeling of national belonging.
issue 20 / December 2021 by Dovilė Troskovaitė
This article analyzes the life writings of Jewish American authors Marcus Eli Ravage and Michael Gold, both of Romanian parentage but representing two different literary generations and two different ideological commitments. I argue that both authors revisited the dominant form of early twentieth-century immigrant autobiographies by other fellow Jews. These much-celebrated stories primarily foregrounded the embrace of the American Dream by a variant of the rags-to-riches narrative, under the guise of upward mobility stories of successful Jewish immigrants who culturally assimilated to American norms. Ravage’s An American in the Making offers a twist to this dominant narrative by his emphasis on the embrace of American cultural citizenship over American legal citizenship as the Jewish immigrant’s path to success. Gold rejects altogether the above rags-to-riches narrative and redefines Jewish identity in the Lower East Side as a working-class identity upholding a proletarian culture.
issue 20 / December 2021 by Dana Mihăilescu
In this article, the author investigates the discussion on migration from Habsburg Central Europe to the United States, highlighting the movement of artists and musicians in popular entertainment as an understudied migration pattern. During the fin de siècle, migration and mobility for social, economic, political and/or professional reasons determined the patterns of everyday life; in turn, a new quality of mobility determined Habsburg Central Europe. Drawing on the example of the migration movement between the Habsburg Empire and the United States, the paper examines the place of Jewish migrant experiences in the broader context of masses of people on the move. To this end, the article compares experiences of migration such as migration of single men, women but also children and presents findings from oral history interviews of Jewish migrants, newspaper articles and correspondence.
issue 20 / December 2021 by Susanne Korbel
The concept of Heimweh conveys a set of emotions and images that have been described in different ways in different languages. This article intends to analyze the Heimweh experienced by Galician intellectual Jewry during the process of linguistic and cultural change that took place from 1867 until the mid-1880s. This will be discussed while focusing on the urban intelligentsia circles in Lemberg (Lviv), which had a tremendous influence on some Galician Jewish intellectuals during that period. I will analyze the nature of a clash of identities that eventually brought some of the urban intelligentsia in Lemberg to consider themselves as living a “spiritual” or “linguistic exile” (Sprachexil), regardless of whether they had migrated or not. Longing for the homeland as a nostalgic destination, whether they referred to it as Heimat or Ojczyzna, and whether they called it Lemberg or Lwów, was longing to be part of a group holding a distinct Kultur or Kultura, a set of values, culture and language, which coexisted with their Jewish identity.
issue 20 / December 2021 by Maya Shabbat
The peculiarity of the Jewish community of the city of Posen (Poznań) has been acknowledged in several studies. This pertains on the one hand to its sheer size, as until the end of the nineteenth century Jews accounted almost constantly for between 15 and 20 percent of the overall population—by far above the average of any other German district; on the other hand, it pertains to its composition, since so-called Ostjuden constituted a considerable share of the minority. These were mainly unassimilated orthodox Polish Jews, a unique feature for any German State and later for the German Reich, which forced the new authorities (Posen was assigned to Prussia in the late eighteenth century) to enforce specific integration measures.
This article shows how, as a consequence, the Jewish inhabitants of the area were drawn into a conflict of nationalisms and had to keep the balance between two conflicting cultures, that of the new ruling power, Germany, which sought to “germanize” them, and the traditional Polish culture. Against this background, and for fear of losing their financial independence as well as their cultural and religious identity, more than 30,000 Jews left the region from 1848 up to the end of the nineteenth century and emigrated to the United States or elsewhere.
issue 20 / December 2021 by Francesco Di Palma
During the French Protectorate in Morocco, the Jewish presence in the country’s economic capital Casablanca was massive, as migrants coming from the coastal cities and the interior regions, or from Algeria and Tunisia, joined the already significant population present in the city’s Mellah when Hubert Lyautey’s administration was put into place in 1912. Once the law made it legal for them to build on the land they owned, Jewish developers embarked on the creation of the highest structures of the city, with bold forms then unknown in France. Among the architects who designed numerous apartment houses and villas, from the most modest to the more sumptuous, were Jews such as the Suraqui brothers. After having contributed in the 1930s to the emergence of local modernism, in the 1950s the Jewish bourgeoise emulated Californian stereotypes in its residences, while innovative social housing cared for the poorest component of the community.
issue 19 / June 2021 by Jean-Louis Cohen
This paper investigates traces of German-Jewish refugee experiences in South Africa in the 1930s and the war years that have typically been left out of mainstream historical narratives and public discourses. It will draw on refugee life histories to investigate whether the concepts of “usable pasts” and “chosen amnesia” can help explain how and why references to widespread and virulent anti-Semitism and Nazism during the 1930s and 1940s receded from public discourse in the postwar era, a period characterized by rapprochement between South African Jews and the ruling National Party that came to power in 1948. The paper will also examine whether Jews’ incorporation into the white social order of the apartheid system required “strategic forgetting” about the history of the National Party’s support for Nazi Germany, its use of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the 1930s, and its advocacy for the 1938 Aliens Act that effectively ended Jewish immigration. Finally, the paper examines whether, during the apartheid years, this history became an “unusable past.” The motivation for seeking to “recover” this unsettling past draws on Claudia Braude’s observation that recollections of these “difficult pasts” of Jewish racial ambiguity can help deepen our understandings of the history of South African racism.
issue 19 / June 2021 by Steven Robins