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

Emmanuel Taamrat (1888-1963) is one of the first young men belonging to the Beta Israel (Falashas), brought from Ethiopia to Europe by Jacques Faitlovitch in order to be “regenerated by Western Judaism.” After two years spent in Paris, he was sent to Florence in 1906 where he studied with rabbi Margulies at Collegio Rabbinico in Florence. He remained in Italy for thirteen years because of the First World War and in 1919 he went to Palestine and after to Ethiopia. He spent most of his life as director of the Falasha school in Addis Abeba but in 1937 he was obliged to flee to Egypt after the attempt to assassinate General Graziani because of his well-known opposition to the fascist regime. He helped the Ethiopian resistance and was appointed by Hailé Selassie on his coming back to Ethiopia as President of the Committee of Public Education. In 1948 he was sent to Paris as cultural attaché at the Ethiopian embassy. He was influenced by Italian socialist and anarchist important figures and ideas before the rise of Fascism. As a very free and independent individual he suffered from his condition of being double colonized, by western Judaism and by Italian occupation. He was colonized by Italian Jews and western Jews and subject to the strong authority of Faitlovitch and by the Italians during the Italian occupation. But he was also profoundly fascinated by European Jewish culture and by Western thought and Italy’s language and customs. His own life could be another representation of the idea proposed by Albert Memmi of a colonized and colonizing Jew. He died in Israel.

issue 19 / June 2021 by Emanuela Trevisan Semi

In September of 1940, a group of nearly 2000 Jews from across Eastern Europe were rounded up by German authorities, put aboard ship transports, one from Bratislava, the other Vienna, and began a journey down the Danube that would end up taking them across the Indian Ocean. After much diplomatic scrambling the British Government arranged to have the group detained on the island of Mauritius, then still a British colony. This group of now-stateless refugees would be detained for the entire duration of WWII, leaving an impact on the island and its people, as well as the South African Jewish community; however, it is an impact that has remained largely unexplored. In this article, I want to look at a few of the sparse sources relating this history: some artworks produced by two of the detainees, as well as a contemporary novel written by Indo-Mauritian author Nathacha Appanah, entitled Le dernier frère or The Last Brother. I want to suggest that in Appanah’s 2007 novel, the author imagines the space of the island as intricately entangled with the narrative of Jewish displacement there. In The Last Brother, the island itself and its geographies are places of entanglement, and articulate a version of Michael Rothberg’s “multi-directional memory.” In doing do, Mauritius gives space for thinking about the role of imperial and colonial geo-politics in the making of a what would become perhaps the defining political subjectivity of the twentieth century, the stateless refugee. Reading Mauritius as host to a Southern Hemisphere experience of the Holocaust, offers possible ways to see how both the rise of Nazi Europe, but also the geo-political tectonics of the dissolution of European empires and the creation of postcolonial nations across the globe were entangled in a related set of motions surrounding Europe’s expulsion of its Jewish population.

issue 19 / June 2021 by Kirk Sides

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Spanish Senator Ángel Pulido launched a political campaign with the aim of establishing contacts between Spain and the Jews of the Sephardi diaspora. As part of that campaign, Pulido maintained correspondence with around 150 Sephardi Jews, most of them from Turkey, the Balkans and North Africa. Pulido’s correspondence seems not to have been preserved. However, in his book Españoles sin patria y la raza sefardí (Spaniards without a Homeland and the Sephardi Race) (1905), he included fragments of the letters as well as a large number of photographs sent to him by his Sephardi correspondents. The published material includes photographs and letters of 48 Sephardi women and has barely received any attention by scholars, who have primarily focused on Pulido’s relation with his most prominent male correspondents. In this article, I examine the main features of Pulido’s correspondence with these women: the image of women suggested by these photographs, the character of the information transmitted to Pulido by his female correspondents and his approach towards Sephardi women of his time.

issue 18 / December 2020 by Paloma Díaz-Mas

A History of Histories—of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Exchange

A.S. Yahuda and the International Trade of Antiquities, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, 1902-1944

This article provides the first attempt to study comprehensively the influential involvement of the scholar Abraham S. Yahuda (1877-1951) in the international trade of manuscripts and cultural objects. Buoyed by his position as the chair of Rabbinic Language and Literature at the University of Madrid in 1915, Yahuda legitimized and deepened his role in the trade of material objects; his ongoing trade of such objects, in turn, helped to legitimize his scholarship, which continued well after he left Spain. Through a study of previously unpublished files, the piece points to the overlapping of knowledge, power, and the acquiring of antiquities and other objects during the first half of the twentieth century.

issue 18 / December 2020 by Allyson Gonzalez