Topics: Theory, Jewish History, Religion, Ethnicity, Jewish Identity, Main Topic: Identity and Community
Abstract: The Jewish experience in Europe over the past two hundred years offers much of interest to the student of ethnicity and the sociologist of religion because of the opportunity to undertake comparative work on a single group living in a range of diverse socio‐political environments. European Jews have been treated from the outside as constituting a religion and, more recently, as an ethnic group; both these models have been internalized by Jews themselves. However, they coexist with major processes of internal change involving not only the disintegration of traditional Jewish culture and its reconstruction in highly attenuated form, but also the respective influences of the devastation of the Holocaust and of newer models deriving from Israeli perspectives on diaspora Jewish identity. Under these circumstances, ethnicity and religion as analytic categories do not easily fit the Jewish case: the proposal is made that attention to Jewish historical consciousness may be useful in advancing comparative and ethnographic studies.