From 1960s’ youth activism to post‐Communist reunions: generational community among Czech and Slovak Jewry
Abstract: Using historical data, material from relevant Internet forums and websites, as well as personal experiences and observations, this article examines 12 Czech/Slovak Jewish reunions that have taken place since Communism collapsed and the country split into two separate states. Many of the participants have known each other since they were adolescents or young adults in the 1960s when, as part of their search for a Jewish identity, they joined several Jewish youth groups then in existence. The reunions have involved both those who emigrated (after the August 1968 Soviet invasion) and those who remained. They have entailed memorial journeys both in time and space. The reunions are analysed as case studies of autobiographical occasion, commemoration, reflective nostalgia and diasporic practice, addressing questions of identity, memory and group dynamics. Since the transnational generational community of Czech and Slovak Jews of the first post‐Holocaust generation is essentially a latent community based on shared experiences unique to that group, the reunions have played an important role in resurrecting the past, both historical and biographical. Neither the memory nor the strong emotion surrounding the generational experience can be successfully transmitted trans‐generationally. Thus, as the group members age and die off, this generational community is bound to disappear. In the meantime, however, it serves its current members rather well.
Abstract: První komplexně mapující popis postavení židovské menšiny v poválečném Československu. Alena Heitlingerová, česká socioložka žijící v Kanadě, se zabývá otázkou formování identity českých a slovenských židů po roce 1945. Vycházela z rozsáhlého archivního výzkumu a ze spolupráce s pamětníky.
Abstract: When traumatic historical events and transformations coincide with one’s entry into young adulthood, the personal and historical significance of life-course transitions interact and intensify. In this volume, Alena Heitlinger examines identity formation among a generation of Czech and Slovak Jews who grew up under communism, coming of age during the de-Stalinization period of 1962-1968. Heitlinger’s main focus is on the differences and similarities within and between generations, and on the changing historical and political circumstances of state socialism/communism that have shaped an individual’s consciousness and identity—as a Jew, assimilated Czech, Slovak, Czechoslovak and, where relevant, as an émigré or an immigrant. The book addresses a larger set of questions about the formation of Jewish identity in the midst of political upheavals, secularization, assimilation, and modernity: Who is a Jew? How is Jewish identity defined? How does Jewish identity change based on different historical contexts? How is Jewish identity transmitted from one generation to the next? What do the Czech and Slovak cases tell us about similar experiences in other former communist countries, or in established liberal democracies? Heitlinger explores the official and unofficial transmission of Holocaust remembering (and non-remembering), the role of Jewish youth groups, attitudes toward Israel and Zionism, and the impact of the collapse of communism. This volume is rich in both statistical and archival data and in its analysis of historical, institutional, and social factors. Heitlinger’s wide-ranging approach shows how history, generational, and individual biography intertwine in the formation of ethnic identity and its ambiguities.