“We Are Jewish and We Want to Help You”: Righteous Cross-Group Solidarity Toward Muslim Refugees in Vienna
Abstract: Building on Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of the civil sphere, this chapter focuses on the work of Shalom Alaikum—Jewish Aid for Refugees, an NGO formed in Vienna in the wake of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015. Shalom Alaikum exemplifies a special case of the “righteous” in international migration because their work is influenced not only by cleavages in the Austrian civil discourse in general, but also by conflicts within the Jewish community, with its reservations about potential antisemitism among Muslim refugees. By examining the case of this NGO in its social and cultural environment, we shed light on the cultural codes and patterns employed in constructing cross-group solidarity with refugees. Jewishness appears to be an important symbolic marker for the group, informing and legitimizing its work, drawing on the memory of the Holocaust and the experience of being a vulnerable minority in the Austrian diaspora.