Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Continuity, Intermarriage, Intermarriage: Children of Intermarried Couples, Interviews
Abstract: Jewish communities often do not endorse the idea of intermarriage, and Orthodox Judaism opposes the idea of marrying out. Intermarriage is often perceived as a threat that may jeopardise Jewish continuity as children of such a relationship may not identify as Jews. When a Jewish woman marries out, her children will in any case become Jewish by halakhah – the Jewish law – by which Judaism is inherited from mother to child – and thus usually faces less difficulties over acceptance in Jewish communities. Even though the Torah speaks of patrilineal descent, in post-biblical times, the policy was reversed in favour of the matrilineal principle, and children of Jewish men and non-Jewish women must therefore go through the conversion process if they wish to join a Jewish congregation according to most Jewish denominational requirements. The aim of this article is to analyse what happens when Jewish men, who belong to Finland’s Orthodox communities, marry out. Do they ensure Jewish continuity, and raise their children Jewish, and how do they act as Yidishe tates – Jewish fathers? If yes, how do they do so, and what problems do they face? These questions are answered through an analysis of thirteen semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted with male members of the Jewish Community of Helsinki and Turku in 2019–20.
Abstract: This article addresses the issue of teaching Judaism for students in the teacher-training programme and those training to become clergy in a Swedish milieu. A major challenge in the secular post-Protestant setting is to pinpoint and challenge the negative presuppositions of Judaism as a religion of legalism, whereas the student’s own assumption is that she or he is neutral. Even if the older paradigms of anti-Jewish stereotypes are somewhat distant, there are further patterns of thought which depict Judaism as a ‘strange’ and ‘legalistic’ religion. Students in the teacher-training programme for teaching religion in schools can in class react negatively to concepts like kosher slaughter, circumcision and the Shabbat lift. Even if the explanatory motives vary, there is nonetheless a tendency common to ordination students, relating to a Protestant notion of the Jewish Torah, commonly rendered as ‘Law’ or ‘legalism’. This notion of ‘the Law’ as a means of self-redemption can, it is argued in the article, be discerned specially among clergy students reading Pauline texts and theology. This analysis shows that both teacher-training and textbooks need to be updated in accordance with modern research in order to refute older anti-Jewish patterns of thought. As for the challenge posed by the simplistic labelling of both Judaism and Islam as religions of law, the implementation of the teaching guidelines concerning everyday ‘lived religion’ enables and allows the teacher to better disclose Judaism, Christianity and Islam as piously organised living faiths rather than as being ruled by legalistic principles.
Topics: Holocaust, Holocaust Education, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Memorials, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Memory, Post-1989
Abstract: This article addresses the performative dimension of the post-1989 Polish memorial culture of the Holocaust, characterised by a collaborative and audience-participatory model of remembering the Jewish victims. In this model participants are invited to become creators and owners of public memory, rather than silent observers or witnesses to commemorations performed by others. The article offers a critical and theoretical understanding of performativity in Holocaust commemoration through the examples of educational memorial actions Listy do Henia (‘Letters to Henio’) and Kroniki sejneńskie (‘The Sejny Chronicles’) led by the Polish grassroots institutions Ośrodek Brama Grodzka (‘Grodzka Gate-NN Theatre Centre’) in Lublin and Ośrodek Pogranicze (‘Borderland Foundation’) in Sejny. Drawing mainly on Polish perspectives on memory, the article examines the aesthetic and ethical value of these actions. It further probes how a performative model of engagement can serve to expose the complex past of Polish–Jewish relations, to bring the historical past vividly into current consciousness, and to facilitate a sense of belonging to a moral community of memory among younger generations of Poles.
Topics: Main Topic: Education, Universities / Higher Education, Jewish Studies, Jewish Revival, Post-1989
Abstract: This paper provides an overview of the development of Jewish studies in Germany since reunification. After a brief historical review of the subject in the nineteenth century with the development of modern Reform Judaism and the science of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums) created by Jewish religious and secular scholars, it focuses on the development of the past thirty years, in which not only the Jewish community but also Jewish studies have increased in importance. The growth of the Jewish community was largely due to immigration from the Soviet Union, but also partly to young Israelis who moved to Berlin. In line with these different backgrounds, a new interest in diaspora research emerged. The paper also deals with the difference between German Jewish studies (necessarily shaped by the Holocaust) and those of most other countries, where Jewish studies are mainly designed by Jewish scholars.
Topics: Jewish Revival, Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, Assimilation, Religious Observance and Practice, Post-1989
Abstract: Drawing on personal experience, the author discusses the vicissitudes of Jewish identity formation in the last two decades of Communist Poland and the first two decades which followed. He addresses the role of religion in the Jewish revival which occurred in that period, and sets it against other models of Jewish identity – Zionist, Yiddishist and assimilationist - on one hand, and the twin pressures of anti- and philosemitism in Polish society at large. This discussion is placed within the broader framework of the Polish political transformation. He finally suggests that the survival and revival of the Jewish community in Poland offers a more general lesson for the continuation of Jewish peoplehood.
Between Hatred and Nostalgia: Creating a new vision of Polish Jewry in the Third Polish Republic (1995–2005)
Topics: Antisemitism, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations, Main Topic: Other, Holocaust Commemoration, Nationalism, National Identity, Memory
Abstract: This article discusses the revival of Polish national thought from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I demonstrate how the so-called Jewish question influenced the debate and the vision of Jewry in Poland after 1989 and how it was used to create a new national identity. I outline why the so-called Jewish question was so crucial in Polish national debates. Furthermore, I demon- strate how the Polish Jewish past was portrayed and commemorated in the Third Polish Republic. This research focuses upon the period of Aleksander Kwasniewski’s presidency (1995–2005), during which the famous debate about the pogrom in Jedwabne took place.
The original version of this article was presented as a paper in January 2019 at a conference in Stockholm entitled ‘Jews in Middle Eastern Europe after the Downfall of the Wall in 1989’, organised by Paideia, The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden
The original version of this article was presented as a paper in January 2019 at a conference in Stockholm entitled ‘Jews in Middle Eastern Europe after the Downfall of the Wall in 1989’, organised by Paideia, The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden
The Return of Liberal Rabbinic Education to Berlin: Abraham Geiger College, Zacharias Frankel College and the School of Jewish Theology
Topics: Main Topic: Education, Jewish Revival, Jewish Education, Universities / Higher Education, Rabbis, Reform/Liberal/Progressive Judaism, Conservative / Masorti Judaism
Abstract: In Berlin two rabbinical seminaries, a Reform and Conservative, have recently been established. The historical and intellectual roots of these institutions in the nineteenth century is sketched, and then contrasted with the present curriculum and the religious profile of the students. Some theological questions for the future of these projects conclude the article.
Topics: Main Topic: Education, Summer/Youth Camps, Youth, Young Adults / Emerging Adulthood, Teenagers, Jewish Identity, Jewish Community, Informal Education, Jewish Revival
Abstract: The JDC-Lauder International Jewish Youth Camp at Szarvas is perceived today as the single most important Jewish outreach and educational programme in Central and Eastern Europe; it is a key symbol for Eastern European Jewry. This paper emphasises the importance of the Szarvas camp, located some 170 km south-east of Budapest in Hungary, and its impact on the Jewish identity of the Central and Eastern European participants, and by extension on their families and communities. It focuses on the camp’s history and uniqueness, and includes a personal experience on the part of the author, who has participated in the camp and today works as its programme director. It also presents information collected from those who have experienced the impact of the camp on themselves.
Abstract: The Hebrew term kosher means ‘fit’ or ‘proper’ and it traditionally signifies foods that conform to Jewish dietary law (kashrut). This article explores how kosher is understood, practised and contested in contemporary Denmark. In recent years, the rules regulating kosher consumption have been supplemented by elaborate rules concerning globalised mass production, which have had an impact on the way people handle questions of kashrut. During the same period, global markets for kosher have proliferated; this article explores the everyday kosher consumption among Jews in Denmark in the light of these transformations. Everyday kosher consumption among a minority group such as Jews in Denmark is not well understood, and I argue that globalised forms of regulation increasingly condition this type of consumption. Even though Denmark is a small and relatively secular country and Jews comprise only about 7,000 individuals, kosher production and regulation have national economic significance. Methodologically, I build on ethnographic data from contemporary Denmark, that is, participant observation and interviews.
Abstract: The relationship between food and religion is a lived activity formed by the dynamics of both tradition and adaption. Religious commitments to food are influenced by various factors, ranging from personal spirituality and experiences to social patterns of belonging, ethical, political and doctrinal convictions. Challah, gefilte fish, blintzes – these are just a few of the traditional Finnish Jewish meals that are still prepared by members of the community. The originally Eastern European dishes are one of the last living links that connect assimilated Finnish Jews with their Orthodox Jewish ancestors mainly from Russia, Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania. The current paper aims to present the conceptions and reflections relating to boundaries of identity connected with the multi-ethnic culinary traditions of Jews living in Finland as well as their ways of coping with the requirements of kashrut (meaning fit, proper, correct; a set of dietary laws prescribed for Jews). The article is based on ethnographic data from interviews (2015–16) as well as personal encounters, informal conversations and home visits.
Abstract: This article presents the ethnographically driven multi-method research perspective of vernacular religion and analyses its potential to contribute to the theoretical advancement of Jewish studies. The ongoing discussion on religion and change within the study of religions in general and Jewish studies in particular is outlined and structured around three ‘turns’ identified in the research on vernacular religiosity. To exemplify these theoretical and methodological considerations, a recently initiated research project focusing on vernacular Judaism in Finland is presented. This project seeks to examine central ideas of boundaries as they are negotiated and interpreted among Finnish Jewry, to compare the emerging patterns with Nordic counterparts and thus contribute to a more nuanced perception of Jewish identities in these contexts. The article concludes with a discussion on the advances of such an approach, pointing to the relative novelty of research into vernacular religion within Jewish studies and the exceptionality of the Finnish Jewish context.
Abstract: In this article, I examine how contemporary Finnish Jewish women understand their roles and identities as women in a small Orthodox Jewish community, on the one hand, and as members of a tiny minority in largely secular and predominantly Lutheran/Christian Finland, on the other. How do Finnish Jewish women negotiate their identities in relation to their community, strongly organised along gender lines, and in relation to Finnish society and especially its equality ideals and norms? I divide my article into four sections. First, I give a short overview of the theory of intersectionality, concentrating on its possibilities and limitations for the study of religion and gender in general, and for the study of Judaism, specifically. Second, I focus on my informants’ views of the gendered practices of their Orthodox Jewish community, which, by many standards, is a very specific form of Orthodoxy, which could be called ‘Finnish Orthodoxy’. Third, I analyse my informants’ views on how they perceive being Jewish women in contemporary Finland. The intersection of the last two broad themes will highlight the realities of Finnish Jewish women in contemporary Finland. Fourth, I discuss possibilities and limitations of intersectional theorising in the light of my data.
Abstract: The article discusses the commemorative concept of Gunter Demnig’s ongoing art project Stolpersteine, which is considered one of the world’s largest decentralised Holocaust memorials. Stolpersteine are small, cobblestone-size memorial stones in urban spaces which are dedicated to individual victims of Nazism; it is the project’s aim to install the stones in the pavement in front of an individual’s last-known place of residence. The article aims to analyse the commemorative facets of the project’s spatial dimension in relation to the concept of the ‘residential’. The value of dwelling, presented in Demnig’s project as a common ground for the commemoration of all victims as individual citizens, forms a predominant component in public reception. It contributes to a synthesising perception of each stone as being part of a vast commemorative landscape. This landscape, however, is semantically marked by an immanent concept of border, which suggests a polarising separation between included civil spaces and excluded heterotopias. By deviating from the project’s general principles of placement and inscription, certain individual stones render visible this implicit borderline, thereby also critically reflecting on concepts of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, Jewish Community, Jewish Studies, Demography
Abstract: This address was given as part of a podium discussion on Judaism in Norway today held at the Jewish Museum in Oslo on 4 March 2018. Other participants in the panel were Rabbi Lynn Feinberg (Jewish Renewal movement), Rabbi Joav Melchior (Orthodox movement, current rabbi of Det Mosaiske Trossamfund in Oslo), Rabbi Shaul Wilhelm (Chabad shaliach in Oslo) and Professor Catherine Hezser (SOAS, London, and University of Oslo) as chair. The comments argue that Judaism in Norway is diverse and relatively unknown, with a majority of Jews in Norway probably being uncounted in current population estimates. As such there is no single experience of Norwegian Jewish identity.
Gestaltningen och etablerandet av Förintelseminnet i Sverige: Förintelsemonument i Sverige 1990–2009
Translated Title: The design and establishment of Holocaust memorials in Sweden: Holocaust memorials in Sweden 1990-2009
Abstract: I föregående artikel (publicerad i Nordisk judaistik 27(2)) visades hur minnet av Förintelsen gavs tidigt uttryck för i form av minnesstenar och monument, även i Sverige. Men trots dessa verk fanns det fortfarande ett behov inom den judiska minoriteten efter fler minnesmonument och en växande önskan att också majoritetsbefolkningen skulle minnas Förintelsen. Om detta kan ni läsa här, i del 2. Sammantaget speglar de olika monumenten ett skiftande, men ihållande behov hos i Sverige bosatta överlevande och deras barn som kommit hit i slutet av eller efter kriget och blivit en del av det svenska samhället, om än inte alltid av en judisk församling. De ville ha en plats att sörja och de ville också att deras lidande skulle erkännas som ett identitetsskapande element inom den grupp de var en del av och i det samhälle de levde i. De olika Förintelsemonumenten illustrerar hur minoritets- och majoritetssamhällets minne långsamt närmar sig varandra. Inte minst på grund av de överlevandes engagemang har Förintelsen varit en konstant referenspunkt i det judiska minoritetssamhället. Så småningom har folkmordet också i majoritetssamhället blivit en viktig referenspunkt, som så sent som på 1990-talet, inte minst av institutioner som Forum för levande historia, tagits som utgångspunkt för att värna om demokrati och förmedla vikten av mänskliga rättigheter.
Linguistic, cultural and history-related studies on jews in finland: a look into the scholarship in the twenty-first century
Topics: Jewish Community, Jewish History, Jewish Studies, Bibliography and Literature Reviews, Main Topic: Culture and Heritage
Abstract: There has been a significant growth in volume and disciplines working on Jewish history and culture in Finland for the past fifteen years, yet no systematic overview of scholarly efforts have been available. This article aims to fill this gap. Our focus is on the disciplines of linguistics, cultural studies and history. Our overview covers monographs and articles that have appeared in academic publications since 2000, with a focus on Finland. Consequently we have left out Finnish research on Jews in other parts of the globe from our review. About half of the works introduced in this article have been published in Finnish and will now be briefly introduced to a wider Nordic scholarly community. The article consists of four parts. First we discuss Jewish studies and social history pursued in Finland. We then discuss studies focusing on antisemitism in Finland. The third part introduces the relevant literature on Finland’s role in the Second World War and its responsibility towards the conflict’s Jewish refugees and prisoners of war, after which studies on Finnish history culture and memory politics are presented. The final part presents biographies and general studies about the Jewish community in Finland.
Abstract: Yiddish has been spoken in Helsinki since 1850s when the Jewish Cantonist soldiers and their families were allowed to settle in the town. The first generations born in Helsinki had the possibility to attend heders and a Talmud-torah where religious subjects were conducted in Yiddish. In the wake of Yiddishizm many Yiddish-speaking societies were founded before and after the First World War. My research attempts an analysis of Helsinki Yiddish and a survey of Yiddish culture in Helsinki. The material used for this paper comprises both written and oral stories. Most Yiddish speakers in Helsinki have been bilingual. The over hundred years of coexistence with Finnish-Swedish has given Helsinki Yiddish its own distinctive character, which deserves to be recorded and studied. Especially unique is the interference of Swedish morphology with its peculiarities.
Translated Title: Jewish Scandinavians or Scandinavia Jews?
Topics: Literature, Oral History and Biography, Assimilation, Integration, National Identity, Jewish Identity, Secularity, Main Topic: Identity and Community
Abstract: The Jews in Scandinavia have always been a small minority, where the own identity and the collective belonging have been important. During this century the Scandinavian Jews have become both secularized and assimilated, and the extreme individualism of the surrounding society has influenced them also. This essay deals with how the tension between being a member of a small Jewish minority and at the same time a loyal citizen of a secularized Christian country is reflected in two autobiographies by Scandinavian Jews: Boris Grünstein’s Jude i Finland (Jew in Finland) and Jo Benkow’s Fra synagogen til løvebakken (From the synagogue to the parliament). Both authors are non-religious Jews who have a strong Jewish identity, strengthened by their experiences during World War Two and their affection to Israel At the same time they are well integrated in society and feel at home in their countries. Their feeling of affinity with the Jewish community seems to have grown after a period of distance in younger years.
Translated Title: Holocaust Literature and Second-Generation Survivors
Topics: Holocaust Survivors: Children of, Holocaust Survivors, Literature, Fiction, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial
Abstract: This article deals with Swedish Holocaust literature by and about the second-generation witnesses, e.g. the children of survivors. It focuses on three novels: Suzanne Gottfarb’s Systrarna Blaumans hemlighet [“The Secret of the Blauman Sisters”] (1987) and Susanne Levin’s Leva vidare [“Live on”] (1994) and Som min egen [“As my own”] (1996). The Holocaust is an integral part of the protagonists’ life and identity, although he or she has not personally experienced the event and in the article I examine three aspects of the conditions of life for the second-generation survivors. Firstly, their search for knowledge about their parents’ experiences. Secondly, the burden of this generation to carry and fulfil the expectations of their parents and thirdly their struggle with identity in a multi-cultural society, where identity not only stems from heritage.
Translated Title: Jewish life in Norway 1976-1991, illustrated by a Jewish congregational newsletter
Abstract: Jødisk Menighetsblad (“Jewish Community Letter”) was published in Oslo in the years 1976–1991 as an organ for the two Jewish (“Mosaic”) congregations in Norway. It appeared three times a year, usually before the Jewish festivals Pesach, Rosh Hashana, and Chanukka. Each number counted between 45 and 75 pages. Its chief editor was Oskar Mendelsohn, well known for his two-volume work on the history of the Norwegian Jews. The community letter brought reports on Jewish congregational life and annual meetings, registered births, bar and bath mitzwahs, weddings, and deaths. The general picture given is a slow but steadily increasing activity in both congregations. In addition, the community letter also recorded what was said and written about Jewish and Israeli questions in radio, television and press. It gave up-to-date information about Israel, and presented articles on Jewish religion and culture. Its most outstanding feature, however, is the meticulous recording and report on literature, poetry and factual prose as well, regarding some aspect on Israel or Judaism. Through this journal, its editors have secured documentation about Jewish life and culture in Norway. In addition, there can be no doubt that the community letter has been of pivotal importance for promoting a conscious feeling of Jewish identity in Norway.
Different Antisemitisms: On Three Distinct Forms of Antisemitism in Contemporary Europe. With Special Focus on Sweden
Abstract: This article studies eight European countries, investigating how the level of antisemitism as registered in national populations relates to the perception of antisemitism by the Jewish population in the same country. Furthermore, the article empirically identifies distinct aspects of antisemitism, deconstructing the concept of antisemitism and breaking it up into three kinds of empirically differently based and composed antisemitisms (note the plural!): classic antisemitism, Israel-derived antisemitism and Enlightenment-based antisemitism. The article also elaborates on some more general implications for the understanding of the character of antisemitism in contemporary Europe, and based on that, presents some perspectives on the development of the three distinct antisemitisms in contemporary Europe.
Translated Title: The design and establishment of Holocaust memorials in Sweden
Abstract: Artikeln handlar om de monumenten över Förintelsens offer som restes i Sverige mellan 1949 och 1998 och kompletterar och till viss del korrigerar bilden av hur minnet av Förintelsen har vuxit fram i Sverige. Medan vissa menar att Förintelsen inte uppmärksammades alls i Sverige förrän på 1980-talet, visar artikeln att minnesmonument faktiskt restes både direkt efter kriget och under de följande decennierna. Om vi frigör oss från dagens förståelse av Förintelsen och den nu etablerade vokabulären kan vi ta till oss de tidiga verken och därmed få en mer nyanserad bild av hur minneskulturen har förändrats. Därmed kan vi också ge dem som drev monumentfrågan det erkännande som de inte tidigare fått men som de förtjänar. De tidiga monumenten är knappast kända för en bredare krets och syftet med artikeln är att göra fler uppmärksamma på deras existens. De tidiga verken ger framförallt uttryck för de överlevandens behov av att sörja sina anhöriga som blivit offer för nazisternas folkmord. Med tiden och med nya judiska invandrare och flyktingar från kontinenten växte nya behov fram som så småningom ledde till fler monument. Det blir tydligt hur minnena omförhandlas inom den judiska minoriteten som för övrigt inte var en homogen grupp. Parallellt med dessa omförhandlingar etablerades minnet av Förintelsen internationellt som en referenspunkt i historien. Tillsammans med de överlevandes och deras anhörigas engagemang blev Förintelsen en viktig referenspunkt både inom den judiska gruppen och så småningom även i det svenska majoritetssamhället (något som behandlas i del 2).