European Jewish Review
by Diana Pinto
Jewry is not a "Vanishing
Diaspora". It is slowly recomposing itself sixty years after the Shoah in a
new open pan-European space that no longer has any captive Jews. The Jews on
the European continent today are voluntary and voluntaristic Jews: they are
free to settle in Israel, to visit European it, to be involved part time with
it or even to ignore it. They are also free to disappear into their respective
societies through an assimilatioin that no longer requires conversion. One is
increasingly Jewish by choice. Sartre's idea of the Jew as a Jew in the eyes
of others has become obsolete.
Before the Shoah, there was no European
Jewry. Europe was to all effects and purposes the Western world and the
geographic universe of most of world Jewry. Today Europe has become a
geographic entity among others (America and Asia to name the most powerful).
It is no longer the "West". Jews in Europe have become a minority with
respect to the Jews of Israel and to North American Jewry. This narrowing of
the European horizon, however, now permits the creation of an European Jewry
united by common concerns, references, and challenges. The old pecking order
which separated Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews , the Ostjuden of the Shtetl
from their Mitteleuropean and German Jewish cousins, and the latter from
their highly assimilated French, British or Italian counterparts, is gone.
More than fifty years after the Shoah Jews throughout Europe are
increasingly similar in cultural and sociological terms. The Holocaust has
become their collective patrimony while they have learned to perceive their
specific national histories in a critical light. They constitute a highly
educated, urbanized and integrated group at home in their respective
societies. It is as full citizens of their countries that they have chosen
to step out of an assimilationist mould and to rediscover their Jewish
roots. Theirs is the reverse path of 19th and early 20th century Jewish
patriotic assimilation. The wealth of the multiple identities they incarnate
today should be tapped in a creative and future oriented manner. Jews in
Europe are not and should not be perceived as guardians of a spent Jewish
past, vestals of the Holocaust or just tour organizers for American Jews and
Israelis looking for their origins in the former lands of Yiddishkeit...
Jews constitute an infinitely small portion of the total pan-European
population. Yet their visibility inside each country as opinion leaders and
makers, as intellectuals, artists, writers and leading professionals,
continues to remain traditionally disproportionate to their numbers. Such
intellectuals or activists have until now spoken in universal terms,
minimizing their "Jewishness" (often referred to only as a vague background)
when mentioning it at all. Or they have chosen to present themselves as
spokesmen for Jewish or Israeli causes, giving the impression in the process
that their national or European belonging was secondary. Reality is far more
complex. European Jews live their lives on several levels at once, launching
themselves in their countries' major national debates from multiple
A European Jewish review can allow
such Jewish voices to bring out fully their multiple commitments and
identities (both religious and lay), to pursue in depth their own
itineraries and sense of belonging, and above all to address the major
issues facing the European continent today. For a European Jewish review can
only be quintessentially a European review. The Jews of the continent have
been considered historically as "litmus tests" (a passive metaphor) with
which to measure a society's openess, tolerance and modernity. Today they
are in a position to become instead active propounders of an open and
pluralist Europe. The questions which are central to them are also the
central questions which are relevant to Europe's own future: the pursuit of
tolerance and equality beyond rhetorical speeches, the acceptance of the
rights of minorities while not forfeiting a collective allegiance to
universal values and even national cultures, the reconstruction of national
pasts in a critical yet not antagonistic light, the reflection on what
constitutes European belonging in a post-modern era at the crossroads of a
given language and the pan-European context.. Jews on these counts are
ideally placed to debate the central notion of our time, that of "identity".
They have lived in its shadow for more than two centuries and are now, after
the Shoah, slowly forging answers which can be pertinent to all other Europe
and today, be they historic members of the continent or recent arrivals.
Ideally such a review would be
"artisanal" rather than born programmed by the marketing departments of
indifferent press giants. There are not enough Jews around to make the idea
sound commercially 'valid', but the problems dear to our hearts and minds
are the key ones of our epoch. Readers will follow because an intellectual
and artistic crossroads will be established. Some themes that come to mind:
The growth of the "Jewish Space":
i.e;, Jewish related themes and activities inside each country's civil
society and their penetration of general culture.
The reconstruction of national pasts and a European identity incorporating
the Jewish presence/absence.
Beyond the Shoah: redefining a European-Jewish memory of encounter as
opposed to rupture..
Lifting the taboos surrounding a meaningful Jewish-Christian dialogue in an
age of renewed (material) paganism.
Reflecting on the possibility of a "Jewish" contribution to philosophy by
reopening the Philo-Maimoniodes-Spinoza route which was essentially
appropriated by Christianity. Can there be a Jewish voice in this realm?
Jews as a minority? The limits of the concept in a democratic age.
Will Jews in Germany rebecome one day German Jews and if so under what
conditions and with what content?
The parameters of Jewish integration inside Europe, as opposed to
assimilation in open and pluralistic societies.
Judaism as bridges rather than Judaism as barriers: towards a post-modern
definition of Jewish identity in terms of intermarriage, variable and
plastic identitites of belonging.
Israel and Europe: the makings of a new relationship
Jews and the continent's "others" (Roma, Muslims, Blacks): affinity,
The Holocaust as bridge rather than as abyss to the surrounding culture.
One needs a European Jewish review
because when we read such important American Jewish journals as Commentary
or Tikkun we as European Jews know instinctively that our vision, concerns,
and political and cultural surroundings are not the same.. The American
example of Jewish pluralist organization in an open democracy is crucial for
a European Jewish future but in cultural, historical and political terms
Jews in Europe must find their own way. For we are the children of the
hidden niches of our past ridden futures rather than of the vast open plains
of the American present, and on this count Israelis are increasingly
European. Discovering and more important understanding this reality from
Madrid to Moscow and from Oslo to Thessaloniki, but also from Tel Aviv to
Jerusalem constitutes both the presupposition but also the end point of such
a review. We belong inside Europe in a purposefully astygmatic, critical and
enriching mode. If European Jewry with its reconstructed past and
voluntaristic future is to become the third pillar of world Judaism, it must
first discover itself and dialogue with itself. The time has come to break
the symbolic equation which still associates European Jewry with the world
destroyed by the Shoah.and to celebrate instead the "chiaro" in the European
There is no better place than Berlin
as a starting point for this renewal of an open frontierless Jewish
creativity inside an open ended Europe.
/ Diskussion / Leserbriefe]
[Jüdische Gemeinden in Europa]