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Jüdische Weisheit


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 perspectives.

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, symbiosis, distantiation?
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 chiaroscuro.

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.

[Contents] [BESTELLUNG]
[Meshulash] [Forum / Diskussion / Leserbriefe]
[Jüdische Gemeinden in Europa]

Juedisches Leben in Berlin

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