German Jews and Their
Compared to the detailed documentation available about socializing among German middle-class Christians,1 we have few details about what German Jews did when they got together informally. Memoirs report on reading and amusements within the home, visits by relatives and friends, card playing, dances, and visits to taverns. Because of the wide variations from individual to individual, it is difficult to make a comment on which of these informal activities was most common. Besides informal socializing and amusements, German Jews in the nineteenth century also joined clubs, welfare societies, and other formal organizations either together with non-Jews or, perhaps more frequently, in an exclusively Jewish or predominantly Jewish circle. Over the course of the nineteenth century the isolation of Jews from an often hostile majority population became less noticeable and social hostility declined, but some measure of separation in social relations remained throughout the period.
The most intimate social circle for most people was the nuclear and extended family. Some families gathered in their living rooms to read or to engage in conversation or cultural activities, including singing or playing the piano. Many Jewish families, who worked long hours and were tired after work, spent their leisure hours at home resting or engaged in useful pursuits. Visits to relatives who lived in town were common, especially on the Sabbath. Visits from or to relatives out of town, which were naturally less frequent, were a high point of the year for many families. Families entertained visiting relatives in