Jews bridged two worlds. They maintained intense relationships with their Jewish families, friends, and communities, while interacting with non-Jewish Germans in public, charitable, professional, and business organizations. Jews formed their own clubs and organizations, often choosing to patronize Jewish spas and hotels. However, they also joined non-Jewish groups and associations, mingling in—and generously subsidizing1—secular civic and cultural organizations.
Social life with other Jews and with other Germans helped Jews display their class status, affirm their Jewishness, and assert their Germanness. These shifting allegiances affected and reflected their self-definition. Jews reacted to majority culture in at least three different ways: trying to become exclusively German; painfully combining dual identities; and accepting complex identities without attempting to reconcile them. Jewish religious leaders complained that the first group favored all things German—from modern languages and gymnastics to dance lessons—but neglected their own religion.2 Jakob Wassermann's anguished description of his identity evokes the character of the second group: "German Jew—one has to emphasize both words thoroughly. . . . His two-fold love and his battle on two fronts drive him to the brink of despair."3
Gustav Landauer, the cultural critic and anarchist whose life spanned the Imperial era, exemplifies the third and largest group of Jews, those who insisted on fluid identities. In 1913, he wrote: "I have never had the need to simplify myself or to create an artificial unity. ... I accept my complexity and hope to be even more many-sided."4 Orthodox Jews, too, saw themselves as "Germans by birth and inclination," assuming harmony between their loyalty to Judaism and to the state.5 Jews took pride in Germany as a nation on its way