New Jewish Identities: Contemporary Europe and Beyond

New Jewish Identities: Contemporary Europe and Beyond

New Jewish Identities: Contemporary Europe and Beyond

New Jewish Identities: Contemporary Europe and Beyond

Synopsis

"This volume analyzes and compares how Jews conceive of their Jewishness. Identity as a Jew is in most places a matter of choice, making for a wide variety of self-understandings and definitions. Even where tradition is attractive to many Jews, they increasingly sense that it is they who choose the tradition or whatever aspects of the tradition they choose to celebrate; the tradition is not imperative and cannot impose attitudes and forms of behavior." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as Communist systems collapsed in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, it became possible for peoples and states to redefine themselves and their relationships to others. Whether they are “Soviet” or Ukrainian, or “Yugoslav” or Serbian, for example, was a choice many had to make as supranational states disintegrated. Even in ethnically homogeneous states such as Poland, identity issues arose, such as whether the country should align itself with Western Europe, how it should reinterpret its history, what the role of Catholicism should be in the post-Communist state. These were not theoretical exercises. They are having a profound impact on the domestic and foreign policies of more than twenty states and on the values, attitudes and behaviors of hundreds of millions of individuals. In the USSR,Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, the three federated socialist states, the choices made led to the dissolution of the states. Of course, political choices have been made that have propelled some states toward democracy and others in different directions.

As others re-evaluated their ethnic and religious commitments, Jews were compelled to do the same. An upsurge of nationalism, attempts by various religious groups to claim public roles, and a redrawing not only of state borders but of social and ethnic boundaries compelled Jews to rethink who and what they are. They have been deciding whether and how to redefine their national identities, what their relationship to the post-socialist states and to world Jewry should be, whether and how to reconstruct public Jewish life, and whether to stay or emigrate. For all peoples, the re-evaluation became a much more public affair than it could have been under the restrictions characteristic of Communist regimes. Moreover, the opening of hitherto closed societies in East Central Europe and the Balkans made it possible for outsiders to gain access to the private thinking of . . .

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