Being Jewish in the New Germany

Being Jewish in the New Germany

Being Jewish in the New Germany

Being Jewish in the New Germany


Germany today boasts the fastest growing population of Jews in Europe. The streets of Berlin abound with signs of a revival of Jewish culture, ranging from bagel shops to the sight of worshipers leaving synagogue on Saturday. With the new energy infused by Jewish immigration from Russia and changes in immigration and naturalization laws in general, Jeffrey M. Peck argues that we must now begin considering how Jews live in Germany rather than merely asking why they would choose to do so.

In Being Jewish in the New Germany, Peck explores the diversity of contemporary Jewish life and the complex struggles within the community-and among Germans in general-over history, responsibility, culture, and identity. He provides a glimpse of an emerging, if conflicted, multicultural country and examines how the development of the European Community, globalization, and the post-9/11 political climate play out in this context. With sensitive, yet critical, insight into the nation's political and social life, chapters explore issues such as the shifting ethnic/national makeup of the population, changes in political leadership, and the renaissance of Jewish art and literature. Peck also explores new forms of anti-Semitism and relations between Jews and Turks-the country's other prominent minority population.

In this surprising description of the rebirth of a community, Peck argues that there is, indeed, a vibrant and significant future for Jews in Germany. Written in clear and compelling language, this book will be of interest to the general public and scholars alike.


As a Jewish American scholar who focuses on Germany, I have been repeatedly asked, or even reproached, by Americans, especially Jewish Americans, about my intellectual interests and academic career that has now lasted for over twenty years. Questions such as Why are you interested in Germany? or How can you live in that country? have pursued me as I studied the language, literature, and culture of the country that perpetrated crimes against the Jewish people. Once, after giving a public lecture on Jewish life in contemporary Germany, a particularly angry and aggressive audience member chastised me and later sent a postcard suggesting I leave the United States for Germany permanently. Such reactions, most of them less hostile and merely inquisitive, force a scholar and teacher to think about the relationship between what he studies and who he is: in short, about identity. I became keenly aware how identity and personal histories shape the stories scholars tell, even those who try to be as objective as possible. This attention to my personal investment in my work forced me to think more deeply about what I studied and what it meant. Thus, studying Jewish life in Germany became both a personal and professional project, a combination I welcomed for the satisfaction and knowledge it provided. It also encouraged me to share these perspectives in this book.

However, it was only into the second half of my career that I focused on this German-Jewish subject. This happened when anthropologist John Borneman and I researched and published an ethnography, Sojourners: the Return of German Jews and the Question of Identity (1995) and completed a video documentary about the Jews of East Germany who had returned from exile after the war. the book I present here continues, at least chronologically, where this one left off, while still addressing fundamental . . .

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