Between America and Israel: The Quest for a Distinct European Jewish Identity in the Post-War Era

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This essay traces the development of European Jewish consciousness from its earliest formulations in the immediate post-war era to its culmination in the editorials and sponsored colloquia of the journal European Judaism in the 1960s and 1970s. Special emphasis is placed on the emergence of the perception of European Judaism as a ‘third way’ between America and Israel. The essay concludes with an examination of the conceptual flaws that doomed the effort to create a distinct European Jewish identity.

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... Three options were on the table: the United States of America, with its large and prosperous Jewish community, undamaged by the war, with a newly earned self-confidence; the Yishuvthe emerging Jewish state in Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) still under British rule and fighting for unrestricted aliyah (Jewish emigration to Palestine); or the reestablished Jewish European communities, especially those with a relatively large population: France and Poland (until the Kielce pogrom of 1946). 2 The immediate postwar years were characterized by lack of stability. Hundreds and thousands of Jews, mainly in the DP camps, were looking for a place to build their new lives. ...
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This paper tells two intertwining stories reflecting post-Holocaust power struggles between Jewish communities and organizations and their impact on Holocaust documentation: the efforts to create a Holocaust archive in Yad Vashem from the late 1940s and the hitherto unknown involvement of Israel Kastner in these efforts. Kastner, a controversial leader and activist in Hungary during the Holocaust, was at the apex of a stormy public debate in 1950s Israel (known as the ‘Kastner trial’) and was murdered in 1957. His role in the Holocaust of Hungarian Jews is still debated by historians and in the Israeli public sphere. Yet, his involvement with Yad Vashem, the venerable Zionist-Israeli institution, did not come to light in the trial or in historical research. It is unearthed and discussed in this paper.
p>This thesis addresses the neglect in recent historiography of the foremost historian of the Jewish experience in Britain over the period 1925 to 1964, Cecil Roth. It is an intellectual history of Roth as a British-Jewish historian and emphasises the difficulties in pigeonholing this complex scholar. His complexity, this thesis argues, reflected the multiplicity of modern Jewish identity and experience as well as the divisions within British Jewry and Britain throughout the middle of the twentieth century. The first chapter argues that Roth can be included alongside scholars such as Salo W. Baron and Simon Dubnow in his reaction to traditional German-Jewish historiography. It also explores Roth’s unique position as an Oxford-trained historian and his connected so-called ‘normalisation’ of Jewish history. Roth attempted to replace transcendental explanations with earthly cause and effect, but simultaneously used religious paradigms to popularise the pursuit of the Jewish past and boost Jewish esteem. It looks specifically at Roth’s ambivalent approach to the ‘lachrymose conception of Jewish history’, which saw the Jewish past as a story of singular suffering and persecution. The Jewish experience in Britain, he believed, could be seen as typical both of a European persecutory past and an American liberal, ‘non-lachrymose’ experience. The chapter concludes with an examination of Roth’s assertion of a British-Jewish historical and historiographical significance in the face of perceived German-Jewish dominance. The second chapter looks at the rise of fascism in Britain and abroad and Roth’s involvement in the defence of the community. It agues that, in contrast to recent assessments, Roth cannot be so easily dismissed as an apologist. Jewish survival was, he believed, challenged by assimilation as much as by anti-Semitism. He feared that at times communal defence focused on external anti-Semitism came at the expense of Jewish self-respect and internal strength. This chapter examines Roth’s relationship with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and his construction of an ‘Anglo-Jewish race’ as an answer to racial anti-Semitism and a form of ethnic-cheerleading. The final chapter begins with a discussion of Roth’s role in a European-Jewish cultural reconstruction. It examines Roth’s efforts to contrive a link with the American-Jewish experience in order to maintain British-Jewish significance in a changed global scene, through especially, his concept of the ‘English-speaking era’. The duality of post-war globalisation and localism is then explored in relation to Roth’s focus on regional British-Jewish pasts and his international travel-writing. The thesis concludes with a discussion of Roth’s ambivalent Zionism and his ultimate immigration to Israel in 1964.</p
Using historical data, material from relevant Internet forums and websites, as well as personal experiences and observations, this article examines 12 Czech/Slovak Jewish reunions that have taken place since Communism collapsed and the country split into two separate states. Many of the participants have known each other since they were adolescents or young adults in the 1960s when, as part of their search for a Jewish identity, they joined several Jewish youth groups then in existence. The reunions have involved both those who emigrated (after the August 1968 Soviet invasion) and those who remained. They have entailed memorial journeys both in time and space. The reunions are analysed as case studies of autobiographical occasion, commemoration, reflective nostalgia and diasporic practice, addressing questions of identity, memory and group dynamics. Since the transnational generational community of Czech and Slovak Jews of the first post‐Holocaust generation is essentially a latent community based on shared experiences unique to that group, the reunions have played an important role in resurrecting the past, both historical and biographical. Neither the memory nor the strong emotion surrounding the generational experience can be successfully transmitted trans‐generationally. Thus, as the group members age and die off, this generational community is bound to disappear. In the meantime, however, it serves its current members rather well.
See also Wieviorka (see note 21)
  • Marc Dworczecki Inunzer Vort
An Overview of the Demographic Trends of European Jewry
  • Sergio Delia Pergola
the discussion of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's attitude towards French Jewry in Maud MandelIn the Aftermath of Genocide: Armenians and Jews in Twentieth Century France
  • See
The issue of France's treatment of its Vichy past has been examined in a number of recent studies. See, for example, Henry Rousso,The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since
  • R Michael
  • Robert O Marrus
  • Vichy Paxton
  • Thejews France
s fascinating discussion in the essay ‘Modern Jewish Identities
  • See Jonathan Webber
Belsen: The Liberation of a Concentration Camp120London: Routledge
  • Joanne Reilly
As Blue stated: ‘The surviving Jewish communities can either opt out of the struggle, or give a lead to a European unity which goes deeper than tariff and tax changes.’ Ibid. For a similar view, see the comments by François Bondy in his articleLe Judaïsme et la catastrophe européenne
  • European Judaism