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‘I am not a German Jew. I am a Jew with a German passport’: German-Jewish identification among Jewish Germans and Jewish German Israelis



The aim of this study is to explore the way German-Jews negotiate their German and Jewish cultural self-identifications. Given that Jewish and German identities represent both ethnic and national identities, we conceptualize their construction and reconstruction referring to theories of national identity. To describe the outcomes of the negotiation processes observed, we recruit Berry’s acculturation theory. This theory provides a valuable framework to conceptualize the integration of two cultural self- identifications. The German-Jewish-Israeli setting is particularly interesting due to the complex relations between the three social groups emerging in the aftermath of the Holocaust. To explore the participants’ German, Jewish and Israeli self-identifications and the role of the Holocaust in their construction and reconstruction, we conducted 18 in-depth interviews. Findings imply that the Holocaust plays a role in the construction of an integrated German-Jewish identification. Yet, the Holocaust and its consequences notwithstanding, an integrated German-Jewish self-identification is possible.
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‘I am not a German Jew. I am a Jew with a German
passport’: German-Jewish identification among
Jewish Germans and Jewish German Israelis
Oshrat Hochman & Sibylle Heilbrunn
To cite this article: Oshrat Hochman & Sibylle Heilbrunn (2016): ‘I am not a German Jew. I am a
Jew with a German passport’: German-Jewish identification among Jewish Germans and Jewish
German Israelis, Identities, DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2016.1214133
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Published online: 02 Aug 2016.
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I am not a German Jew. I am a Jew with a German
passport: German-Jewish identication among
Jewish Germans and Jewish German Israelis
Oshrat Hochman
and Sibylle Heilbrunn
School of Social and Community Studies, Ruppin Academic Center, Israel;
GESIS Leibniz
Institute for the Social Sciences, Mannheim, Germany;
School of Social Sciences and
Humanities, Kinneret Academic Center, Sea of Galilee, Israel;
Department of Sociology,
Univesity of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
The aim of this study is to explore the way German-Jews negotiate their
German and Jewish cultural self-identications. Given that Jewish and
German identities represent both ethnic and national identities, we concep-
tualize their construction and reconstruction referring to theories of national
identity. To describe the outcomes of the negotiation processes observed, we
recruit Berrys acculturation theory. This theory provides a valuable framework
to conceptualize the integration of two cultural self- identications.
The German-Jewish-Israeli setting is particularly interesting due to the
complex relations between the three social groups emerging in the aftermath
of the Holocaust. To explore the participantsGerman, Jewish and Israeli self-
identications and the role of the Holocaust in their construction and recon-
struction, we conducted 18 in-depth interviews. Findings imply that the
Holocaust plays a role in the construction of an integrated German-Jewish
identication. Yet, the Holocaust and its consequences notwithstanding, an
integrated German-Jewish self-identication is possible.
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 1 July 2015; Accepted 11 July 2016
KEYWORDS Ethnic and national identity; identication; acculturation; Israel; Germany
This study aims to explore how German-Jews negotiate their German and
Jewish cultural self-identications. Given that Jewish and German identities
represent both ethnic and national identities (e.g. Brubaker 1989; Smooha
2004; Weissbrod 1983), we nd it useful to conceptualize their construction
and reconstruction referring to theories of national identity. To describe the
outcomes of the negotiation processes observed, we recruit Berrys(1990)
acculturation theory. This theory provides a valuable framework to
conceptualize the integration of two cultural self-identications.
CONTACT Oshrat Hochman Oshrat.Hochman@gesis.or
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Two main models of national identity dominate the national identity
discourse, namely the voluntarist (civic) and the ascribed (organic, ethnic)
models (Kohn 1962,1994; Smith 1991; Zimmer 2003). The voluntarist model
of national identity implies that national identity is associated with volun-
tarist engagement like compliance with state values and institutions, lan-
guage acquisition and so on. The ascribed model of national identity implies
that national identity is ascribed through ancestry, religion or race.
Kohn (1994) proposed that the two models of national identity represent
two dierent national logics. This proposition was empirically conrmed by
studies indicating that the voluntarist\ascribed dichotomy presents a useful
tool to describe patterns of national identity across dierent national con-
texts (Jones and Smith 2001; Kunovich 2009).
Smith (1991), however, pointed out, that in most cases, national identity
contains elements of both the ethnic/ascribed and the civic/voluntarist
models (see also Heath and Tilly 2005; Hjerm 1998). Moreover, the dynamic
nature of national membership and national identity (e.g. Brubaker 1996;
Joppke 1999) requires a perspective that accounts for changes not only in
the composition of national identity, but also in the meanings attached to
its dierent elements.
Addressing these points, Zimmer (2003) proposed to dierentiate
between the voluntarist and ascribed (organic) mechanisms social actors
use to construct and reconstruct their national identities, and the symbolic
resources they draw upon to do so. Zimmer (2003)denes symbolic
resources as cultural resources that provide the symbolic raw material
social actors use to dene their national identities in the public discourse
(Zimmer 2003). He species four symbolic resources, namely political values
and\or institutions; culture; history; and geography.
Zimmers focus lies in the public discourse, where dierent political
groups promote their organic or voluntarist perspective using similar cul-
tural resources (Zimmer 2003). We, however, focus on the way individuals
interpret cultural resources using the organic or voluntarist mechanisms in
order to claim membership in national/cultural groups (Raijman and
Hochman 2011). Specically, we adopt the common view that self-
identication represents a dynamic negotiation between social representa-
tions and individual properties and their evaluation (Breakwell 2001;
Schwartz 2005; Stets and Burke 2000). We view symbolic resources as social
representations of the ethno-national group, and boundary mechanisms as
ideologies that reect individualsevaluations of these representations
(Kaufmann 2008).
Beyond the application of Zimmers(2003) framework on individual
actors, this study also seeks to demonstrate how this framework is useful
in making sense of the acculturation strategies of individuals negotiating
their membership in more than one national (or cultural) group.
Acculturation is a process that takes place when individuals of dierent
cultures meet (Berry 1990). It essentially implies that individuals have the
possibility to self-identify with more than one group (Gong 2007;
LaFromboise, Coleman, and Gerton 1993; Phinney 1991). In fact, Berry
(1997) proposes four strategies of self-identication that may emerge in
the meeting of two cultures: integration, separation, marginalization and
assimilation (Berry and Sam 1997). The former two types imply retention of
attachment to ones erstwhile culture that is or is not accompanied by
increasing attachment to the respective otherculture (integration or
separation, respectively). The latter two types imply a loss of attachment
to ones erstwhile culture that is or is not accompanied by lack of attach-
ment to respective othercultures (marginalization or assimilation,
The acculturation framework presupposes the existence of a coreculture
in the dominant society, and in the ethnic minority. Although we adopt this
point of view throughout our work, it is important to recall that both host
and the ethnic societies represent spaces in which culture is constantly
constructed and negotiated (e.g. Bhabha 1997; Wimmer 2008). The inter-
views we conducted do not provide insight into the participantspercep-
tions on the construction and reconstruction of the two main cultural
groups they are or are not part of, or about the actors producing them,
and so these processes go beyond the scope of our analysis.
The paper makes two main contributions: rst, integrating the notions of
voluntarist and ascribed national identity into the model of acculturation,
we provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying self-
identication in the context of acculturation, and expand current knowledge
regarding the construction of ethno-national identication. Our ndings
demonstrate how ascribed and voluntarist understandings of national iden-
tity determine the permeability of boundaries between dierent social
groups. In this manner, they also determine whether and how the integra-
tion of two dierent identications is possible. Second, we add a fth
symbolic resource, namely social ties, to the four symbolic resources
Zimmer (2003) specied that partake in the construction and reconstruction
of national identity. By focusing on the construction of identity in the minds
of individuals and not in a political discourse, we demonstrate that social
networks assist the individuals we interviewed in drawing distinctions
between usand thembased on who their friends are. Like other symbolic
resources, networks too are interpreted both as voluntarist and as ascribed.
Setting Jews in Israel and in Germany
Our focus on German and Jewish cultural identications derives from the
fact that these identications represent classical cases of ethnic-nations
(Brubaker 1992; Smooha 2004).
Gavison (1998), for example, points out that
being Jewish has a religious meaning, implying a shared ethnic descent; a
cultural meaning that does not require adherence to religious laws; and a
national counter-religious meaning that developed in the Zionist movement
as a reaction to the traditional religious Jewish identity (Gavison 1998,
This complexity is extended further by the Jewish-Israeli nexus, according
to which all Jews are potential Israeli citizens under the Law of Return
(1950). The Law of Return provides all Jews with the right to return to
their homeland, thus technically allocating Israeli citizenship to all Jews
around the world who choose to immigrate to Israel. Whether a person is
Jewish or not is determined by Jewish genealogy and blood ties (Lang
Historically, Germany represented an ethnic model of the modern
nation state (Brubaker 1989). Specically, being German was for a long
time conceptualized in ethnic terms, stressing the shared origin of all
Germans regardless of their domicile or territorial whereabouts. This con-
ceptualization of being German was particularly useful in the years of the
German separation following the Second World War until its reunication in
1989 (Joppke 1999). With the amendment of the German citizenship law in
the late 1990s, this ethnic understanding of the German nation changed, at
least formally. Since 1999, German citizenship is no longer limited to indivi-
duals with German blood, but is also granted to German-born children of
immigrants. This change in the German citizenship law implies that at least
formally, being German is no longer a question of ascribed membership, but
rather a voluntarist issue: at an age of 1723, German-born children of
foreign nationals must choose between their parents nationality and the
German one. The voluntarist element in German nationality was also
emphasized by means of the immigration law passed in 2005, requiring
immigrants who wish to naturalize to participate in integration and German
language courses (Joppke 2007).
Sample and data collection
The ndings presented here rely on semi-structured interviews conducted
with 18 individuals, mostly by the second author. Potential participants were
approached using a snowball method starting with the networks of
the second author, and then utilizing the connections of some of the
participants. The sample represents a criterion sample (Patton 2001, 238)
in the sense that all of the participants were descendants of Holocaust
survivors. Eorts were additionally made to maintain a relatively balanced
gender division among the participants (nine women and nine men), and a
balanced ratio of individuals living in Germany and in Israel (nine in Israel
and nine in Germany). The average age of the participants was 52, with the
two oldest participants being 66 years old and the youngest 43 years old.
Except for one person, all were living in family relationships with children.
Most, but not all, had a university degree. The interviewees hold diverse
professions, but all can be considered upper middle class. Among the
persons we interviewed in Germany, some are German-born and others
arrived in Germany as young children. Persons living in Israel immigrated
in the 1980s and 1990s.
The sampling procedure was consequential for the representativeness of
the sample. In general, the Jewish community in contemporary Germany is
mainly composed of Jewish immigrants from the FSU who are over repre-
sented in lower socio-economic strata (Haug and Wolf 2006). The partici-
pants of this study represent a highly selective group of upper middle class,
mostly secular Jews. The individuals we interviewed in Israel are rst-
generation immigrants. Importantly, however, they are members of the
Jewish majority and the economically and socially dominant Ashkenazi
group (e.g. Haberfeld and Cohen 2007).
They provide a comparably better
representation of the contemporary German community in the Israeli
Analytical approach
Analysis of the materials collected in the interviews was based on full
transcriptions made in the language of the interview (mostly German), of
which both authors have sucient knowledge. We followed the
grounded theorymethod (Strauss and Corbin 1990), breaking the tran-
scripts into discrete parts (paragraphs or sentences), placing them within
a conceptual framework, and then reconnecting them by means of the
relations between the constructs of this conceptual framework. For the
analysis, both researchers rst read the transcripts separately in order to
cross-validate the main recurring themes (e.g. Hill, Thompson, and
Williams 1997). We then discussed our initial impressions evolving from
the text materials and identied the main themes after which we reread
the transcripts, dividing the 18 texts between us. At this stage, we
marked text sections relevant to the themes we selected before, and
tried to divide them into narrower topics. In an additional meeting, we
compared our markings and discussed similarities and dierences
between the two coding matrixes, creating subcategories within the
dierent topics. Consequentially, we developed the relations between
the dierent subcategories emerging from the topics, moving them
within and between categories in order to locate their meanings in our
conceptual framework. At this stage, we also reected on Zimmers(2003)
framework of national identity and Berrys acculturation model (e.g. Berry
and Sam 1997) and compared the interrelations emerging from the
transcripts to those assumed by these conceptual models. Here again,
we considered issues of consistency between descriptions of dierent
participants and of the extent to which our generalizations represent
their experiences.
Structure of the interview
The themes of all interviews were: (1) the inuence of the participants
family history on the preferred country of living; (2) the role of religion
and tradition in this choice and in the participantsattitudes and convic-
tions; (3) the participantssocial, personal and cultural integration; (4) the
preferences of the participants regarding the lifestyles of their children; and
(5) the inuence of the homeland (Heimat) on the participantspersonal and
social identications. The interviews were conducted between 2011 and
2012 in Israel and in Germany, most of them in the participantshomes,
and lasted for an average of 1.5 hours.
In the following section, we present the main ndings of our study. The
primary question we approached relates to processes of construction and
reconstruction of national identication among the participants. In our
analysis, we focus on the symbolic resources the participants called upon
to delineate their group membership(s) and the boundary mechanisms with
which they interpret these resources. Additionally, we explore whether and
how the boundary mechanisms are relevant for the integration of a Jewish
cultural identication with a German one. Having noticed meaningful dier-
ences between the participants living in Germany and those living in Israel,
we divided this section into two parts based on the participantscountry of
residence. In order to assure the anonymity of the participants, we changed
their names.
German Jews in Germany
Our exploration of the construction and reconstruction of national iden-
tication starts with the self-descriptions of participants. In these self-
descriptions, participants often presented the criteria they consider
meaningful in order to claim membership in a respective national
group. Such criteria can be, for example, found in Stefansstatement
Idene myself as a Jew with a German passport and with German citizenship.
(Germany, male)
Gesine shares this conceptualization, but provides a more detailed
If I have to dene myself, I would say that I am a German citizen of Jewish
faith. (Germany, female)
For Gesine, membership in the German national group is marked by
German citizenship or nationality, and Jewish membership by a specic
religious belief.
The Jewish membership of the interviewees in Germany is often marked
by observing Jewish tradition, which is, however, individually interpreted.
Jewish practices were frequently discussed in association with the intervie-
weescommitment to preserve their Jewish identity and that of their chil-
dren. These practices are perceived as carriers of the Jewish identity to the
next generation even though they deviate from formal Jewish laws. Relating
to the role of religion and tradition, Hanno, for example, maintained that:
When the children were born, we both realized that we wanted to handle it
as at home: Leading a secular life, but at the same time making sure that the
children know what Judaism means. We celebrate the major holidays, but in a
rather non-religious way(Germany, male)
Stefan too described the Jewish practices maintained at home in associa-
tion with his son:
We celebrate all holidays in a traditional way and also in the synagogue. I take
my son to synagogue on Friday nights or Saturday mornings several times a
month. Friday evenings we do the Kiddush, which is the benediction introdu-
cing Shabbat and religious Jewish holidays. (Germany, male)
Traditional Jewish practices represent ascribed or inherited symbolic
resources for participantsJewish identication. Yet, they also use tradition
as a voluntarist boundary mechanism when stressing their choice whether,
how and when to practice tradition. In Hannos words, he and his partner
wanted to handle ittheir way. Among the participants living in Germany,
Jewish tradition, representing culture, serves as a means to actively claim
their Jewish membership and draw a line between this national group, and
the German one. Relating to family history, Mareike, provides an explanation
for this choice:
The fact that I am living as a Jew in Germany is very important for me. For
myself, but more for the memory of my parents and grandparents, I have to be
here in order to preserve Jewish live. (Germany, female)
In a way, Mareike states that her commitment to maintaining a Jewish life
in Germany is associated with her commitment to the idea that Jews can
live in Germany. A commitment she also associates with her parents and
their legacy.
The statements above sustain the relevance of Zimmers four symbolic
resources (Zimmer 2003). The interviewees reect on their self-identication
by reference to history (family), culture (holidays), political institutions (citi-
zenship) and geography (living in Germany). In terms of the ascribed/volun-
tarist dichotomy, we demonstrate that tradition and religion, which often
mark an ethnic/ascribed mechanism, are also interpreted in a voluntarist
way. This nding supports the position that an ascribed/voluntarist dichot-
omy oversimplies processes of national identication. The interviews indi-
cate, however, that these four symbolic resources are not exhaustive. As we
demonstrate below, there is another symbolic resource that Zimmer (2003)
failed to specify, namely social ties. Focusing on the public discourse and
not on individual constructions of national identity, the absence of social
networks from Zimmers framework is not surprising.
For many of our interviewees, networks represent an important tool for
the demarcation of group boundaries. Talking about her parentsfeelings
towards the possibility that she or her siblings will have Catholic German
friends, Julia, for example, maintained that:
We children went to a Catholic elementary school and later to high school, but
should have had no German friends, because those out there are our ene-
mies. (Germany, female)
German friends were, for Julias parents, a symbol for boundary crossing
into enemy lines. Hanno too mentioned parental control when discussing
his past friendships.
There were also young people my age, in whose families contact with non-
Jewish classmates was strictly forbidden. My parents were a bit uneasy when I
had a non-Jewish girlfriend In many families, this option was not even
discussed. It was simply clear that one does not go so far. (Germany, male)
Hanno and Julia present the issue of friendships as a voluntarist one that
involves parentsdecision whether to allow or prohibit contact with non-
Jewish Germans. Relating to preferences and lifestyles of her children,
Gesine describes how she uses her parental authority to allow them this
I dont want to give my children the feeling that they have to be dierent and
that they have to socialize with particular people. Here is their home and this
is their homeland and if they have German non-Jewish friends that is no
problem for me. (Germany, female)
Among the interviewees in Germany, friendships clearly mark a boundary
between their own and the German groups. Their strong emphasis on
whether crossing this boundary was allowed or not, implies that for them,
as for their parents, friendships denote a voluntarist mechanism: given the
opportunities available, you could cross the boundaries if you wanted to.
Identity theory maintains that networks provide individuals with opportu-
nities to act in ways that reect and conrm their role-identity (Stets and
Burke 2000). Accordingly, network homophily is understood to imply loyalty
to the Jewish group and membership in it.
Networks and social ties were of similar importance also for the partici-
pants we interviewed in Israel. Before we move on to them, we further
explore the acculturation strategies of the interviewees in Germany.
Describing themselves as German and Jewish, they develop a strategy of
integration. Importantly, this acculturation strategy is made possible due to
the dierent symbolic resources the participants in this study draw on to
describe their identication. While German identication is associated with
institutional civic values, Jewish identication is associated with history and
culture. The two identications thus do not force a choice.
Although the participants describe an integration strategy, they con-
struct clear boundaries between the two identications and often per-
ceive these boundaries to be impermeable. Mareike, for example, noted
I dont feel a stranger in Germany, but as a Jew its always a bit special. I wish it
were normal to speak Hebrew without police guarding the synagogue or in
the subway. But that doesnt work. I do not know if thats a feeling of
strangeness, but in any case it is not normal. (Germany, female)
Mareike voiced a feeling of strangeness that evolves from the institu-
tional construction of the relations between the Jewish minority and the
German majority, expressed by the German police outside the synagogue. It
is hard to discern from this statement whether she considers the boundaries
to be impermeable because the police marks them so clearly, or because
police protection around synagogues in Germany is required (due to some
general hostility towards Jews). Steprovided a clearer interpretation for
the feeling of strangeness that emerged when she told her colleagues about
the past of her Jewish family:
When I told my colleagues that I have Jewish ancestry a query came up: So,
you come from a Jewish family? And I said: Yes, half the grandfathers yes,
grandmothers not . Explaining the relationship, I have noticed Hm?
Suddenly their behaviour towards me changes is dierent. But how dier-
ent? What is dierent? I could not really describe it: More cautious, friendly
we were no longer at ease. (Female, Germany)
From Stes statement, it is clear that the boundaries between Jews and
Germans are constructed by the Germans. She herself was not expecting
them. However, among other interviewees we interviewed maintained that
the boundaries were subjectively dened and associated with the Holocaust.
Stefan and Gesine, for example, explained that:
Today I would dene myself as a Jew living in Germany, or as German. But I
would never say as my grandfather said with pride, I am German of Jewish
faith. That has, of course, to do with the history of my family. (Germany, male)
It is denitely great that I have found my home here, taking into account the
history of my family I do not ask myself all the time whether I am a Jewish
German or a German Jew. Nevertheless, I would not say I am German. That
does sound a little weird to me. Anyhow, I feel at home in Germany and I am
completely integrated. (Germany, female)
Both participants understand the boundaries of the German national
group as permeable. Like Stey, Stefan and Gesine too understand their
Jewish identication to be dened by symbolic resources that imply ascrip-
tion. Unlike Mareike and Stey, they perceive the boundaries of the German
group to be based on a voluntarist mechanism.
The interviewees we talked to in Germany conrmed our assumption that
the integration of a German and a Jewish identication is challenging.
Although they feel attached to both groups, they take great care to demar-
cate their boundaries. In the participantsown words, although they are
German and Jewish, they do not view themselves as German-Jews. In this
regard, our interviewees in Germany do not follow the pattern of hyphe-
nated identity that Lang (2005) discovers in the US.
We believe that for many of the individuals we interviewed in Germany, the
need to maintain clear boundaries between Jewish and German self-
identications reects the consequences of a cultural trauma. A cultural trauma,
according to Jerey Alexander (2004), occurs when members of a collective
experience a horric event that leaves an indelible mark on the collective
consciousness and changes its future collective identity. The memory of such
an event is catastrophic and threatening both to the existence of the culture
and to the existence and identity of the individuals who belong to the culture.
German Jews in Israel
Similar to the case of the interviewees residing in Germany, also in the case
of those residing in Israel, we identied the symbolic resources the inter-
viewees use to dene the boundaries of their cultural groups and the
meanings derived from these resources in terms of membership mechan-
isms ascribed or voluntarist. In addition, we explored whether and how
the interviewees in Israel integrate their German and Jewish identications.
We soon realized that Jewish identication among the participants living in
Israel is in many cases minor compared to their Israeli identication. In
Thomasself-described identication, for example, Jewishis completely
In Germany I am Israeli and in Israel I am German. Im a bit of both. (Israel,
An explanation for the absence of Jewish identity may be found in Jans
and Maritas statements:
Whether the Jewish culture and tradition have any impact on my life, my
family and the education of my son? I would answer that with a sentence I
once said which I still believe in very much: ‘… Israel is the only place in the
world where one can safely and condently stop to be a Jew.(Israel, male)
Today I live a completely normal life. Being a Jew has no relevance anymore. In
Germany, this was very important, and here you simply are. It is something
natural, nothing imposed. (Israel, female)
Maritas clarication is informative in the sense that for her, one does not
stop to be a Jew, but rather being Jewish in Israel is normaland probably
implies less eort or self-awareness. Heike provides a similar explanation to
the fact that her commitment to Jewish practices weakened after her
immigration to Israel:
I also nd that the Jewish identity can be more easily maintained in the
Diaspora. We already live in Israel, and thats for a lot of people here Jewish
enough. (Israel, female)
The practice of Jewish culture, an important element in the construction
of Jewish identication among the interviewees in Germany, could have
assisted the participants in Israel in demonstrating their membership in the
dominant Jewish society and their integration. However, the interviewees in
Israel report that this element in their self-identication plays a minor role if
any. Once they arrive in Israel, the interviewees feel relieved from the need
to actively mark their Jewish group membership by adhering to Jewish
Interestingly, the relevance of Jewish identication among the partici-
pants we interviewed in Israel appeared mostly in their reections about
their childrens Jewish identication, and the outcomes it may have for their
identication. Simona thus maintains:
I do not want to live with my children in Germany because I do not want
assimilation. Its about a Jewish identity for my children and my grandchildren.
They should marry Jewish and raise Jewish children. And this I can ensure
much better in Israel. (Israel, female)
For Simona, Jewish identity will be preserved only through ascription: if
her children will marry Jewish partners. In order to make sure they do so,
she prefers to live in Israel. Kirsten too, nds ascription very central for the
preservation of a Jewish identication. Describing her feelings at the birth of
her nephew, the son of her Jewish sister and not Jewish, German brother-in-
law she admits:
I had waited so much for this child, but at that moment I could only think
about what would I tell my parents now Anyway, I already know now that it
will be very dicult for me, if eventually something like this will happen with
my son. Of course, this feeling is strongest about Germans, but I feel it also
towards non-Jews in general. (Israel, female)
Living in Israel decreases Kirstens fear regarding her sons potential
assimilation, just as it does for David:
I probably would not have stayed in Germany if I had had children there. Then
I would have left sooner. It would be a problem if my child would have
brought a non-Jewish partner home. I do not know why. Emotionally.
(Germany, male)
One of the reasons for the shift we observe from a strong voluntarist
emphasis on Jewish identication of the participants in Germany to an
ascribed one in Israel may be the fact that the fear from assimilation into
a majority non-Jewish culture does not exist in Israel. A second reason is
likely the stronghold of Jewish ancestry for immigrants in Israel as the only
condition relevant for their immigration chances.
Although the context either in Israel or in Germany seems to play an
important role in the construction of Jewish/Israeli identication, we must
be careful in our interpretation. Conducting interviews with dierent people
in Israel and in Germany, we cannot determine if immigration led to the
dierences we report, or if the observed dierences explain why some of
the participants immigrated to Israel and others did not. It is, however, clear
that the cultural-voluntarist dimension of Jewish identication is weaker
among the interviewees in Israel. Instead, they engage in a cultural-
voluntarist understanding of their German identication.
Culture and more specically, language was the main symbolic resource
the interviewees in Israel used to describe their German identication.
Marita puts it this way:
I also read no literature in Hebrew, too much eort. I do read the newspaper
every day and now because of my studies also textbooks. But for relaxation, I
read German. (Israel, female)
David too voiced an example for the centrality of the German language in
the lives of the Israeli participants:
Germany is not my home not my Heimat, but German is my native
language. To this day, it is much easier for me to express myself in German
than in Hebrew . (Israel, male)
Alex argues along the same lines when stating:
Im called a German-Israeli writer. I am a German-speaking, German-born
Israeli who continues to write in German because of his profession. (Israel,
Language is not the sole dimension through which the participants living
in Israel experience their German self-identication. Heike, for example,
I have now been here at the Goethe Institutefor 11 years and I live my life in
a German bubble. Sometimes this is even too much. I used to cherish my
German-ness: punctuality and order. (Israel, female)
Relating to her social contacts and the emergence of the German bub-
bleHeike states,
My Hebrew was not so good; therefore, I focused on my native language and
wanted a job where I could use my German. Also, I still was very connected
with Germany, German culture, in short, order, having all the attributes of
(Israel, female)
For Heike, the German bubblewas at once an available social support
system and a platform for the preservation of those elements in the German
culture that she wanted to keep. Using the term Jeckesin this context
validates our observation that in Israel, being German does not imply a
contradiction with being Jewish.
The statements above clarify that the interviewees we talked to in Israel
voluntarily maintain their attachment to German language and culture.
Importantly though, most of the individuals we interviewed in Israel seem
to agree that they do so not in order to separate from the Israeli society or
dene clear boundaries between them and other Israelis. To the contrary,
they do it because in Israel, the preservation of ones heritage culture and
language is not contradicting with an Israeli identication.
As in the case of the participants who live in Germany, also among those
living in Israel we found that social networks and friendships were often
used as symbolic resources for the demarcation of German, Jewish or Israeli
national identication. One example for this use of networks is apparent in
the following quote from Samuel when describing his life before immigra-
tion to Israel:
Actually, I had a split personality, as I called it. On the one hand I had my
friends during the week, the German friends, in school or sports club. On the
other hand I had the weekends with my Jewish friends and camps.
But both
sides did not know each other, none knew about the existence of the other.
(Germany, male)
Samuel relies on his German and Jewish networks to demonstrate his
split-personality. Describing her childhood in Germany, Marita also associ-
ates her networks with her Jewish identication, or indeed lack thereof:
I have lived very much assimilated in Germany. Although I went to a Jewish
primary school, when I was 12, 13 years I became very independent. While
everyone else was in the Zionist youth in Germany (ZJD) and the other Jewish
youth organizations, I had almost only German friends.(Israel, female)
The relationship between networks and self-identication is highly rele-
vant in light of the descriptions the interviewees in Israel provided. The vast
majority, reports to have mainly European, German-speaking friends.
Michael, for example, explains that:
My circle of friends consists mainly of Israelis who come from Austria and
Germany. I have long underestimated the importance of language and culture.
With other Israelis, I can reach a certain point of acquaintance, but ultimately
my friends are German. (Israel, male)
Relating to the inuence of the land of origin on his personal and social
identications, Thomas agrees that friendships with Germans, or in his
words Europeans, who share his mentality, come more natural for him:
That depends on whether the native Israelis have parents of European origin.
Of course, I am closer to those. There is the same mentality, naturally. Im not
an oriental, although I like humus. (Israel, male)
We believe that for Thomas and Michael, their German-speaking net-
works imply a lasting attachment to a German identication. Similar to the
Jews we interviewed in Germany, who use networks to preserve their Jewish
culture, those we interviewed in Israel use them to preserve their
German one.
The German identication the participants in Israel describe leads us to
the nal issue to be discussed in this section, namely the integration of
Jewish or Israeli self-identication with a German one. Indeed, based on the
interviews we conducted in Israel, we believe that such an integration is
taking place. In the Israeli context, this is facilitated by the decline in the
importance of the cultural-voluntarist dimension of Jewish identication.
Through their immigration, the individuals we interviewed in Israel gained
a sense of secured Jewish identication. They no longer feel obligated to
prove their group membership in everyday practices or social networks.
Once the cultural boundary dierentiating them from other Germans is
blurred, the contradiction between their Jewish and German identications
no longer exists.
A second factor allowing integration of German identication with a
Jewish-Israeli one is the unique position of the interviewees in the wider
Jewish-Israeli society. The individuals we interviewed in Israel are rst-
generation immigrants that are also members of the dominant Jewish
Ashkenazi group. As such, they are typically represented in higher strata
than most other immigrant groups (e.g. Haberfeld and Cohen 2007; Raijman
and Semyonov 1997; Semyonov and Lewin-Epstein 2015), and their social
group dominates social, political and cultural institutions (Smooha 2004).
Heike, for example, maintains:
Have I ever felt like a stranger in Israel? Actually, I always do, but it is pleasant. I
am thus treated much more accommodatingly and I am also forgiven a lot. I
have never suered from it. (Israel, female)
Heike feels that she is privileged due to her status as an immigrant in
Israel. Considering Israels welcoming policy towards Jewish immigrants, and
particularly those arriving from Western Europe, this is not surprising. Jan
too expresses his sense of liberty to be dierent within the Israeli society,
and associates it with the fragmented nature of the Israeli society:
I can understand myself as part of Israeli society, because it is no longer a
mainstream society. It consists of very dierent groups, and I belong to one of
them rather than to the other. Thus, I am part of a minority in a country where
many minorities together make a majority. (Israel, male)
In light of the stratied relations between the dierent segments Jan
describes, it would have been worthwhile asking whether a Jewish immi-
grant from a middle-eastern country would have also considered the frag-
mented nature of the Israeli society as permissive.
This study investigated the ethno-national identication preferences of Jews
living in Germany and of German-Jewish immigrants in Israel. Stressing the
symbolic resources individuals utilize to dene their ethno-national cate-
gories of membership, we asked which boundary mechanisms these
resources represent. Finally, we explored whether and how the interviewees
integrate the two (or better yet three) identications. Given the unique
setting of this study, we additionally asked in how far the unique complexity
of Jewish-German relations, stemming from the Holocaust, contributes to
these processes.
The ndings presented above rst provide support to Zimmerspropo-
sition that individuals use dierent symbolic resources to demarcate their
ethno-national identity. We were also able to demonstrate that individuals
interpret these resources by reference to dierent boundary mechanisms.
Thus, the same symbolic resources can have dierent implications for
individual membership in a respective ethno-national group (Zimmer
The setting in which individuals construct their ethnic and national
identications also seems to play a role. In Germany, individuals tended to
mark their Jewish membership by reference to cultural symbolic resources,
and their German membership by reference to institutional resources like
nationality or citizenship. Although they stressed their voluntarist interpre-
tation of Jewish tradition and its practice, most interviewees in Germany
could not ignore the ascribed-inherited nature of their Jewish identication.
Their national-institutional German identication was also accepted as an
ascribed fact.
Among the Jewish German individuals who migrated into Israel, their
Jewish national identication is asserted mostly through ancestral symbolic
resources. Although all of the interviewees maintain their German nation-
ality, their German identication in Israel is represented by a cultural sym-
bolic resource and not an institutional one. Mirroring the construction of the
Jewish identication in Germany, German identication in Israel is consid-
ered to be ascribed by birth, but its presence in the participantseveryday
lives is voluntarist.
A second important nding relates to the role of networks in the con-
struction of national identication: Networks are often postulated as markers
of national membership. Thus, the participants often use the social ties with
members of a respective group to demonstrate their membership or the
lack thereof. For the most part, networks were understood as voluntarist
individuals choosing their friends. However, these choices are always made
within a specic opportunity structure. In Germany, this structure was
limited by parents, the number of Jews in the community and other factors.
In Israel, it was limited by the relatively low probability that the participants
and their ospring have to make contact with a non-Jewish German person.
Our ndings demonstrate that the Holocaust is clearly present in the
cognitions of German-Jewish individuals, primarily among those living in
Germany. This, however, does not prevent them from integrating their
Jewish and German identications. In this regard, our exploration yielded
a signicant contribution, allowing us to draw a distinction between an
integration that allows one to feel part German and part Jewish, and an
integration that implies the emergence of a new hybrid (German-Israeli)
category (Benet-Martinez et al. 2002). The rst form of integration applies to
interviewees who reside in Germany. For these individuals, the integration
of a German and an Israeli identications is an eort that also implies a
cognitive dissonance: they feel comfortable there but are also alerted to the
threat of assimilation and the loss of their Jewish identication.
The second form of integration characterizes the interviewees in Israel. As
members of a Jewish majority in a country dened as Jewish, these inter-
viewees do not consider it necessary to assert their Jewish membership by
practicing Jewish costumes and religious traditions. Relieved from the threat
of assimilation, they are able to maintain their German culture without
having to sacrice their Jewish one. In other words, as the cultural symbolic
resources that mark the boundaries between Jews and other Germans fade,
the boundaries themselves become blurred (Alba 2005).
Reecting on the acculturation model, we would like to stress the impor-
tant role of context in the selection of integration strategies: in Germany, the
maintenance of a Jewish culture contradicts with the accepted notion of
German-ness. In Israel, however, the participants describe a freedom to
practice their German culture that does not hamper their acceptance as
(Jewish) Israelis.
One question left open in this study is whether the Israeli context enables
the emergence of this new category or if it is the migration out of Germany.
In other words, would a German-Jewish category emerge also in a dierent
non-German context that is not Israel? Future Explorations of Jewish and
German identication will thus benet most from adding a third group to
the comparison, namely German Jews who migrated out of Germany, but
not to Israel. This group would provide a deeper understanding of the
complex relations between German-ness and Jewish-ness, outside
Germany and outside the context of Israel.
Another string from the ndings described above worth pulling relates to
the emergence of a hybrid hyphenated self-identication in the Israeli
context. Specically, we wonder what role the privileged status of the
interviewees we met in Israel might play in their ability to actively nurture
their foreign identication.
1. Following Smith (1991) and Joppke (2004), we view both German and Jewish
national identications as leaning more towards the ethnic national identity
type, but not as strictly ethnic.
2. As members of the Ashkenazi group, the majority of Ashkenazi Jews hold a
relatively high socio-economic position (Bar-Haim and Semyonov 2015)
3. Jeckesis a term used to refer to German (Jewish) immigrants who arrived in
Israel in the 1930s1950s. Some maintain that it is related to the word Jacke
(jacket, in German), while others maintain it is an acronym of Yehudi Kshe
Havana (slow-witted Jew, in Hebrew).
4. The camps are summer camps organized by the German Zionist youth move-
ment (ZJD).
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
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... With studies on the phenomenon of Israeli emigration to Europe already available (Atshan and Galor, 2020;Cohen and Kranz, 2018;Hochman and Heilbrunn, 2018), and memory studies assured of its place in Israeli academia, it is somewhat surprising that this bottom-up phenomenon in Israeli art has not yet been thoroughly examined in either national or transnational contexts. This is especially intriguing when one considers the intensified academic discussion around Holocaust representation, as well as the more specific aspects of representing this memory in 'memorial museums' (Williams, 2007) or 'trauma site museums' of terror (Violi, 2012) -a discourse that has taken a huge spatial turn in light of Nora's (2001Nora's ( [1984) work on the French lieux de mémoire. ...
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What does it mean to represent trauma, heritage and/or terror-related landscapes in the present day? This article aims to offer a new perspective on the ability of such representations to initiate a journey by means of artistic creation; the author refers to such artworks as ‘ Artscapes’, claiming that Artscapes make feasible a seemingly contradictory act: on one hand, ‘time travel’ that assists in commemorating the past(s), and on the other, ‘space travel’ that has the ability to challenge collective memories, narratives and even myths associated with that past(s). By focusing on a growing trend towards diasporic Artscapes within Israeli art as a test case of this genre, the article explores the potential possessed by such works to negotiate ‘diasporic memories’ within Zionism’s national ethos.
... Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that students attending international schools can potentially or actually encounter friction between their ethnic/national identity and the global identity required at school. As Hochman and Heilbrunn's (2016) study demonstrates, the context of Jewish adults in Germany and Israel can play a role in constructing identities. Likewise, the socio-cultural, institutional setting of UWC schools where some Israeli youth spend most of their adolescence is assumed to play a role in the identity-formation process of these Israeli students. ...
This study focuses on the intersection of global and local identity as it pertains to the case of Israeli youth studying at United World Colleges (UWC) versus those studying at local secondary schools. We examine how education at UWC schools shapes the national identity of Israeli high-school seniors, in contradiction with their socio-economically matched peers who studied at local Israeli schools that encourage a distinctly locally oriented identity. Specifically, twenty Israeli youth participated in semi-structured interviews; ten of them had just completed their final year of studies at UWC schools abroad, whereas the other ten had recently graduated from the Israeli public education system. We show that Israeli youth at both UWC schools and Israeli schools were pushed away from a cosmopolitan outlook, each for different reasons. As such, we discuss how complex relations with one’s nation’s political conflicts promote locally oriented identities even for students who were educated with a cosmopolitan ethos and surroundings, such as Israeli students at UWC schools.
... Specifically concerning Jewish diaspora, Hochman and Heilbrunn (2018) view symbolic resources of German Jews in Israel and Germany as social representations of the ethno-national group. These symbolic resources include self-identification by reference 1 3 to history (family), culture (holidays), political institutions (citizenship), geography (living in Germany), and social ties. ...
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While some people have no particular problems stating in a word or two how they self-identify, others may struggle with this task, as it stirs up emotions, doubts, and deeper reflections. This paper proposes methodology for analysing short free-text comments in relation to immigrants’ self-identification. It builds on a quantitative study concerning migration to Israel by English-speakers, concentrating on a qualitative analysis of their self-identification in the light of 249 free-text comments. The constructs of anchoring and objectification from the interdisciplinary theory of social representations guide the interpretation of results obtained in a two-step process: classical qualitative content analysis followed by the Multiple Correspondence Analysis. The findings demonstrate that at least for some immigrants in Israel, self-identification appears to be a complex process, in which single and hyphenated identifications concentrate more on the negative aspects or challenges of acculturation, while self-identifications based on religion and social role focus more on the positive view of giving advice to others.
Bei der Repatriierung der jüdischen Minderheit aus der Sowjetunion nach Israel und der deutschen Minderheit nach Deutschland ist in beiden Fällen die Zugehörigkeit zur jeweiligen Ethnizität entscheidend. Im Prozess der Einwanderung müssen Mitglieder beider Gruppen die eigene Ethnizität – deutsche Volkszugehörigkeit bzw. jüdische Herkunft – unter Beweis stellen. Diese Beweisführung kann in drei Phasen gegliedert werden: Selbstdeklaration, Dokumentation und Prüfung. Die rechtlichen Grundlagen bilden das Bundesvertriebenengesetz in Deutschland und das Rückkehrgesetz in Israel. Anhand der Kriterien, die zur Verifizierung von Deutschtum bzw. Judentum durch die Aufnahmestaaten Deutschland und Israel herangezogen werden, die ihrerseits von der sowjetischen Konstruktion ethnischer Minderheiten beeinflusst wurden, lassen sich staatliche Methoden ihre Bevölkerung nach ethnischen Kategorien zu organisieren, aufzeigen. Dabei werden zwei theoretische Ethnizitätsdefinitionen, die voluntaristische und essenzialistische, durch den Staat operationalisiert.
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In social psychology, we need to establish a general theory of the self, which can attend to both macro and micro processes, and which avoids the redundancies of separate theories on different aspects of the self. For this purpose, we present core components of identity theory and social identity theory and argue that although differences exist between the two theories, they are more differences in emphasis than in kind, and that linking the two theories can establish a more fully integrated view of the self. The core components we examine include the different bases of identity (category/group or role) in each of the theories, identity salience and the activation of identities as discussed in the theories, and the cognitive and motivational processes that emerge from identities based on category/group and on role. By examining the self through the lens of both identity theory and social identity theory, we see how, in combination, they can move us toward a general theory of the self.
The birthplace of the nation-state and modern nationalism at the end of the eighteenth century, Europe was supposed to be their graveyard at the end of the twentieth. Yet, far from moving beyond the nation-state, fin-de-siècle Europe has been moving back to the nation-state, most spectacularly with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia into a score of nationally defined successor states. This massive reorganisation of political space along national lines has engendered distinctive, dynamically interlocking, and in some cases explosive forms of nationalism. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu and the 'new institutionalist' sociology, and comparing contemporary nationalisms with those of interwar Europe, Rogers Brubaker provides a theoretically sophisticated and historically rich account of one of the most important problems facing the 'New Europe'.
This chapter examines the relation between cultural trauma and collective identity. It explains that cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks on their group consciousness, and that the scientific concept of cultural trauma illuminates an emerging domain of social responsibility and political action. It discusses a middle-range theory of the complex causes propelling the trauma process in developed and less-developed societies. It argues that the theory of cultural trauma applies, without prejudice, to any and all instances when societies have, or have not, constructed and experienced cultural traumatic events, and to their efforts to draw, or not to draw, the moral lessons that can be said to emanate from them.
Cross-cultural psychology has demonstrated important links between cultural context and individual behavioural development. Given this relationship, cross-cultural research has increasingly investigated what happens to individuals who have developed in one cultural context when they attempt to re-establish their lives in another one. The long-term psychological consequences of this process of acculturation are highly variable, depending on social and personal variables that reside in the society of origin, the society of settlement, and phenomena that both exist prior to, and arise during, the course of acculturation. This article outlines a conceptual framework within which acculturation and adaptation can be investigated, and then presents some general findings and conclusions based on a sample of empirical studies.
Traumas are purely happening which break a person or collective actor's sense of well-being. Cultural trauma is an experiential, scientific concept, signifying new meaningful and casual relationships linking earlier dissimilar events, structures, perceptions, and actions. In contrast to this, a new scientific concept enlightens an emerging field of social responsibility and political action. Cultural trauma transpires when the components of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to an awful event that leaves ineradicable marks upon their group awareness, marking their memories forever and changing their future individuality in basic and irreversible ways. In connection to the subject, cultural trauma, people have constantly used the language of trauma to explain what happened, not only to themselves, but also to the collectivities to which they belong.
The article argues that it is the role of religion to provide values that delineate national identity. This role is not universal, but it applies to a great variety of societies, including secular ones. The case chosen is Israel, because secularization was an integral part of its ideology. Nevertheless, national symbols continued to be secular versions of religious symbols, and the secular ideology continued to contain at least one aspect of the Messianic idea, which is religious in nature. The internal contradiction between basing national identity on emphatically secular values that are justified by religious ones caused a crisis of identity. A new religiously-based national identity is becoming increasingly widespread in Israel.