German Jews

A Dual Identity

Paul Mendes-Flohr

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June 10, 1999
168 pages, 4 11/16 x 8
ISBN: 9780300076233
Cloth

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When the German-Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig entitled his 1926 collection of essays on Jewish and universal cultural topics Zweistromland—a land of two rivers—he meant to underscore, indeed celebrate, the fact that German-Jewish culture is nurtured by both German culture and the Jewish religious and cultural heritage. In this thought-provoking book, Paul Mendes-Flohr explores through the prism of Rosenzweig’s image how German Jews have understood and contended with their twofold spiritual patrimony. He deepens the discussion to consider also how the German-Jewish experience bears upon the general modern experience of living with multiple cultural identities.

German Jews assimilated the cultural values of Germany but were not themselves assimilated into German society, Mendes-Flohr contends. Yet, by virtue of their adoption of values sponsored by enlightened German discourse, they were no longer unambiguously Jewish. The author discusses how their identity and cultural loyalty became fractured and how German Jews—like other Jews and indeed like all denizens of the modern world—were obliged to confront the challenges of living with plural identities and cultural affiliations.

Paul Mendes-Flohr is professor of Jewish thought and an associate of the Franz Rosenzweig Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of A Land of Two Peoples, From Mysticism to Dialogue, and Divided Passions and coauthor with Jehuda Reinharz of The Jew in the Modern World.

“This book may become a valuable companion to other highly regarded studies that deal with the anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism that permeated German society over centuries. . . . The author demonstrates how one can approach this most relevant subject with both academic discipline and compassion.”—Karin Doerr, The Bulletin of the Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont






“This elegantly written book will without any doubt make a major contribution to German-Jewish thought and history.”—Michael Brenner, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich


"In this brilliant and impassioned study of German-Jewish intellectual and cultural history from Moses Mendelssohn to the years prior to the Shoah, Paul Mendes Flohr has not only borne witness, with utter precision and clarity, to a community destroyed at the point of its greatest creativity, he has also carried forward its legacy in a way that directly and profoundly bears on contemporary issues of cultural pluralism, citizenship, and national identity. No one will any longer be able to discuss the ’hybridity’ of cultural identities without reference to Mendes-Flohr’s work."—Eric Santner, Department of Germanic Studies, University of Chicago


“Masterful. . . . This archival richness displays an intimacy with his subject unique to Mendes-Flohr. . . . A must-read for anyone interested in modern (Jewish) culture and its history.”—Zachary Braiterman, Religious Studies Review


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