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Contested Rituals

Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and Jewish Political Life in Germany, 1843–1933

Robin Judd

Publication Year: 2007

In Contested Rituals, Robin Judd shows that circumcision and kosher butchering became focal points of political struggle among the German state, its municipal governments, Jews, and Gentiles. In 1843, some German-Jewish fathers refused to circumcise their sons, prompting their Jewish communities to reconsider their standards for membership. Nearly a century later, in 1933, another blood ritual, kosher butchering, served as a political and cultural touchstone when the Nazis built upon a decades-old controversy concerning the practice and prohibited it.

In describing these events and related controversies that raged during the intervening years, Judd explores the nature and escalation of the ritual debates as they transcended the boundaries of the local Jewish community to include non-Jews who sought to protect, restrict, or prohibit these rites. Judd argues that the ritual debates grew out of broad shifts in German politics: the competition between local and regional authority following unification, the possibility of government intervention in private affairs, the place of religious difference in the modern age, and the relationship of the German state to its religious and ethnic minorities, including Catholics. Anti-Semitism was only one factor driving the debates and it often functioned in unexpected ways. Judd gives us a new understanding of the formation of German political systems, the importance of religious practices to Jewish political leadership, the interaction of Jews with the German government, and the reaction of Germans of all faiths to political change.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xii

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the many people who have enabled me to complete this project. My doctoral advisers at the University of Michigan, Todd Endelman and Kathleen Canning, provided me with advice, criticism, and support. From them, I learned much about scholarly inquiry, engaged teaching, and ...

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Introduction: Rituals, Identities, and Politics

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pp. 11-19

In early April 1881, just five weeks after his circumcision, the son of Benjamin Hoffman of Huffenhardt (Baden) developed ulcers on his penis. The boy’s concerned mother brought him to a local physician who, after observing the sick infant and his healthy twin sister, referred the case to the state medical examiner, E. Sausheim. Influenced by developing ...

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1. The Circumcision Questions in the German-Speaking Lands, 1843–1857

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pp. 21-57

Before 1850, Joachim (Hayum) Schwarz, a small-town rabbi in Hürben, Bavaria, had limited interactions with the local non-Jewish community and authorities. He devoted most of his time to fulfilling his rabbinic obligations, tending to the needs of his congregants and teaching their children. He led services in the town’s synagogue and oversaw some ...

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2. German Unification, Emancipation,and the “Ritual Questions”

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pp. 58-85

Less than two decades after the physician Ignatz Landauer, Rabbi Schwarz, and local municipal officials had struggled over the changing character of Hürben Jewry, the majority of Jewish communities in the German states had experienced some kind of political and social transformation. By 1871, many of these communities had encountered the ...

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3. The Radicalization of the Ritual Questions, 1880–1916

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pp. 86-121

In 1892 the kingdom of Saxony promulgated a set of slaughterhouse regulations that had been championed by German animal protectionists for decades. These edicts prohibited women and children from entering the slaughterhouse and mandated stricter inspection and licensing procedures. As such, they resembled contemporary laws in all but one significant ...

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4. “The Disgrace of Our Century!” Circumcision, Kosher Butchering,and Modern German Politics

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pp. 122-153

At the 1904 national meeting of the Association of Animal Protection Societies of the German Reich, one participant offered a disclaimer, which had been and would continue to be invoked with great frequency during the decades leading up to World War I. After Karl Krämer of Hilchenbach assumed the speaker’s mantle to champion slaughterhouse ...

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5. The Schächtfragen and Jewish Political Behavior

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pp. 154-189

During the late nineteenth century, the Federation of Saxon Jewish Communities helped to establish new norms of Jewish political behavior. Between 1892, when the kingdom of Saxony promulgated its Schächtverbot and 1910 when it repealed it, Saxony’s Jewish leaders practiced the strategies of mass politics. They no longer quietly appealed ...

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6. A “Renaissance” for the Ritual Questions? The Ritual Debates of the Weimar Republic

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pp. 190-237

In 1917 the German Bundesrat considered kosher butchering for the first time since the outbreak of World War I. In a controlled war economy, the German state had begun to regulate food production and distribution two years earlier. During the so-called turnip winter of 1916–1917, the nation faced escalating food prices and shortages. ...

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pp. 239-247

On April 21, 1933, the Nazi government promulgated Germany’s first national law mandating the stunning of all animals into a state of unconsciousness before slaughter. Beginning on May 1, German Jews within the Reich’s borders could no longer legally slaughter animals using the Jewish method.1 The Nazi ban remained in place until 1946 when the ...


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pp. 249-274


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pp. 275-283

E-ISBN-13: 9780801461644
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801445453

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1