At first sight nothing seems out of the ordinary in the little-known Austrian town of Mattersburg, which is located in the rural Burgenland close to the Hungarian border. Inserted into the one-story houses characteristic of the local architecture is the obligatory high rise, erected in the 1950s as a symbol of prosperity and wealth. However, a Jewish cemetery with brand new headstones put up by the Chevra Kadisha strikes the narrator's attention immediately; and upon further investigation, he learns that the otherwise unremarkable high rise was built on the site of the town's destroyed Jewish quarter. This essay explores the fate of the Jews of Mattersburg, the events that precipitated the demise of their community during the Nazi era, and the significance of the reconstructed graveyard, a monument to a sizeable traditional Jewish community. To the narrator, the lost shtetl of Mattersburg calls to mind similar sites in his native Russia that to this day have remained unmarked and forgotten; he sketches a cultural panorama that extends from Mattersburg to the Russian Pale of Settlement, where his family had its roots.
German literature -- Jewish authors -- History and criticism.
German literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
The development of a new Jewish culture in Germany since 1990 is parallel to the new Jewish culture beginning to appear from the Russian Jewish community in the United States and Israel. The context, however, makes this writing and these writers unique in their often contradictory dealing with what it means to be a Jew and what it means to be a German.
Klezmer music -- Germany -- History and criticism.
Language and culture -- Germany.
Minority and immigrant Germans' embrace of the derogatory term Kanake as a self-ascription and of the low-status ethnolect Kanak Sprak has been compared to US rappers' combative use of "niggah" and Black English. This essay, however, compares the revaluation of the term Kanake, a non-assimilatory Kanak identity, and the ethnolect Kanak Sprak to some early 20th century German Jews' revaluation and embrace of Eastern European Jewish culture and Yiddish. It demonstrates also how non-minority and non-Jewish Germans have used Yiddish and Kanak Sprak in literature, theater, film, and popular culture to re-inscribe ethnic difference, especially at times when minorities and Jews were becoming indistinguishable from non-minority Germans (emancipation edicts or nationality law reform). Because Kanak Sprak is inseparable from HipHop culture, the second half of the essay examines the many parallels between the importation and naturalization of German HipHop and German Klezmer. Both were imported from the United States in the early 1980s; and following the fall of the Berlin Wall and German re-unification, both have played a role in German Vergangenheitsbewältigung [mastering the past]. While HipHop and Klezmer have become the soundtrack of German anti-racism, anti-Nazism, and multiculturalism; some observers are critical of non-minority and non-Jewish Germans' appropriation or instrumentalization of ethnic music, and have cited instances of antisemitism and racism in German Klezmer and HipHop.
The subject of this essay is the attempt of a new generation of Russian Jews to reestablish Jewish identity through the writing and publishing of Jewish cookbooks. After looking at ways in which Russian and Russian-Jewish foodways diverge, and then at ways in which Russian-Jewish cookbooks differ from representative post-Soviet ethnic cookbooks, the essay turns to the peculiarities of the books themselves. The books are very serious, and in a way impersonal: there is not a single reference to families or place or past life; there's not a single joke. Many refer in their introductions to loss and to the difficulty of rediscovery. All have great difficulty with kashruth.
This paper was written in 2004 on the tenth anniversary of the end of Apartheid. It responds to the disproportionately large amounts of writing by Jews around that time, reflecting back on the role of Jews during the struggle to end Apartheid. The paper explores the assumption (widely held in that literature) that an Eastern European Jewish heritage lends itself to a concern with justice and asks questions about the function that asserting that particular lineage served for Jewish South Africans living within the borders of South Africa in 1994. Against this homogenizing of identity, the paper calls for a history of South African Jews that includes occlusions and ellipses, as well as a diversity of South African Jewish voices.
Queer Yiddishkeit—a cluster of works in literature, journalism, filmmaking, and performance art—constitutes one of the most revealing and provocative developments in contemporary Jewish culture. These works all juxtapose queerness and Yiddish in some way and do so as a means of challenging some cultural status quo. Queer Yiddishkeit epitomizes how, a half-century since the Holocaust, cultural engagements with Yiddish have been reconceiving the possibilities of the language and its relationship to culture and peoplehood. Several examples of Queer Yiddish culture are examined herein, especially performances that link Yiddish with drag, focusing on the different ways that they interrelate Yiddishness and queerness. This essay then considers what the practices of Queer Yiddishkeit suggest for the theorizing of Yiddish now, at a crucial juncture in the language's history, marked, on one hand, by the imminent passing of the last speakers who used Yiddish as a vernacular before World War II, and, on the other hand, by the expansion of what the author terms postvernacular engagements with Yiddish.
What constitutes successful literary transmission of the culture and spirit of pre-Shoah Ashkenaz? This article suggests four criteria. Such works: 1) must not contradict what was possible in Jewish life in Ashkenaz, even if the work itself employs magical realism or surrealism; 2) must understand and accept the central role of time in Jewish life—the Jewish calendar, life-cycle events, and history itself, even if it may deny the movement of history; 3) must be aware of the values and customs that underlay Jewish life in Ashkenaz, even if it flouts them; 4) must recognize the clash of cultures within Ashkenaz, even if that clash is not manifested in the work itself.
This essay examines the acoustics of Yiddish and the ways in which Yiddish signifies beyond the boundaries of formal Yiddish speech and language. Pursuing the extra-linguistic ways in which Yiddish circulates opens up new opportunities for engagement in Jewish culture. To be sure, listeners need speakers, but redirecting the focus of Yiddish culture from speakers and writers to listeners validates the importance of listening within a Jewish context and begins to explore the terrain of listening as a distinct and important cultural practice.