During the last three decades of the nineteenth century Czech nationalist politicians sharply criticized the cultural choices and political allegiances of the Jewish population of the Bohemian lands. The Jews’ linguistic practices, educational strategies, and voting patterns—the critics charged—demonstrated that they had taken sides in the increasingly heated struggle for power between Czech and German activists, lending their support to a presumed project for German linguistic and cultural hegemony. This article examines the origins of Jewish political culture in the Bohemian lands in the context of the late-Enlightenment imperial project that aimed to modernize Jewish institutions and create Jewish imperial subjects through education to the high culture of the state. This acculturation was assumed to require a German linguistic complexion, but its political ideology and loyalties were imperial—and liberal—not national. What ethnic politicians of the late nineteenth century were demanding of Jews in their midst amounted to a reduction of perspective, a shift from the imperial to the local and from state to nation. Many Jews in the Bohemian lands, in fact, met this demand, having learned the need to articulate individual and collective identity in national terms. The Czech Jewish movement was one result; so, too, was Prague Zionism.


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pp. 1-17
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