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Introduction

Cornelia Wilhelm

During the night of 9 November 1938, the persecution of the Jewish communities in Germany reached a new level with the systematic and physical destruction of property, the elimination of intellectual and business leadership, and the demolition of safe havens such as community and synagogue buildings, as well as the aid networks that spun around the synagogue. The atrocities not only destroyed important communal spaces and strongholds for Jewish communities, but also targeted German Jewry's spiritual leadership, including rabbis and other functionaries around the synagogue such as cantors, a group whose fate during these days has hence found little attention in the research into these events.

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German Refugee Rabbis in the United States and the Formation of ‘the Last Generation of the German Rabbinate’

Cornelia Wilhelm

Abstract

This article uses an innovative digital humanities database and generational history in order to analyse the lives and careers of German refugee rabbis in the United States. It identifies the cohort among the refugee rabbis who were part of a communitisation process and defined themselves as ‘the last generation of the German rabbinate’, and illuminates how and why they could continue their careers in the United States better than elsewhere. It also examines their late returns to the country of their birth and analyses how they made sense of their own history by exchanges with the Germans. This was part of the transnational knowledge transfer that presented them as the last rabbis in the German-Jewish tradition, but also allowed them to successfully relaunch the establishment of modern Jewish seminaries for rabbinical training on the European continent and achieve symbolic continuity, eighty years after their destruction by Nazism.

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Diversity in Germany: A Historical Perspective

Cornelia Wilhelm

This article explores the changing perception of "diversity" and "cultural difference" in Germany and shows how they were central in the construction of "self" and "other" throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries affecting minorities such as Jews, Poles, and others. It examines different levels of legal and political action toward minorities and immigrants in this process and explores how the perception and legal framework for the Turkish minority in the past sixty years was influenced by historical patterns of such perceptions and their memory. The article tries to shed some light on how the nature of coming-to-terms with the past ( Vergangenheitsbewältigung ) and the memory of the Holocaust have long prohibited a broader discussion on inclusion and exclusion in German society. It makes some suggestions as to what forced Germans in the postunification era to reconsider legislation, as well as society's approach to "self" and "other" under the auspices of the closing of the "postwar period" and a newly emerging united Europe.

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German Refugee Rabbis in the United States

Cornelia Wilhelm

The German Rabbinate became a special role model for modern Judaism since the early nineteenth century and developed a unique capacity to negotiate and mediate group identity between group and society. Nazism destroyed German-Jewish life in central Europe, however the German Rabbinate continued to exist in refugee communities abroad, where it preserved its legacy. For the rabbinate and scholars of Judaism the United States was the most desired destination. The article will explore the conditions of the emigration process, resettlement of German refugee rabbis in the United States and explore how and where they found a place in American Judaism. It will also try to evaluate the impact this emigration has had on American Judaism and on American society.

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Introduction

German Rabbis Abroad as Cultural Agents?

Tobias Grill and Cornelia Wilhelm

During the second half of the eighteenth century, the Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment movement, emerged in Germany to reconcile science and rationalism with Judaism. Such a programme was considered a prerequisite for a rapprochement between Jews and Gentiles. The Maskilim, the Jewish Enlighteners, regarded it as absolutely necessary to adapt Jewish life to modernity, in order to preserve Judaism. One of the main goals of the Haskalah programme, which portended a renunciation of the traditional dominance of religious education, was the acquisition and dissemination of secular knowledge. German Jews increasingly attended common schools or established their own modern educational institutions where secular knowledge was imparted, while the teaching of religious subjects had lost much of its earlier significance. Consequently, religion ceased to dominate all spheres of life and became merely a part of it.