Homes Away from Home

9781503605145: Hardback
Release Date: 11th September 2018

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 312

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture

Stanford University Press

Homes Away from Home

Jewish Belonging in Twentieth-Century Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg

Hardback / £56.00

How did Jews go from lives organized by synagogues, shul, and mikvehs to lives that—if explicitly Jewish at all—were conducted in Hillel houses, JCCs, Katz's, and even Chabad? In pre-emancipation Europe, most Jews followed Jewish law most of the time, but by the turn of the twentieth century, a new secular Jewish identity had begun to take shape.

Homes Away From Home tells the story of Ashkenazi Jews as they made their way in European society in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing on the Jewish communities of Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. At a time of growing political enfranchisement for Jews within European nations, membership in the official Jewish community became increasingly optional, and Jews in turn created spaces and programs to meet new social needs. The contexts of Jewish life expanded beyond the confines of "traditional" Jewish spaces into sites of consumption and leisure, sometimes to the consternation of Jewish authorities. Sarah Wobick-Segev argues that the social practices that developed between 1890 and the 1930s—such as celebrating holydays at hotels and restaurants, or sending children to summer camp—fundamentally reshaped Jewish community, redefining and extending the boundaries of where Jewishness happened.

Contents and Abstracts
chapter abstract

Pointing to the larger claims of the book, the introduction argues that the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a key moment in the creation of the Jewish individual—a moment when forms and structures of religious, familial, and communal authority were subsumed under the needs and concerns of the individual. As a result, personal desire increasingly defined the limits and scope of Jewishness, resulting in the creation of voluntary Jewish communities. Critically, the emergence and evolution of the Jewish individual occurred roughly at the same time as another pivotal social and cultural development: Leisure sites, including cafés, restaurants, hotel halls, and sports clubs, were gaining increased popularity in European society as available free time increased. The Introduction explores the relevant historiographic and theoretical debates connected to the spatial turn and highlights how they would become important for the Jewish communities of Berlin, Paris, and St. Petersburg.

1A Room of Their Own: Friendship, Fellowship, and Fraternity
chapter abstract

The first chapter explores how Jews integrated into European society while at the same time used leisure and consumer places to maintain senses of group cohesion and collective identity. In aiming to preserve but also in effect to recreate a sense of collectivity, an increasing number of Jewish individuals turned to new social spaces to make and nurture friendships and solidify networks and solidarity. The chapter is thus about boundaries: the boundaries between Jews and non-Jews and the boundaries between different Jewish groups as they were expressed in social spaces. In particular, the chapter explores how writers, intellectuals, artists, immigrants, and the working classes used cafés to create friendship and fraternity, and how they used hotels and restaurants for new forms of conviviality and community building.

2A Place for Love: Autonomy, Choice, and Partnership
chapter abstract

The second chapter examines the transition from arranged to companionate marriages among Ashkenazic Jews in the three cities and, in particular, as a reaction to the expanding market of leisure spaces in the process. The formation of the contemporary Jewish family underwent a dramatic shift as the notions of individual autonomy came to supersede the predominant influence of the extended family. In the process, the changing needs and expectations of the Jewish family imposed new expectations on the community as a whole regarding how and where the Jewish family was to be formed.

3Room to Grow: Children, Youth, and Informal Education
chapter abstract

Chapter 3 examines the growing anxiety over the future of Judaism and Jewishness as it was expressed toward children and youth. Vacation camps and youth movements were seen as ideal venues for formal and informal education. Their creators and organizers hoped that such spaces would create bonds between Jewish children and instill in them a sense of Jewish belonging. Parents, too, had a role to play in this story. Just as they had come to use leisure and social spaces to solidify belonging with other Jews and to find a spouse, they hoped that children and youth would develop a sense of Jewish self-identification through social and leisure practices. Together, parents and leaders wanted children to develop a sense of Jewish belonging and for this reason encouraged them to participate in Jewish organizations and play in Jewish environments.

4A Space for Judaism: Rites of Passage and Old-New Jewish Holy Days
chapter abstract

Chapter 4 explores how the largely Ashkenazic Jewish community began to alter the ways in which it celebrated holy days, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. The chapter examines the ways in which Jewish celebration patterns were changed as they were moved out of traditional Jewish spaces and into consumer and leisure spaces. Through an examination of these religious practices, the chapter reveals debates between religious authorities and lay members of the community. Religious leaders sought both to infuse rituals with new meaning and create new practices that would strengthen individuals' connection to the synagogue and to Judaism. The final part of the chapter explores how different Jewish groups began to change the celebration of Jewish holidays by taking a look at the popularization of holiday balls as a new means to celebrate Jewish holidays.

5Rebuilding After the Shoah: The Challenges of Remembering and Reconstruction
chapter abstract

Chapter 5 demonstrates that the patterns developed before World War II were vital to the reconstruction of Jewish communities after the Shoah, especially in Paris and Berlin. By this time, the Jewish public had come to expect a wider social and cultural program that would cater to different guises of Jewish belonging beyond strict religious definitions. Individuals wanted Jewish sociability based not only on the synagogue but also on youth groups and children's summer camps and on social groups that met at local cafés or restaurants. At the same time, this chapter assesses the vast and critical changes wrought by the Holocaust and explores its repercussions in the postwar communities. Beyond pointing to these important historical continuities, however, this final chapter explores why these patterns were not replicated in Leningrad, despite periodic attempts to recreate public Jewish sociability in the former capital along similar models.

chapter abstract

The epilogue returns to the theme of community building and the contexts under which Jewish life can and has flourished. It argues strongly against narratives in which persecution is seen as the cement that binds Jewish communities together over time. Instead, the Epilogue asserts that Jewish belonging thrives in places of choice and that Jews find more reasons and ways to remain connected to their culture and to each other in cities and countries with multiple viable options. It also asks an open-ended question regarding the future of Jewish belonging in a time of continued individualistic belonging. Taking an optimistic approach, the Epilogue concludes with a call for increased and pluralistic contexts for the perpetuation of Jewish belonging and self-identification.

Sarah Wobick-Segev is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"Sarah Wobick-Segev's brilliant combination of spatial history with how Jews felt about these spaces offers readers an entirely new lens through which to understand evolving Jewish identities in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe."

Marion Kaplan
New York University

"Wobick-Segev explores the ways in which modern Jews slowly became members of European society while maintaining a Jewish identity. She focuses on 19th- and 20th-century Jews in France, Germany, and Russia, and her study is a welcome addition to the immense literature on Jewish assimilation. Working through both primary and secondary sources in German, French, and Yiddish, Wobick-Segev examines ways that Jewish communities met the twin challenges of the modern world: greater acceptance by society was accompanied—seemingly paradoxically—by increased hostility. She covers a lot of ground cogently and concisely.Recommended."

G.R. Sharfman

"Drawing on a stunning array of sources, Sarah Wobick-Segev transports readers through the spaces and places of Jewish life in three European cities, showing the centrality of new sites of leisure and consumption to modern Jewish identities and sensibilities. A fresh and original contribution to several fields, Homes Away from Home challenges the once intractable divide between Eastern and Western European experiences, showing how Jews and Jewish communities responded to the opportunities and challenges of modernity."

Paul Lerner
University of Southern California