German has held a momentous and multifaceted place in the modern history of European Jews. It was at once a pathway to secular knowledge, a language of Jewish religious reforms, a marker of Central European Jewish emancipation, and an esteemed global language of modern culture. These attributes continued to play a crucial role in the formation of Jewish national culture and politics beginning in the late nineteenth century. However, the history of the German language as an integral part of the Jewish social landscape has been largely forgotten and overshadowed by the catastrophic events that befell Jews under Nazi rule. This talk explores the place of German in the formation of Jewish national culture, and argues that it is impossible to understand the histories of modern Hebrew and Yiddish without situating them in relation to German.
The speaker is Dr Marc Volovici from Birkbeck College, University of London. Marc is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology and the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London. He previously studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Princeton University. Marc’s book, German as a Jewish Problem: The Language Politics of Jewish Nationalism, has recently been published with Stanford University Press. He served as an academic advisor and co-edited the exhibition catalogue for the exhibition ‘Jews, Money, Myth’, which was staged at the Jewish Museum London in 2019.