Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture Online

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Editor-in-Chief: Dan Diner

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From Europe to America to the Middle East, North Africa and other non-European Jewish settlement areas the Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture covers the recent history of the Jews from 1750 until the 1950s.

More information: Brill.com

Baʿal Shem

(2,403 words)

Author(s): Karl Erich Grözinger, Potsdam
The figure of a miracle man is attested going back to the 9th century in Jewish communities north of the Alps, commonly referred to in modern popularizations as a miracle-working rabbi. Because of his esoteric knowledge, especially concerning the meaning and power of the divine name, this Baʿal Shem (Hebr.; “Master of the Name”) was credited with miraculous and healing powers. In Hasidism, the mystic movement that emerged in Eastern Europe in the late-18th century, the religious leader, the tsaddik (righteous), took on the functions of a Baʿal Shem.1. Meaning and origin of the di…
Date: 2017-08-17

Babel and Bible

(1,335 words)

Author(s): Yaacov Shavit, Tel Aviv
The Babel and Bible dispute reached its peak of intensity in the years 1902–1904. It was triggered by lectures given by the German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch (1850–1922). Like other scholars, Delitzsch made inferences from discoveries in Mesopotamian archaeology and cuneiform studies in regard to the origins of the Hebrew Bible. What was new was the vehemence with which he called large parts of the Hebrew Bible into question. His anti-Jewish attitude provoked reaction. Like Protestant Bib…
Date: 2017-08-17

Babi Yar

(3,390 words)

Author(s): Olaf Terpitz, Leipzig
Ravine near Kiev and scene of the first major massacre by German Einsatzgruppen on Soviet soil in September 1941, in which over 33,000 Jews were shot over the course of two days.  Babi Yar is also the title of a 1961 poem by the writer Yevgeny Yevtushenko, which identifies the massacre as a blind spot in Soviet memorial culture regarding World War II. Reactions to the poem reflect the relationship between Soviet society and the Holocaust.1. Poem and historical backgroundOn September 19, 1961, the Literaturnaya Gazeta, the official organ of the Federation of Unions of Soviet Wr…
Date: 2017-08-18


(1,379 words)

Author(s): Joel E. Rubin, Charlottesville
The  badkhn (Yiddish, plural  badkhonim or  badkhones; "jester," "entertainer"; from Aramaic bedaḥ, "be happy") is a professional or semiprofessional entertainer who appears at certain parties and festivities, particularly at weddings. The tradition of the  badkhn arose in the 16th century in Eastern Europe, where it also enjoyed its heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries. From the 18th century, it spread to Palestine with the emigration of Jews from Russia, and the waves of emigration a century later also took it to North…
Date: 2017-08-17


(4,297 words)

Author(s): Sara Manasseh, London
Until the middle of the 20th century, Baghdad was the center of a flourishing Jewish community. Open to cultural influences from Europe, the Jews of Baghdad underwent a process of secularization in the late 19th century, acquiring a high level of education and involving themselves in the culture and politics of the country in a way that was unique in the Arab world. One expression of this uniqueness is found in musical practice. Jewish musicians were the architects of musical life, nurt…
Date: 2017-08-17

Bais Yaʿakov

(1,691 words)

Author(s): Agnieszka Oleszak, London
Bais Yaʿakov (also Beys Yaʿakov, Beys Yankev, or Bet Yaʿakov) is the name of a network of Orthodox girls' schools that functioned in the interwar years in Eastern Central Europe. The Bais Yaʿakov schools, which were under the patronage of Agudat Yisra'el, a political association of Orthodox Jews, institutionalized the religious education of girls. They can be seen as a reaction of the Orthodox community against the modernization of society in Eastern Central Europe, especially Poland. The first Bais Yaʿakov school was founded in November 1917 on the initiative of the p…
Date: 2017-08-17


(1,154 words)

Author(s): Cornelia Aust, Jerusalem
Yiddish term (also balagole, pl. balegules) for "carriage driver,” derived from the Hebrew baʿal agalah (wagon owner, coachman). The occupation of wagoner was common among Jews in Eastern Europe as part of their significant presence in transportation. Today the wagoner is known as a literary figure in Jewish life in the shtetl.In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1791), Jews already worked as wagoners or coachmen, carrying travellers, merchants and their goods, as well as mail. In Poland in the second half of the 18th century, two to four…
Date: 2017-08-17

Balfour Declaration

(5,480 words)

Author(s): Markus Kirchhoff, Leipzig
The Balfour Declaration of November 1917 is an expression of the power constellation of World War I. The declaration, named after the British Foreign Secretary, expressed the British government's support for the Zionist aim of establishing a "Jewish national home" in Palestine. The Zionist movement regarded the declaration as giving long hoped-for international recognition to its efforts. It profited from the assumption on the part of the opposing parties in World War I, especially Brit…
Date: 2017-08-17


(2,115 words)

Author(s): Andreas Gotzmann, Erfurt/Frankfurt am Main
The term ban (Hebr.  ḥerem) denotes an instrument of sanction available to the Jewish community institutions and rabbinical courts ( Bet din). As Jewish communities exercised autonomy, it became the crucial coercive means for imposing religious norms and concepts of social order. Use of the ban ended during the process of emancipation as premodern forms of Jewish community were increasingly superseded, in particular as modern state legislation replaced religious jurisdiction and abolished corporative status.1. Early modern periodIn the early modern period, the ban…
Date: 2017-08-17


(3,579 words)

Author(s): Dolores L. Augustine, New York
The heyday of Jewish banking houses in the 19th century was due in large part to their participation in the issue of government bonds and securities, especially for the procurement of capital for the building of railways and the management of foreign investments. They contributed to the prodigious economic growth of their era with their financial services and special role in the development of investment businesses. Because Jews were closely associated in the public mind with the rise o…
Date: 2017-08-17

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

(1,847 words)

Author(s): Dalia Marx, Jerusalem
Ritual marking the religious maturity of young people and their admission as full members of the Jewish congregation. Originally reserved for male offspring, it was modernized to include female children after the Enlightenment. The first Bat Mitzvah ceremony for girls was held in the United States in the early 20th century. Forms of Bar/Bat Mitzvah are established today in most Jewish religious traditions. Non-religious Jews also see the ritual as a symbol of Jewish affiliation.   1. Rite of passageBar Mitzvah und Bat Mitzvah literally mean "son of commandment" and "daug…
Date: 2017-08-17

Bar Kochba Association

(2,313 words)

Author(s): Zohar Maor, Ramat Gan
Zionist student association that was primarily active between 1899 and 1914 at the Karl Ferdinand University in Prague. The Bar Kochba Association (Verein jüdischer Hochschüler Bar Kochba) was dedicated to cultural Zionism in the style of Aḥad Ha-Am and Martin Buber. Its members developed a specific variant of Judaism in the essay collection  Vom Judentum (1913), which became very well-known, and which critiqued the efforts to create a Jewish national state and instead emphasized ethical demands on the individual and society. 1. Foundation and activitiesZionist endeavors i…
Date: 2017-08-17

Bar Kochba Berlin

(1,645 words)

Author(s): Daniel Wildmann, London
Bar Kochba Berlin (full name: Jüdischer Turnverein Bar Kochba Berlin, JTV) was the first Jewish gymnastics club founded under the Second German Empire. It shaped the development of the Jewish physical culture movement throughout Europe prior to World War I. Its foundation came primarily in reaction to the exclusion of Jewish gymnasts from German clubs. There was also a guiding idea of Jews as a collective in their own right. The concept promoted by Bar Kochba Berlin entailed contradicti…
Date: 2017-08-17


(1,867 words)

Author(s): Moshe Zimmermann, Jerusalem | Noah Benninga, Jerusalem
Jewish baseball players were a sporting and social phenomenon of the United States from the 1920s to the 1960s. Although Jewish players were never as numerous in the professional baseball leagues as they were in basketball or boxing, they included stars like Buddy Myer, Hank Greenberg, and Sandy Koufax. Baseball was above all a game of the second generation of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, who, by participating, in the sport sought to affirm their successful integration into American society. 1. The American contextBaseball became the national sport in the United St…
Date: 2017-08-17


(5,941 words)

Author(s): Patrick Kury, Bern | Erik Petry, Basel
Host city of the First Zionist Congress of 1897 and nine more world congresses of the Zionist Organization up to 1946. The frequent choice of Basel as a venue, and its famous designation by Herzl as the place where the Jewish state was founded lend the city the character of a place of Jewish commemoration. The protocols of the congresses illuminate the history of the Zionist movement from its origins to the foundation of the state of Israel.1. First Zionist CongressThe First Zionist Congress took place on August 29-31, 1897, in the Basel Stadtcasino music hall. At the invit…
Date: 2017-08-18

Battleship Potemkin

(3,102 words)

Author(s): Oksana Bulgakowa, Mainz
The silent film by the director Sergei Mikhailovitch Eisenstein (1898-1948), which premiered in Moscow in 1925, became one of the most influential films of all time and was universally perceived as the expression of a new aesthetic. Produced on the anniversary of the revolution of 1905,  Battleship Potemkin combined political message and artistic design through the technique of dialectical montage. The impact of the film was not limited to the communist public but transcended political boundaries. In Western Europe, showings were met with p…
Date: 2017-08-17

Bavarian Council Republic

(3,654 words)

Author(s): Carolin Kosuch, Rome/Leipzig
In the four weeks from April 7 through May 2 1919, two consecutive council-based governments, which called themselves “Bavarian Council Republics,” were established in Munich and other Bavarian cities. An earlier revolutionary government had been led by the USPD politician Kurt Eisner as Bavarian prime minister in November 1918. After his assassination in February and after a government imposed by political trench warfare under Johannes Hofmann (SPD), a council-based government was called into b…
Date: 2017-08-18

Bearing Witness

(3,320 words)

Author(s): Anna Pollmann, Leipzig
Bearing witness generally refers to the narrative communication of a directly experienced event. Yet, despite the existence of surviving victims and thousands of thousands of perpetrators, the Holocaust​ is often referred to as an “event without witnesses.” This issue of bearing witness to the Holocaust was already perceptible in early reports from survivors. It is primarily due to the specific process of mass extermination and consequent inability to express in words what had happened there.1. IntroductionIn the religious tradition, the witness is an epistemological…
Date: 2017-08-17

Berlin Debate on Antisemitism

(3,807 words)

Author(s): Moshe Zimmermann, Jerusalem | Nicolas Berg, Leipzig
The most consequential public debate about the relationship between German Jews and the German state and nation in the late 19th century was later termed Berliner Antisemitismusstreit (Berlin Debate on Antisemitism). It was sparked by an article published in 1879 by the historian Heinrich von Treitschke, in which he spoke out vehemently against "an age of hybrid German-Jewish culture." Over the course of the two-year debate that followed, the term "antisemitism," which had only recently emerged, became a firm fixture in …
Date: 2017-08-17

Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung

(3,357 words)

Author(s): Johannes Valentin Schwarz, Berlin
Illustrated weekly, founded in Berlin in 1891. In 1894 the publisher Leopold Ullstein (1826–1899) took it over and developed it to become the first and most important German-language mass-market paper of his day. Using new technical, editorial, and publishing methods, the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung founded the illustrated newspaper genre - and modern illustrated journalism with it. The newspaper's history of success was closely linked with that of the Ullstein family business, which rose in early 20th-century Berlin to become one of th…
Date: 2017-08-18
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