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


(4,331 words)

Author(s): Snir, Reuven
Already in pre-Islamic times (before the 7th century CE), Arabic was the language of the Jews on the Arabian peninsula. With the spread of Islam throughout the Near East, North Africa, Central Asia, and parts of Europe, most Jews fell under Arab-Muslim rule, assimilated themselves to Muslim civilization, and took not only the language, but also the modes of thought, literary forms, and religious practices of the surrounding culture. This symbiosis lasted until the 20th century, albeit with varia…
Date: 2023-10-24


(2,337 words)

Author(s): Breuer, Yochanan
From the 6th century BCE, Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Near East, and was, alongside Hebrew, the most important language of Judaism (Alef Bet). With the emergence of Islam and the spread of Arabic, Aramaic fell into disuse as a living language in almost all Jewish communities. Not until the beginning of the modern era was it rediscovered by representatives of the Jewish Enlightenment as an important element for the renewal of Hebrew. Today, Aramaic is an additional source for the expansion and adaptation of modern Hebrew to the needs of the present.1. Linguistic periods and lin…
Date: 2023-10-24


(5,373 words)

Author(s): Kirchhoff, Markus | Shavit, Yaacov
Since the 19th century, archaeological research in the Near East and in particular in Palestine/Israel grew in importance for the perception of the Bible and ancient Israel. Simultaneously, they influenced the self-conception and the perception of Judaism and Jews in modern times. Until the early 20th century, the archaeology of Palestine continued to be the domain of gentile, mainly Protestant, researchers. Initially, Jewish scholars were involved in the interpretation of the results; si…
Date: 2023-10-24


(4,147 words)

Author(s): Ulrich Maximilian Schumann
In the course of the professionalization and privatization of the construction industry since the early 19th century, Jews began to pursue the profession of architect. As a result of emancipation, bourgeoisification ( Verbürgerlichung), and economic prosperity, they increasingly became active as developers. The emphasis on objectivity against irrational and mystifying tendencies, as well as formal allusions to the eras of enlightenment and emancipation, were characteristic of the architecture preferred by Jewish architects and builders.1. Enlightenment and restorationTh…
Date: 2023-10-24

Armenian Atrocities Committee

(2,684 words)

Author(s): Fiedler, Lutz
The Armenian Atrocities Committee (AAC) was founded in New York in September 1915 in order to initiate relief measures and organize support in light of the Armenian Genocide. It was founded on the initiative of Henry Morgenthau Sr. (1856–1946) who served as the American ambassador in the Ottoman Empire between 1913 and 1916. Morgenthau used his position to unofficially coordinate the distribution of relief shipments from Constantinople. His initiative was a reaction to the international l…
Date: 2023-10-24


(3,583 words)

Author(s): van Voolen, Edward
Judaism is associated with the biblical prohibition of graven images (Aniconism) and with a focus on texts. However, there has never been a general ban on visually oriented creations for Jews. They have been active in the visual arts in every epoch. While art and craftsmanship have been practiced at a high level since biblical times in the sacred context, it was not until the Enlightenment and emancipation that Jews were able to freely develop within the secular arts. Participation in the…
Date: 2023-10-24

Art Nouveau

(2,107 words)

Author(s): Petra Klara Gamke-Breitschopf
International reform movement from the mid-1890s through around 1914, affecting all genres of art. The aim was to contribute to an improvement in living conditions and to the cultural refinement of society by means of education in taste and aesthetic design in everyday life. The Galician graphic artist, book illustrator, and photographer Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925) stood out among Jewish practitioners of art nouveau (Ger.  Jugendstil). Lilien memorably used the art nouveau style to communicate and propagate Zionist ideas.1. Return to ZionWhen the 5th Zionist Congress …
Date: 2023-10-24


(5,411 words)

Author(s): Heil, Johannes
Starting in the Middle Ages, Jews have referred to the region they inhabited in Europe north of the Alps as Ashkenaz. Originating in the Late Middle Ages in the cities of the Middle Rhine area, Ashkenaz expanded toward the east especially until the beginning of the modern era when it found its center in Poland-Lithuania. The culture and self-perception of Ashkenazic Jews (Ashkenazim) were established under specific historical conditions: the closeness to the Christian majority culture shaped the…
Date: 2023-10-24


(1,919 words)

Author(s): Silber, Marcos
The term Ashkenazim refers to Jews who trace their origin back to Ashkenaz, the Jewish settlement area in Europe the north of the Alps. Over the course of several centuries, Halakhah, liturgy, and the Yiddish language were the connecting elements of the different regional groups of Ashkenazim who differed in everyday rituals and habitus. Their assimilation to different European national cultures, as well as emigration overseas beginning in the 19th century, let the features of social and cultura…
Date: 2023-10-24


(3,477 words)

Author(s): Morris-Reich, Amos
From the last third of the 19th century up until far into the 20th century, the question of assimilation influenced socio-scientific thoughts, as well as the public political discourse. Originating in the natural sciences, this term developed an ambivalent potential in its use in society because assimilation – commonly understood as the adjustment of a minority to the majority surrounding it – was connected to the demand for abandoning all differences, as well as the opposite conviction t…
Date: 2023-10-24


(1,640 words)

Author(s): Otto, Christian | Szymanski, Tekla
Jewish weekly journal in German founded in 1934 in New York. In the 1940s, the Aufbau developed into the most important journalistic forum of German-speaking emigration. It owed its success to a special form of journalism – consisting of a mixture of current news, profound political essays, and practical guides for everyday life. Due to the increasing integration of migrants and their descendants into American society, the Aufbau era came to its end.The first edition of the Aufbau was published on December 1, 1934 in New York on the initiative of the Austrian journalis…
Date: 2023-10-24


(6,782 words)

Author(s): Benninga, Noah
German concentration and death camp in Poland, which developed from 1940 out of a former Polish military site, becoming a major complex comprising three main camps and over 40 satellite camps. Extermination by poison gas, which was tested on the site from August 1941 and later carried out on an industrial scale, fulfilled the National Socialist leadership's aim of technically rationalizing the annihilation of the European Jews after other killing methods had proved inefficient. The devel…
Date: 2023-10-24

Austrian Imperial Council

(2,841 words)

Author(s): Olson, Jess
The Imperial Council ( Reichsrat) was established in 1861 as the legislative body of the Habsburg monarchy; after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, this included the Austrian (“Cisleithanian”) part. It was formed of two chambers - the house of lords and the house of deputies. The Council implemented emancipation of the Jews in its legislation and regulated the relationship between the Jewish communities and the state, but it also provided a theater for antisemitic agitation. Jews were…
Date: 2023-10-24

Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867

(1,438 words)

Author(s): Somogyi, Éva
The 1867 agreement of constitutional law known as the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich ("compromise") transformed the Austrian Empire into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Responding to Hungarian nationalist demands, the compromise provided that the Hungarian part of the monarchy would henceforth have its own government answerable to a parliament, and that this government would have independent powers for the regulation of internal affairs. The  Ausgleich thus marked a watershed in the history of the emancipation of the Habsburg Jews, because provisions re…
Date: 2023-10-24


(2,719 words)

Author(s): Ury, Scott
Auto-Emancipation is the title of an 1882 manifesto by the Russian Jewish writer and doctor Leo (Judah Leib) Pinsker (1821–1891). The treatise, written in reaction to the pogroms that had broken out in the Russian Empire in 1881, declares existing concepts of emancipation failed and calls on the Jews to emancipate themselves.  Auto-Emancipation was widely discussed in the public sphere of Jewish Eastern Europe, and it marks the beginning of a new era in Jewish politics.1. Outline of the treatiseThis treatise, originally just 36 pages long, was published anonymously in 1…
Date: 2023-10-24


(3,423 words)

Author(s): Bartal, Israel
Jewish autonomy denotes the self-government of Jewish communities existing in non-Jewish contexts in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and early modern period. Autonomy implies the authorities' recognition of the special religious, legal, organizational, social, and cultural status of the Jews. During the Middle Ages and early modern period, it was granted to Jewish communities by territorial rulers and protectorates in order to secure payment of duties demanded in return. The "holy" Jewish communities ( kehillah kedoshah) felt autonomy to be desirable because it made possi…
Date: 2023-10-24