Marketing Identities: Invention of Jewish Ethnicity in Ost und West
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This work analyzes how 'Ost und West' (East and West), the first Jewish magazine (1901-1923) published in Berlin by westernized Jews originally from Eastern Europe, promoted ethnic identity to Jewish audiences in Germany and throughout the world. Using techniques of modern marketing, such as stereotyping, the editors of this successful journal attempted to forge a minority consciousness. 'Marketing Identities' is thus about the beginnings of 'ethnicity' as we know it in the late 20th century. As a cultural history of pre-Hitler Germany, this book also addresses whether a German-Jewish symbiosis ever existed, revealing the possibilities and the limitations of multiple identities for turn-of-the-century German Jews. Even though the magazine's editors succeeded in creating a public sphere for pan-Jewishness ('Gesamtjudentum'), they were confronted with serious obstacles such as the negative perception of East European Jews ('Ostjuden') since the Enlightenment by many West European Jews ('Westjuden') and non-Jews. Since the late 18th century, an elite group of intellectuals and policymakers called on the 'Ostjuden' to become less Jewish and to regenerate themselves into a group more like 'the Germans' or 'the French'. The 'Ostjuden' were increasingly caricatured in literature, the arts and the sciences, a development that had reached a high point as 'Ost und West' began publication. As a means of correcting these negative images of Eastern Jews, 'Ost und West' attempted to legitimize public expressions of Jewishness in the West, yet its founders knew they would have to reflect the presuppositions of the broader Jewish audience if they were to attract more readers. To influence Jews in Germany (and elsewhere) who knew little about Eastern Jewry, the editors of 'Ost und West' appealed specifically to three main audiences (each the subject of a chapter in the book): Jewish intellectuals, middle-class Jewish women, and middle-class Jewish men. Judging by its wide circulation - at least 10 percent of the 625,000 Jews in Germany at its height - 'Ost und West' was a success, bringing 'Westjuden' closer to 'Ostjuden', at least in the public sphere. Such an approach to ethnic identity in early 20th-century Germany is innovative in looking at minority self-stereotyping as an instrument of marketing, not just as a socio-psychological phenomenon to be explained as 'self-hatred' or 'assimilation'. An interdisciplinary study, 'Marketing Identities' illuminates contemporary discussions in Europe and the Americas regarding the experience of self-understanding of minority groups and combines media and cultural studies with German and Jewish history. Its negotiation of ethnicity, race, nationalism, gender, class and religion makes 'Marketing Identities' appealing to those engaged in debates about multiculturalism and the relationship between 'high' and 'low' culture.