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. How did Jews go from lives organized by synagogues, shul, and mikvehs to lives that were conducted in Hillel houses, JCCs, Katz's, and even Chabad? To what extent did their new lives remain explicitly Jewish?
In Homes Away from Home: Jewish Belonging in 20th-Century Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg
(Stanford University Press, 2018), Sarah Wobick-Segev
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. 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.
Sarah Wobick-Segev is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Robin Buller is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.