German Jews at the Eastern Front in WWI: Modernism Meets Tradition

The German Army marching into Neu Sendec during WWI. Bundesarchiv.

The German Army marching into Neu Sendec during WWI. Bundesarchiv.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 was greeted by a wave of nationalist fervor all across Europe. When Germany enthusiastically rallied as one behind Kaiser Wilhelm II in a “civic truce” [Burgfrieden], German Jews were hopeful to finally claim their rightful place in German society as equal citizens by demonstrating their loyalty and patriotism. Although the enthusiasm for WWI was not entirely unanimous among Jews, the idea of freeing East European Jews from Czarist oppression was welcomed by all.

The initial zeal among Jews was soon dampened by pervasive anti-Semitism among the common soldiers and their commanding officers. Jews encountered discrimination in the army every step of the way; the high command even went so far as to conduct a “Jewish census” in 1916, ostensibly to counteract widely spread rumors that Jews were dodging their patriotic duty as soldiers. When it was found that Jews were, on the contrary, overrepresented in the military, the findings were suppressed. At the end of World War I, many Jews began to question whether Germany was their true “fatherland.”

Against this backdrop, and after re- encountering the “authentic” and multifaceted culture of the Jewish shtetl, many German Jews then questioned whether assimilation at all costs was actually a desirable goal. The specifically Jewish war experience became an important factor in a burgeoning of Jewish activities during the 1920s, which ranged from a renewed interest in Jewish religious matters to a new interest in secular Jewish culture, including the visual arts and literature.

This exhibit explores these themes through original correspondence, photographs, artworks, and objects from the collections of Leo Baeck Institute.

Leo Baeck Institute Annual Award Dinner Honoring Dr. Josef Joffe

Dr. Josef Joffe. Photo: Vera Tammen

On December 3, 2014, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger will present the Leo Baeck Medal to Dr. Josef Joffe, who will also deliver the 57th Annual Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture during LBI’s Annual Award Dinner at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.

LBI News No. 95 — Summer 2014

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In this issue, Federal President Joachim Gauck of Germany accepts the Leo Baeck Medal at LBI’s first award Dinner in Berlin. CJH Conservator Felicity Corkill discusses her work cleaning and repairing a delicate 18th century megillah, and LBI archivists and librarians test out some recipes from the many cookbooks in the library collection.

Mahlzeit! German-Jewish Cuisine in LBI Collections

A plate from, Morgenstern, Lina. Illustriertes Universal-Kochbuch für Gesunde und Kranke. Berlin. 1907.

As anyone who has traveled abroad knows, food is one of the most important aspects of culture. Many a journey, and a good bit of global trade, was launched in search of new flavors. For the displaced, uprooted, or simply homesick, familiar foods provide a comfort and connection to home that is second perhaps only…

Federal President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, Awarded Leo Baeck Medal in Berlin

Federal President Joachim Gauck accepts the Leo Baeck Medal on May 14, 2014 in Berlin.

On May 14, 2014, LBI President Dr. Ronald B. Sobel presented the Leo Baeck Medal to the Federal President of Germany, Joachim Gauck. It was the first time LBI awarded its highest honor in Berlin, at a dinner to mark the opening of an LBI New York office in the German capital.

Lene Schneider-Kainer: Diary of an Incredible Journey Translated into English

A portrait of Lene Schneider-Kainer.

The year she turned 41, Lene Schneider-Kainer divorced her husband, closed her fledgling business selling designer lingerie to upper class Berlin ladies, and embarked on an 18-month journey to the near East, India, Southeast Asia, and China. Jewish publishing pioneer Rudolf Mosse’s liberal daily, the “Berliner Tageblatt,” had hired Schneider-Kainer to illustrate dispatches from an epic journey along the route traveled by Marco Polo in 1271.

Honoring Federal President Joachim Gauck

Federal President Gauck (l) and Dr. Ronald B. Sobel. Photo: Michael Fahrig.

On May 14, 2014, Joachim Gauck, Federal President of Germany, accepted the Leo Baeck Medal. LBI President Dr. Ronald Sobel made the following remarks at LBI’s first Award Dinner in Berlin, held to honor Gauck.

LBI at Limmud Germany

At Limmud Germany, workshops were presented in German, Russian, and English, a mix that reflects the diverse backgrounds of the participants. Photo: Nathan Frank.

Limmud Germany held its seventh annual festival at a resort outside Berlin from May 29–June 1, 2014. About 400 participants attended workshops that spanned topics from Hebrew language, Jewish cuisine and a workshop by Dr. Frank Mecklenburg of LBI which covered the topic of German-Jewish history before 1933.

Wikipedians Write the Book on LBI Collections

“If you don’t think Wikipedia is good enough, create an account and make it better!” —Leonora Lange, CJH Archivist

At the first public CJH Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Saturday, May 4, 2014, about 30 volunteers, including CJH and LBI staff, members of the local NYC Wikimedia Chapter, and scholars and librarians from other institutions spent an afternoon creating and improving Wikipedia articles related to women in Jewish History.

Edythe Griffinger Art Catalogue Will Improve Access to LBI Art Collection

Works by Eduard Magnes, Max Liebermann , and others in LBI's storage facility at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. Photo: Jon Pack.

Thanks to a gift from a trust under the will of Edythe Griffinger, LBI has begun work on a project that will highlight its art collection. This grant will allow LBI to make the collection more accessible through the creation of a virtual art catalogue and a web portal that will allow the public to view artworks and artifacts that are rarely if ever on public display.